223bhp I4-Swapped 1988 Ford Fiesta 1.1 L Mk2

223bhp I4-Swapped 1988 Ford Fiesta 1.1 L Mk2

Internet critics may tell you that the I4 is the wrong engine to swap into a classic Ford. But with results this good, who wants to be ‘right’?




No Zetecs or boosted CVHs here, this one’s a lateral thinker

One of the more engaging elements of the Ford scene is that everyone’s working from a blank canvas. Sure, there’s only a finite number of different models, variants and trim levels that rolled off the production lines over the decades, but that does nothing to quell diversity in the scene today. For any Ford you care to name, you can never be entirely sure what to expect until you see the car in the metal – and when, for example, someone says that they’ve engine-swapped a Mk2 Fiesta, you shouldn’t immediately assume they’ve dropped a turbo CVH or an ST170 in there. Just ask Stefan Matthews. He wanted to engine-swap this 1.1 L from the outset, and there was no way he’d be using a Zetec – it had to be something more offbeat.

Ford Fiesta mk2 swapped

Indeed, offbeat decisions have informed Stefan’s motoring passions since he was a teenager. “I’ve always been around and involved with cars,” he explains, “and at the age of 15 I loved split-screen campervans and old Beetles, so I bought a 1969 Beetle. I restored it with the help of my dad, but I soon fell out of love with VWs as I didn’t like the scene, and just being slow air-cooled cars in general; I wanted something faster and I felt more suited to the old-school fast Ford scene as I’ve always had a background with Fords.” It was the Mk2 Fiesta specifically that was flicking his switch, and it’s easy to draw a direct line between the engine-swapped example that caught his eye when he was 18, and the one he’s now built that’s spread out across these pages for you today. “When I was younger, my uncle owned a B-reg Fiesta van,” Stefan continues. “When he passed away it was handed down to my dad, and when I turned 17 I started learning to drive in it and instantly loved it. So I joined some Facebook groups and the ideas of building one for myself started from there. Seeing that I4-swapped Mk2 on bike carbs when I was 18 was very tempting, but once I realised no-one would insure me on it at that age, I decided on a longer-term plan to build one the way I wanted it to be.”

223bhp I4-Swapped 1988 Ford Fiesta 1.1 L Mk2

It took a little while for the project to find its feet, as Stefan was keen to start with absolutely the correct base. He’d bought a decent shell from eBay that had been Ziebarted from new and was very solid, but as this was while he was restoring the Beetle, it was simply the wrong time for it. A second Mk2 shell was later acquired, but turned out to be more rotten than was ideal once he started stripping it down. But then Facebook came to the rescue, with a seller’s group presenting just the right base car around twenty minutes from Stefan’s house. “Once I viewed it, I knew it was the better shell to build,” he says. “It was in reasonable condition, needing the normal sills and the rear arch on one side, plus the front end rebuilt – apart from that it was very solid. The car itself was a fully complete and bog-standard L model, and was driven to my parents’ house on trade plates; we removed the back fence panel, got the car in and under a lean-to, and I started from there.”

223bhp I4-Swapped 1988 Ford Fiesta 1.1 L Mk2

And so, wasting no time, Stefan got stuck in. The over-arching theme from the start was to create something OEM+, with a subtly upgraded but largely stock-looking exterior hiding surprising firepower. He was keen to do as much of the work as possible himself to create a truly home-brewed custom, and his dedication was first-rate: in the depths of bleak midwinter he’d be out there in his parents’ garden cutting out rust and replacing panels. With the simplicity of the Fiesta platform as well as Stefan’s bodyshop background, a lot of the work was fairly straightforward… but, of course, there was always the question of that unusual engine choice. “The biggest issue was the engine mounting in the car,” he says. “My dad and I mounted the ’box and engine together, placed it in the bay, made sure it was all level, then made a complete engine mount and used the standard cradle for the gearbox. I had the car on the rotisserie to bare-metal the entire shell and remove every piece of rot possible; I wanted to make the build the best I possibly could myself, and once the body was all primed and ready for paint I was conveniently offered a small one-car unit up the road – so I took the chance to rent it and paint the car myself. It was my first ever full respray and I was very happy with the outcome. I painted absolutely everything on the car, replacing every single bolt I could and having the rest zinc-plated – I didn’t want to compromise the finish of it one bit and I take a lot of pride in it. I learned a lot along the way and the car was a great way to develop my skills.”

223bhp I4-Swapped 1988 Ford Fiesta 1.1 L Mk2

One particular area of knowledge acquisition was when it came to the engine itself. With a background in bodywork, Stefan readily admits that he was starting on the back foot when it came to the motor, although today he’s more than confident with the idea of taking it apart and rebuilding it. For the initial build he had a friend, Joe, port and polish the head and adapt the Jenvey manifold, and there were a number of decisions to be made which Stefan continues to be happy with: throttle bodies were chosen over bike carbs as, while being markedly more expensive, they’re also a lot less hassle as well as sounding amazing. No off-the-shelf exhausts were available, so he commissioned Ollie at Dot Worx to hand-craft the manifold (“his work is second-to-none”), and the back seat delete was a must for the secret-racer vibe, so Stefan set about making a false floor and custom doorcards to suit. “A lot of people ask about the wheels too,” he says. “Everyone loves the OZ Gravel rims – I believe they came off a rally Ka, and they just look so right for the Mk2.”

223bhp I4-Swapped 1988 Ford Fiesta 1.1 L Mk2

As with so many stellar creations surfacing in recent months, we can class this Fiesta as a lockdown build, the makeover taking place behind closed doors over the last few years. And you can imagine the excitement when the Fiesta finally emerged blinking into the light, the off-the-wall motor firing into life and heading off to Hybrid Tune for setting up. “I can’t fault their work, I was over the moon with the results once it was mapped,” Stefan enthuses. “And the feedback I’ve received at shows is incredible, people seem to love how I’ve done something different with the engine. Obviously it’s never going to please everyone, but I’m proud of what I’ve achieved; I built it to my own taste and standards, and it puts a smile on my face every time I drive it.” And that’s just the way it should be. Stefan’s taken this blank canvas and painted a masterpiece.

223bhp I4-Swapped 1988 Ford Fiesta 1.1 L Mk2

There’s no messing about here, with a substantial cage and monster tacho. Wheels are thought to have come from a rally Ka. This engine wasn’t the easy option, by any means. But where’s the fun in ‘easy’?

“I had the car on the rotisserie to bare-metal the entire shell and remove every piece of rot possible. I wanted to make the build the best I possibly could — I didn’t want to compromise”


“It was always my plan to engine-swap the car, and I never wanted to fit a Zetec – it had to be something different to the regular swaps,” Stefan explains. “People slate the I4 when actually it’s quite a good engine – it’s torquey as hell and will give any Zetec Fiesta a run for its money; a really robust setup, and the only thing that’s let me down is an injector letting go. With Zetecs there’s so much support though, and so many off-the-shelf parts, and with an I4 the support isn’t so available so you have to put a lot more time and research into it. But it’s well worth the rewards! I love the engine and have no regrets about choosing it – people may turn their nose up, but when I’m at shows a lot of people don’t even know what engine it is and assume it’s the ST170 lump…”


  • ENGINE I4 RS2000 head — ported and polished, Piper valve springs, solid lifters, 45mm Jenvey throttle bodies with 90mm trumpets, forged 2.3 Galaxy bottom end, 90mm JE pistons, Pec rods, RS2000 sump, ST170 330cc injectors, Facet Red Top lift pump into swirl pot, Bosch 044 pump, braided fuel lines, AN6 fittings, Creative Aluminium 40mm-core Saxo-style XR2 radiator, Evans waterless coolant, custom Dot Worx manifold and Powerflow exhaust system – 2” manifold into merge collector; 2.5” straight through
  • MAX POWER 223bhp, 162lb.ft
  • TRANSMISSION Series 1 RS Turbo gearbox with factory LSD
  • SUSPENSION Gaz GHA front coilovers, Gaz GHA rear dampers with 50mm Outlaw Motorsport springs, fully Outlaw polybushed, Orbital Motorsport camber-adjustable lower front arms, Outlaw Motorsport adjustable rear Panhard rod, carbon fibre turret tops
  • BRAKES XR2 calipers, EBC discs, EBC Blue Stuff pads, Mk1 Mondeo non-ABS servo, Goodridge braided lines
  • WHEELS & TYRES 13” OZ Racing Gravel wheels, Yokohama A539s
  • EXTERIOR 1988 Ford Fiesta 1.1 L, fully bare-metalled, new top and bottom front wings, new front panel, new inner wing flitches, bonnet brace removed to clear engine, new inner and outer sills, new nearside rear quarter, rear wiper and washer deleted, early base-spec bumpers, Mk1 XR2 rear spoiler. Paint: Gloss Grey
  • INTERIOR Corbeau RRB bucket seats, Luke harnesses, Safety Devices bolt-in rollcage, Outlaw Motorsport rear strut brace, OMP Corsica 300mm steering wheel, Auto Meter Sport tachometer, home-made carbon effect doorcards, false rear floor, battery relocated to boot
  • THANKS I’d like to thank my dad for the engine head work, Hybrid Tune for the mapping, and Ollie Tunbridge at Dot Worx for the exhaust.
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