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Building a Stroker Vehicle
We added this chapter because we began thinking about what happens whenever we build a
powerful engine for a vehicle that isn’t up to the job. Building a powerful engine for a vehicle that isn’
t up to the task is downright dangerous. It can get you killed. Whenever you are building a powerful
stroker small block, thought must be given to the vehicle for which it is intended. You know the old
saying about power in the hands of a few. Power is only effective when it is handled responsibly, be
it a politician or a ‘66 Fairlane hardtop.

The proper planning of a stroker vehicle begins before the engine is built. How much power do you
intend to build? What condition is the vehicle in? Evaluation begins at the foundation – the vehicle’s
body and chassis. If you have floor pans and frame rails that are rusted out, the vehicle isn’t safe
for a stock engine, much less one producing 400-500 horsepower. Perhaps your vehicle is a front
or rear clip car that has been in an accident and repaired. If this is the case, then it is not a
body/chassis combination that is sound enough for serious increases in power. Examine the body
and chassis structural integrity before you even plan the engine.Given we have a solid foundation
on which to build, we can then look at what the foundation needs to be adequate for the power
planned. Even the most solid vehicle needs added support structurally if we’re going to throw a lot
of power at it. Convertibles, for example, need subframe connectors when power rises above 400
horsepower. Hardtops need the same kind of support. If your Fox-body Mustang has a T-top, it
needs subframe connectors and reinforcement plates in order to remain solid during huge bursts of
1969 Mustang
How prepared is your Ford for the
horsepower increases to come? When
you start courting 400-500
horsepower, you need strong
underpinnings, like subframe
connectors, torque boxes, and
reinforcement plates.
Chassis stiffening kits vary quite a bit. Many of them are available out there for Fox-body (1979-
1995) Mustangs. Classic Mustangs and Falcons also enjoy the availability of a good chassis-
stiffening kit from Mustangs Plus in Stockton, California. This kit builds strength into your vintage
Mustang, Falcon, or Comet. When kits aren’t available for your type of Ford, you may use raw steel
stock that is cut to fit in your application. This requires fabrication experience.
1990 Mustang GT Convertible
Convertibles need
plenty of structural
support underneath
when power increases. It’
s a good idea to install a
roll bar as well.
Chassis & Brakes
Horsepower management takes common sense. Building a 400-horse small block is great when you
have the chassis (and driving skill) to handle it safely. When we have a solid platform going for us,
the next thought should be suspension, brakes, and tires. If you own a vintage Ford with four-wheel
drum brakes and a single hydraulic system, your first effort needs to be brakes. At the least, you
need front disc brakes with a dual-reservoir braking system. A dual-reservoir braking system covers
the bases if we have a hydraulic failure in the front or rear system. If we lose rear brakes, then we
still have front brakes to get us stopped, and vice versa. If we lose front brakes, extreme caution
must be used to get us stopped safely.

Factory disc brakes do a good job in everyday driving, they just aren’t always the solution when
power and speed increase. If your driving is going to include road racing, even on weekends only,
you’re going to need greater than a factory disc brake. You’re going to need the kind of stopping
power we find in large aftermarket disc brakes with the right pads and rotor size.
With stroker power comes the need for brakes that are just as powerful. If you do opt for larger
aftermarket disc brakes, remember to consider wheel size issues before you buy. Not all factory
wheels will clear the rotors and calipers of aftermarket disc brakes. Don’t forget the master cylinder
in your planning. You’re going to need a master cylinder that will handle large disc brake calipers. If
you install rear disc brakes, keep braking pressure in mind. You don’t want the rear brakes
applying before the front brakes, which can cause loss of control. This calls for the use of a
proportioning valve for the rear brakes, which controls application, and keeps pressure focused
more on the front brakes. Having front disc brakes and rear drum brakes without a rear brake
proportioning valve is foolish, and certainly dangerous.

If your budget doesn’t allow for larger aftermarket disc brakes, then consider slotted brake rotors
and racing pads for improved stopping efficiency. Slotted rotors help heat and gas pressure to
escape without brake fade. This allows us to improve the stock disc brake, without the expense of
an aftermarket brake.
Rear drum brakes need help, too, if disc brakes are beyond your budget. You need to opt for the
largest rear drum brake possible, along with semi-metallic brake linings. Drums need to be at like-
new specs. The wider the drum and lining, the better. If you’re building a Mustang, Falcon, or
Fairlane, look for the widest station wagon rear drum brakes, which will stop better than your
smaller units.

We are often asked the question – what about silicone brake fluid? What is the right brake fluid for
your stroker vehicle? Before we go any further on brake fluid, lets talk about what it does. Brake
fluid carries pressure from the master cylinder to each of the brake cylinders at the wheels. When
we step on the brake pedal, we are not compressing the fluid, because you cannot compress any
fluid. We are simply moving the fluid through lines to wheel cylinders or brake calipers.
Brake fluid gets into trouble whenever it becomes too hot, or absorbs moisture and other
contaminates. Whenever brake fluid becomes contaminated, it doesn’t perform well. Moisture in
brake fluid will boil under hard braking, generating gasses in the fluid, which makes the brake pedal
spongy. Mineral-based brake fluids (DOT 3) can withstand high temperatures and still continue to
perform normally. Because water has a boiling point of 212 degrees F, moisture in the brake fluid
will boil at approximately 212 degrees, adversely affecting braking effectiveness.
Silicone brake fluid (DOT 5) does not absorb moisture, which keeps it stable under some of the
most grueling braking conditions. Because it has a boiling point of higher than 700 degrees F, there’
s little chance of instability in hard braking. One of the nicer aspects of silicone brake fluid, is never
having to worry if you spill it on your Ford’s paint. It will not harm paint.

The down side to silicone brake fluid is its spongy feel. It gives you the feeling of a spongy brake
pedal. Few people care for this aspect of silicone brake fluid. If a spongy pedal isn’t to your liking,
go with a mineral-based fluid while keeping some important issues in mind. Take extra care when
servicing your brake system with DOT 3 mineral-based fluid. Guard your Ford’s paint. Always store
DOT 3 brake fluid in a sealed can. Never leave the can open, not even for a minute. Mineral-based
brake fluid acts like a sponge. It loves drawing moisture out of the air. The longer you leave the can
open, the more moisture it will absorb from the air. If you accidentally leave a can open, properly
dispose of it through your local hazardous waste unit or recycler.
Mineral-based brake fluid needs to be changed periodically, just like your engine’s oil. It gets
contaminated from pressure and heat. It absorbs moisture through your Ford’s steel brakes lines,
seals, and the like. Every time you do a brake job, bleed your brake system and flush out all of the
old fluid. It will keep your braking system safe and serviceable. If your Ford is going to sit a lot,
bleed and flush the brake system every year.
Although most of us like to overlook this one, make sure your Ford’s parking brake mechanism
works. Not enough of them do. The transmission’s parking pawl, or your engine’s compression, isn’t
enough to hold the vehicle on a hill. Make sure you have a working parking brake.

When we have a safe and effective braking system, our next effort should be handling. Steering
and handling can get us out of trouble when brakes won’t. When our stroker Ford won’t stop in time
to avoid a collision, being able to steer out of harm’s way is the next best answer. To effectively and
safely steer out of trouble, you need tight, precise steering. You also need handling. To get both,
you need a cohesive package of steering and handling working together.
Older Fords, like Fairlanes, Falcons, and Mustangs need a fresh steering gear, with a comfortable
mesh between worm and sector. This is an integral part of the system that will steer you out of
trouble. And this applies to manual and power steering gears alike. As steering gears are used,
they develop excessive wear internally. Most older Fords, if they have never had a steering gear
rebuild or replacement, suffer from really sloppy steering. This is where a new steering gear from
Flaming River pays off in terms of safety.
With precise steering at our fingertips, we’re ready to look at the steering linkage. Inner and outer
tie-rod ends, idler arm, and pitman arms must be tight and secure. Any play in these components
doesn’t bode well for safe handling. If your power steering suffers from leakage and sloppy
performance, replacement is in order. Replacement may cost money, but so does a serious
accident that happens as a result of you not being able to safely steer out of trouble.

Good handling comes from tight upper and lower control arms, stiffer springs, gas shocks, and
properly packaged front and rear sway bars. When we say properly packaged, we mean sway bars
that are sized right, with the right complimentary bushings and links. If you desire tight handling and
don’t mind suspension noise, opt for urethane bushings at the sway bar and strut rods.
Polyurethane bushings are quieter, offering you more flexibility, as well as a better ride. Graphite-
impregnated urethane bushings provide the stiffness of urethane without the noise.
Good brakes and suspension are pointless if you lack sufficient tire contact patch with the
pavement. Powerful engines need good pavement adhesion. They need it to hook up when the
accelerator is pressed. They also need adhesion at speed, when it keeps the vehicle safely glued
to the pavement. If you have a fully-restored, concours-level show car with those skinny biased-ply
tires, there’s no point in building a powerful stroker V-8 that will burn the original tires off the rims. If
your intent is to make the most of a stroker V-8, fit your Ford with the right kind of tires and wheels
for the job.
Front Brake Rotor and suspension
Factory front disc brakes work
quite well until horsepower
ratings go above 400. This is
when you need to step up to
larger aftermarket binders like
Baer, Ford Racing, or Wilwood.
Tire and wheel selection depends on the kind of driving you will do. Drag racers need minimal drag
in front, which calls for skinny tires and narrow wheels. In back, drag racers need wheels offering a
wide footprint, with tires that will hook up and make the most of the available power. The key to
lower elapsed times at the drag strip is good traction coming out of the hole. While you’re thinking
about tires, you should be thinking of ways to keep the rear axle stable when the throttle is pinned.
Traction bars are one choice, but there are others, such as using staggered rear shocks.

If you’re going road racing, having a uniform tire size at all four corners is important. Having a wide
footprint means having solid adhesion at all four corners. In this area, you have choices. Soft
rubber offers good pavement adhesion, but you lose tire service life in the process. Harder rubber
compounds offer you longer service life, but they don’t hold the road as well. Anyway you slice it,
tire selection is a series of compromises. You cannot have it all.
Previous | Next

This has been a sample page from

How to Build Big Inch Ford Small Blocks How To Build Big-Inch Ford Small Blocks
by George Reid
Have you been dreaming about a little extra displacement for
your Ford? By increasing the bore and stroke of your current
engine, you can add those cubic inches without the hassle of
switching to a big block. George Reid thoroughly explains the
concept of building a stroker, paying special attention to the
effect that increasing the bore and stroke have on the engine
as a whole. With this information, you’ll be better able to tailor
your heads, cam, intake manifold, carburetor, and exhaust
system to get the most out of the extra cubes. Also included
is a complete guide to factory head and block castings, as
well as aftermarket block and head guides, so you can
choose exactly the right parts for your project. This book is
the definitive guide for building a big-inch Ford small block,
complete with four engine buildups ranging from 331 to 408
cubic inches. Read the sample pages to learn more!

Temporarily Out of Stock - More On their way!

Click below to view sample
pages from each chapter
Chap. 1 - Ford Small Block
Chap. 2 - Stroked Engines
Chap. 3 - 289 and 302 Stroker
Chap. 4 - 351W Stroker Kits
Chap. 5 - 351C Stroker Kits
Chap. 6 - Stroker Vehicles
Chap. 7 - Engine Math
8-1/2 x 11
128 pages
300 black & white photos
Item #SA85P
Price: $22.95
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