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Alternative modern engine for a Spitfire, Rover K series, Heaven or Hell?

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Tonyfixit Avatar
Tonyfixit Tony M
Duncan, British Columbia, Canada   CAN
I know Lars (spit K series) has one of these fitted, which sparked my interest.

I first saw this engine about 20 years ago in a Caterham 7 coupled to a Fort 5 speed. It was a very light and compact engine (Aluminium head and block), not too tall and with very good and suitable torque and power.

However when I made inquiries about the engine in the UK, everybody seemed to be bad mouthing it.

Fast forward 20 years, it seems many problems that initially plagued the engine are now fixed or have a fix.

I hear also that the engine is being produced in China.

I have not seen reference to the engine on this site, is anybody (including Lars) familiar with it?

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teeka56 Avatar
teeka56 mike leisner
Seattle, WA, USA   USA
This one?
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rover_K-series_engine#

I like the idea of cross flow head.

Were they ever imported to NA?

Mike

clshore Carter Shore
Beverly Hills, Florida, USA   USA
There were some issues with the K, some from the factory, some from those who modified and/or rebuilt them.
AFAIK, none were ever sold in the North American market, so parts/availability would be my big concern.
I have a hard enough time explaining what a Spitfire is to the 'kid behind the counter'.

Me: "It's a Rover K series, I need spark plugs"
Kid: "A K series? (taps keyboard, looking at computer screen) You mean like a Chrysler K car? ..."
Me: "No, no, it's NOT a Chrysler, it's British. And I just need parts for the motor, the car is a Triumph Spitfire"
Kid: "A Triumph? Is it a motorcycle?"
Me: "No dammit, it's a car, a sports car"
Kid, tapping and looking at the computer screen again : "I'm not seeing anything here, are you sure about the name?"
(hilarity ensues ...)

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claytoncnc Avatar
claytoncnc Gold Member Marcus Clayton
Melbourne, Ivanhoe, Australia   AUS
I had a good look at these engines when they first appeared as a 1.4.
They were certainly disposable engines with marginal temperature management, a barely adequate water pump, and quite poor structural integrity.
When subjected to load for any period of time they wilted.

As they developed into the MG 1.8 versions, I am led to believe (I have not examined one myself), that many of these issues have been designed out, and that they are reasonably competent in N/A guise.

My information is that elements of the original design dictate that they will not survive any attempts at forced induction without major issues.

It appears that now, if you want a lightweight reliable engine, up to 180HP, these are just fine, but overheat one, even a bit, and they are toast.

ExPatBrit Avatar
ExPatBrit Mike W
Redmond, WA, USA   USA
The early K series suffered from head gasket failure here were a number of fixes mostly done by Ford as they had inherited the K series in the Freelander.

A new design of head gasket and replacement of the plastic locating dowels with metal solved the problem, but Rover was bleeding cash so there were many suspect engines produced before they fixed it. There were also problems with the wet liners coming loose and the oil way in the block casting cracking.

http://www.myfreelander.co.uk/Engine/kengineprobs4.htm

SAIC purchased the K series design and still makes it .

It was fitted in the European Lotus Elise.

Tonyfixit Avatar
Tonyfixit Tony M
Duncan, British Columbia, Canada   CAN
This is interesting:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAIC_Kavachi_Engine

As for getting parts, I have relied on mail order or ordering on line for parts for many years. Most recently the parts have come from the UK and Austrailia reasons of cost and speed of shipping.

There are lots of videos on YouTube about the K series engine, too many to post links to.

grumpicus Steve Jackson
Leicester, Leicestershire, UK   GBR
I ran a MGZS 1.8 saloon/sedan for a number of years, and was well aware of the 'K' series appetite for head gaskets, so checking the water level in the header tank every few days was essential. Eventually, the thing started to lose coolant, so I removed the head, and found that the head gasket was mostly a stainless steel sheet, with a thin pattern of silicon rubber bonded to it to form the barriers between the water and oil passages. The silicon seems to unbond itself from the steel layer after a few years, and oil/coolant are then free to mix and go where they like..... Water pumps are a consumable item, and leak after a few years.

The remedy on mine was to replace the gasket with the revised multilayer gasket (designed/re-engineered by Ford for the L-R Freelander), fit new through bolts, and a new alloy 'ladder' casting to the base of the block (the sump needed to come off for that). This 'ladder' casting was substantially more robust than the original, and was designed to provide additional stiffness to the block. These modifications completely cured the leakage, and the engine was still running well at 87,000 miles when I sold the car.

I'm not sure that MG Rover ever implemented the gasket and 'ladder' mods - my car was a 2003 model, and the company went bankrupt in 2005 (I never did get all the 'free' servicing built into the price of the car......sad smiley ) I've also heard stories that due to the financial problems the company found itself in, the quality of the alloy engine castings went downhill in the very last year or two of production, making the problem worse. The issue seemed to be that if the engine ever emptied itself of coolant, the overheating would soften the head casting, making it prone to distortion. Skimming the head after that to get a level surface didn't help, as the metal was permanently damaged, and would soon warp again. MG Rover were very well aware of the problems - the last cars with 'K' series engines had a coolant header tank with a float switch, linked to a warning light on the dash to give an indication of impending disaster...... Relying on the temperature gauge was not sufficient - by the time that had responded, the coolant was all on the tarmac!

On the positive side, the engine revved well, produced a good amount of torque, and a claimed 118bhp in 1.8 NA form. In turbocharged form it would produce around 160bhp - as did the 1.8 VVC version used in some of the MGTF cars.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017-08-08 04:40 AM by grumpicus.

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lef2wander Avatar
lef2wander Gold Member James Thomas
hatfield, ma, USA   USA
Elise spares.com

spitfire50 Avatar
spitfire50 Paul Mugford
Rochester, N.H., USA   USA
Hi,
I always wondered what happened when the cylinder head gasket had to be replaced since the bolts that hold the head also hold the "sandwich" block together. Does that disturb the seal lower in the engine?
All the best,
Paul

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Mark Jones Avatar
Close to Sarnia, Ontario, Canada   CAN
1995 MG MGF "Barney"
1996 Land Rover Discovery
I am quite familiar with this engine sinceI have a 1995 MGF, which has the k-series engine; have owned it now for 6 years.

I replaced the head gasket with the MLS and an uprated oil rail 5 years ago. Since then, I've put over 20,000 miles on the car without any issues, presently the engine has around 116,000 miles on it. Aside from the head gasket issue, it is a great engine.

Parts availability is NOT a concern, there are many, many places in England that sell parts for the k-series, and parts are relatively cheap.





MOWOG Garage serving the needs of all Post Abingdon MG owners in Lambton Co. since 2011.

Tonyfixit Avatar
Tonyfixit Tony M
Duncan, British Columbia, Canada   CAN
In reply to # 1476591 by spitfire50 Hi,
I always wondered what happened when the cylinder head gasket had to be replaced since the bolts that hold the head also hold the "sandwich" block together. Does that disturb the seal lower in the engine?
All the best,
Paul

Apparently the sealant works pretty well at glueing the layers together.

I was surprised that those special long bolts are not too expensive.

They are torque to yeald, so must be discarded after use.

grumpicus Steve Jackson
Leicester, Leicestershire, UK   GBR
I seem to remember that the Haynes manual implied that the long bolts could be re-used, if they hadn't stretched beyond a predefined length - sounded like a recipe for disaster to me, so new bolts were fitted.

Nothing moves or fall apart when the long bolts and oil ladder assembly are removed - provided the crankshaft isn't moved! Rotate that, and all bets are off....

As far as the reliability of the NA K-series engine is concerned, sort out the head gasket and don't worry. Unlike the Spit 1500 unit, it won't wear out thrust washers, crankshaft bearings or rocker gear. It's also very unlikely to throw a conrod through the side of the block!

hearditallbefore Avatar
Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK   GBR
It's the engine from hell!

Miata swap?






Swatting the yellow jackets away from the Triumph apple of truth…

grumpicus Steve Jackson
Leicester, Leicestershire, UK   GBR
In reply to # 1476617 by hearditallbefore It's the engine from hell!

That seems like an ideal substitute for the 1500 Triumph engine, then! eye rolling smiley

hearditallbefore Avatar
Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK   GBR
In reply to # 1476622 by grumpicus
In reply to # 1476617 by hearditallbefore It's the engine from hell!

That seems like an ideal substitute for the 1500 Triumph engine, then! eye rolling smiley

Everyone I know with a K series engined car, MGF, MG ZX, Lotus Elise, has had the head gasket let go.

Miata engine looks remarkably period, almost 'Sabrina'



Swatting the yellow jackets away from the Triumph apple of truth…

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