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Shooting Tel-Star

A 1986 Ford Telstar TX5 with an understated appearance - but 180kW at the wheels!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • Ford Telsar TX5 - an underrated package
  • Performance built engine
  • Garrett roller-bearing turbo
  • Programmable multi-point injection
  • 180.9kW at the wheels and 13.5 second quarter mile performance!
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Comfort, practicality, affordability and potential 13 second performance. With all of these attributes, we can only wonder why more people don’t modify the Mazda 626 Turbo and its badge-engineered Ford cousin, the TX5 Turbo.

James X is the owner of this 1986 AS Ford TX5 Turbo, which is almost certainly the most powerful in Australia - its 180.9kW at the wheels is nothing to be taken lightly! And neither is its best quarter mile time of 13.5 seconds; it’s more than enough to well-and-truly stick it up the pretenders.

And that’s how James gets his kicks.

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Truth is, James never went out to build Australia’s fastest 2.0 litre TX5. The car had been in his family almost since new and it had been passed down to him. It arrived in his hands with nothing more than a boost controller - and 390,000km on the odometer!

After using the car for daily duties, James grew pretty fond of the mighty ‘5. Its comfort and fully-featured cabin are the aspects he likes most. But its tuning potential is arguably the biggest draw-card.

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When the original engine started to feel a bit tired (finally!), James thought he’d treat ‘er to a better-than-average rebuild. With the intention of turning up the wick, the FE turbo motor was rebuilt with forged pistons, inspected standard rods and a balancing job. Blow-by oil is received by a polished catch-can with a sight tube.

The SOHC 2 valve head was also ported by a local race engine guru – the result is the ability to flow 125 cfm through the inlet and around 120 cfm through the exhaust ports at 10 inches of water test pressure. A billet camshaft was also slipped in along with firmer valve springs. We’re told the engine now revs cleanly to 7000 rpm.

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One of the most eye-catching under-bonnet features is the custom intake manifold, which replaces the factory single-point injection system. James is a design engineer, so he had no problems coming up with a new bell-mouthed intake manifold with a barrel-shape plenum. Once he’d pieced the manifold hardware together it was handed to a mate (Carl) for welding – and it’s a top job. A Ford XF Falcon throttle is employed at the end of the plenum and provides a substantially better flow than the tiny OE throttle.

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Interestingly, the factory exhaust manifold remains in service – even although the engine currently produces about three times the factory output! An adaptor plate on the manifold allows James to mount a Garrett GT25 ‘440hp’ roller-bearing turbocharger with an internal wastegate. The exhaust system is an off-the-turbo custom 3 incher.

The GT25 turbo inhales through a pod filter on the end of a convoluted pipe and blows through an ARE ‘Hot Chilli’ Type B front-mount air-to-air intercooler with custom piping. Note that the Australian-delivered 2.0 litre FE turbo engine is not factory-fitted with any form of intercooling. James has also installed a TurboSmart blow-off valve and LPG solenoid type boost controller giving up to 15 psi.

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The original single-point injection is a major power limitation, so with the fitment of the new intake manifold, James switched to multi-point injection. You’ll find a Rochester 680cc injector mounted on top of each cylinder runner, a custom aluminum fuel rail and high-temperature 3/8 inch lines. Fuel is delivered by a Bosch 984 external pump and a Malpassi adjustable FRP is employed.

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Controlling the multi-point injection system is a MicroTech LT8 programmable system that was wired in by James and tuned by ChipTorque. The ignition system is the original single coil and dizzy set-up – a system that James says is currently holding back overall torque and power.

Still, with a mild 15 psi of boost and 98 RON pump fuel James’ TX5 has stomped out an impressive 180.9kW at the wheels on ChipTorque’s Dyno Dynamics chassis dyno.

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And how well does the driveline cope with this grunt?

Amazingly well. Using a Direct Clutch heavy-duty full-face clutch and pressure plate combo the standard 5 speed gearbox and driveshafts have so far performed problem-free. How is it possible? Well, without a front LSD, the TX5 hunts for traction whenever the GT25 turbo comes up on boost. Despite the fitment of Toyo street slicks, James says he’s seen one of the front tyres smoking in second gear down the quarter mile...

And the time? Try a supercar-rivaling 13.5 seconds at 106 mph - yeah!

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Such rampant performance is rarely expected from a TX5 – let along one that looks virtually stock! Those Toyo street slicks are worn on the standard TX5 alloys and the body is completely original – parking dings, scrapes an’ all! The only external giveaways are the 3 inch exhaust and tinted windows, tail lights and front indicators. The body has also been lowered using shortened struts with reset springs and Monroe dampers. DBA slotted discs can be seen if you peer past the wheel spokes.

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Indoors, James likes the factory fitout so there isn’t a need to go ripping out seats and door trims. With the exception of an Autotechnica steering wheel, it remains all factory-cosy. However, to keep an eye on the engine James has fitted a 10 LED air-fuel ratio meter, a shift light (contained in the socket of an ignition lead!) and an AutoMeter boost gauge. Oh, and the ‘80s radio-cassette got the boot to make space for a Schneider tuner/CD wired to an Alpine 5 channel amp, Alpine 5 inch front splits, Kenwood 6 x 9 rears and a Pioneer 10 inch sub-woofer.

So where to from here?

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Well, James is looking into fitting the latest MircoTech system to run a set of direct-fire coils. With added ignition system sophistication, James is confident of running up to 20 psi boost – and achieving around 300hp (220kW) at the wheels.

“If I get possessed I might even freshen the body and paint and put on a nice set of wheels,” says James.

Update– About a month after our photo shoot the standard 5 speed gearbox finally spat the dummy. It happened as the turbo wound up in third gear. A second-hand ‘box from a wrecker and a few hundred bucks later and the TX5 should be ready for another head-kicking stint!


+61 7 5596 4204

Thanks to Fibre King, Carl and Rob (James’ brother).

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