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Crankshaft, Rods & Pistons
What we build into an engine’s bottom end directly determines durability and lifespan. Believe it or
not, you can build integrity into a budget engine if you understand what counts and where to
prioritize. Your focus needs to be on areas that do count. This means using the best parts available
in your budget range; in short, spending money where it makes the most sense in a budget engine
build.

When we’re planning a budget engine, it is wise to plan for the best our budget can buy, then cost
down as necessary, prioritizing as we go. For example, you might want a set of Crower Sportsman
rods topped with forged pistons. When cost enters the picture, you may have to throttle back to
hypereutectic pistons and modified stock rods to get the job done. Compromising down under is
something you do carefully, answering yourself honestly what this engine is going to be.

Before you get started, it is important to remember there are no guarantees when we build an
engine. Anytime  we build an engine, we always run  the risk of engine failure due to flawed
materials or faulty assembly procedures employed during the build. Additionally, there is the risk of
engine failure due to abuse once in service — such as over-revving, poor tuning, or the neglect of
proper maintenance like regular oil changes. The best we can do is to put quality into an engine
build in the first place, then do our best to treat the mill respectfully once the chambers are warm.
Treating the mill respectfully means using common sense. Never push a cold engine, for example.
Cold oil doesn’t flow and coat moving parts as liberally as warm oil. Cold parts need warm-up time
to expand to proper tolerances. Operating an engine in a poor state of tune is another factor. Too
much timing or a lean fuel mixture is hard on an engine. Too much of either will destroy an
otherwise healthy engine in seconds.
FIRST, A WORD ON BALANCING
Before we get into how to build a solid bottom end, we must first talk about
balancing issues and how they pertain to Ford V-8 engines. Proper dynamic balancing is rooted in
having the right  combination of rotating and reciprocating parts. All Ford small-block engines,
including the 351C, 351M, and 400M, are “externally” balanced. This means we counterweight the
engine “externally” on the flywheel/flexplate and harmonic  balancer to achieve dynamic balance.

Why go outside and externally balance? Because the crankshaft counterweights inside don’t always
give us sufficient weight to counter reciprocating bobweight (rods and pistons). We add
counterweight to the flywheel and harmonic balancer to make up for the difference in reciprocating
weight inside the block. Look at a small-block Ford flywheel, flexplate, and harmonic balancer and
you can see the counterweighting. On flexplates, the counterweight is welded on. With flywheels, it’s
an integral part of the casting. Holes are drilled in the flywheel, often opposite the counterweight, to
achieve ideal dynamic balancing. The same can be said for the harmonic balancer, which is also
drilled to achieve ideal dynamic balance. We drill flywheels and harmonic balancers to remove
weight where it isn’t needed.

One Ford small block, the 1963-67 289 High Performance V-8, uses additional counterweighting (a
slide-on counterweight) at the front of the crankshaft to allow for heavier reciprocating weight
inside. If you’re building a replica Hi-Po, you don’t have to have this counterweight. Your machine
shop can fill the crankshaft counterweights with Mallory metal or add weight to the flywheel/flexplate.
Why is all this balancing hoopla important? Whenever we’re dynamic balancing an externally
balanced engine, we must have the flywheel (manual transmission), flexplate (automatic
transmission), and harmonic balancer present at the time of balancing. Horrible vibrations abound
when we ignore this fact.

What makes the small-block “external” balance issue more complicated is 28-ounce offset balance
versus 50-ounce offset. Earlier Ford small blocks like the 221, 260, 289, and 302 V-8s through
1981 were 28-ounce offset balanced. When Ford began producing the 5.0L (302) High Output V-8
in 1982, a 50-ounce offset balance was used to allow for heavier reciprocating masses inside.
Small-block crankshaft flanges are drilled to allow flexplate or flywheel installation one way only.
This prevents us from incorrectly installing the flywheel or flexplate, adversely affecting balance.

Ford FE big-blocks were both internally and externally balanced depending on engine type. All FE
engines, except the 410 and 428, were internally balanced. Internally balanced means the crank,
rods, and pistons are balanced together without concern for the flywheel, flexplate, or harmonic
balancer. Internal balancing means there’s enough counterweighting in the crankshaft
counterweights to do the job without help from the flywheel, flexplate, or harmonic balancer. The
410 and 428 were externally balanced because they had greater reciprocating weight than other
FE counterparts. Both had heavier rods and pistons, which made it necessary to add
counterweighting outside the engine at the flywheel, flexplate, and harmonic balancer. The 428
Cobra Jet has an additional slip-on counterweight at the front of the crankshaft behind the
harmonic balancer to allow for heavier moving parts inside.
We’ll take the FE story a step further with the FT (Ford Truck) big-block cousin. If you’re using a
cast or steel-forged FT truck crankshaft (affordable brute strength) in your FE engine, always
remember FT engines are externally balanced which means the flywheel, flexplate, and harmonic
balancer must be included in the balancing process.

All 385-series 429 and 460ci engines are “internally” balanced, which means they don’t need any
help outside at the flywheel, flexplate, or harmonic balancer. This is a big plus for the 385 because
it makes dynamic balancing easy. When it’s time to replace a clutch and flywheel, you can expect a
good balancing experience because the crankshaft, rods, and pistons are independent from the
flywheel, flexplate, and harmonic balancer.
STROKER KITS
Pumping up the displacement in your Ford V-8 doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, when you opt
for a cast crankshaft and cast pistons, stroking your budget engine doesn’t have to cost any more
than a simple rebuild. Stroker kits are available from Performance Automotive Warehouse (PAW)
for not much more than a budget engine kit. Ditto for Summit Racing Equipment and Ford Racing
Technology.

An engine is stroked by increasing the distance the piston travels in the cylinder bore. When we
increase the distance the piston travels in the bore, the bore takes on more air and fuel resulting in
more power. Stroker kits vary in scope and cost. Often you can stroke an engine without buying a
kit using off-the-shelf parts. For example, you can stroke a 390 to 410+ci by installing a 428
crankshaft, or turn a 429 into a 460 with a 460 crankshaft. Just offset grind a 302 or 351 crank and
use the right rod and piston for increased displacement from your small block.

Stroker kits are the easiest means to displacement when off-the-shelf Ford parts won’t get you
there. Ford Racing, for example, offers a 347ci stroker kit (M-6013-B347) for 289/302 blocks. This
kit sports a nodular-iron 3.40" stroke crankshaft, KB flattop pistons, Federal Mogul high-
performance connecting rods, and Grant piston rings. You must provide all machine work and
dynamic balancing. Remember, this is an externally-balanced engine. Flywheel, flexplate, and
harmonic balancer must be present for balancing.
Ford Racing also offers a 514ci stroker kit (M-6013-A514) for 429/460 big blocks. This kit includes
a nodular-iron crankshaft with 4.30" stroke, M-6200-A514 connecting rods, choice of TRW forged
pistons, Speed Pro piston rings, and Federal Mogul bearings. Like the small-block stroker kit
mentioned earlier, this kit requires externally balancing with flywheel, flexplate, and harmonic
balancer present.

Stroker engines are also available from Ford Racing. You can install 600 horsepower in a weekend
with the M-6007-B514 crate 514ci big-block package. This engine has been dyno tested at 600
horsepower at 6,250 rpm, which is 590 ft./lbs. of torque at 4,750 rpm.
Coast High Performance has a variety of stroker kits for Ford V-8s. The most popular is the 347ci
Street Fighter small block. Several versions with either I-beam or H-beam rods are available for
your application depending on budget. Coast also offers 377, 408, and 426ci stroker kits for 351W
and 351C engines. If you’re building a 385-series big block, Coast can help with 501, 514, and
557ci stroker kits for your monster big block.

Keep in mind that when you’re ordering a stroker kit for your Ford V-8, the more expensive kits
sport H-beam rods, forged pistons, and steel cranks. Rules of budgetary concern must apply here.
Street engines don’t need race-ready pieces. Keep your expectations realistic and an eye on the
check book.
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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!

Temporarily Out of Stock - More On their way!

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: $22.95
Click here to buy now!

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


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How to Rebuild the Small Block Ford
This 144 page book guides you step by step through
a rebuild, including: planning, disassembly and
inspection, choosing the right parts, machine work,
assembling your engine, first firing and break-in. It also
gives you helpful hints and tips on performance
upgrades, including cams, heads, ignition, induction,
and more. It also points out problem areas to watch for,
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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
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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
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