Ford produced three engines called “Essex” and this week’s technical article is about all three. We’ll start with the British V4 and then the V6 and finish with the Canadian V6.
When Ford in the UK released the Mark 1 Transit van in 1965, it was fitted with a V4 engine of 1.7 or 2 litres. It was an Overhead Valve motor and put out between 70 and 90hp. It was built at the Dagenham factory in Essex, hence the name. In Europe, Ford built a similar designed V4 for the German Transit, which was called the Cologne V4 after its factory. In the UK, the Essex V4 went into the Corsair, Consul, Granada and Zephyr saloons and the Mark 1 Capri sports coupe – the main picture shows a Mark 1 at the track.
In 1966, Ford commissioned a new V6 and the Essex/Cologne V4 engines were used as a base and two extra cylinders were added to each engine for their respective markets. The V6 still used the overhead valve design with displacements of 2.5 and 3 litres. It had a 60° V formation and was in production for 25 years. It went into many of Ford’s UK models like the Cortina, Capri, Escort, Zephyr and Zodiac as well as the AC ME3000, Gilberns, Reliant Scimitars and TVRs. Like the V4, it was designed for the Transit first and was designed as both a petrol and diesel motor, although the diesel didn’t make it into production.
Because of the original desire to be a diesel, the engine is very heavy with heavy-duty components. The block for the 2.5 and 3 litre versions are identical so you can swap piston heads and other components and because it had such a distinguished life across many models and on the circuits, there are plenty of lightweight components to improve the performance.
Although the engine stopped production in 1981 in the UK, the tooling was shipped to South Africa where it was manufactured from 1982 – 2000 for African built Ford models. The Cologne engine replaced the Essex for the British market.
Ford also produced a V6 in Canada at their Essex Engine Plant in Windsor, Ontario. In 1982 a 90° V6 was developed with a 3.8 litre displacement. Urban myth has it that Ford needed a V6 so copied a Buick motor that was going out of production. My question is why would they do that when they already had very successful 3 litre V6s in the form of the Essex and Cologne? There were similarities between the Ford and GM engines, however that could have been down to using the same external components. It would have been cheaper to use existing pumps and other kit rather than designing new ones – many parts are interchangeable: AMC certainly used bits from Ford’s parts bin.
The 3.8 went into the US version of the Granada along with other models like the Mustang, the Thunderbird, F-Series, Mercury and Lincoln models. The Cougar XR-7 and the Thunderbird Super Coupe used a supercharged version pumping out 210hp, up from 120 in the base motor. In 2004 the 3.8 was uprated to a 3.9 for that model year Mustang and this went into other models for 3 years before being replaced by a Cologne V6.
The 3.8 was joined by a 200 hp 4.2 litre version which was in production from 1997 until 2007 and was the last version before the factory was closed and the engine replaced by the Duratec 35, a 3.5 litre V6 build in Cleveland Ohio. The fact that these engines were in production for so many years shows that you might be buying a new vehicle, however the technology under the hood certainly isn’t! However, what you can be sure of is the fact that the components are reliable with plenty of years to iron out any issues.