This is part two of the buildup for the engine used in a Mustang Ministock project undertaken by Steve Smith Autosports. The first portion of the buildup can be found in March '04 Circle Track. The entire buildup can be seen in a video presentation available from Steve Smith Autosports. The book, Building the Mustang Ministock, is also available. Contact Steve Smith Autosports Publications at 714/639-7681 or for more information.

The process of building this engine is well under way, but we're still far from finished. The engine uses solid lifters (adjusters). Although most racers refer to them as solid lifters, they are actually solid adjustable posts. One end of the rocker arm pivots on this post. The height of the post is adjustable to provide the proper amount of valve lash. In this system, lash is set between the cam follower and the camshaft.

Valve lash is a clearance in the drivetrain designed to compensate for thermal expansion of valvetrain components as the engine heats up. Tightening or loosening the valve lash (by the camshaft manufacturer's recommendation) will result in timing changes when the cam lobes make contact with the cam followers.

The stock 2300 engine uses hydraulic valve lash adjusters. Some tracks require the stock part while others will allow the conversion to solid adjusters.

There are advantages to solid adjusters. Lash adjustment can be more positive. In addition, higher rpm can be achieved, and this opens the door for a much greater selection of cam grinds. If you want to convert hydraulic adjusters to solid, Esslinger Engineering offers a kit. When this kit is installed, hydraulic lifter bore bosses must be milled 0.3 inch lower. If you are stuck with hydraulic, Esslinger has anti-pump-up hydraulic adjusters that allow the engine to reach a higher rpm.

The cam is driven by a cogged belt from the crankshaft. The belt drives the auxiliary shaft, which turns the oil pump, fuel pump, and distributor. Preload on an idler pulley maintains tension on the belt. It sounds simple, but these parts must be correct and aligned in order to provide engine life and reliability for racing conditions.

The timing belt and belt tensioner play critical roles. If the timing belt breaks, it's valvetrain disaster. On this engine, an Esslinger heavy-duty timing belt was used with materials much tougher than stock. The Esslinger belt tensioner is machined from billet aluminum and anodized. This roller prevents failure of the stock two-piece stamped unit.

The belt tensioner must be respected and not used as a wedge with a large screwdriver when mounting the timing belt. During racing season, check the belt tensioner for tire rubber buildup and clean it often.

The Ford 2.3 engine has head locator sleeves that should be placed around the front and rear head bolts. The cam belt will not run properly if these sleeves are not used. If the head and block have been milled, the sleeves will need to be shortened by a like amount.

The major problems with stock rocker arms are camshaft lobe wear and arm breakage. Esslinger's heavy-duty cam followers have a softer contact pad for the cam lobes to greatly reduce wear. The wear pad is a separate piece, oven-brazed to the arm. It holds oil, which prevents lobe wear and scuffing.

The use of roller rocker arms with a cast camshaft can cause a significant change in valvetrain geometry. Use roller rockers on billet camshafts only.

Camshafts Most Ministock rules allow the use of an aftermarket solid adjuster camshaft, but there are exceptions. Check your rules. An excellent choice for oval track applications is the Esslinger model 2269, which delivers good torque and power between 4,000 and 8,000 rpm. Be sure to get the entire cam kit, which includes heavy-duty valvesprings and retainers.

Replacement cam bearings for the 2300 do not provide oil to the cam bearing journals for which the stock system was designed. The original design called for pressurized oil to be supplied at the top and the bottom of the cam tower into the bearings. With replacement bearings, oil feeds from the bottom around a groove in the back of the bearing, then feeds through a hole in the bearing. This bearing design means plugging the top oil feed hole at the top of each cam tower. Drill and tap the holes for 1/16-inch pipe thread and use a 1/16-inch pipe thread plug.

When installing, always use a new cast camshaft and new cast rocker arms together. They must break in together and become hardened together. Use caution when installing the cam to avoid damaging the bearing surfaces. Once the cam is in place, the pulley can be installed. Esslinger makes an adjustable pulley that allows timing the cam with pinpoint accuracy.

Because the center cam pulley bolt doubles as an oil gallery plug, install it with two rounds of Teflon tape, three rounds back from the end. This will adequately seal the threads to prevent a leak. Liquid Teflon may be used instead of tape.