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Ford Engine Firing Orders
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Modifying Small Block Ford Cylinder Heads
Modifying Small
Block Ford Cylinder
Heads

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Cylinder Heads
You can achieve significant gains in engine power with the proper selection and modification of
cylinder heads. Cylinder head port size and shape, coupled with combustion chamber size and
shape, determine an engine’s power personality. The “bigger is better” theory most of us have
accepted over the years doesn’t always work to an engine’s advantage. A street engine can have
too much cylinder head, which adversely affects driveability. The same can be said for racing
engines, depending upon the application. Ports that are too large hurt the low-end torque we need
for effective street performance. Your challenge is to achieve the right combination of port size and
camshaft profile to enhance driving pleasure. You’re going to want a cylinder
head/piston/induction/camshaft combination that will serve you well in regular driving as well as
traffic light-to-traffic light performance.

How you intend to use the engine directly determines the type of cylinder head you should select.
Budget street engines benefit more from the smaller ports we see with stock heads. They don’t
always need porting and polishing, either. Sometimes porting and polishing take street power away
from where you need it most. Stock intake ports that are rough cast keep fuel droplets in
suspension on carburetor equipped engines. This improves low-end torque. Ground and polished
intake ports can actually hurt low-end torque on carbureted engines because fuel atomization and
suspension are affected.
SMALL BLOCK CYLINDER HEADS
One of the biggest myths you will face in your Ford engine build is that the 289 High Performance
head is the best head to use. This is not necessarily so. The only difference between the 289 High
Performance head and the 2V/4V head is valve spring pockets and screw-in rocker-arm studs.
Otherwise, port size is virtually the same. So save your money and spruce up a set of 2V/4V heads
or opt for 351W types. How? By doing some port work, opting for screw-in rocker-arm studs, and
installing hardened valve seats and larger valves.

If you’re building a 289 High Performance engine, opt for larger 1.94/1.60" Chevrolet valves (no
one’s going to know they’re there but you) and a port/bowl job to achieve the most from those
factory Hi-Po heads. Externally, they will look stock. Internally, they will help your 289 High
Performance engine breathe like it never has before. You can also opt for 351W heads here too
without anyone knowing the difference externally.

Vintage small-block Ford head choices aren’t as simple as they may appear. There has been
significant change in the 221/260/289/302 head over the past four decades. Some of these heads
are best avoided. Others are diamonds in the rough.
The best small-block head to use is the 1969-73 351W, thanks to its larger valves and ports. It’s a
bolt-on swap. When a 351W head cannot be sourced, the 1965-73 289/302 head is your best bet,
due to its smaller wedge chambers. We stress head use prior to 1974 because combustion
chamber size remains smaller in those years, keeping compression healthy.

When you are building a set of heads, good machining technique is important. First, castings
should be checked for cracks and serious warpage. Then head deck surfaces should be checked
and milled as necessary. Valves and guides should be reworked or replaced. Hardened exhaust
valve seats should be installed. Pushrod guide plates and screw-in rocker-arm studs should be
fitted. When budget is limited, you should opt for 1965 through early 1966 heads with pushrod
guides already cast. If you are running a hot camshaft, screw-in rocker-arm studs become
mandatory. When screw-in studs are beyond your budget, pinning the press-in studs becomes an
inexpensive alternative.

Bush Performance in Fort Smith, Arkansas offers a low-cost way to get into hot street performance
with the Street Boss system (nicknamed the “Clevor”, for Cleveland and Windsor). The Street Boss
system puts the 351C head atop the 289/302/351W block. The way you intend to use your engine
determines which 351C head you will use. For the weekend racer, the 351C-4V head with its large
ports and closed-wedge chambers makes a good high-rev head. The 351C-4V head breathes very
well at high RPM like we see in drag and road-course racing. The 351C-2V head is a better street
head due to its smaller ports and open-chamber design. Smaller ports give you better low-end
torque. Open chambers reduce the risk of detonation with low-octane fuels.
Ford 351W cylinder head The 1969-73 351W head is
a budget performance
bolt-on for 289/302ci
engines due to its larger
valves and ports. The only
important difference to
watch for is the dog-leg
coolant passage between
the intake manifold and
cylinder head on early
351W heads. This can
pose leak problems if you
use the wrong intake
gasket. Use the 351W
intake manifold gasket.
New aftermarket heads aren’t within the realm of a budget build. However, as they age and see
use, they often wind up at the swap meets for considerably less than they were new. Glass beading
and valve work makes them as good as new for less money. Good street heads include the Ford
Motorsport SVO GT-40 iron and aluminum heads, World Products Windsor Jr. heads, and
Edelbrock Performers. These are the most common, most reliable heads out there for the builder
on a budget.

For those of you building late-model 5.0L and 5.8L engines, cylinder head choices tend to be
different, especially if you’re interested in meeting emission standards. From 1982-84, Ford used a
D9AE-6049-AA cylinder head casting atop the 5.0L High Output V-8. This is not a high-
performance cylinder head although it was used on the 1982-84 5.0L High Output engines. It is,
however, a workable cylinder head that will come alive with port work and larger 1.94/1.60"
Chevrolet valves.

Small-block Ford heads lost yardage in the performance arena after 1978 with Ford’s increasing
attention to emissions and driveability. Ports became smaller for improved low-end torque and
cleaner emissions. Although this works well in traffic, it doesn’t do much for our engine in higher
RPM ranges. Despite the D9AE casting shortcomings, you can still port these heads and make
power. However, this is not maximizing what you can do with a stock cylinder head.
The biggest shortcoming with the D9AE casting is the exhaust port with Ford’s infamous
Thermactor injection “hump” in the port. It becomes very restrictive. However, this hump can be
ground out and all restriction taken away with some Saturday afternoon labor on a work bench. For
1985 only, Ford went to the E5AE head, which was little more than a modified D9AE casting
designed for easy roller tappet removal with the head installed. It is identifiable by the reliefs
notched in the head at the lifter valley. Otherwise, it is virtually identical to the D9AE casting.

Ford began making improvements to the 5.0L/5.8L head in 1986 with the “high-swirl/fast burn”
E6AE and E6TE castings. This head saw widespread use from 1986-88 depending on vehicle
application. A shrouded intake valve was trademark to the “high-swirl/fast burn” concept. Thing is,
the E6AE/E6TE head didn’t do much for power.

The E5TE and E7TE heads introduced for 1987 are undoubtedly the best late-model castings
because the “high-swirl/fast burn” chamber is eliminated. This is more a return to the 1985 High
Output/Truck head with improved water jacket passages. For you the engine builder, this head is
good for an easy bonus 25-30 horsepower.
The 1993-95 Cobra GT-40 head is little more than a marine head with larger valves and ports. This
fact all by itself makes the GT-40 a good, economical head for 5.0L/5.8L performance. Economical
because it is a common head. Just look for 1.84/1.54" valves, “GT” markings, and F3ZE/F4ZE
casting numbers. Ford part numbers are F3ZZ-A and F4ZZ-A. These heads are also available from
Ford Racing as M-6049-L302. Properly outfitted, these heads use the F3ZZ-6564-A roller rocker
arm with a 1.7:1 ratio.
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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
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How to Build Big-Inch Ford Small Blocks
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stroker, paying special attention to the effect that
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