I first started considering alternative engines for the Murena nearly twenty years ago. My wife had a Citroen BX GTi with a particularly smooth 1.9 XU engine which made my 2.2 seem a bit lumpy.
I had a call out of the blue from Stuart Morling looking for some bits for the Bagheera Series One into which he had just shoe-horned a 1.6 XU. I was very interested in this and we soon discussed the possibilities of doing a similar transplant on a Murena 1.6. Stuart went on to lead the engineering of the 5 conversions we did, starting in 1992.
Although Stuart has always dissuaded anyone else from the Bagheera conversion his car went on to do a very high mileage in the hands of its next owner who lived in London and drove it all over the UK including Scotland. Stuart did a true bare chassis rebuild on his car and felt that the average Bagheera would not have the strength to cope with more power without similar treatment.
Our XU conversions were all 1.9’s into 1.6 Murenas, both fuel injection and carburetor and ultimately an Mi-16. A couple of other XU conversions were carried out independently at the same time in the UK. I always expected to convert 2.2’s as engine parts dried up, but even now the cost of rebuilding a 2.2 is considerably less than converting to XU.
When I heard that a Murena was to be converted to a PSA HDi engine I couldn’t see the point. Sadly the project was abandoned but a few years later I wish it had been completed because it’s exactly what I would now choose myself. The latest 16 valve 1.6 HDi is a fantastic unit, as responsive as a 2.0 litre petrol engine of a few years ago although I personally prefer the earlier 8 valve HDi which can be driven lazily but provides plenty of power when the discrete turbo is called upon.
The first modified 2.2 I tried was a Carjoy conversion fitted with the Peugeot 505 GTI turbo engine. It was very fast and very very fragile. Having been designed for inline fitment it suffered from oil starvation in fast cornering. But more importantly the turbo produced a lot of heat which it was hard to evacuate from the engine bay. Fitment of an intercooler required that the fuel tank was moved to the front of the car where it displaced the sparewheel. But the heat always remained a problem.
The PRV V6 is probably just too big to fit the Murena engine bay but Carjoy shoe-horned Alfa-Romeo V6’s into some Murenas. Having supplied parts for one and discussed the car with another owner, but not actually seen the car, I can only comment that the brakes weren’t uprated to compensate for the extra weight and this was a serious problem.
I’ve recently been told of a new conversion using a Honda 4 cylinder engine.
Murena 1.9 Conversion
We are sometimes asked for help and parts by people carrying out these conversions. We looked at producing a kit of engine mounts, exhaust manifold and drive-shafts. We can’t help for two reasons:
1) There were at least 3 variants of the 1.6 chassis, each requiring different engine mounts when converted. Furthermore there are even more variations of the 1.6/1.9 engine – 205, BX, carburettor or GTi, 8 valve or 16 valve.
2) There are product liability issues. We wouldn’t want to be responsible for someone else’s work in modifying a car. Every car we worked on was checked thoroughly and any necessary work carried out alongside the engine transplant.
3) What is the point? The cars are now thirty years old. We modernised them by 10 years but I worry now that modifying a 30 year old car with a new engine will not provide modern dynamics.
20 years after we built our first prototype these conversions are still being carried out so if you want to do one find out who is also converting. I won’t advise asking your club as one make clubs are notoriously snooty about such things – I’ve still not been forgiven in some quarters for bringing our prototype along with Stuart’s Bagheera 1.6 to a club meeting in Peterborough in 1992!