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Engine Blocks
The foundation for an engine build is the cylinder block. Whether it’s a small or big block, selecting
the proper block for your build is the single greatest decision you will make aside from choosing the
right machine shop. Depending on the block you need, selecting the right one can often be a great
challenge. For example, a four-bolt main Boss 302 block will be a lot tougher to find than a garden-
variety 302 block. Likewise, a 427 cross bolt will be more of a challenge to locate than a 390 block.
In this section, we’re going to show you how to choose a block. We’re also going to show you how
to tear down, inspect, and build one.

When you’re shopping for a block, close inspection is vital. The cylinder bores should be sized
before you go any further. Small-block Fords should never be bored beyond .040-in. oversize.
Some builders have gone to .060-in. oversize, but this is not recommended. If a block is already at .
030-in. oversize, you may have .010 in. more to play with. If bore taper is greater than an .011-in.
variance, find another block because the only overbore choice then is .060-in. oversize. Three
exceptions to the small-block overbore limit are the 351C, 351M, and 400M. These blocks can be
bored to .060-in. oversize if they have already been bored .030-in. or .040-in. Big blocks, with the
exception being the FE-series 427, can be bored to .060" oversize. The 427’s limit is .030"
oversize, and this is marginal.

While you’re shopping for blocks, we suggest having the block sonic tested for cracking and other
irregularities. Sonic testing finds irregularities in the casting the human eye cannot see. Some Ford
blocks, such as the 351C, 351M, and 400M, are notorious for cracking. Cracking is hard to see
even with an antiseptic casting. Sonic testing can be expensive, but it beats the costly mistake of
cleaning and machining a block only to discover it is cracked later.
Lifter valley view of an engine block Back lifter valley view of and engine block
Your initial block inspection should reveal obvious defects like cracks, damaged threads,
damage to the cast iron or aluminum, scratched or gouged lifter and cylinder bores, flawed
decks, welds in the casting, chipped or broken cylinder skirts, etc. Close inspection is
important before working your plan.
Some block cracking can be repaired via welding or JB Weld. JB Weld is a two-part catalyzed
product that works well with cracked cast iron. Properly mixed and cured, it will last the life of any
engine block. For JB Weld to work effectively, you need a clean surface and a crack that has been
carefully stop drilled at each end. Just a small 1/16-inch stop drill hole at each end slows and stops
cracking. Then weld or JB Weld the crack. We suggest against the use of JB Weld on the cylinder
walls and decks where stresses can be extreme. Your machine shop will know best on what call to
make on repair. Some blocks are cracked beyond repair.

When you’re putting together a good formula for a block, sometimes you have to opt for different
main caps for a stronger build. For example, you can take the main bearing caps from a 289 High
Performance block that is beyond salvage and use them on a standard 289/302 block. You can
also use main bearing caps from a Mexican block 289/302 for the same purpose because they’re
wider and heavier. Along this same thought is the 351C block. You can convert a 351C two-bolt
main block to four-bolt mains so long as you have four-bolt main caps from a trashed four-bolt main
block. We do this by drilling and tapping the two-bolt main block for four-bolt mains. In the raw, the
two-bolt and four-bolt main 351C blocks are basically the same casting.

Main bearing saddle trueness is another important issue facing the budget engine builder. The
alignment of the main bearing saddles is rarely a cause for concern during an engine rebuild. Align
boring and honing the main bearing saddles can be expensive. But it’s sound judgment. It would be
wise for you to have a machine shop check the line bore for proper alignment before going any
further. If the block needs to be align bored and honed, it is well worth the cost in terms of
increased engine life because it gives the crankshaft a true foundation. Distorted main bearing
saddle alignment puts undue stress on the crankshaft, which directly affects wear and tear. The
stressed crankshaft alters connecting rod side clearances and puts stress on the main bearings.
This can result in shortened engine life due to abnormal wear patterns.
With bore size and line bore out of the way, it is a good idea to check the block for cracks,
obstructed water jackets and oil galleries, and other problems. Like we said earlier, cracking is
something you don’t want to find after the machine work is finished or the engine is assembled.
Finding it early in the game is crucial. Magnafluxing and sonic testing are two means of checking for
cracks. Magnafluxing is a simple test easily accomplished by a machine shop. We set up a
magnetic field around the suspected area using an electromagnet, then we sprinkle iron powder
over the area. Iron particles will collect at the crack, making it easy to see.

Spot checking is yet another means of crack detection. With spot checking, we use a dye and a
powder developer to “spot check” cracks. The nice thing about spot checking is the ability to use it
on aluminum castings as well as iron. Magnafluxing cannot be used on aluminum castings.

The most common cracking areas are block decks and main bearing webs because these areas
are subject to high stress. Check these areas closely and take your time. Block decks become
stressed from cylinder head bolt torque plus the high heat and pressure that take place in this
area. Main bearing webs are also placed under great stress from bolt/stud torque, plus the horrific
loads this area experiences. Use every means available to ensure you’ve found a solid block.
Obstructed coolant passages have created more than their share of headaches for engine
builders. Mass engine rebuilders are sometimes guilty of knocking old freeze plugs into the water
jackets to speed disassembly. Unfortunately, whoever gets this engine after the fact must deal with
overheating issues because those freeze plugs knocked into the jacket obstruct coolant flow and
heat dissipation. During disassembly, take a bright light and inspect cooling passages (water
jackets) for any obstructions and corrosion. Passages between the heads and block sometimes
become clogged with rust and iron particles. Make sure these passages are clear.

Oil galleries can become clogged with sludge, metal particles, and nylon, which starves important
moving parts of oil. We mention “nylon” because failed timing sets shed nylon and aluminum
particles into the oil pan clogging the pick-up and oil galleries. What’s more, these particles find
their way to the main, rod, and cam bearings causing excessive journal wear and engine failure.
This is why close inspection of oil galleries is vital to any engine build. You’re going to need a long
wire brush, solvent, and water under pressure to ensure all passages are sanitary. If this seems
excessive, consider the cost of engine failure and having to do this all over again.

Another area we rarely see addressed is lifter bores, but lifter bore side clearances are vital to oil
control and proper lifter function. Lifter bores should be inspected for scratches and nicks, then
honed as necessary. Engines that have been sitting for a long time often experience ceased lifters
that become welded to the bores. We suggest extreme caution removing the lifters because you
can permanently damage the bores. Then inspect the lifter bore for scoring, nicks, and other
damage. Ceased lifters can be worked loose with WD-40 (a good soaking) and a pair of vice grips.
Lifter bore side clearances should be checked using a new lifter as a reference. Side clearances
should be 0.0005 to 0.0020". You may also use a small dial-bore gauge or micrometer to check
lifter bore size. Check the bore diameter, then lifter diameter to determine clearance. Remember, all
lifter bores should be checked because all wear differently.
BLOCK & CASTING  IDENTIFICATION
Ford makes it easy for enthusiasts to identify corporate castings. Please understand that Ford
casting numbers aren’t always the same as part or engineering numbers. Identifying a casting is a
matter of knowing what Ford part and casting numbers mean. Here’s what you can expect to see.

It’s easy to identify Ford castings once you understand the system because there’s not only a
casting number, but a casting date code that tells you exactly when the piece was cast. Not only
that, a date code is stamped in the piece which tells the date of manufacture. With these two date
codes, we know when the piece was cast and when it was ultimately manufactured.

Ford part numbers can be found in the Ford Master Parts Catalog on microfilm at your Ford dealer
or in one of those 900-pound parts catalogs from the good old days. Because Ford has
discontinued a great many parts for vintage Fords, these part numbers don’t always exist in present
day dealer micro films. This is called “NR” or “not replaced” which means it isn’t available from Ford
any longer. However, casting numbers on parts tell us a lot about the piece.
DATE CODES
Date codes can be found two ways in Ford castings. When the four-character date code is cast into
the piece, this indicates when the piece was cast at the foundry. When it is stamped into the piece,
this indicates the date of manufacture.

Another area of interest to Ford buffs is where the piece was cast or forged. With Ford engines, we’
ve seen three foundry identification marks. A “C” circled around an “F” indicates the Cleveland Iron
Foundry. “DIF” indicates Dearborn Iron Foundry. “WF” or “WIF” indicates Windsor Iron Foundry.
Single and double-digit numbers typically indicate cavity numbers in the mold.
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This has been a sample page from

How to Build Max Performance Ford V-8s on a Budget How to Build Max Performance
Ford V-8s on a Budget
By George Reid
Low-cost formulas for building serious horsepower!
This book addresses high-performance V-8
engines such as the 289, 302, 351ci small-blocks
found in Mustangs, as well as the FE series of
big-blocks. Emphasis throughout is a budget
approach to building high performance powerplants
through the use of over-the-counter factory
components and selected aftermarket pieces.
Includes realistic, low-cost formulas for building
serious horsepower in Ford V-8 engines.
Read the
sample pages to learn more!

Out of Stock

Click below to view sample
pages from several chapters
1 - Engine Building Basics
2 - Making Power
3 - Engine Block
4 - Crankshaft, Rods & Pistons
5 - Cylinder Heads
6 - Camshaft & Valvetrain
7 - Headers and Exhaust
8 - Ford Ignition Systems
9 - Engine Build Ups
Softbound
8-3/8 x 10-7/8
128 pages
300+ b/w photos
Item #SA69P
Price: $
Click here to buy now!

If you're serious about building a powerful
Ford V-8 you need this book!


Other items you might be interested in

How to Build Big-Inch Ford Small Blocks
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 building of a small block Ford
stroker, paying special attention to the effect that
increasing the bore and stroke have on the engine as a
whole. 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.
How to Build Big-Inch Ford Small Blocks
Price:
$ 22.95



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