850r - convert to manual? or not to convert... That is the question

GhettobirdJulian @Ghettobird Melbourne - SE Suburbs
Hi all

The search for a manual 850r in good nik is something quite a few of us have been on before

My question is, is it worth getting the cleanest auto car I can find with good kms, and converting it later? Or hanging out for a manual car?

The conversion isn't an issue, but I fear parts may get pricey and finding the right box may be impossible (ratios and all)

Seeing that I'd have the car off the road for a few months while working in it, it'd be a good opportunity to do the basics (rms, bushings, clutch and all) to make for a super reliable 850

A donor car seems to be the way to go, then have the ECU reprogrammed by ARD
Cheers for any input!


  • Ex850RSnoopy @Ex850R Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Melbourne.
    Get Ford XR5 Turbo gearbox , 6 Seed , can be had for $1500 in NSW or sometimes $600 from a pleb who is wrecking his crashed one.
    Good plan as manuals are hard to find , mine took 14 months back in the 90s to find , 68000Ks on it though $33K though.....
    Smashed at 160000K [-O<
  • nickmnicko @nickm Sydeneee --- home of the traffic jamb, over priced coffee, and the 2000 Olympics
    There have been a few conversions available here at reasonable prices --under $800 guess if you are hunting down the lsd box then things may get trickier.
    @rob has a good knowledge of this.
  • RobRob @Rob - Lockyer Valley, SE Qld
    edited August 2014
    The conversion is really not difficult. happy to provide direction/assistance IF you need it.

    And I can confirm, despite many people saying the contrary, you do not need to change the ECU, it will run fine on the auto ECU. I don't doubt that the manual ecu would be better but it is not compulsory.

    You are correct though.. If you are after a perfect replica of a genuine 850R it would get expensive, getting an M59 will be very tough and expensive. It can be cheap enough if you are happy to run an M56. The truth is an M56 fitted with an lsd is a better thing than a M59.

    In an ideal world i would go M56H with an LSD fitted.

    As Les says, an M66 is also a relatively painless conversion but it is certainly more difficult and expensive than than a 56. All depends what you are trying to achieve I guess...

  • GhettobirdJulian @Ghettobird Melbourne - SE Suburbs
    Thanks for the advice!
    Im not too fussed about it being original, perfect paint and body work are my biggest concerns
    tossing up between an M66 vs the M56-M56H, would the speedo be accurate in either cases?
    If anything, the car will be my daily for a long time to come

    There is a red 850r in SA on carsales at the moment that looks great!
    1300 for a Quaife from Viva seems a bit steep, but im sure its a great addition
  • nickmnicko @nickm Sydeneee --- home of the traffic jamb, over priced coffee, and the 2000 Olympics
    Speed sensor is off the ABS I think
  • Ex850RSnoopy @Ex850R Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Melbourne.
    Save $1300 (plus $1-200 post?) And just have fun with smoke from the front wheels. I don't reckon any LSD is going to tame it , it takes a lot of electronic wizardry on the XR5 and all other hot fwds to stop it , or go AWD like Rob did , cheaper than LSD anyway.....
  • RobRob @Rob - Lockyer Valley, SE Qld
    @nickm is spot on. So long as the car is '96 onward the Speedo drives from the ABS so wont be affected.

    even with a pre '96 vehicle it is possible to wire up the speedo from the abs...

  • RobRob @Rob - Lockyer Valley, SE Qld
    $1300 quaife is very expensive... but very excellent.

    AWD is a much bigger job..... but awesome :)

    The bit of wheel spin you would have to deal with would be quite acceptable in my books. 99% of the time an open centre will be fine, particularly on a daily driver. You wont miss the LSD very often.

  • Ex850RSnoopy @Ex850R Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Melbourne.
    I was going to say that in the wet , leave car at home , any more than stock boost ( even that's bad ) and getting away from standstill and not looking like you drive like a nanna is annoying....
    Go for AWD.
  • GhettobirdJulian @Ghettobird Melbourne - SE Suburbs
    The diffs do seem extremely expensive, My goal out of all of this is to end up with the nicest shifting-driving car I can make out of it.

    The final drives on the M56H and M66 both look the same, meaning the M66 would be a quicker box?
    THere is a red 850R on carsales atm, has anyone seen it or know anything about her?
  • Ex850RSnoopy @Ex850R Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Melbourne.
    That looks a nice one and all the bits needing done have been , good owner!
    Give Mark Iceton a call at Berry Motor Group / Volvrek , he may have an R , he should have as he has so many volvos in yard/s!
    My old R was that colour , I had the black trim and bumpers painted body colour , looked great!
    Wagon too and manual......
  • Ex850RSnoopy @Ex850R Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Melbourne.
    Look at the ratios of 1st 2nd as this was where they had a short first and then big jump up to second to stop wheelspin but in everyday life it was very annoying. I had my R for some years and that gearbox annoyed the hell out of me! If the M66 has closer ratios 1-2-3 then you will have more fun plus another gear up top which hopefully is more overdrive than the 5spd. On a long boring 100kph trip I would grab another gear at times only to be in 5th...
    I am happier with the auto mostly all of the time , esp around the city when the clutch felt heavy and the suspension was crashing around , it was wearying.....
    An auto box one with the bigger turbo and an ARD or TME tune with the extra boost and torque is a great car to drive!
    I wish I had tuned the R before it got smashed! I was getting to it....
  • GhettobirdJulian @Ghettobird Melbourne - SE Suburbs
    That looks a nice one and all the bits needing done have been , good owner!

    It does look great!
    Shame its in SA though,
    Based in Melbourne, I have flown to sa before and driven a car back (my current 300zx) but I'm wishing is stayed true to what I really wanted
    I'll give Mark a call, hopefully he has access to a red one with black interior!
  • GhettobirdJulian @Ghettobird Melbourne - SE Suburbs
    So im in the market again looking for an 850,
    Is there anything special about putting the Ford XR5 gearbox into an 850? apart it being a 6 speed, rather than a 5
  • Ex850RSnoopy @Ex850R Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Melbourne.
    edited September 2014
    1st Gear 3.0
    1st 3.385
    2nd Gear 1.773
    2nd 2.05
    3rd Gear 1.194
    3rd 1.433
    4th Gear 0.868
    4th 1.088
    5th Gear 0.700
    5th 0.868
    6th 0.7

    Reverse 2.993
    Reverse 3.231
    Final Drive 4.000
    Final Drive 4.0

    That monster gap in the 850 btw 1&2 where the M66 roughly equals 3rd is the reason...
    Was always annoying on slower corners down the GO Road where you had wheelspin in 1st or no power in 2nd , around town unless you revved the bags out of it n first you lose going into second with no power.....

    reason nough and cheap , why would you put the clunker in ?

  • GhettobirdJulian @Ghettobird Melbourne - SE Suburbs
    edited September 2014
    One has popped up, so I may jump at it soon
    Id be right in assuming the XR5 Box is just an M66?
    It does look as tough it will be a lot more work, with different splines, subframe mounts and cables
  • Ex850RSnoopy @Ex850R Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Melbourne.
    Look at the conversions on Volvospeed , Turbobricks may have em , the Swedes and Dutch do them too. Yes , subframe stuff is needed , maybe an AWD subframe is better place to start ( just from looking at mine on the R project and how Rob says his C70 'feels' so much better without the motor mounted on the steering rack ) and you get the newer version of A arm mounts to boot. There is a gearbox mount on the lhs which is a rubber/screw / locknut type thing , looks very bodgy really but does the job , all this can be utilised and a new mount or two welded on easily , check those VS build threads , I know they give good details.
  • Ex850RSnoopy @Ex850R Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Melbourne.
  • GhettobirdJulian @Ghettobird Melbourne - SE Suburbs
    The box that I'd found was from a xr5, seller hasnt got back to me yet regarding what year it's from, kms or if a warranty is included yet.
    Regarding the cost of a swap, it seems that in some situations the drive shafts need to be swapped for a later type.
    Is this a swap you have done before at the shop @iceton1975?
    I'd love to be able to do it myself, but I don't have the space
  • Ex850RSnoopy @Ex850R Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Melbourne.
    Ask Mark at Voldat , more likely to have the insight to a swap or a fellow Bruce who you get with and do it.
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