The 2.3L gets a bad rep as a performance engine but in reality it's used by many oval track racers in Mini Stock class race cars. On a street car such as yours I would go out to a pick-n-pull and look for a Ford Ranger PU from the 90's. What you want is the camshaft and Roller Rocker arms. The cam is better then any of the early cams the 2.3L got when it came with a carb and the roller rockers improve performance and MPG! The cams swap without issues as long as your cam bearings are in good shape. The bearings are not hard to change, I did them myself but the head was off the engine and on my work bench.
If you have a stock exhaust manifold get a better one like a true header!
You can even convert to a Turbo 2.3L engine out of a late 80's T-Bird or Mustang, of Merkur XR4ti. Once installed you can get 220-240 HP using stock parts with simple mods. I know one drag racer that uses the 2.3L Turbo in a Mustang that makes over 500 HP but not much remains original other then the block & crank.