This is a sample page from:

High Performance Ford Engine

Parts Interchange

by George Reid

Softbound 8-3/8 X 10-7/8

128 pages

Over 300 b/w photos

Click the link below to buy this book:

First-ever book about Ford parts interchangeCovers the entire range of Ford engines from

221-CID to 460-CID

This is one of the best books ever written about Ford engines. Covering both big- and small-block Ford V-8 engines, this first-ever book on the subject provides indispensable information to the Ford enthusiast. Included are high performance factory parts, interchangeability between Ford Windsor and Cleveland engines, extensive coverage of the 302 and 351 series as well as the 352, 390, 406, 427, 428, 429, and 460 big block engines,

factory casting numbers, etc. Read the sample pages from each chapter to learn more!

Big Block - 332/352/360/361/390/406/410/427/428/429/Boss 429/460

General Information

The Ford big-block story centers itself around two primary engine families—the FE-series and the

385-series engines. There is also the MEL-series big-block (meaning Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln,

displacing 383, 430 and 462ci) which will not be covered because it is not a performance engine.

Little, if anything of a performance nature is available for the MEL-series engines. Similar in design

to the 385-series big-block, the “MEL” was primarily a Lincoln engine, although it did find brief

application in the Thunderbird. The “MEL” was a large passenger car big-block designed for low-

end torque and quiet operation.

FE/FT Series 332/352/361

The “FE” (meaning “Ford Engine”—not “Ford Edsel” or “Ford Engineering”) series big-block was

introduced in 1958 as the 332ci V-8 with a 4.00-inch bore and a 3.30-inch stroke. The 332 debuted

with the larger 352ci big-block. The displacement increase was accomplished by stroking the 332 to

3.50-inches. The FE-series big-block was a hardy Y-block design that lived in many different forms

during its production life which ended in 1976. Use of the FE-series big-block in passenger cars ended after 1971 with retirement of the 390. The 400M small-block replaced the 390 for 1972 in passenger cars.

The 332 and 352 used the same 4-inch bore block. Early in production during the 1958 model

year, these engines had mechanical lifters, which means these early blocks were not designed for

hydraulic lifters. Hydraulic blocks were drilled with oil galleries to feed the hydraulic lifters. Ford

upgraded the 332 and 352 to hydraulic lifters to meet large passenger car standards of the era.

Few customers who purchased large passenger cars wanted the frustration of periodic valve

adjustment in an era where competitive vehicles had maintenance-free hydraulic lifters.

A number of revisions occurred in the “FE” engine blocks to further improve quality and reliability. It

is important to pay close attention to casting numbers when searching for a 332/352 block. If date

coding isn’t important to you, then look for the improved 1961 and up block, which has deeper

cylinder head and main bearing cap bolt holes. This gives the head and main bearing cap bolts a

deeper thread grip, which is important in high performance applications. Because this block has the

oiling passages for hydraulic lifters, you have a choice of mechanical or hydraulic lifters.

With the introduction of the 332/352 was the 361, an “FE” big-block available only in the 1958-59

Edsel and 1958 Ford Police Interceptors. The 361 had the 332/352’s 3.30-inch stroke. However, it

had a larger 4.05-inch cylinder bore—the same as the 390 to come later in 1961.

A typical "FE" series big-block cross-section. The "FE" was born of the Y-block approach with its long

skirts which cradle the crankshaft and provide rigidity. Cross-bolted main caps, not shown here, are unique to

late-1962 406s and all 1963 427s. This illustration is typical of the 332/352/ 360/361/ 390/early 406/410

and 428.


The 360/390/410 are grouped together because they share the same basic block with the 4.05-

inch bore. Increases in displacement come from increasing the stroke on the 4.05-inch bore. The

390, introduced in 1961, is likely the most common of the FE-series big-blocks because it found

home in so many applications. Where the 390 differs from the earlier 332/352/361 is its longer

stroke—3.78-inches. Two- and four-barrel versions of the 390 were most common, seconded by

the High Performance versions which made Ford a hit in 1961-62. The 390-6V High Performance V-

8 delivered a whopping 401 horsepower, thanks to six-barrel Holley carburetion and improved

heads. This engine has heavier main bearing caps and webs, not to mention oiling system

refinements which make the engine more reliable. Because the 1961-62 390 High Performance

engine has mechanical lifters, it lacks the oil galleries common to hydraulic lifter-equipped 332/352/

361/390 engines.

There were many variations of the 390 besides those just mentioned—Police Interceptor,

Thunderbird Special, and the Special. There were also industrial, stationary and marine versions.

Each is distinctive, and each will be discussed later to help get you dialed into the right combination

of parts.

The 410 was a Mercury-only engine option available in 1966-67 with the 390’s 4.05-inch bore and

the 428’s 3.98-inch stroke. Ford achieved 410 cubic-inches by fitting the 390 block with the 428

crank. Keep this in mind for your 390 hop-up endeavors. Stroking the 390 with a 428 crank is easy.

A soul mate to the 390 is the 360 introduced in 1968, which has the same 4.05-inch bore with the

352’s shorter 3.50-inch stroke. Otherwise, the 360 and 390 are virtually the same engine. The 360

was used exclusively in pickup trucks while the 390 found use in both cars and trucks.

The 1963 390 Thunderbird Special V-8 with four-barrel carburetion and a generator. Alternators didn't arrive on "FE" Fords until 1963 on some models.The "FE" didn't change much throughout its service life. This is a 1967 vintage 390-4V engine equipped with an alternator charging system. Note the alternator mount cast into the

block for 1965 and later.

390 High Performance V-8, circa 1969.


The 406 came along in 1962 with the 390’s 3.78-inch stroke, but with a larger 4.13-inch bore,

thicker cylinder walls and heavier main bearing webs. Other differences include an oil pressure

relief valve at the rear of the block, larger oil galleries for increased volume, and chamfered main

bearing oil holes for improved flow. Toward the end of the 1962 model year, Ford cross-bolted the

406’s main bearing caps for structural integrity under severe duty conditions.

Engine failure and marginal performance in NASCAR competition are what led Ford to the

legendary 427 of mid-year 1963. The 427, aside from the obvious cubic-inch advantage, has a

stronger, better lubricated block born of racing necessity. It was through Ford’s desire to win that

the 427 was conceived at all. The 427 has the 390 and 406’s 3.78-inch stroke with a huge 4.23-

inch bore. But it is not the same block by any means. What makes the 427 better is the block’s high-

nickel content and stress-relieving during manufacturing. Stress-relieving of the blocks during

manufacturing was nothing more than the slow cooling of the iron casting after the block was cast.

After casting, 427 blocks were machined and assembled on a 427-specific line at the Dearborn,

Michigan engine plant, where additional attention was paid to detail. Each 427 was hand-built with

high performance use in mind. The 427 block has a greater deck thickness to successfully handle

the horrific compression ratios. Like the last of the 406s, the 427 employs cross-bolted main

bearing caps and heavier main bearing webbing. Block construction like this kept the bottom end

together on the track, thrusting Ford into the winner’s circle worldwide during 1963-67 since

reliability vastly improved. The 427 Side-Oiler came along in 1965 as a means for getting more oil

to the main and rod bearings.

What’s nice about the 427 is Ford’s attention to improvements as a result of information learned

from the harsh racing environment. The best 427 blocks, for example, are 1965-66 vintage

because they have all of the improvements—solid refinements to the casting that netted Ford a

better block. Finding good, undamaged examples of the era is the greatest challenge.

Extremely rare and certainly exotic is the 427 SOHC. Known as the “Cammer” in Ford circles, the

427 SOHC is a single overhead cam big-block originally conceived for NASCAR racing. NASCAR

didn’t approve the Cammer for competition. However, the 427 SOHC did find its way into drag

racing. This engine has a unique FE-series block with special oiling holes. This block is

interchangeable with wedge heads. However, Cammer heads are only compatible with the Cammer


Finding an undisturbed 427 block is both rare and typically expensive. Because this block takes the

cylinder bores to the limit at 4.23-inches, it can only be bored out to a total of 4.26-inches—that’s a .

030-inch overbore limit. If the block has already been bored .030-inch, it must be sleeved.

Overboring beyond .030-inch will put you into the water jackets. Unique to the 427 is a steel-forged

crankshaft, although cast cranks were also used. All other FE-series big-blocks (except the FT) had

nodular iron crankshafts.

Cylinder Block - Big Block FE Series

Although the FE-series big-blocks have an identical external appearance in many respects, there

are distinct differences in these engine blocks which are important to understand in any engine

building project. The first “FE” engine blocks used for the 332 and 352 in 1958 were designed only

for the use of mechanical lifters and did not have the oil galleries necessary to feed hydraulic lifters.

Mid-year 1958, Ford upgraded the new “FE” big-block engines to hydraulic lifters, which meant the

addition of two oil galleries down the middle of the valley which pressurized and lubricated the

hydraulic lifters. The one exception was the 352 High Performance engine of 1960 which was

equipped with mechanical lifters and not drilled for hydraulics.

Nearly all "FE" blocks have this "352" in the casting at the front of the block, including the 427s. This casting

identification began with the 352ci engines in 1958 and remained with the "FE" throughout its service life.

Hydraulic lifter blocks have drilled passages (arrows) to feed the lifters. Mechanical lifter blocks, such as early 332/352, 352 and 390 High Performance, 427 and some 428 Police Interceptors, are not drilled at these bosses.

Another change to watch out for is the engine mount bolt holes on pre-1965 “FE” blocks. Blocks

before 1965 had two-bolt engine mounts while those from 1965 and later had three-bolt engine

mounts. This isn’t a problem if you plan on using a 1965 and later block in a pre-1965 vehicle.

Problems abound when using a pre-1965 block in a post-1965 vehicle because some machining

and drilling are required. If you find a block with four engine mount attachment holes on each side,

you’ve found an “FT” block for trucks.

Once you have found the casting number, and even if you haven't, the block casting date code can help. This date code is "3A12" which tells us January 12, 1963.Another important change addresses cylinder head bolts beginning in 1961. From 1958-60, all “FE” blocks were fitted with 4 7/32-inch long cylinder head bolts all around. Beginning in 1961, however, all “FE” blocks were fitted with 2 7/8-inch long head bolts along the outside of the block and 4 19/32-inch long bolts inboard. One other change to watch for is on late-1963 and later blocks where an additional bolt hole for the alternator was incorporated into the front of the block.

When searching for a block, bore size is your first clue regarding what you have found, in addition

to the presence of oil passages, casting numbers and date codes. The 332 and 352 had 4.00-inch

bores. The larger displacement Edsel 361 had the same 4.05-inch bore as the 390. Though it is

highly unlikely that you will stumble upon an Edsel 361 block, be mindful of its 4.05-inch bores

coupled with 332/352 characteristics when you’re looking for a 390 block.

These casting identification marks have meaning, though few enthusiasts ever pay attention to them. The "28"

(A) is the mold number - Mold #28. See how often you can find any two "FE" blocks with the same mold

number in your travels. This is a 428 Cobra Jet block. "DIF" (B) means Dearborn Iron Foundry, which is where

all "FE" parts were cast. All "FE" engines were assembled at the Dearborn Engine Plant.


The 390 block doesn’t differ much from the 332/352/361 blocks of 1958-60. The 390 uses the

same block as the 360 and 410. All share the same 4.05-inch bore, with displacement varying

according to stroke. The only real difference here is the crankshaft. The 410 Mercury is a 428

crankshaft in a 390 block. The 360 for trucks is a 352 crank in a 390 block. Where this block varies

at all is in the area of high performance applications. The 1961-65 390 Police Interceptor and High

Performance blocks (C1AE-V, C2AE-BC, C2AE-BE, C2AE-BR, C2AE-BS, C3AE-KY, C3ME-B, C4AE-

F and C5AE-B) have heavier main bearing caps and drilled oil passages for hydraulic lifters. The

trick here is, Ford never drilled the oil passages from the main galleries to the twin lifter oil galleries,

which means no oil pressure to these galleries. Hydraulic lifters cannot be used in this block.

Another difference in the 390 Hi-Po block from 1961-62 is additional ribbing between the main

bearing webs. Ford also added an oil pressure relief valve to the block for added protection on the

390 Hi-Po.


The 406 block was a brute from the start because it reflected Ford’s desire to race and to win. As

you might expect from a race block, the 406 was a heavier casting than the 332/ 352/361/390—

thicker cylinder walls, a larger 4.13-inch bore, thicker webs and main caps. Look for C2AE-J, C2AE-

K or C2AE-V. These upgrades are all products of the 390 High Performance engine and what was

learned from racing with the 390. The 406 didn’t make it through 1962 without significant changes

to the block, however.

Early 406 blocks are identified by the casting number on the right-hand side of the block. This is a C2AE-J block. Notice the "HP" cast near the casting number along with the "DIF" which means "Dearborn Iron Foundry."

Although we associate the cross-bolted block design with the 427 to come later in 1963,

cross-bolted mains started with the 406. During severe duty conditions experienced at high rpms in

NASCAR racing, Ford quickly learned that the main bearing cap bolts had a tendency to work

loose, causing catastrophic engine failure. Cross-bolting #2, 3 and 4 main bearing caps solved this

problem and won Ford a few races. Identifying a 406 cross-bolt block is easy. Aside from the

obvious,  the date code, look for the 4.13-inch bores and cross-bolted main caps/ bosses. The

bottom line here is the bottom line. Because 406 cross-bolt blocks are extremely rare, expect to pay

a very high price. Look for the C2AE-BD casting number.

Crankshaft and Connecting Rods Big Block FE Series


Once you begin to understand the workings of the “FE” series big-blocks, it becomes easier to

match the right components for mighty impressive performance. The beauty of the “FE” is its

interchangability and simple dimensions throughout. All “FE” crankshafts have 2.7488-inch main

and 2.4384-inch rod journals. This makes crank swapping a breeze. The only hang-ups are 410

and 428ci engines, which are externally balanced, unlike the rest of the “FE” engines which are

internally balanced. This means that if you intend to interchange components, you must balance

your mill accordingly or face serious vibration problems later. The 428 Super Cobra Jet mandates

further balancing considerations due to its add-on counterweight and heavier LeMans rods.

There are two connecting rod lengths for all “FE” engines—the long rod, which is 6.540-inches in

length; and the short rod, which is 6.488-inches. And there are four stroke dimensions—3.30-, 3.50-

, 3.784- and 3.984-inches, resulting in four basic crankshaft types. When these strokes are

combined with specific cylinder bore sizes, we come up with different displacements.

The shorter strokes, 3.30- and 3.50-inches, belong to the smaller “FE” big-blocks, the 332, 352,

360 and 361. The longer stroke dimensions, 3.784- and 3.984-inches, belong to the 390, 406, 410,

427 and 428ci engines. The 3.30, 3.50- and 3.784-inch engines rev high. The 3.984-inch stroke

engines, the 410 and 428, don’t rev as high because they are limited by stroke. With stroke comes

torque, however—lots of torque.

Piston types for the “FE” are certainly varied, depending upon engine type and transmission.

Likewise, flywheels, harmonic balancers and accessory drive pulleys are quite involved as well for

the FE-series big-blocks.

The 385-series big-blocks, the 429 and 460, are much easier to understand and remember than

the “FE” engines because just two displacements were offered. The 429 and 460 use the same

length connecting rod—6.6035-inches. Displacement difference comes from the crankshaft only. All

of the 385-series big-blocks are internally balanced, which means interchangeability is unlimited.

Crankshaft 332/352/360/361/390

These “FE” series engines all employ a cast iron crankshaft. The only real different is stroke. The

332 crankshaft has a 3.30-inch stroke. Three castings were made during the life of the 332. All are

interchangeable. The 352 is more involved, but just as interchangeable. Fourteen variations of the

352 crank were produced. The 360ci engine, available only in pickup trucks, used two crankshaft

types during its 1968-76 service life. The Edsel 361 was produced with two crankshaft types during

its two-year run. The 390, which arrived on the scene in 1961, employed 16 different crankshafts

through 1976.

If you are seeking a forged steel crank for your 352/360/390/406/427 engine, you may opt for an

“FT” crank from the 330HD, 361 or 391. These engines, like the 410 and 428, are externally

balanced. This means proper balancing procedures must apply in your build. Where the steel crank

suffers to a certain degree is weight because there is considerable weight gain both in the crank

and flywheel. The weight increase in the crank is due to larger counterweights. The “FT” crank also

has a larger 1.750-inch front shaft versus 1.375-inches for the “FE” shaft. The trick here is to turn

down the “FT” shaft or opt for the “FT” timing cover, harmonic balancer and pulley.


With these engines, there are a variety of crankshafts encompassing two stroke lengths—3.784-

and 3.984-inches. The 406 and 427 employ the shorter 3.78-inch stroke also common to the 390.

The 410 and 428 utilize the longest “FE” stroke of 3.98-inches. These two engines are externally

balanced, unlike the 406 and 427 which are internally balanced.

Like most "FE" cranks, the 427 crank is identified via the casting/forging number on the journal as shown. This is a cast crank, identifiable by its parting lines on the journals and counterweights.Early 427 cranks had press-in plugs (hollow journals) like this one. Later on, these cranks had screw-in plugs.

Big Block Oiling System


Ford’s “FE” series big-blocks went through the most extensive oiling system changes of any Ford

engine ever made. Most evident was the 427, which underwent significant changes throughout its

service life, leading to the “Side Oiler” design of 1965.

The 332/352/360/361/390/406/410/ 428 didn’t change much except for the distinct differences

between mechanical lifter and hydraulic lifter blocks. Hydraulic lifter blocks have twin oil galleries

drilled the length of the block to supply the lifters. Mechanical lifter blocks have the bosses at each

end of the block, but without the oil galleries.

The “FE” oiling system is simple in scope, with a sump-positioned oil pump and pickup centered at

the front of the pan. The oil pump is driven by the camshaft via a driveshaft tied into the distributor


The “FE” oiling system took on a distinct change in the 427. The 427 block came two ways—Top

Oiler and Side Oiler. Most 427s were Top Oilers. Beginning in 1965, Ford’s concern over oil

starvation at the main and rod bearings led engineers to the conception of a whole new 427 block

casting called the “Side Oiler.” The Side Oiler had an additional oil gallery that ran down the left-

hand side of the block, feeding bountiful amounts of oil to the main and rod bearings.

  All "FE" engines have a cast aluminum oil filter mount bolted to the side of the block

as shown on this 428 Cobra Jet. The oil pressure sending switch or sending unit

mounts on top. This is an oil pressure sender for a gauge, which is larger than an oil

pressure light switch.

Oiling system modifications for the “FE” are traditional hot rod steps. Chamfering the crankshaft

journal oil holes improves oil flow. Using a high volume oil pump increases flow. High pressure isn’t

always the answer. If you are maintaining 10 pounds of oil pressure for every 1,000rpm, your

engine should remain healthy. If you expect 7,500 rpms, then ensure your oiling system will

maintain 80 psi at high revs.

Cylinder Head/Valvetrain - Big Block FE Series

Ford big-block engines enjoy a wealth of available cylinder heads designed for performance use. It

is common knowledge that Ford engineers struggled a great deal when it came to port sizing. Ports

were typically too large or too small, with not much in between, when Ford was at its performance

peak. Large ports worked exceedingly well at high rpms on the race track, where they worked best

and flowed the most air. When these large ports found their way into street engines, low- and mid-

range torque suffered. Performance buffs have learned through the years that they can work with

off-the-shelf parts to achieve improved levels of low- and mid-range torque on the street.

Sometimes you have to shelve the big-port, closed-chamber heads to improve street performance.

This is a common issue with the 351C/351M/400M small-blocks. It is also true with the “FE” and 385-

series big-blocks.

Proper cylinder head, valvetrain and camshaft selection is everything when it comes to building a

performance engine. These components will have the most direct effect on output. Our objective is

to help you select the right combination for best results.

Cylinder Heads

332/352/360/361/390/406/410/ 427/428

Once you get past the casting numbers and date code, there's visual identification. On the left is the 428 Cobra Jet

head, which is little more than the 390 GT head (right) with minor changes. The 390 GT has slightly larger

chambers with smaller ports. Valve size is slightly larger (2.08"/1.65" versus 2.02"/1.55") on the Cobra Jet head. Power gains come from better air flow, which comes from the Cobra Jet head.The “FE” series big-blocks enjoy a large selection of cylinder head choices. Some of these castings are rare and decidedly expensive. Others will work as suitable substitutes for the exotic pieces. You don’t always have to have a set of 427 Medium Risers or 428 Cobra Jets to infuse performance into your “FE” series big-block.

It is important to remember that most of the “FE” engines had the same valve sizes throughout. For

example, the 332/352/360/361/390 and 410 all had 2.02-inch intake and 1.55-inch exhaust valves.

Differences lie mainly in combustion chamber size (compression ratio) and port size. Port size

doesn’t vary much amongst these engines. For example, the 390 High Performance head has the

same valve and port sizes as the early 427 High Performance head. This means you don’t have to

pay 427 prices in your quest for power. Huge differences exist when you step up to the 427 High

Riser and Tunnel Port heads. If you’re building a strong street “FE” engine, then you don’t need

anything beyond a Low Riser or Medium Riser head. And because the Low Riser head isn’t much

different than the 390 High Performance or many of the standard heads, you have a huge playing

field with which to work.

When it comes to 427 heads, we have three basics types, not including the SOHC and Tunnel Port. From left to right are the Low Riser, Medium Riser and High Riser. The Low Riser is a fine street head and isn't much different

than the 390/406 High Performance casting. The Medium Riser head gives a better balance of street and strip performance. It is a compromise between the High and Low Riser pieces. The High Riser head (on the right) has huge ports for high-rpm operation. Its small chambers yield much higher compression ratios. These heads do not interchange well with other "FE" displacements due to valve to block interference. The 427 had the largest bores and valves of the "FE" series engines.

Although you will likely never see them, those first 332/352 heads had machined combustion

chambers. Ford’s bean counters swiftly concluded machined combustion chambers were costly and

abandoned them for “as-cast” chambers. Machined chambers make little difference in performance.

Those first 1958-vintage heads set the standard for “FE” heads to follow. Aside from combustion

chamber size, standard “FE” heads didn’t change much. Valve sizes remained the same (2.02"/1.

55") for standard “FE” heads. So did port size. This makes interchangeability a snap, and with very

few exceptions.

When you're scouting for heads, keep the exhaust ports in mind. "FE" and "FT" heads were configured with

three possible exhaust manifold bolt scenarios - 16-bolt, 14-bolt and 8-bolt. This is a 428 Cobra Jet head, which is a 16-bolt pattern. It fits most "FE" and "FT" engines.

Induction System - Big Block FE Series

An engine’s induction system offers the greatest potential for performance revisions. Both Ford big-

blocks yield an array of performance options. Ford’s “FE” series big-block, for example, likely has

more intake manifold and carburetor choices than any other Blue Oval powerplant. There are

seemingly dozens of iron and aluminum intakes available. In performance pursuits, we suggest the

use of a cast aluminum intake manifold as a means to weight savings. You can shave a solid 70

pounds off vehicle weight this way with an “FE” engine. Few will ever know why Ford fitted the 428

Cobra Jet engine with a cast iron manifold when the lightweight cast aluminum Police Interceptor

intake was available off the shelf. Both are virtually identical intake manifolds.

Though the 429/460 engines came along at the end of the performance era, there were plenty of

induction system options for these engines primarily from the aftermarket. When it comes to the

Boss 429 engine, there are limitless performance pieces for this exotic mill. However, none of it is

cheap and most of it is rare. Some of these pieces are discussed in the following sections.

Big Block Intake Manifolds

332/352/360/361/390/406/410/ 427/428

From a dimensional standpoint, there are approximately ten different manifold applications for the

“FE” series big-blocks. This means there are approximately ten different port sizes. When you’re

choosing an intake manifold, it is wise to pick something compatible with the cylinder head intake

ports. For example, a 390 High Performance intake manifold is a poor choice for 427 High-Riser

heads. Always measure manifold and cylinder ports whenever  shopping for a manifold. The

cylinder head should always have slightly larger ports than the manifold. This is normal, because

then air flow isn’t disturbed. Port matching is always a good idea in the quest for power.

We’re going to touch on the more common “FE” intake manifolds from the factory and aftermarket.

It is impossible to mention all because so many were available from both sources. Obscure types

surface all the time at swap meets that we’ve never seen before. Here are a few of the more

common ones

Here are two "FE" cast iron intake manifolds - the 428 Cobra Jet (left) and the 1966-69 390 High Performance (right). The 390 High Performance manifold has smaller runners (2.20" x 1.14") with sharp outside edges. The Cobra Jet intake has larger runners (2.00" x 1.24") with softer outside edges.

A closer look at the 428 CJ manifold shows larger runners (ports) and a broad-shouldered appearance. This is a

C8OE-9425-G casting from a 1968 Shelby GT500KR.The 427-4V High-Riser cast aluminum intake C4AE-9425E was designed only for the High-Riser heads.


The aftermarket is still alive for “FE” enthusiasts. Weiand and Edelbrock seem to be the biggest

players today. If you’re scouting the swap meets, there are seemingly dozens of aftermarket

manifolds from days of yore. Visit the swap meets and scan the displays to see what was once

available new. If you’re building a period car, it’s often exciting to find an old cast aluminum

Edelbrock, Offenhauser or Weiand high rise from the 1960s that can be media blasted to look like

new. Clear powdercoating can keep it looking new.

Big Block Ford Ignition System

Big-block Ford ignition, starting and charging systems aren’t any different than the small-block

systems already addressed earlier. All standard Ford big-block engines ranging from the 332 to the

460 were equipped with a single-point Autolite or Motorcraft distributor equipped with vacuum and

centrifugal advance. From 1958-74, these distributors didn’t change much, with the exception being

a vacuum advance/retard unit beginning in 1968 on some engines. Equipping some applications

with a spark advance/retard (dual advance) unit improved emissions on deceleration by retarding

the spark. Step on the gas and the spark advances. Back off and the vacuum shifts to the retard

side of the unit to retard the spark.

Ford Dura-Spark electronic ignition was introduced in 1975 on all big-block Fords and used until

SEFI was introduced on the 460 in the 1980s. This means you can upgrade your pre-1975 Ford

big-block with ease because Dura-Spark was available on both the “FE” series and 385-series

engines. “FE” series engines were in production through 1976.

Distributor Identification

Big-block distributor identification is easy. Just follow the chart ahead. The distributor identification

number is stamped in the housing, which tells at a glance what the distributor’s application was in

the beginning. This doesn’t mean that particular distributor won’t work on another application. The

identification number tells how the distributor was “curved” or calibrated to begin with. Two items

determine calibration or “spark curve”—centrifugal and vacuum advance rates with engine rpm and

load. Each distributor type was curved at the factory for a specific vehicle type and environment.

Centrifugal advance curve, for example, was curved with springs and weights. Vacuum advance

was calibrated with shims that controlled spring tension. Any “FE” distributor, for example, will fit any

“FE” block. All you have to do is adjust the spark curve.

Like the small-blocks, there was also Thermactor and IMCO emissions control systems. Thermactor

was the smog pump system first used in 1966 on California-bound Fords and Mercurys. IMCO

(short for “Improved Combustion”) was a combination of spark curve and fuel mixture. Thermactor

and IMCO are two different systems.


Both the “FE” and the 385-series big-blocks enjoy the availability of aftermarket ignition systems.

The easiest aftermarket ignition modification is the Ignitor electronic ignition retrofit from Pertronix.

The Ignitor installs in single and dual-point Autolite/Motorcraft distributors in 30 minutes and it is not

visible externally. No one knows it’s there but you.

If your desire is to install an ignition system that can take high revs or severe-duty conditions, the

aftermarket has a wealth of ignition systems available for off-road and race track duty.

The 1970 428 Cobra Jet engine with four-speed was the only FE engine to have dual-point ignition after the 427 passed away in 1968. All other "FE" big-blocks of the era, the 390 High Performance and all other 428 Cobra Jets, had single-point ignition. None of the 385-series engines ever had a dual-point ignition except for the 1969-70 Boss 429.The Autolite single-point distributor was a mainstay on all big-block Fords from 1958-71. Beginning in 1972, the Autolite name was dropped and Motorcraft used instead. Despite the name change, this distributor didn't change until 1975 when Dura-Spark electronic ignition was introduced.

Exhaust System

Exhaust systems remain an area with the most performance potential. Ford big-blocks are no

exception to this time-proven rule. If  restoring to stock, then your answer is clear. You will need

stock exhaust manifolds and a stock exhaust system. Sometimes your goal falls somewhere

between stock and modified, in an area called “restomod,” which keeps the stock exterior

appearance while warming things up inside. When your goal includes enhancing performance,

there are original equipment and aftermarket choices. We’re going to help you make the right


“FE” engines were packaged with a wide variety of exhaust manifolds, depending upon application.

Only the 406 and 427 High Performance exhaust manifolds flowed well, thanks to their cast iron

header design. The thing is, these huge “bananas” don’t always fit every application. They fit a

Galaxie or Maurauder well, which is what they were designed for. But they won’t always fit a

Mustang or Cougar due to space limitations. This is an issue you will have to figure out for yourself.

The 428 Cobra Jet engines weren’t blessed with the 427’s abundant exhaust headers from the

factory. Cobra Jet manifolds didn’t differ much from the 390 High Performance manifolds since they

were installed in similar vehicles—Mustang, Cougar, Fairlane, Torino and Cyclone—with limited

space. This means extra care is necessary when shopping for manifolds. Pay close attention to

casting numbers and the part numbers the Ford Master Parts Catalog requires.

The 406/427 High Performance cast iron exhaust header is a terrific manifold for stock installations. It offers improved breathing over conventional "FE" exhaust manifolds without excessive header heat. It also offers a

clean-looking installation.

A good rule of thumb is to remember the cylinder head exhaust port bolt pattern when searching for

manifolds. Most “FE” engine cylinder heads employ an eight-bolt exhaust manifold mating pattern,

which is common with full-size Fords and Mercurys. Here, exhaust manifold bolts run 12:00 and 6:

00 positions at each exhaust port. A diagonal bolt pattern (14-bolt on the head itself, not the

manifold) was common to Mustang, Cougar, Fairlane, Comet/Cyclone and Torino “FE” heads. If you

find the diagonal exhaust manifold bolt pattern, you’ve found a 390 High Performance or 428 Cobra

Jet piece designed for an intermediate or compact. Although the 390 High Performance and 428

Cobra Jet exhaust manifolds may yield a similar appearance, they are not the same casting.

The 428 Cobra Jet exhaust manifolds didn't vary much during their 1968-70 production life. These

are C8OE-9430-A (right-hand) and C8OE-9431-A (left-hand).

Big Block Cooling System

Ford big-blocks didn’t struggle as much with cooling problems as their small-block brethren,

because these larger engines were fitted with more adequate cooling systems, often in larger

vehicles, with better airflow through the grille. Their mission was understood right from the start by

Ford engineers. Good cooling comes from capacity, a large enough radiator to handle the thermal

load, a sizable fan, and a water pump designed to move large sums of coolant through the engine

block and heads.


When shopping for a radiator, capacity and fit are the most important considerations. Some

radiators are not equipped with an automatic transmission fluid cooler, for example. If you have a

Cruise-O-Matic, it is important that your radiator have a built-in cooler. Even if your project vehicle

isn’t going to have air conditioning, we recommend the highest capacity radiator possible. It is

better to have too much radiator than too little.

Radiator height is another important issue. Mustangs and Cougars through 1970 used a shorter

radiator by one-inch. A Galaxie or Fairlane radiator will not fit a 1967-70 Mustang or Cougar, due to

hood clearance problems. Otherwise, you will find great interchangeability between full-size and

intermediate-size Fords and Mercurys. Mustangs and Cougars from 1971-73 enjoy improved

interchangeability with the rest of the Ford line-up.

Water Pumps

Big-block Fords enjoy greater simplicity when it comes to water pumps. The 352/360/390/406/427

and 428 use two basic water pump types - standard and high-flow. That’s it. The standard water

pump is a D0AZ-8501-D piece, and it fits every type of “FE” big-block known. Because you’re into

high performance, you’re going to want the C5AZ-8501-S high-flow water pump originally conceived

for all 390, 406, 427 and 428 high performance big-blocks. It is our belief that all “FE” water pumps

sold today are the high-flow type.

The high-flow water pump for the "FE" series engines. This casting number is C9AE-9505-A, which is the

water pump casting number, not the assembly part number.Don’t be alarmed if your replacement water pump has a C9AE-8505-A casting number. This is the casting number for the water pump housing, not the water pump assembly, which is “8501.” There are also aftermarket castings void of Ford casting numbers which will add to this confusion.

It’s a similar story for 385-series big-blocks. You can expect a C9VZ-8501-A for 1968-69 429 water

pumps, then D1VY-8501-B until 1972. The part number changed to D2VY-8501-A for 1972, then

D4VY-8501-A late in 1974. The bottom line here is, specify a high-flow water pump for your

429/460 engine.

The 429/460 water pumps are interchangeable across the board. This is one example on a 460.

The aftermarket offers a wealth of high-quality water pumps for high performance use. Edelbrock,

Weiand and Ford Motorsport SVO are all players in this market. Each offer high-flow water pumps

for the 429/460.

The aftermarket yields plenty of water pumps for the 429/460. Here are two examples from Weiand

and Ford Motorsport SVO.

Gaskets & Fasteners

Here’s an area which is not thought about enough when building an engine. What you want from a

gasket is reliability. Gaskets do not necessarily fail on their own, but many times because of the

condition of casting surfaces. A warped block, cylinder head, manifold, timing cover or water pump

will contribute to gasket failure. Deck surfaces must be checked for trueness before assembly

begins. Always specify the right gasket or seal for the job.

Fel-Pro offers gaskets for specific duties. For example, a standard head gasket works fine for

naturally aspirated engines. Fel-Pro’s Loc Wire head gasket is the ticket for supercharged and

turbocharged applications. We suggest Fel-Pro gaskets because of the company’s extraordinary

attention to quality and abundant applications for Ford V-8s. When shopping for head gaskets,

keep cylinder bore size and water passage compatibility in mind. Valve cover and oil pan gaskets

have improved so much that oil leakage just isn’t a given anymore. Opt for steel reinforced rubber

composition gaskets for your Ford. They will cost more. However, so does oil leakage.

Intake manifold gasket installation warrants a reminder. Manifold end gaskets, especially with

221/260/289/302/351W engines, tend to pop out from crankcase pressure. Throw the end gaskets

away and opt for a large bead of silicone gasket sealer on the block at each end of the manifold,

then seat the manifold. When the silicone cures, it will expand and provide a tight seal. This will

keep oil inside and out of the timing chain cover pockets on top.

Gasket makers offer a greater variety of self-sealing gaskets that don’t require sealer, such as Fel-

Pro’s Printoseal, which not only self-seals, but doesn’t stick when it’s time for disassembly. When

using silicone sealer, be sparing in your use. Many use too much, which can lead to having sealer

in places where it isn’t wanted, such as oil galleries and pick-up screens. A thin film of silicone

sealer around water passages is all it takes with standard gaskets. Give the sealer time to cure

before using the engine.

Main seals, fore and aft, mandate extra care. The front main seal should get a thin film of silicone

sealer around its outside perimeter before installation. This ensures a good fit between the seal

and the timing chain cover. Rear main seals need good lubrication before crankshaft installation.

Non-synthetic, 30w engine oil is the best answer there.


Engine fasteners remain an area of great debate and often confusion for enthusiasts. The truth is,

fasteners aren’t treated with the respect they deserve, nor is enough known about them.

During the research and development of this book, we spoke with the people at American Racing

Products (ARP), maker of the best engine fasteners in the world. ARP uses high quality aircraft

grade alloys in its engine fastening hardware. Any failure is unacceptable. This means you can

expect aircraft grade 8740 steel alloy. It is expensive, but worth the cost difference when you

consider the price of catastrophic engine failure. Contact ARP at 800/826-3045.

Stroker Kit Sources

In recent years, the quickest way to horsepower and torque has been via the stroker kits which

have become common in the 1990s. With the right stroker kit, you can take a small-block and give it

the authority of a big-block without weight gain. A 302 can be stroked to more than 350ci.The 351W

and 351C can be stroked to more than 450ci. Here’s what’s available:

Stroker Kit Sources

Coast High Performance

1650 W. 228th St.

Torrance, CA 90501


310/794-2970 FAX

Ford Motorsport SVO

44050 N. Groesbeck Hwy.

Clinton Township, MI 48036

Ford Performance Solutions

1004 Orangefair Lane

Anaheim, CA 92801


714/773-4178 FAX

Nowak Racing Engines

249 E. Emerson Ave., Unit F

Orange, CA 92665


714/637-0425 FAX

Powered By Ford

1516 S. Division St.

Orlando, FL 32805


407/841-7223 FAX


12061 E. Slauson Ave.

Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670


562/698-5210 FAX

Engine Math/ Quick Facts

When you’re building an engine, it’s nice to be armed with the facts necessary to do it successfully.

Much of engine building is about m ath — machining dimensions, compression and rod ratios, bore

sizes, stroke, journal diameters, carburetor and port sizes, dynamic balancing, and all the rest of it.

Without math, you cannot successfully build an engine. What follows are quick facts that will help

you in your Ford engine building.

Cubic-Inch Displacement

Cubic-inch displacement is simply the volume displaced by the cylinders of your engine. So, if we

calculate the volume of one cylinder, and multiply that figure times the number of cylinders, we have

the engine’s displacement.

The formula for a cylinder’s volume is:

Pi x r2 x S = Volume of one cylinder.

Where Pi is a mathematical constant equal to 3.14159; R is the radius of the cylinder, and S is the

stroke. If you think back to your high school geometry, you’ll remember that a circle’s radius is half

the diameter. In this case, the diameter is equal to the bore (B), so 1/2B=r. Plug that in, and our

formula becomes:

Pi x (1/2B)2 x S = Volume of one cylinder

We can simplify this further by plugging in the numerical value for Pi, then doing some basic

algebra that doesn‘t necessarily need to be covered here — but trust us: the equation before is

equal to this equation:

B x B x S x 0.7854 = Volume of one cylinder

To determine the engine’s displacement, factor in the number of cylinders (N):

B x B x S x 0.7854 x N = Engine displacement

So, let’s use this to figure out the displacement of a Ford engine that has a 4-inch Bore and a

3-inch Stroke:

4.000” x 4.000” x 3.00” x 0.7854 x 8 = 301.59 ci

Ford rounded 301.59 up to 302 ci, or 4.9L.

(Note: One liter is equal to about 61 cubic inches.)

Calculating Compression Ratio

An engine’s compression ratio is the ratio between two volumes: The volume of the cylinder and

combustion chamber when the piston is at BDC, and the volume of the combustion chamber when

the piston is at TDC. But there’s more to consider than just cylinder volume and head cc’s. To get

the engine’s TRUE compression ratio, you need to know these volumes:

• Combustion Chamber Volume (C)

• Compressed Head Gasket Volume (G)

• Piston/Deck height (D)

• Piston Dish Volume (P) or Dome Volume (-P)

• Cylinder Volume (V)

When the piston is at BDC, the total volume is all of these volumes added together. When the

piston is at TDC, the total volume is all of these EXCEPT the Cylinder Volume (V). So … true

compression ratio is this:

V + D + G + C + P

D + G + C + P

This is a sample page from:

High Performance Ford Engine

Parts Interchange

by George Reid

Softbound 8-3/8 X 10-7/8

128 pages

Over 300 b/w photos

Click the link below to buy this book:

First-ever book about Ford parts interchangeCovers the entire range of Ford engines from

221-CID to 460-CID