The current traditional hot rod movement has generated interest in the venerable Y-block V-8, and the aftermarket has supported it as well as the engine series it replaced, the flathead. Indeed, the manufacturers of speed equipment have developed new performance parts to meet the demand. It seems the old adage is true: “If you wait long enough, everything eventually comes back in style.”
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Then there are the Y-block stalwarts, my friend Jerry Christenson among them, who have continued to race and modify Y-block engines through the years. Early on, the Y-block faithful were convinced of the engine series’ strength and performance potential, despite the lack of performance parts over the decades. These enthusiasts have displayed the true spirit of hot rodding by carefully examining the raw material that Ford gave them and then squeezing every ounce of power from it using little more than ingenuity. The experience and guidance these men have has proved to be invaluable in writing this book.
When I set out to build a proper, modern high-performance version of the Y-block V-8, my approach was simple and straightforward. I wanted it to be the ideal power plant for Richard Stuck’s beautiful 1957 Ford Custom, so I selected a combination of traditional and modern performance parts that work well in concert while improving on the original Ford design. A major consideration was the intended purpose for the engine. My goal was not to have a competitiononly engine but rather a powerful, reliable, strong street engine.
This engine is based on a 1957 vintage 292-cylinder block. Why not begin with the larger displacement 312-cylinder block, you ask? After all, in hot rod circles, isn’t the old saying, “There’s no substitute for cubic inches?” The reason for my choice is simple: strength of design.
When Ford increased the displacement of the Y-block from 292 to 312 ci, it increased the crankshaft’s stroke as well as the main bearing journal size. To accommodate the larger main bearing journals, Ford cast and machined a cylinder block that had less beef where it was needed the most: the bottom end.
The advantages of the 292 far outweighed the attributes of using the 312 block. In addition, the longer main bearing cap bolts, which in turn required deeper holes in the casting, resulted in a tendency to develop cracks in the webbing of the cylinder block. Taking into consideration the inherent strength advantage of the 292 cylinder block along with the common and simple modification of turning down the main bearing journals of the 312 crankshaft to the diameter of a 292 journal (instant stroker crank), it all makes sense. Add to this the 292 block’s reputation for thick cylinder walls that allow for increases in bore size (unthinkable in later Ford engine series with thin wall castings), and a combination of strength plus cubic inches can be achieved.
It should be noted that blocks bearing C2AE casting numbers are said to have the thickest cylinder walls of all. For competition engines, additional displacement can be squeezed out of the Y-block with an aftermarket crankshaft used in concert with a camshaft that has been ground on a smaller base circle to provide more clearance for the rotating assembly. For the purposes of my street performance Y-block, an OEM 312 cast-iron crankshaft fills the bill quite nicely.
How sturdy is the cast-iron 312 crankshaft? Jerry Christenson uses one in the engine of his 1956 Thunderbird drag car, and it covers a quarter mile in 10 seconds. Jerry reports that even after machining the main bearing journals to 292 diameter, offset grinding the connecting rod journals to 2.10 inches to gain additional displacement, and running a supercharger delivering 10 to 14 pounds of boost, the crankshaft has stood the test of hundreds of quarter-mile runs with no signs of wear. As a matter of fact, such is the strength and reliability of the engine that Jerry has only had to replace piston rings and wrist pins as part of his race engine’s maintenance.
Enthusiasts and racers from Finland take the Ford Y-block seriously and squeeze every ounce of power from their engines. The Hollowheads Racing Team is at the forefront of getting this venerable engine series to perform its very best. The team fields an Altered dragster, driven by Jyrki Peltonen, that is powered by a 292-ci turbocharged Y-block that is capable of covering the quarter-mile in just over eight seconds; it’s one of the fastest Y-block–powered vehicles in the world today.
Most race engine builders agree that a great deal of additional horsepower can be found through modifications to cylinder heads. To this end, the Hollowheads sacrificed a Y-block cylinder head to be cut into several sections to examine its port configurations.
RaceTec Engine Parts
Top End Components
Written by Charles Morris and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks