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Ford Zetec SE Tuning Guide

The name of this engine will confuse everyone because it’s an example of Ford’s multi-name units. It’s title is the Zetec SE but it’s also been labelled, as part of the growing Duratec series of late, plus it’s also called the Sigma in the US. However, it has nothing in common with any other Duratec or Zetec and no parts are interchangeable - confused yet? Told you!

The engine is all aluminium and designed in partnership with Yamaha. It is 16 valve and conforms to the current trend of interference fit/no-engine keyways, just like the Duratec I4. It also features a plastic inlet manifold, variable valve timing in the 1.7, solid lifters, aluminium girdle support unit incorporating the main bearing caps, steel crank and powdered metal construction con rods. Despite that almost worrying fact, they’ll rev to around 8,000rpm. For these reasons, they are being increasingly fitted in kit cars as a replacement for older engines.

Introduced in 1995, capacities available are from 1241cc fourth generation Fiesta, 1388, 1596cc and 1.7 litre Puma format. This engine also features variable valve timing but comes in two main formats - regular 1700 Puma with 125bhp at 6,300rpm and Racing Puma at 155bhp at 6,000rpm. The extra power is made in the tuned exhaust, different induction, cams and timing, plus a different chip in the ECU. You can get reasonable gains from a standard 1.7 litre engine (125bhp), certainly you can tune it close to Racing Puma spec firstly with a better flowing exhaust, a pair of Kent cams plus chip and air filter replacement/upgrades. This should give another 25bhp but more is available with head work.

The standard valves sizes can be retained for all stages of our CNC heads. A raise on the standard CR of 10:1 to 11.5:1 is beneficial for competition use, but at present forged pistons are only available to special build order until demand increases. Performance components are increasingly becoming available for the Zetec SE, including a full range of Kent Cams, adjustable cam pulleys, Omex and Alpha throttle body systems (due this year) and dry sump systems.