Fitting the fuel injected Rover Vitesse engine into a Land Rover 90

 

The Rover Vitesse engine is basically the same engine as all the other 3.5 litres V8's. However it has some special parts that make it much more powerful than the average motor. The compression ratio is 9.75:1 which means you should use good quality fuel and the valves are much larger.

The V8 in my 90 was of the carburated breed, producing something between 125 and 130 horses. The Vitesse produces 197 horses, although higher in the rev range. BUT it also has higher torque and horses in most of the rev ranges the carburated worked in. Only for rockcrawling I would not recommend it in stock form.

I always found the old engine quite good off road but lacking the oomph on fast driven motorways. Usually it topped around 135 km/h with the 265 tires. After the heart transplant it goes up higher but I can't say how high as my speedometer is only graded up to 150 km/h and it largely exceeds this speed. I think it realistically runs at 170 km/h, a speed I hope I never will be obliged to drive. Also it revs now very freely. In third and forth it happily revs over 5000 rpm; on the carburated engine it only reluctantly went over 4000.

These figures are rather academic as the 90 never was and never will be a road sports car. Believe me, at speeds over 100 Mph the road gets very narrow when you have mud tires mounted!

But now let's see what was involved in this whole process. You need:

  • 1 complete engine from a Rover Vitesse car together with the ECU, maybe the fuel pump (if you don't opt for an aftermarket pump) and the complete wiring harness. This last thing is very important as there are lots of connections. The brightest idea would be to buy a complete car. You also need the upper coolant hose that will be cut later to fit the Land Rover radiator.
  • 1 fuel pump for external mounting. I choose an used pump from the wrecking yard. It came out of an Opel/GM Manta 2.0 injection. The elder Opels all used the same pump on their injection systems. A very similar pump was used also by Audi, BMW and others. The number on the pump is 0580 464 003, the manufacturer is Bosch. This pump is adequate and can be found in almost any junkyard. You will also need some thin rubber mounts to dampen the noise the pump makes. Exhaust shops have such rubber mountings that look like miniature motor mounts. Doing without is possible but the pump makes much noise.
  • 1 clutch assembly or at very least a new release bearing. Those are so prone to making noises and wear out it certainly is a good idea to replace them whenever the engine and box are separated. Watch out to get the retaining clip too. It's a very thin piece of plastic or wire and it has no special job to do except when you once have to remove the clutch slave cylinder. Without that small piece you will not get the cylinder mounted correctly again. If you can't get one you can make it yourself.
  • Some lenghts of 12mm and 8mm flexible fuel line. Buy the best you can get.You will also need about 1 metre of copper fuel line (12 mm OD) for the pickup inside the tank.
  • An fuel filter made for fuel injection (8mm inlet and outlet). Standard plastic filters are to coarse and will not last very long under pressure. You can either choose an aftermarket one or get the one used on older Range Rovers. Clean filtered fuel is much more important on EFI engines than on carburated ones.
  • A new timing chain and sprockets if not replaced recently (Land Rover V8, will fit on the Vitesse block)
  • A water pump seal (paper) and timing cover seal or you can make one yourself. Take care to choose the correct thickness for the water pump seal (.75 to 1.00 mm) or cavitating may occur. For the same reason you MUST use a paper seal.
  • A rear and front oil seal (crankshaft) and new freeze plugs (cheap). Get also a new oil sump seal if you have to remove and refit the front cover.
  • A new thermostat (recommended) either for the Vitesse (hotter) or for the Land Rover engine
  • 2 new oil filters (Fram not recommended, you loose too much oil pressure) and about 10 litres of engine oil. DON'T use synthetics right now.
  • A new throttle cable from the old Range Rover. They are very long and you will need this lenght.
  • 2 new rubber engine mounts (recommended)
  • A bronze guide bushing that sits inside the crank
  • An adjustable fuel pressure regulator (recommended)
  • 8 spark plugs

How to do it:

Disconnect batterie

Clean the engine and underbody with a steam cleaner

Remove hood (or whatever you call the engine cover in your part of the world)

Get under it and drain the oil and water (a lift greatly simplifies the work )

This is what it looks like befor work starts. The giant genuine air filter on the back side is still connected to the snorkel.

 

Take out the radiator after removing the upper holders. The plastic air dam will have to be separated to be removed. Watch out for a screw inside the air dam. Remove the front (I didn't as we cleverly had passed the hydraulic lines through the square hole in the middle and I didn't want to remove them. Wish I had as the system had to be opened anyway)

Loosen all bolts between engine and gearbox. Remove carb linkage. Loose all electrical connections. Remove Distributor cap after having marked the high tension leads (the cap can easily be damaged)

Not much involved here, all basic mechanics.

We choose to leave the exhaust manifolds mounted until the engine was out and this proved right. The clearance between this Rimmer stainless (yes, indeed) system and the frame rails is marginal. Disconnect Y-pipe and remove it from under the car.

Remove exhaust manifold and studs and refit it on other engine.

Get the old engine out- carefully. You will need some parts so don't throw it away right now. Put some wooden blocks under the oil pan before sitting it down.

 

This is what the new engine looks like. The exhaust manifolds are already bolted on.

As the engine comes from a car the pulley and the water pump are different. You can use them but your power steering pump will no longer align to any pulley. So if you want to keep PAS the only choice you have here is to take off the complete front timing cover with timing chain and sprockets. Set them at TDC before removing

A word of warning: The final Allan head bolt that lies hidden behind the steering pump has a non-metric and non-inch head. I finally found an Withworth key that fitted.

When removing the water pump mark the bolts clearly as they are of different lenghts and must be refited correctly

Remove the clutch assembly and flywheel. Pry out the old rear crank seal and use it for tapping the new in place. Coat it on the outside with a sealant and grease the inner lips. Put a new bronze guide into the crank.

Replace the freeze plugs. Those are the small caps blocking off the water galleys. They do rust from the inside and are a pain in the a** to replace- you must remove the engine for doing this

Here you see the difference between the Land Rover's water pump and pulley (left) and Vitesse pump (right). Note the different pulley offsets and the greater number of blades on the fan on the Vitesse.

We switched the fan blades at the same time to get a better cooling on the hotter running Vitesse engine.

The O.D. is the same so fitting is no problem.

Tighten and double check all connections to the fuel rail and to the injectors. On mine 2 clamps were missing- in a hidden place.

The fuel pressure regulator provides the right pressure at the injectors by partly blocking the fuel return line. This is a part that tends to get tired. Mine showed later an operating pressure of between 2.2 and 2.6 bars which was perfectly in the limits. However when replacing it by an adjustable progressive valve I noticed a tremendous improvement in power output. You can also try to put a little bit of pressure on the outside of the valve body, pretensioning it a bit. This must be done carefully, we did and we got a prssure of between 4.0 and 4.2 bars- too much for my liking.

Check the new distributor for correct advance by taking off the cap and looking at the finger moving when you apply vacuum to the line. Check for free movement of the flyweights. Mine did not move right on both checks so we dismantled it and rebuilt it with parts from the new and the old distributor. The Vitesse unit has 3 wires going out, the old (in fact the newer unit) had only 2 wires.

Refit distributor correctly. We did not fit the Vitesse coil as it has open electronics at it's base and I think this is not a good idea for use in the mud.

 

Fit the complete wiring harness onto the engine before mounting it. It's very hard to reach some connectors even now and later inside the engine bay it would be almost impossible. Mount everything you can including vacuum lines and distributor cap

Clean out the bell housing with brake cleaner. Take out the actuating fork. Inspect it for wear. V8 units are cast iron and much stronger than TDi units made of stamped steel and who wear out.

Grease with high temperature grease and refit together with new bearing and clips.

Grind off or turn the bolt shown. In my case it had about half an inch clearance before and almost no clearance after the conversion, resulting in a very loud shatter. When mounted it's very difficult to get at.

The big moment has come. Lower the engine carefully back in place. The water hose is tightened up later and belongs to a Kenlowe engine preheater system. I also moved Rovercraft's oil change valve from the old to the new engine- a very nice addition.
It looks almost finished but there's still a lot of work to do.

Refit the plastic air dam, then the radiator. Check for clearances. Here due to some unknown tolerances it sat slightly higher than before and we had to fit some shims under the radiator to make it fit.

You can only check for tolerances when the air dam is fitted correctly and bolted down.

Also the left bracket had to be slightly modified as it did touch the rubber water hose. A small gap here is a must or the hose will fail soon.

In european versions of the 90 the tank is under the passenger seat. You have to remove the genuine fuel pump inside the tank and fabricate a new lid and fuel pickup line. The pump inlet is 12 mm OD so I choose to fit also a 12 mm pickup tube. The genuine size is not enough for the pump, you can clearly hear it starving and making bubbles. The 12mm line is OK. Try to find some sort of coarse prefilter to fit around the tip inside the tank. I found a copper mesh in an auto parts supply shop and fixed it with a stell clamp to the pickup line. Don't cut the end in the tank rectangular but make a 45° cut. This is to avoid fuel starvation if the tank ever gets a hammering. The pump has a 8mm outlet and this is identical to the genuine fuel lines.

Now fix the computer as for out of harms way as possible. The underside of the dashboard on the passenger side lends itself good for this- under the seat there's too much heat from the exhaust. Cut a hole as far as possible to the right side for the wiring. Triple check for placement as inside lies the heater. But there's plenty of space. Make 3 holes for fixing the computer. Again take care. It will fit exactly behind the heater and you can reach the bolts left and right of the heater core.

Make sure you can later reach the ECU and the connector for trouble checking. Also a good earth on the ECU is needed. In the foreground you see copper grease. I use it on every bolt and inside most (single) connectors.

You have to connect the ECU to a constant 12 V+ and an ignition switched 12V+ feed as well as to a starter signal..

Take off an 12 V switched feed from the main fuse box as access is easier than to the ignition switch. I soldered a connector in this line. It only has to switch a relais so overloading another circuit is impossible.

Make sure the line has a CONSTANT switched 12V. Some circuits do switch off when the starter turns to reduce batterie load. If you take the feed off one of those lines you will never be able to start up the thing.

I took the starter signal at the starter motor itself, again for simplicity.

This is the final location of the parts. You sadly have no choice in positioning the air flow meter as the brake cylinder is in the way on the other side. The power resistor unit contains a set of 8 resistors who reduce the 12 V to a much lower current used by the injectors. later even the coil found a suitable place in the corner behind the flow meter. To fit the VDO water temperature sender I cut the genuine car upper coolant hose and fitted the VDO tube with the sender. The hose has to be cut anyway but if you do this right it fits perfectly.

The flow meter is directly connected to the snorkel but only for test runs. A K&N washable filter was installed immediately after.

Remove the componets to make a solid attachment for the air flow sensor. It must be mounted as soft as possible to eliminate vibrations. I used rubber mounts as on the pump mounting above.

You can also see why it's impossible to mount the sensor in another position.

The thick braided lines in the right lower corner belong to the hydraulic Milemarker winch.

Another problem that arose was that the EFI has a much longer throttle actuating. So the cable (see above) had to be modified to fit. After checking and reckecking we still found about 20° missing to get full opening. So we had to cut off the lower tip of the gas pedal by more than an inch, leaving only 2/3 left. This is not the best solution in everiday's driving and will be remedied soon.
After having checked all fuel lines, connections and bolts twice refit the hood.
After warming up you must use an exhaust gas analyzer for correct setting. Thank god we had access to a professional system. Spark advance was set to 8°-10° at 800rpm (vacuum connected), idle at 1000 rpm (for the run-in period) and CO to 1%

So what was left? The very first run wasn't that much of a success as the fuel pump decided to quit after a good mile of driving. So we walked back and got a tow car (nice at 2.30AM in a cold night and wearing only thin overalls)

The day after I got 2 new pumps (one for the second tank I have on the driver's side) and it fired up immediately. However power output was less than satisfactory so we raised the fuel pressure (as described above). Now after a new dial-in it run perfectly, smooth and powerfull and eager to rev.

The genuine Vitesse air filter housing was fit at the back of the engine. The rubber hose from the snorkel connected just up there (tie it out of the way of the steering column!!). Only problem remaining was how to get the clean air from the back of the engine to the front near the air meter. So I bought a quantity of plastic rain water drainage tubes with 70mm inner diametre. They are light, smooth and watertight. They only look dull. So I wrapped them with aluminium tape, also to shield off the heat. It still looks silly but is very effective. The only possibility for routing is OVER the engine intake. Place is limited but available. Any other routing was even longer.

Another problem arose today: The engine shut off for a few seconds. After half a minute it restarted and run as nothing happened. I don't think it's an ignition fault as the tachometer showed a reading when slowing down. I'd rather put my bet on a computer ECU fault. Luckily I can have it repaired for a very good price via Rovercraft. But I'll have to run it for some more days to see if the fault reoccurs. If it's the computer the problem will quickly return.

Click here for ECU troubleshooting procedures  

So what's the final conclusion? I does run better. And faster. I think after ironing out the few remaining bugs the system will work flawlessly. But I still miss some horses. Seems as if I'll have to dive inside the engine to check the cam for wear. For the price invested (just over 1000£ or under 2000$) I got a whole lot of additional power.

A word of caution: Don't think this is an afternoon job. We had a fully equipped professional garage with all the resources and it took us two about 8 looong evenings to do.

Conclusions after a year of use:

The shutting-off experienced was due to the ECU-problem. They simply die after some years. Vibrations cause contacts on the integrated circuits to crack. This way you get intermittent faillure either when cold or warm, depending on the position of the crack.

I had the ECU repaired by an local electronic wizard. Some say it's not worth bothering as the repairs will only switch the problem for some months until another component fails. But I have no trouble for over a year now and the repair did only cost a fraction of a new ECU

Another problem that arose was that the air flow from the snorkel to the air filter housing at the back and then to the intake manifold at the front of the engine proved to be too long and obstructing. I had to mount a small K&N air filter directly on the intake manifold. This changed the output especially at higher rpm's dramatically.

However the engine proved to be worn out. This will teach me never to buy an engine from a friend. The engine is generally ok IF you stay under 3000 rpm. Over that it throws unburnt oil out of the exhaust. Luckily the engine is still so powerful I rarely have to rev it up. Only with a heavy caravan I must push it harder. Then oil consumption is at over 2 liters per 1000 Km. In this case it also pushes oil out of every seal, especially at the top end.

Fuel consumption is generally around 15 liters per 100 km, with a caravan it can go up to 18-19 liters.

Another and very annoying problem was overheating. I think the standard 3.5 produces less heat as power=heat. With the Vitesse engine it runs extremely hot. All the rest of the cooling circuit is fine. I tried everything but with few results. On the road it was ok but once going slow it overheated in about 15 minutes.

At the end I mounted a very flat electric fan in front of the radiator. It comes off an elder Mercedes saloon car where it is used on the air condition radiator. This one's so big and so powerful it can keep the engine now indefinitely cool in offroad conditions. It just fits, being almost as big as the radiator. It uses a 16Amp fuse, I measured a constant 8 Amps draw. I use an thermocontact together with an override switch. Normally I switch it on when driving off tarmac but the thermoswitch is nice in case I forget.

Now let's figure out the prices it costed ME:

1 engine, complete with EFI

50.000.-

Gaskets, rubber mounts, seals etc 2.500.-
2 Fuel pumps, electric

2.500.-

1 Fuel regulator (RPI) 5.000.-
2 Oil filters

600.-

1 fuel filter 1.700.-
Set of rain drainage tubes 2.500.-
1 air filter K&N 1.400.-
TOTAL 66.900.- FLux