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Thread: Lopo cam and ECU with heads + intake + headers? Is this doable, or disaster?

  1. #1

    Default Lopo cam and ECU with heads + intake + headers? Is this doable, or disaster?

    So, as I have mentioned in a few places on here, I picked up some AFR Renegade 165cc heads for my '87 Grand Marquis, these are the full CNC ported and polished ones. I also already have my GT40/Explorer upper, lower, and throttle body. Intake stuff will all be ported and polished before it goes on as well.

    So, in diagnosing a coolant leak, it seems to be my water pump. Since I've also got to do the heater core, and that will have the car down for several days due to my work schedules. Could I go ahead and swap heads and my intake while I have the car down?
    I'd also be throwing shorty headers on and an aluminum radiator with more cores while I'm at it.

    Ultimately, my question is, will these create performance gains with the Lopo cam and ECU, or will it just break stuff since the ECU wouldn't know what to do with air/fuel?

    If I had a cam and ECU and shift kit for the transmission, I'd go ahead and just do it all and call it a day. Just take the car down for two weeks and have her back up and better than ever.

    Thank you all for the answer to help make me less ignorant.

  2. #2
    Lost and driftin' Arquemann's Avatar
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    Stock lopo cam is probably one of the lamest cams in existense for a 302/5.0. You're pissing in your cereal trying to save ~$150 with the stock cam. It will work but ain't worth it.
    I'm not sure how those AFR cyl heads compare to stock ones, but if those are ported and stuff, they'll naturally flow way more. Dunno about compression.

    ECU won't like it that stuff for sure, but it may run. Afr might be all over the place as the airflow is much better than stock. Wouldn't expect much power if the stock ECU doesn't completely shit its pants with the speed parts.
    Since you already would have the radiator, heads and intake off, swapping the cam wouldn't get easier than that.
    1985 Mercury Grand Marquis LS
    ̶1̶9̶9̶7̶ ̶V̶o̶l̶v̶o̶ ̶8̶5̶0̶ ̶G̶L̶E̶ ̶E̶s̶t̶a̶t̶e̶ Replacement coming soon

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arquemann View Post
    Stock lopo cam is probably one of the lamest cams in existense for a 302/5.0. You're pissing in your cereal trying to save ~$150 with the stock cam. It will work but ain't worth it.
    I'm not sure how those AFR cyl heads compare to stock ones, but if those are ported and stuff, they'll naturally flow way more. Dunno about compression.

    ECU won't like it that stuff for sure, but it may run. Afr might be all over the place as the airflow is much better than stock. Wouldn't expect much power if the stock ECU doesn't completely shit its pants with the speed parts.
    Since you already would have the radiator, heads and intake off, swapping the cam wouldn't get easier than that.
    Oh, I'm not trying to save money. I'm trying to save some time potentially and have my daily driver down for as little time as possible while accomplishing the most in the time it's down.
    I fully intend to put a cam in, I'm fairly certain of the selection, I just don't currently have it in my hands. Same with the ECU.

  4. #4
    Road Warrior Kodachrome Wolf's Avatar
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    My '87 had a loping/hunting idle when it was cold and in gear after I installed E7 heads, HO intake, and HO throttle body that was paired with a LoPo camshaft and ECU. Seemed the extra air flow wasn't playing too nice with it until it warmed up, and the surging was very annoying when sitting at stop lights. It also would occasionally have an odd hesitation after firing the car up and pressing the accelerator for the first time. It would bog, then wake up and get going and never do it again. I think it had a tendency to run lean as well, since I checked the spark plugs when I was installing new wires and they were very white after 5000 miles of use.

    After I switched to the HO cam and associated ECU, the loping and hesitation issue went away. I recently switched to a D9S ECU since I was running one from a '87 Mark VII that used E6 heads, and it seemed a little grumpy when you ran it hard. The D9S seems to play nicer and the car feels more responsive. Gadget73 had long ago commented that the early HO PCM might cause it to run a little lean given the air flow differences on the heads, and I suspect he was right.

    My Cars:
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  5. #5
    I'm an air-conditioned gypsy gadget73's Avatar
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    I'd expect lean burning problems with that much extra air and an ECM that isn't meant for it. Not an absolute guarantee that its going to behave perfectly with an SD HO ECM but you have a better chance of it working. I've seen mark VII ECm run funny with Explorer head and intake combos, and AFR heads will flow more. Only "plus" is that an un-ported Explorer intake is going to be a considerable restriction so it won't be as terrible as it could be if you had enough intake to give them all the air they can move.

    honestly the cam isn't a big deal to swap if you're in that far. The water pump is off already, so just pull the timing cover and swap the cam while you're at it. Odds are 50/50 that its going to bust a water pump bolt and force you to do it anyway, and if you don't replace the timing chain while you have the cover off you're just a silly person. The radiator does need to come out but the hoses will be unhooked anyway and the AC condenser needs to swing out of the way. Not a big deal at all.

    if you're ordering parts ahead of time, grab a new timing set and a cam thrust plate just in case. The plates are often worn enough that there is too much endplay in the cam. Not the most critical thing in the world but the thrust plate is like 15 bucks and you have to remove it to take the cam out anyway. if its got a wear groove in the back, change it.

    86 Lincoln Town Car (Galactica).
    5.0 HO, CompCams XE258,Scorpion 1.72 roller rockers, 3.55 K code rear, tow package, BHPerformance ported E7 heads, Tmoss Explorer intake, 65mm throttle body, Hedman 1 5/8" headers, 2.5" dual exhaust, ASP underdrive pulley

    91 Lincoln Mark VII LSC SE, triple black (Timewarp) - poly front bushings, KYB struts and shocks, Holley SystemMax1 lower intake, SilverFox AOD valve body,

    1984 Lincoln Continental TurboDiesel - rolls coal

    Quote Originally Posted by phayzer5 View Post
    I drive a Lincoln. I can't be bothered to shift like the peasants and rabble rousers

  6. #6

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    It seems the general consensus is that it would overall just cause issues.

    I guess my $40 water pump is going to turn into a $2,000-$2,500ish engine build. Was hoping to space it out but I'd rather only take the water pump off and radiator out once. So I guess this is how it's gonna be.

  7. #7
    Lost and driftin' Arquemann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AngryMcMuffin View Post
    I guess my $40 water pump is going to turn into a $2,000-$2,500ish engine build.
    It only becomes that if you make it so. You could just change your water pump and wait until you've got all the pieces of the puzzle for an engine build. It's only work.
    If you don't mind having your car apart while you gather the last pieces, go ahead. It seems you're pretty set on what you still need/want. The summer season is only starting and if your car doesn't sit outside with the heads off it'll be fine!
    1985 Mercury Grand Marquis LS
    ̶1̶9̶9̶7̶ ̶V̶o̶l̶v̶o̶ ̶8̶5̶0̶ ̶G̶L̶E̶ ̶E̶s̶t̶a̶t̶e̶ Replacement coming soon

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arquemann View Post
    It only becomes that if you make it so. You could just change your water pump and wait until you've got all the pieces of the puzzle for an engine build. It's only work.
    If you don't mind having your car apart while you gather the last pieces, go ahead. It seems you're pretty set on what you still need/want. The summer season is only starting and if your car doesn't sit outside with the heads off it'll be fine!
    I do have three other cars sitting in my driveway that start and run every time I ask them to. So it's more of an annoyance with it than it is an actual inconvenience. Wanted to do the 5.3 swap in my 72 Chevy C10 before I did this one. But, the 307 SBC is very loyal, so I guess I can't be upset.

    I'd drive the Mercury over to my shop and take it apart there after I have all the rest of the parts in. So it could still be moved around if it needed to be. Then take one or two weeks and tear down/rebuild.

  9. #9
    I'm an air-conditioned gypsy gadget73's Avatar
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    If you're changing the heads already I don't see how also swapping the cam suddenly turns it into a 2k project.

    or just change the water pump and leave the rest of it alone.

    86 Lincoln Town Car (Galactica).
    5.0 HO, CompCams XE258,Scorpion 1.72 roller rockers, 3.55 K code rear, tow package, BHPerformance ported E7 heads, Tmoss Explorer intake, 65mm throttle body, Hedman 1 5/8" headers, 2.5" dual exhaust, ASP underdrive pulley

    91 Lincoln Mark VII LSC SE, triple black (Timewarp) - poly front bushings, KYB struts and shocks, Holley SystemMax1 lower intake, SilverFox AOD valve body,

    1984 Lincoln Continental TurboDiesel - rolls coal

    Quote Originally Posted by phayzer5 View Post
    I drive a Lincoln. I can't be bothered to shift like the peasants and rabble rousers

  10. #10
    Carthago delenda est Lutrova's Avatar
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    Not to hijack the thread, but I'm curious about the inverse to this question. How far can you go with stock LoPo cam and ECU? Suppose the goal was to build power in low to mid RPMs, or to add some oomph without tanking fuel economy?

  11. #11

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    Despite the dishing on the LoPo cam, it tends to pull nicely with a trailer. I'm not sure most of the HO cams would start off as smoothly with a ton and a half of wood pellets and trailer in tow.
    On my car, I've changed the upper intake and throttle body to HO, and gone through the sensors/plugs/wires/vacuum lines in stock configuration (except smog pump and associated plumbing). I kept EGR.
    The exhaust manifolds were changed for the 90s Lincoln log manifolds which flow a bit better than the 1986 stock manifolds.

    The car runs great, and I get 22-24mpg for the most part in mixed driving. I think going from 2.73s to 3.55s will do more for my oomph (and possibly fuel economy, as I live in hilly territory and I can only get into OD on a couple flat highway stretches; I'm mostly driving around town) than engine building.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by gadget73 View Post
    If you're changing the heads already I don't see how also swapping the cam suddenly turns it into a 2k project.

    or just change the water pump and leave the rest of it alone.
    Cam, timing set, ECU, headers. Purchases I've been delaying or scouring FB marketplace for. And a $200 radiator, a trans cooler setup so I don't end up cooking the trans later on.

    So, it's more of me estimating high and expecting something to not go smoothly. As that tends to be my luck when playing with my own cars.

    However, having seen your video of pre and post cam 0-60 pulls, what do you have done to your trans Gadget? Because while it's only like $100 and change for the Baumann stuff, I don't know what my other good or valid options are.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lutrova View Post
    Not to hijack the thread, but I'm curious about the inverse to this question. How far can you go with stock LoPo cam and ECU? Suppose the goal was to build power in low to mid RPMs, or to add some oomph without tanking fuel economy?
    Quote Originally Posted by bgreywolf View Post
    Despite the dishing on the LoPo cam, it tends to pull nicely with a trailer. I'm not sure most of the HO cams would start off as smoothly with a ton and a half of wood pellets and trailer in tow.
    On my car, I've changed the upper intake and throttle body to HO, and gone through the sensors/plugs/wires/vacuum lines in stock configuration (except smog pump and associated plumbing). I kept EGR.
    The exhaust manifolds were changed for the 90s Lincoln log manifolds which flow a bit better than the 1986 stock manifolds.

    The car runs great, and I get 22-24mpg for the most part in mixed driving. I think going from 2.73s to 3.55s will do more for my oomph (and possibly fuel economy, as I live in hilly territory and I can only get into OD on a couple flat highway stretches; I'm mostly driving around town) than engine building.
    Oh, don't get me wrong, I like the Lopo and if it had a carburetor on in I'd have already put my AFR heads with some headers on it with a good 4bbl/intake with no cam swap consideration yet.
    My water pump started losing a lot of water while the speedo was wrapped as far under as it physically can go, as it has been several times, the Lopo with 3.27 gears pulls surprisingly hard, especially for as much as people rag on them.

  14. #14
    I'm an air-conditioned gypsy gadget73's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bgreywolf View Post
    Despite the dishing on the LoPo cam, it tends to pull nicely with a trailer. I'm not sure most of the HO cams would start off as smoothly with a ton and a half of wood pellets and trailer in tow.
    .

    The HO cam has garbage low end torque. It was really engineered for a car a half ton lighter and with a 5 speed. Its not an amazing match with the low stall AOD, and its really a shit match in a 2 ton barge with an AOD and highway gears.

    A good "drop-in" cam is actually the Explorer cam. Similar power profile to the lopo, but with a little more high rpm ability and more lift. Still done by 4600 but that works fine with the stock governor and gearing.

    problem with all of this stuff is the ability of the ECM to understand and deal with the extra air flow. I had lean running problems with an Explorer cam, ported E7 iron heads and an un-touched Explorer intake on my car with a Mark VIi ECM. That combo moved enough air more than a stock HO that it didn't work well.

    86 Lincoln Town Car (Galactica).
    5.0 HO, CompCams XE258,Scorpion 1.72 roller rockers, 3.55 K code rear, tow package, BHPerformance ported E7 heads, Tmoss Explorer intake, 65mm throttle body, Hedman 1 5/8" headers, 2.5" dual exhaust, ASP underdrive pulley

    91 Lincoln Mark VII LSC SE, triple black (Timewarp) - poly front bushings, KYB struts and shocks, Holley SystemMax1 lower intake, SilverFox AOD valve body,

    1984 Lincoln Continental TurboDiesel - rolls coal

    Quote Originally Posted by phayzer5 View Post
    I drive a Lincoln. I can't be bothered to shift like the peasants and rabble rousers

  15. #15
    Fastest Box In South Jersey 86VickyLX's Avatar
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    No.

    There is nothing that the stock ecu can compensate for. And you're not utilizing the heads or intake to even a fraction of their potential. MAF swap it, 24lb injectors (at least) A tune, and a nice Extreme energy or trickflow cam will be a nice set up. Or go with an aftermarket fuel injection system if you don't fancy the MAF mustang ecu. Or carb it. But the cam is useless.
    Last edited by 86VickyLX; 04-08-2021 at 11:52 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 86VickyLX View Post

    No.

    There is nothing that the stock ecu can compensate for. And you're not utilizing the heads or intake to even a fraction of their potential. MAF swap it, 24lb injectors (at least) A tune, and a nice Extreme energy or trickflow cam will be a nice set up. Or go with an aftermarket fuel injection system if you don't fancy the MAF mustang ecu. Or carb it. But the cam is useless.
    Ended up ordering a Megasquirt, a Lunati cam similar to the specs that Gaget73 is running in his H.O. a new timing set + lifters and some other goodies. May be about to get some 30lb injectors as well. That way I can ditch the explorer injectors I was going to use.

    I realize I wouldn't be using any of the parts to their full potential with my initial question, I just wanted to know if it would work without running mad lean and breaking stuff.

    I will need a wideband O2 sensor to fully take advantage of the Megasquirt of course. But it can run on the stock narrow band(s). I have a guy that will be able to get me in for a dyno tune after it's all put together.

    The Megasquirt does keep me speed density, but like I said, it'll get a dyno tune, and I'll be paying the money for that. But I should be able to get it running and driveable before that.
    If I purchase tuner studio it does have a "self learning" feature like the Holley Terminator X does.

    However, I'll be converting a Miata I have to speed density when I eventually get the plug n play ECU I want for it, and it's one that works with Tuner Studio as well. So it made sense to go with that option, after I did some heavy research the past week.

  17. #17
    I'm an air-conditioned gypsy gadget73's Avatar
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    properly tuned, there is really nothing wrong with speed-density. The specific ailment most of us here have is that it isn't tuned for what we need and most of the tuners that do EEC-IV don't mess with SD stuff. Mustangs, which are the only Ford anyone knows about, existed in speed-density form for 3 years and most of those were probably converted a long time ago so thats all anyone knows.

    MS and other non-OEM solutions are probably the sensible way to go anymore. All of the Ford shit is 25+ years old at this point and the prices are getting stupid. The electronics are ailing and the hardware itself has the limits of 1980s tech. When you could buy the ECM for 50 bucks and splice in a couple wires this was a no-brainer but now when a good used ECM is 200+ its not such an appealing thing.

    86 Lincoln Town Car (Galactica).
    5.0 HO, CompCams XE258,Scorpion 1.72 roller rockers, 3.55 K code rear, tow package, BHPerformance ported E7 heads, Tmoss Explorer intake, 65mm throttle body, Hedman 1 5/8" headers, 2.5" dual exhaust, ASP underdrive pulley

    91 Lincoln Mark VII LSC SE, triple black (Timewarp) - poly front bushings, KYB struts and shocks, Holley SystemMax1 lower intake, SilverFox AOD valve body,

    1984 Lincoln Continental TurboDiesel - rolls coal

    Quote Originally Posted by phayzer5 View Post
    I drive a Lincoln. I can't be bothered to shift like the peasants and rabble rousers

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by gadget73 View Post
    properly tuned, there is really nothing wrong with speed-density. The specific ailment most of us here have is that it isn't tuned for what we need and most of the tuners that do EEC-IV don't mess with SD stuff. Mustangs, which are the only Ford anyone knows about, existed in speed-density form for 3 years and most of those were probably converted a long time ago so thats all anyone knows.

    MS and other non-OEM solutions are probably the sensible way to go anymore. All of the Ford shit is 25+ years old at this point and the prices are getting stupid. The electronics are ailing and the hardware itself has the limits of 1980s tech. When you could buy the ECM for 50 bucks and splice in a couple wires this was a no-brainer but now when a good used ECM is 200+ its not such an appealing thing.
    Honestly, I had first looked at the Quarterhorse as an option a couple months ago. But the price of an H.O. ECU and then a Quarterhorse on top of that was just not worth it to me for the option of buying something brand new with a warranty.
    If I ever end up going with a different ECU somewhere down the line I'll spend the money on a Pro M. I just didn't want to spend more on the ECU alone than what I have in every other part on the car, plus the initial purchase of the car itself at this point. My wiring harness hasn't been messed with besides the alternator, which I upgraded to a 3g now, so it's of no concern, and the salt and pepper shakers seem to not be giving any problems right now. So, that's the main reason I opted for the Megasquirt, as it doesn't come with a new harness.

  19. #19
    I'm an air-conditioned gypsy gadget73's Avatar
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    When I pulled my ECM to install the Quarterhorse I found the caps were leaking and dumping corrosive crap on the board, so I certainly get the appeal of "new, with warranty" rather than dealing with stuff that will be increasingly prone to failure from age.

    still think it would be an easier sell if it was cheap, but its just not anymore. Maybe I should delve into an MS system. Would be interesting to see what, if anything, could be gotten out of a dead stock high mileage engine. If I did that on the Mark VII though, it would have to run the cruise control and have proper output to the tripminder or its a no-go. Towncar doesn't have digital dash or integrated cruise.

    86 Lincoln Town Car (Galactica).
    5.0 HO, CompCams XE258,Scorpion 1.72 roller rockers, 3.55 K code rear, tow package, BHPerformance ported E7 heads, Tmoss Explorer intake, 65mm throttle body, Hedman 1 5/8" headers, 2.5" dual exhaust, ASP underdrive pulley

    91 Lincoln Mark VII LSC SE, triple black (Timewarp) - poly front bushings, KYB struts and shocks, Holley SystemMax1 lower intake, SilverFox AOD valve body,

    1984 Lincoln Continental TurboDiesel - rolls coal

    Quote Originally Posted by phayzer5 View Post
    I drive a Lincoln. I can't be bothered to shift like the peasants and rabble rousers

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by gadget73 View Post
    When I pulled my ECM to install the Quarterhorse I found the caps were leaking and dumping corrosive crap on the board, so I certainly get the appeal of "new, with warranty" rather than dealing with stuff that will be increasingly prone to failure from age.

    still think it would be an easier sell if it was cheap, but its just not anymore. Maybe I should delve into an MS system. Would be interesting to see what, if anything, could be gotten out of a dead stock high mileage engine. If I did that on the Mark VII though, it would have to run the cruise control and have proper output to the tripminder or its a no-go. Towncar doesn't have digital dash or integrated cruise.
    Thant's what I'm thinking. That way all the guts of the ECU are new and have a warranty and support for them. I'd love a new wiring harness, but mine's in good shape, so I can't be too upset this time around.

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