I drove two 1.9 conversions and was able to compare one of them on a fast, twisty bit of road with my car.
Car 1 - Murena 1.6 converted by it's owner, a mechanical engineer called Lawrence Hatfield. This car had a peugeot 205 1.9 GTI engine in. The engine had a fast road camshaft, twin weber 45 DCOEs and a modified cylinder head.
Car 2 - Murena 1.6 converted by Will Falconer. The car had a standard Peugeot 205 1.9 GTI engine. The only modification was that it ran on twin Dell'ortos.
Firstly - I would recommend the conversion. Both cars went very well. I have driven a few Caterham sevens and the performance of car 1 was not far off. Car 2 had a bit less torque but was still very impressive. The acceleration of the cars was good and the performance matched the handling and look of the Murena well.
Car 2 was very neatly converted - nice and tidy. The engines seemed to be mounted at about the same height with car 1's maybe slightly further forward.
Handling compared well with the original murena 1.6 and I was hard pushed to find any differences, the balance stays pretty much the same. I would say that car 2 seemed very slightly lighter at the back than my 1.6 on fast corners.
The gearshift on both cars was very good, car 1 was quite notchy but not difficult. Lawrence had redesigned the shift mechanism with less links and more rose-joints. The only problem I found was that the throttle was extremely stiff on car two, but I'm sure that could be sorted out by rerouting the cable or removing/replacing one of the return springs.
I think if you're considering a conversion, getting the extra work done on the engine is worth it. Acceleration from any revs (particularly lower revs) was brilliant, the car could be balanced, slid and controlled on the throttle in corners. The exhaust note of both cars was very nice.
Lawrence had also altered the braking system, which again was nicely done and worked well. The rear discs and callipers were replaced with ones from a Sierra Cosworth 4x4. The pistons are almost identical so the braking bias is unchanged. The discs need a small amount machined off to mate to the murena hubs and the callipers need a small spacer to position them correctly. These are both very simple and can be done by any workshop.
I made some sketches and took a few measurements and pictures of the engine mounts because I was thinking of doing a conversion myself, but I was pleased with the work I saw done by Will and as he only lives about 2 hrs away I think I'll leave it all to him!
The major difference in the installation in both cars, was that Will's uses the original engine mounts and unequal length drive shafts. Lawrence hacks out the engine mounts and bolts his ones to the chassis directly, he then uses equal length driveshafts. Although this method works well and shouldn't give many problems, angle-grinding out the original mounts is a bit scary - especially if you want to put things back later on.Darren Elmslie