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1990 Rotus refresh


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Howdy, I recently bought my first seven, a 1990 Rotus 7, thru BAT. From what I read in the documents supplied, the original owner had the car built by Chris Custer to accept a Ford 2.3L Lima "Pinto" motor. He then built a motor using a lot of Esslinger/Ford Racing (circa 1990) go-fast parts and went racing, apparently holding class track records at various tracks in the NE. Just about every part/function has been focused to track duty, but it's licensed and registered for street use. The previous owner bought it from an auction a couple years ago and put about 1000 miles on it. Thus begins the challenge.


I'll start with what I know...

1990 Rotus, originally built to accept 2.3L Lima motor and T5 transmission
~1989 Ford 2.3L Turbo block
(I found notes suggesting 12-12.75:1 compression)
Esslinger Aluminum head
Esslinger intake manifolds

Esslinger 'Oval-Track' cam
2x Weber DCO sidedrafts
Header w/1.75" primary tubes
Electromotive HPV-1 ignition
Super Trapp exhaust
Ford T5 5-speed
~1980 Toyota Live axle w/LSD
Carrerra Coilovers
Tilton Master cylinders - Front, Rear & Clutch
Tilton Brake bias adjuster
Wilwood calipers
Heim Joints on steering and front ball joints
(another note suggests the front A-arms were lengthened by 3" each)
10 gal fuel cell
215/50-15 Front & 245/50-15 Rear with mfg dates of 2003 & 2005


I assumed I was getting a 1990 Rotus with a hotted up "Pinto" street motor, instead it seems I got a full-on 30 year old race car. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just means a steeper learning curve than I anticipated. So my plan is to check the basics, replace the tires, then add some octane booster and give it a spin and see what it needs. I'm hoping for a fun sunday morning drive through the country car, plus autocross and track days.


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Rotus are cool cars,  most I have seen are rotary powered,  but it sound like you have a cool vintage pinto setup. The Rotus used inboard lever arm shocks, check the upper ball joints,  they tend to bend.  So make them a maintenance item.  


Good luck, Dan on this list has a lot on Rotus experience. 



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Looks like a neat build. I've got a Lima powered (turbo'd) Haynes book built so I've done a little research on the guys that specialize in performance parts. Those Esslinger parts aren't cheap.. Especially that head! The other place that's quite helpful is Bopart. Super nice and willing to help. There's also a couple forums where you can find out much more on the motors and mods. The motors are tough, if a bit heavy and though yours sounds NA, I know the turbo versions can take big boost on the stock bottom ends. Best of luck with your 7! Mine is also my first and it's been an absolute blast and fun learning experience. 

Edited by TBone1209
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On 11/28/2021 at 7:54 AM, TBone1209 said:

"The other place that's quite helpful is Bopart. Super nice and willing to help. There's also a couple forums where you can find out much more on the motors and mods." 

Thanks for the info and encouragement! If you have links to the 2.3 forums I'd appreciate them, I've been down a lot of rabbit holes this past week. I'm hoping to repurpose as much of the motor as possible while detuning it just a bit. Seems to me I don't need a lot of bottom end torque considering how light the car is, but drivability is important too.

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