With any engine project, a large collection of external components takes up a fair portion of the engine build time and budget, yet many are not considered parts of the basic engine package. Among these are the bolt-on items, such as valve covers, motor mounts, water pumps, and breather systems. This chapter gives an outline of what is available and what is needed to complete your FE build, along with a few tips on what challenges to look out for.
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This was touched on in Chapter 2, but it merits repeating. The FE engine has had two different motormount bolt patterns over its production history. The earlier engines had a 2-bolt mount pattern while later (post 1964) engines had a 4-bolt pattern cast and drilled into the sides of the block. The later-model blocks can be retrofitted into earlier applications because the two original bolt positions were retained. But early blocks cannot be used in later-model vehicles without fabrication. Latermodel vehicles often use only two of the fastener locations, but not the same two as the earlier vehicles.
Also, 427 side-oiler blocks, along with the available aftermarket replacement blocks, require a modified engine mount on the driver side in order to clear the oil-feed casting rib. When installed, the FE motor mount isolators sometimes appear “wrong” because they attach to the engine on an angle, not parallel to the oil-pan rail.
Race cars often use a front motor plate that attaches at the water-pump mounting holes. An attractive and perhaps stronger alternative would be the marine-style mounting for timing covers, which incorporate a flat machined surface on the lower front.
The common 360/390/428 FE engine uses six formed-metal expansion plugs to seal off the core openings in the side of each block casting. These are not freeze or frost plugs, and do not prevent block breakage. They are simply openings to allow the casting sand from the inner cores to be removed during manufacturing.
The expansion plugs are simply hammered into place with anaerobic sealant around their perimeter. It is important to note that the FE block requires an odd-sized 49/64-inchdiameter expansion plug. Some plug kits provide a cheaper 3/4-inch plug, which does not seal effectively and will possibly come loose!
The earliest 427 engines also used press-in-type plugs, but the later ones went to screw-in-type core plugs for added strength and reliability. The factory screw-in core plugs are a shallow design with a tapered pipe thread. The plumbing style plugs you see at the local hardware store are too thick/deep and do not go in flush to the sides of the block. Passenger car 427 engines used steel plugs, while the marine versions used brass. Since the plugs are nearly impossible to remove after more than 30 years of service, the brass plugs serve as a clear indication of a marine engine.
Genesis aftermarket blocks feature a reproduction of the factory screw-in plug that provides a good seal, while the Pond block uses a CNC-formed plug with straight threads and an O-ring for sealing. It is possible to convert a normal FE block for screw-in-style plugs, but it is not an easy task. You need at least two thread taps—one to get started and another shortened one for finish- sizing the threads. The distance between the outside of the block and the cylinder cores is too short to allow use of a standard pipe tap. You do not want to run the tap into the cylinder core.
Early FE engines did not use a plate between the engine block and the transmission, but they were required on most of the applications you are likely to find in a muscle-carera 360, 390, or 428 block. These thin metal plates seem innocent enough, but can cause an occasional problem.
If you are experiencing starter troubles, it’s worth noting that the FE starter mounts to the transmission and not to the block. This means that the block plate, or lack of same, can have an impact on starter drive-gear engagement.
The other block-plate issues are related to the various galleys and core plugs in the bellhousing end of some blocks. The threaded-in oil galley plugs surrounding the camshaft often protrude from the block surface enough to interfere with the plate. Many factory block plates already have clearance holes for those plugs. If your block plate does not have them, they are easily added. You can test fit the block plate by tapping it with a hammer where the plugs touch, to mark the position. Then drill the appropriate holes. I use a Greenlee punch from the electrical supply house to make clean, round holes.
The Genesis aftermarket 427 blocks can have a similar interference issue with the large core plugs at the rear of the block. The fix is the same as for the galley plugs; locate the needed hole and use a Greenlee punch (or hole saw) to provide clearance.
The common FE engines all used a similar-style water pump, which straddles the timing cover and is mounted to the block with four 3/8- 16 bolts. The bolts extend into the water jacket and require sealant to prevent leaks. The inlet hose for the pump is on the driver-side lower corner. A bypass fitting is centered in the top of the pump that connects to a short piece of 5/8-inch ID hose, which runs to the front face of the intake manifold. There is also a fitting for a similar-sized heater-hose connection on the upper passenger side. It is common for both the heater and bypass fittings to be plugged on race applications. If running without a bypass hose, you must also either drill bypass passages into the thermostat or run without a thermostat (not recommended for street cars).
Along with the rebuilt water pumps readily available “at parts stores,” the FE builder can choose from a few new aftermarket parts. Upgraded cast-iron water pumps are available from a few suppliers including Milodon. Aluminum pumps for weight-conscious projects are available from both Dove and Edelbrock. Both claim enhanced flow capability for better cooling; a feature that has definite benefits in the tightly cramped engine compartments common to FE installations.
Electric water pumps are also available for the FE. I’ve used the parts from Meziere with excellent results even in street applications. While less effective at delivering coolant pressure and flow at higher speeds, the electric pump has advantages in drag-strip environments because it permits between-rounds cooling, and allows for packaging flexibility. The electric pump also frees up a modest amount of horsepower in a race engine. The use of an electric water pump requires some creativity in alternator- and accessory-drive fabrication.
Front Accessory Drive Systems
The front of FE engines has any of a vast array of front-enddrive systems. These range from a simple single-pulley alternator (or generator) belt to multiple-belt arrangements driving air conditioning, power steering, and emissions air pumps in various positions.
The most common and simple arrangement is a single, long pivot bolt that is installed into the 7/16-14 threaded hole on the passenger-side front of the block. The bolt goes through a triangular steel bracket in the front of the alternator and through a spacer that is placed behind the alternator. The other portion of the bracket is mounted to the water pump. The sliding mount and bolt used for belt-tension adjustment attaches to a longer, formed-steel bracket, which also mounts to the water pump. The alternator may be positioned either above or below the pivot bolt depending on application.
Earlier-model engines with generators used a bracket that mounted to a single fastener along the side of the block. In later applications, that fastener hole was retained, but used for the ground cable instead.
Power-steering pumps, when used, are mounted to the driver-side cylinder head. The most common steering-pump layout has a cast-aluminum mounting bracket that bolts to the pump.
Air conditioning and/or emissions air pumps use a variety of mountings and idler pulleys that are entirely vehicle dependant. The system from a Galaxie may not physically fit into a pickup truck or a Fairlane. If you are replicating an original system, be certain that you acquire everything from the donor vehicle or the supplier. Mixing and matching factory pulleys can get you into trouble because they often have varied positions relative to the mounting. Therefore, the double pulleys on a crankshaft don’t line up to a single on the water pump and small-block or 460 parts do not freely interchange.
Aftermarket belt-drive systems are available from several suppliers and range from simple aluminum replacement pulleys to fairly elaborate serpentine-drive combinations. As when working with factory parts, it is important to verify belt alignment on the aftermarket systems. The variance in pulley-mounting position on the aftermarket dampers can cause issues if not addressed.
Either the original or the aftermarket crankshaft pulley need the mounting pattern altered when using an ATI damper. The ATI damper uses a Chevrolet mounting pattern, which is slightly different than the factory FE bolt circle.
If you are using a crank trigger ignition, you need to shim/space all the other accessories forward 1/4- inch to compensate for the thickness of the trigger wheel.
The oil-level dipstick on the common FE is located at the forward end of the block, where it is pressed into an opening just behind the oilfilter mount. Reproduction sticks and tubes are available. I often simply use a piece of 3/8-inch fuel line tubing bent for header clearance and cut to the appropriate length, with an upper clamp attached to a convenient bolt on the head. The stick itself can be a common 302 replacement with the “full” position marked as required.
When using a windage tray, you sometimes find that the dipstick hits the tray when inserted and curls back upward into contact with the crankshaft—not good. Usually you would check and address this issue during assembly. If you cannot simply bend the dipstick and feel your way through/around the obstacle, then you must make an adjustment. Just remember to do so every time you check the oil, or you may have a stick break off and send debris through the engine.
Many aftermarket “T”-type oil pans have provisions for a dipstick going into the top of the kickout. If you choose to use a stick at that location you’d normally plug the original location with a small piece of aluminum rod tapped into place. There is no functional advantage of one location over the other; it’s simply a matter of convenience.
Lots of valve-cover options are out there for the FE project. Choices include original tin in painted or chrome finishes, factory aluminum castings, and a plethora of aftermarket parts. For those builders looking for an original external appearance, it’s good that all FE valve covers (with the notable exception of the Cammer) share the same mounting pattern. But some of them do not clear certain valvetrain combinations without modification.
The pre-1965 factory tin covers had a rounded appearance with no oil-fill or breather openings. Some of them had brand or model designation lettering stamped into them, such as “THUNDERBIRD,” while others were completely smooth, which the FE-building community refers to as “baldies.” Chromed baldy covers were used on the 1963 and 1964 427 engines, and were adorned with the famed “427 logo,” a goldand- black decal; a stylized bird flanked by checkered flags. The baldy-style covers have no internal baffles and seem to clear all valvetrain systems—original or aftermarket. In order to use them you need to provide oil-fill and breather openings in the intake manifold. The chromed baldy covers and the decals are being reproduced.
The 1965 Ford 427 engines moved to a tall, sharp-cornered valve cover that is referred to as a “pentroof” design. These are also found in chrome and painted finishes. Later variations had oil-filler and PCV/ breather openings and baffles in the cover. The tall pentroof covers usually accommodate most rocker combinations. A much shorter version of the pentroof was common in nonperformance applications. These shorter covers do not provide the needed room for many rocker systems without removing the baffles and sometimes even that is not enough. The chromed tall pentroof covers are being reproduced either with or without filler openings.
In 1968 the FE engines received yet another valve-cover design. These are the most common “Powered by Ford” stampings that carried on through the end of production. Some of the performance vehicles (390 GT and 428 CJ cars) had the covers chromed, but the vast majority of them are painted. They all have oil fillers, breather/PCV openings, and internal baffles. They provide clearance on many aftermarket rocker systems, but not always. Usually, removing the baffles gets them on okay but sometimes a double gasket or a valve cover spacer is needed. Chromed “Powered by Ford” valve covers are being reproduced.
Factory aluminum covers are also readily available, either as swap meet finds or as reproductions. Blue Thunder is the aftermarket supplier of choice for most of these, and it has a wide array of cast pentroofstyle aluminum covers. Most popular would be the classic finned cover with the “Cobra 427” or “Cobra Lemans” logo. These are also sold as a plain finned cover with no logo and as a non-finned, smooth-finish, aluminum pentroof. These all have valvetrain clearance for the most popular systems but may require clearance grinding for use with largediameter valvesprings.
The 428 CJ/SCJ engines also had a factory die-cast-aluminum valvecover option. Available as reproductions, these share similar fitment with their “Powered by Ford” steel siblings, usually okay but always need to be checked. The finned CJ covers are available as reproductions.
Non-reproduction aftermarket valve covers are commonly the popular squared-off-finned-style designs from M/T, Cal Custom, or Edelbrock. Similar to the ones that each company sells for other engines, they are used most often in vintageappearing hot-rod builds.Most Cobra and Mustang owners either opt for the factory look or the modern Blue Thunder “Competition Style” covers. The Competition Style covers are a visual departure from the normal FE design, with sides that extend to the edge of the sealing surface and inset hex-headed fasteners that reach to the top of the cover surface. In addition, these covers have a threaded bung in each end to accept a billet breather, oil filler, or PCV cap. They clear any valvetrain system.
Breathers, Oil Fillers and PCV Systems
Every engine needs a couple breather openings, with the exception of a pure race engine that runs a crankcase vacuum pump. Without adequate ventilation, even the best engine’s crankcase would become pressurized due to blowby, and would suffer from serious leakage and moisture contamination.
Earlier FE engines had no openings in the valve covers and relied on the oil-filler cap/breather at the front of the intake manifold along with a road draft tube at the rear. The road draft tube assembly used a basket with woven mesh in it as a liquid separator. This basket sat in an opening in the rear of the intake, and the blowby gases were simply released into the atmosphere. Air passing the angled end of a tube that extended down toward the road surface generates a degree of suction. For builders wishing to retain the original-style valve covers but not wanting to run a road draft tube, I’ve fabricated a rear breather that uses a small filter on top of the basket—it’s unobtrusive and seems to work well.
In 1966, Ford installed positive crankcase ventilation (PCV), and the breather openings were moved to the valve covers. Placing the breather system at a higher location on the engine is arguably better, but cosmetics sometimes drive the placement as much as function. On a PCV system, you have a valve on one cover and an inlet filter/cap on the other. Vacuum at idle or cruise pulls residual crankcase vapors into the intake where they are burned along with the normal fuel/air mixture. Good for emissions and air quality, but not ideal for performance. Most race-style applications do not use a PCV system, but they are not at all detrimental for street use, and may reduce tendencies for external oil mist and leakage.
For many years, serious race engines simply used one or more filter breathers on each valve cover to vent blowby to the atmosphere. Many still do. An open breather system works well, but you should expect to see some mist or oil film from the openings after a period of time–no engine completely eliminates blowby. A racer would not be concerned with the need for an occasional wipe from a shop towel, but a show car may be well served with a cleaner PCV-type system.
Over the last decade, dedicated racers have moved to vacuum systems. Using a belt-driven pump, race engines pull a 10- to 15-inch vacuum in the crankcase. A dry-sump oi pump or a dedicated vacuum pump can generate vacuum. Any excess oil vapor or mist is accumulated in a tank plumbed to the outlet side of the vacuum pump. This system allows the use of a lower-tension pistonring package and is said to deliver significant horsepower gains (20 hp or more) when used in an optimized engine. In street applications, vacuum systems are marginal if usable at all. In order to function, the engine needs to be extremely well sealed up, often requiring specialized or reversed front and rear crankcase seals.
The common 4×3-inch open-element air cleaner with a chrome lid works great and looks perfectly fine on an FE. But there are a lot of other alternatives as well, especially for those desiring a period-correct appearance.
The cast-aluminum, finned, oval air-filter assembly is instantly identifiable as a trademark FE item. This filter housing was originally installed on 390, 406, and 427 engines with the 2×4 or 3×2 carburetor packages and it is nicely reproduced by Blue Thunder. It also serve as inspiration for similar designs from numerous manufacturers. The lids are available with the inset for the “bird with crossed flags” emblem or with full-length fins. Bases are offered for the 2×4 and the 3×2, as well as for a single 4-barrel. Elements for the oval air-cleaner assembly are still available in paper filter media, and are also available from Blue Thunder in oiled fabric in heights of 1.75, 2.25, 3.00, or 4.00 inches.
Those wishing to duplicate the appearance of a Thunderbolt or Galaxie lightweight will be searching for the aluminum air box that connects via convoluted hose to the inner headlights or grill. It’s an elegant aluminum casting but holds no filter—strictly a race-car part. Beyond unfiltered air, the only caution is that the original high-riser intake had different carburetor centerto- center spacing compared to medium-riser intakes. Most aftermarket intakes use the medium-riser spacing. Make certain that your air box matches your intake; both spacing options are available.
Among the other factory aircleaner assemblies, the optional shaker hood assembly found on 1969–1970 Mustangs is the most notable. You can use a shaker hood when running a Performer RPM or a Blue Thunder intake manifold, although the position relative to the hood opening is a bit different with the RPM.
Written by Barry Robotnik and Republished with Permission of CarTech Inc