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Ford Engine Firing Orders
Ford Engine Firing

Modifying Small Block Ford Cylinder Heads
Modifying Small
Block Ford Cylinder

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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
Ford 428 Cobra Jet and 390 GT Cylinder Heads
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.
Ford 427 Low Riser Medium Riser and High Riser Cylinder Head Exhaust Ports Ford 427 Low Riser Medium Riser and High Riser Cylinder Head Intake Ports
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
Ford 427 Low Riser Medium Riser and High Riser Cylinder Head Combustion Chambers
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.
Ford FE Cylinder Head Exhaust Ports
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"
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This has been a sample page from

High Performance Ford Engine Parts Interchange High Performance Ford Engine
Parts Interchange
by George Reid
First-ever book about Ford parts interchange
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
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!
Click below to view sample
pages from each chapter
"If you are trying to mix and match cranks and rods, this book
will tell you if it can be done. If you are trying to find the correct
casting number for a Boss 429 distributor, this book will have it
listed. What we really find appealing about the book is that, not
only is it a perfect resource for those interested in factory
correct restorations, but it is equally as useful for the
performance oriented engine builder. Each chapter points out
building tips, such as how to improve a Cleveland's oiling
system, or what heads will yield the best horsepower gains. As
with all SA Design books, this one is filled with pages of detailed
photographs and diagrams. This book will prove to be a
priceless resource, as many of the original Ford V-8 parts
become harder and harder to come by."
webmagazine, February, 2000

Currently Unavailable

Small Block Fords
Chap. 1 - Small Block Ford
Chap. 2 - Cylinder Block
Chap. 3 - Crankshaft & Rods
Chap. 4 - Oiling System
Chap. 5 - Cylinder  Heads
Chap. 6 - Intake System
Chap. 7 - Ignition System
Chap. 8 - Exhaust Manifolds
Chap. 9 - Cooling System
Big Block Fords
Chap. 10 - Big Blocks
Chap. 11- Cylinder Block
Chap. 12 - Crankshaft & Rods
Chap. 13 - Oiling System
Chap. 14 - Cylinder Head
Chap. 15 - Intake System
Chap. 16 - Ignition System
Chap. 17 - Exhaust Manifolds
Chap. 18 - Cooling System
All Ford Engines
Chap. 19 - Gaskets  
Chap. 20 -
Engine Math  
8-3/8 X 10-7/8
160 Pages
417 Color Photos
Item # SA56
Price: $
Click here to buy now!
This is a great book that any Ford engine enthusiast or
engine builder is sure to love!

Other items you might be interested in

Ford Big Block Engines
Hot Rod reports on Ford's big block during the musclecar
years. Covers the 429 intro., 390 & 428 Cobra Jet, FE & 385
Family, 429 Boss, 427 Wedge, 352, 428, 429 & 460
development, 405hp, aluminum heads. This is a great book
full of articles with hard to find information about the big block
Ford Big Block Engines
$ 21.95

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