Fast Ford - - Ff Tech -

If you’re ac­cus­tomed to a slick modern ST gearchange, don’t be alarmed by a stock XR3 - they were all im­pre­cise, even when new. Add age and wear into the mix, and most by now feel de­cid­edly sloppy.

Early cars fea­tured the BC4 four-speed man­ual gear­box, while Fe­bru­ary 1982 brought the five-cog BC5; both were the same units found in other Mk3 Es­corts, al­beit with a lower fi­nal drive ra­tio (3.84:1) in the XR. The four­speed is reck­oned to have a slightly bet­ter feel, al­though the BC5 means im­proved econ­omy and more re­laxed cruis­ing.

Many ear­lier cars were up­graded to five-speed many years ago but it wasn’t a straight­for­ward swap, re­quir­ing dif­fer­ent mounts, drive­shafts and so on. To­day, com­po­nents for the BC4 aren’t as widely avail­able, so bear it in mind if you’d like to re­turn to stan­dard.

The four-speed had a re­turn spring, which is prone to wear­ing out or fall­ing off, re­sult­ing in a floppy stick. Gear link­ages on all ’boxes get tired, and their plas­tic se­lec­tor rod bushes can cause is­sues. Even poor align­ment af­ter a re­build of­ten re­sults in dif­fi­culty se­lect­ing gears.

Gear­boxes don’t last for­ever, so worry if you hear funny noises, be­cause it’s prob­a­bly on its last legs; if it’s whining or rum­bling, sus­pect tired shaft bear­ings. Crunch­ing, es­pe­cially on sec­ond or third gears, sug­gests the syn­chro­mesh rings are wear­ing out. Oil leaks should also ring alarm bells but, for­tu­nately, re­con­di­tioned gear­boxes aren’t too pricey.

It’s also worth check­ing for slip from the XR3’s lit­tle clutch, which doesn’t stand up to much abuse. With the car sta­tion­ary, en­gage sec­ond or third gear and let your foot off the pedal; if the en­gine stalls, the clutch is okay.

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