Hybrid How-To No. 13: Ford Festiva Chassis, Mazda B6T Engine

What and why
Ah, the pleasures of driving a shitbox. The excellent parking opportunities. Invisibility. Complete disregard at the appearance of door dings, bird shit or faded paint. And what better shitbox than the Festiva?

The name Festiva evokes bad cruise line commercials from the '80s and was certainly emblematic of the economy at the end of the decade of decadence. Ford needed something to buy it lots of pollution credits to offset the production of extremely profitable trucks and the then beginning SUV hemorrhage. "What better than a car that averages 40-plus mpg?" Ford whispered across the bed to Mazda, which designed a car actually produced by KIA, using Mazda engines. Festivas even have a little "Made in Korea" sticker on the firewall similar to those on cheapo Walkmen, my favorite feature of the car.

The Festiva was made forever cool in 1990 as the recipient of the Taurus SHO V6 powertrain, RWD and massive box flares when Rick Titus and Chuck Beck created the epic Shogun. Jay Leno owns two.

There's little reason the Festiva shouldn't make one hell of a whipper snapper: Fully loaded, even with the A/C option, the Festiva treads lightly at under 1,800 pounds. Base models are under 1,750 pounds. Being of Mazda design means there is a fair amount of parts interchangeability. The stock suspension is surprisingly competent, with 6 inches of travel in the front McPherson struts and a VW A2-style rear torsion beam setup in the rear.

In contention for the cheapest car sold in its day, many Festivas found their way into the loving arms of owners wowed by the car's demure sex appeal and neck-snapping performance. As a result of their collective miscalculation, there are plenty in junkyards for parts harvesting, and a surprising number still on the road and for sale. Expect to pay anything from $0 all the way to $1,500 for a 10-point show winner. We got our car in trade for a case of beer.

Picking the chassis
You want a fuel-injected Festiva sold between 1989 and 1993. You can use the 1988 (and some 1989) carbureted models, but it's not recommended. Carbureted cars will need to raid their fuel-injected brethren for a fuel tank, lines, and much of the wiring harness. The base model carbureted car is tempting for its title as the lightest Festiva ever produced, but by the time you add the parts from the fuel-injected car, it won't be, so don't bother.

Picking the engine
A surprising number of powerplants have successfully been grafted to the Festiva's chassis, but we'll stick with the venerable B6T. It was this engine that powered our inspiration, the impressive Fastiva built by Cam Waugh of CWS Tuning, featured in our October '01 issue. We were fortunate enough to have his personal assistance building this car as well. Mazda's 1.6-liter, twin-cam turbo engine can be found in the 323 GT, 323 GTX and Mercury XR-2 Capri as well as the Japanese-market Familia GT.

B6Ts are not the easiest engine to find used, but are cheap when found, going for around $600 at Japanese engine importers and between $250 and $1,000 in junkyards. Buying an entire donor Capri XR-2 (they were produced in larger numbers than the 323 GT or GTX), is often as cheap as the engine alone, and gets you all the mounts, brackets, and wiring harness goodies you'll need. We found our Capri XR-2 engine in a local pull-it-yourself junkyard for $250.

Drivetrain
The stock Festiva transmission actually bolts to the B6T. Festivas were available with both four- and five-speed transmissions, depending on the year. We belched forth an encyclopedia of obscenities when we couldn't get our tranny into fifth gear. Then someone suggested we might have a four-speed. Oh. The Festiva's is the smallest FWD transmission we've ever seen, and can be hefted with four fingers. There are three main problems: They break, there's no available traditional limited-slip differential (although Phantom Grip (www.phantomgrip.com) does have a Festiva application), and the axles are so pencil-thin, and of such different lengths, that axle hop and massive torque steer are the norm.

Ford Aspire transmissions will also work, although they have a lightly lower final drive: 4.06:1 vs. the Festiva's 3.777:1, and a slightly different case. With the turbocharged torque of the B6T, a shorter final drive just means more tire smoke.

In order to use the Festiva transmission with the B6T you need to use the Festiva flywheel on the new engine. At this point, you'll also need to install an aftermarket clutch, as the stock clutch can only handle part-throttle--no fun. The Festiva clutch is itsy bitsy at 7 1/16 inches, seemingly half the size of the stock B6T clutch. You can use the slightly larger Suzuki Swift clutch and pressure plate, but this will require special machining of the flywheel and redrilling the bolt pattern on the flywheel to match the pressure plate. Given the limited surface area of clutch material touching the flywheel, finding a clutch that will tame the B6T's torque output while remaining driveable can be a challenge.

While a number of companies, such as ClutchNet, Centerforce, Clutchmasters and ACT offer Swift applications, we only found clutchnet.com to offer upgraded Festiva clutch units. ClutchNet, in South El Monte, Calif., suggested we use its Kush-Loc organic face disc with a double-diaphram pressure plate with 100 percent more torque capacity than stock. Given the small disc circumference, ClutchNet had to use a solid, rather than sprung hub, but uses a Marcel to damp the shock of engagement. ClutchNet estimates this setup to be good for up to 200 hp. A four-puck disc, while much less streetable, would be good for 300 hp.

CWS Tuning is working on a mount kit to install the B6T with its native tranny. The factory XR-2/323GT/Escort GT/Tracer LTS tranny is much stronger, and will allow the use of a larger diameter clutch. We also hear rumors of www.mazdaracing.com working on a kit to do the same.

A small ear on the aluminum portion of the B6T oil pan must be trimmed to clear the driver's side Festiva axle. We used a Sawzall because we like cutting stuff fast.

Engine installation
There are no special instructions for removal of the stock B3 engine. Yank that sucker out of there and spend the hour it takes to thoroughly clean the engine compartment. You want to install the B6T engine harness while the bay is empty. You're best off replicating as closely as possible the exact location of the harness, connectors and connected items in the donor engine compartment. If that isn't possible, copy ours. After cleaning and, most likely, some quality time with a spray can, you'll have to find a place to pass the Mazda wiring harness through the firewall.

The B6T installs quite easily--we needed only to trim the passenger-side transmission mount, flip it and install a flat engine mount adaptor plate from CWS Tuning. Well-illustrated instructions for trimming and installation are found in the "Festiva B6T" portion of its Website, www.cwstuning.com.

Otherwise, all stock engine and transmission attachment points are used. Now is the perfect time to upgrade to more capable engine mounts, like those sold by Festiva Motorsport. The rubber seems to be of a harder durometer, and there's a good bit more of it, meaning engine movement will be better controlled.

Exhaust
You can reuse the stock downpipe if your B6T came so equipped, and make a custom exhaust from there. Hotshot Performance is using our car to fabricate a larger diameter downpipe and mandrel-bent exhaust system speicifcally for B6T-powered Festivas, which will be addressed in a future installment of Project Festiva.

Intercooler
The stock B6T intercooler, which mounts in front of the turbo, can be used if you trim the hood reinforcements and shorten the attached rubber hoses. Another popular choice is the intercooler from the '88-'92 Probe GT and Mazda MX-6, as they're fairly efficient and readily available from junkyards. Hotshot Performance is prototyping a front-mount intercooler kit with piping on our car.

Wiring
As the art of the Fastiva is fairly new, a number of wiring schemes have been employed to make the swap work. What we did is very simple and we know it to work well. Procure a service manual, multi-meter and requisite wire working tools and you will be fine. You will use both the stock Festiva harness and the B6T engine harness in parallel. The Festiva engine portion of the harness (the Festiva harness is all one piece) will continue to be used to handle functions like alternator, temperature gauge, oil pressure light, reverse lights, electric fan control and starter wiring.

The rest of the plugs, like airflow meter, ECU temperature plug, idle air valve and injector harness, you simply don't use. You can bundle it and leave it in the engine compartment, which we did, or snip it and insulate the amputated branches of the harness. The B6T engine harness runs everything else engine related. The Festiva ECU, mounted behind the speedo cluster, is difficult to get to. We just unplugged ours and left it in place.

There are minor differences between JDM, Capri, 323 GT and 323 GTX harnesses, but no one has laid them all out side-by-side, so we don't know exactly what all the differences are. You may have to do some junkyarding for connectors like we did. You should check that the constant, starter and ignition wires are correct with a test light at the column of your Festiva to make sure everything is kosher, as the wiring colors changed from year to year. The colors we list, however, should be representative of the majority of cars produced.

If you're nabbing the engine and wiring from a junkyard, remember to grab everything attached to the harness. You'll need the B6T knock box, ECU, airflow meter, ignition coil, MAP sensor, altitude sensor, main relay and the circuit opening relay. Either the Festiva or B6T alternator will work, although the B6T unit provides 10 more amps and is the obvious choice.

Remember the Festiva has an optional tach, so you may have to wire in an aftermarket unit.

The following is a simplified list of the electrical connections that need to be made:
· The ignition power, starter power and constant power wires cut from the same dash terminus plug on the B6T harness need to be run to the ignition power, starter power and constant power wires on the Festiva column.

· The fuel pump wires cut from the B6T dash plug are joined and run to the Festiva fuel pump relay wire.

Cooling
It's unadvisable to use the stock Festiva radiator, as the cooling capacity simply isn't great enough for the kind of heat the turbocharged B6T can provide. Waugh used a '92-'95 Civic radiator, which requires fabrication of upper and lower mounting brackets. An aftermarket performance unit for the Civic would, by extension, work as well. If you insist on using the stock unit, however, you'll have to trim the stock fan shroud and fan blades as they interfere with the turbo compressor discharge pipe.

In order to route coolant from the engine to the radiator and back, we simply bought a mule load of used hoses of all shapes from the junkyard and sliced and diced until we had something that worked.

Other issues
The stock Festiva fuel pump can't handle turbo duty, so it must be ditched for an upgraded unit. Waugh used the stock fuel pump from a 2.2-liter Prelude for his Fastiva; we used a 255 LPH BBK aftermarket unit from JCW Sport Compact for the third-generation RX-7, which is a direct bolt-in.

The Festevil is Born
The first turn of the key yielded a smooth-running, gnarly-sounding miniature pit bull. It runs, but attempting hard use of the vehicle with stock 145/80-12 tires (mind you mounted on factory alloy wheels), dinky solid rotors and blown dampers might not be the best idea. We'll sort these items out in our upcoming series as Project Shoebox is born. We'll start with making the car stop, stick and handle... and then comes the noise.

Swap Basics
·Chassis
At under 1,800 pounds, a Festiva is just over half the weight of a WRX. Festivas sold well, but few love them, so they're readily available and always at a bargain price. Most chassis parts are interchangeable with the Ford Aspire, which, surprisingly, actually has some better brake and suspension parts to offer.

·Engine
Essentially a front-drive turbo version of the Miata's 1.6 liter, the B6T first saw production in 1986 and was produced until 1994, meaning it's available, if not exactly abundant.

This stout little iron-block four-cylinder earned a reputation for its durability on the rally circuit and responds well to modifications. Many people find it easier and just as cheap to buy a complete donor car (Capri XR-2s are more common than 323GTs or GTXs).

·Concerns
The major shortcomings of the Festiva are the drivetrain and the brakes. Festivas came with both four- and five-speed transmissions, neither of which is robust.

Brakes, discs in the front and drums in the rear, are adequate for stock power and nothing more. Solid, tiny, back-mount fixed rotors are very old tech, and were replaced by still tiny but vented floating rotors in the Assfire, er Aspire. All these issues can be solved in a variety of ways; we'll list them and masochistically attempt the most difficult ourselves when this car spawns Project Festiva.

Also, given the popularity of downsized mom-driven combines on the road, physics presents the flyweight Festiva itself as a safety hazard.

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