It isn’t hard to get 400 hp from a 351C. All you need is the right combination of parts, including CNC-ported, factory, iron-head castings from Powerheads and a budget stroker kit, and get ready for great street power. Here are two examples: one from MCE Engines and one from TMeyer, Inc.
Marvin McAfee of MCE Engines welcomed me into his Los Angeles shop where he was working on a customer’s 351C-4V engine. The customer, located 1,500 miles away, wanted 400 hp and comparable torque from his 351C.
When Marvin received this engine, it was worse for wear and suffered from poor building technique. It was worn out before its time. Poor valvetrain geometry had damaged fresh Comp Cams Magnum roller rockers. Fouled spark plugs indicated cylinder-sealing issues.
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Marvin decided this Cleveland needed a complete teardown along with the full complement of machine work and the right combination of parts to achieve more than 400 street horsepower. When Marvin tore this engine down, he found 4.030-inch bores with minimal wear and taper.
Tim Meyer of TMeyer, Inc., in rural Minnesota is a recognized and respected engine builder who has built a lot of 351C and 400 engines for clients around the country. Though the 400 gets a lot of criticism for being an underpowered smog slug, it remains a 351C with increased deck height and larger main journals; a small-block with the personality of a big-block.
If you strip the 400 of factory design shortcomings, it is an engine long on potential because you get big-block power without the weight penalty. The 385-series 460, as one example, weighs at least 100 pounds more than a 400.
When Tim took on this 400, he knew what it needed to make more power. The 400’s cylinder heads are open-chamber 351C-2V castings, which suffer from the absence of quench and are prone to detonation. This is why Tim went with Australian 302C closed-chamber wedge heads with 57- to 60-cc chambers on top of the 400. Good quench for the money amid a nice, small, wedge chamber.
With the 400, Tim has an opportunity to get 1 hp per cubic inch or roughly 400 hp from a 400 along with approximately 450 ft-lbs of torque. This comes from topping the 400 with cylinder heads that make the most of bore and stroke along with a good cam and an induction system. And he gets it done with 9.8:1 compression and 87-octane pump gas. This happens with Tim’s own custom KB #2344 forged pistons (30-cc reverse dome) for a 400 with Aussie 302C cylinder heads and a stock 400 bottom end.
TMeyer 400, Pull 1
Tim began his 400 dyno thrash with a Weiand Action Plus (#8010), an Edelbrock 600-cfm carburetor, and the D.U.I. ignition system from Performance Distributors. Here’s what happened on the first pull in Tim Meyer’s own words, “So far the engine has had a 25-minute breakin. We have started with the Weiand Action Plus dual-plane intake. After 25 minutes with 10W40 weight oil with oil temperature at 225 degrees F and water temperature at 200 degrees F, we were able to idle at 900-rpm and maintain 40 to 50 pounds of oil pressure.” The first pull net 365 hp and 425 ft-lbs of torque with total ignition timing at 25 degrees BTDC. There’s room for improvement.
TMeyer 400, Pull 2
“Best news yet: Exhaust gas temperatures are about 1,200 degrees F. Most low-compression engines have a higher exhaust temperature around 1,400 to 1,500 degrees F,” Tim comments. “This time, we went to 5,500 rpm and bumped the timing to 30 degrees BTDC total. We’ve developed a misfi re at 5,500 rpm. As a result, we’re installing another set of advance springs after trying different distributor parts. Despite the misfire, we’ve gained power: 370 hp and 430 ft-lbs of torque.” Tim adds he has changed the oil to 10W30, with pressure dropping at hot idle to 40 pounds. A compression check shows an average of 170 psi.
TMeyer 400, Pull 3
“Final pull with the Weiand manifold. We’ve changed to an MSD billet distributor with vacuum advance and a Holley 650-cfm carburetor with the Weiand Action Plus,” Tim comments. “We bumped the timing to 36 degrees BTDC and it did ping under load.” Tim retarded total timing to 32 degrees BTDC to get 384 hp and 450 ft-lbs of torque. With the Weiand Action Plus dual-plane manifold, you can see the TMeyer 400 is about torque, not horsepower, which makes this 400 in current trim perfect for a Bronco or F-Series truck. The dual-plane induction system is happiest between 2,500 and 5,500 rpm.
TMeyer 400, Pull 4
Next, Tim tried a Holley single-plane manifold and 650-cfm Holley carburetor just to see what happens to the power curve: 390 hp and 451 ft-lbs of torque. Total ignition timing is 30.5 degrees BTDC.
TMeyer 400, Pull 5
Next, Tim went with an Edelbrock 750-cfm carburetor for a drop in horsepower and torque (perhaps too much carburetor): 380 hp and 437 ft-lbs of torque. Disappointing numbers with a carb swap and the same 30.5 degrees of total timing.
TMeyer 400, Pull 6
Tim installs a 700-cfm Holley to achieve 396 hp and 449 ft-lbs of torque. The power message here seems to be the velocity you get with a smaller carburetor. With velocity comes torque.
TMeyer 400, Pull 7
On Pull 7 Tim decided to go with the Edelbrock Performer 400 dual-plane manifold and a 600 cfm Holley, probably not enough carburetor because horsepower is down at 387, with torque improved at 458 ft-lbs, which proves the velocity theory. It is all in what you want from your Cleveland. If you want highend horsepower, increase carburetor size conservatively in 50- to 100-cfm increments. If you want stump-pulling torque, go smaller in the 600- to 650-cfm range. Single-plane manifolds make sense for high-RPM use or when you increase displacement. They don’t perform well down low. Dual-plane manifolds such as the Edelbrock Performer and Performer RPM series make the most sense for drivers, tow vehicles, and haulers.
TMeyer 400, Pull 8
Back to the Weiand Action Plus dualplane manifold and 650-cfm Holley for the best results of this dyno session: 393 hp and 458 ft-lbs of torque. Tim kept timing conservative at 30.5 degrees BTDC, which I think could have been pushed a bit higher along with fatter jetting. With Ford’s 4.000-inch bore/4.000-inch stroke combination and conservative tuning, you can achieve 400 hp and 450 torque numbers along with durability.
Written by George Reid and Republished with Permission of CarTech Inc