An engine’s induction system offers the greatest potential for performance revisions. Both Ford big-blocks (FE- and 385-series) yield an array of performance options. Ford’s FE-series bigblock, for example, likely has more intake manifold and carburetor choices than any other Blue Oval powerplant. There are seemingly dozens of iron and aluminum intakes available. In performance pursuits, I suggest using a castaluminum intake manifold as a means to weight savings. You can shave a solid 70 pounds off vehicle weight this way with an FE engine. We may never know why Ford fitted the 428 Cobra Jet engine with a cast-iron manifold when the lightweight cast-aluminum Police Interceptor intake was available off the shelf. Both are virtually identical intake manifolds.
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Though the 429/460 engines came along at the end of the performance era, there were plenty of induction-system options for these engines, primarily from the aftermarket. When it comes to the Boss 429 engine, there are limitless performance pieces for this exotic mill. However, none of it is cheap and most of it is rare. Some of these pieces are discussed in the following sections.
The intake manifold distributes fuel to the intake ports in the cylinder head, and its design is critical to the engine’s performance. Even fuel distribution over a wide RPM range is not an easy thing to accomplish, and often compromises in intake design (due to hood-clearance limitations, for example) can have a strong impact on a high-performance engine. The wide range of factory intake designs, along with the many aftermarket offerings, means that the best-possible intake for your project is out there. Using this information will help you determine which design is best for you.
From a dimensional standpoint, there are approximately 10 different manifold applications for the FE-series big-blocks. This means there are approximately 10 different port sizes. When you’re choosing an intake manifold, it is wise to pick something compatible with the cylinder head intake ports. For example, a 390 High Performance intake manifold is a poor choice for 427 High-Riser heads. Always measure manifold and cylinder ports whenever shopping for a manifold. The cylinder head should always have slightly larger ports than the manifold. This is normal, because then air flow isn’t disturbed. Port matching is always a good idea in the quest for power.
The more common FE intake manifolds from the factory and aftermarket are covered in this chapter. It is impossible to cover them all because so many types were and are available for this engine. Obscure types rarely seen surface all the time at swap meets, which makes them tricky to identify at times.
The aftermarket is still alive for FE enthusiasts. Weiand and Edelbrock seem to be the biggest players today. If you’re scouting the swap meets, there are seemingly dozens of aftermarket manifolds from days of yore. Visit the swap meets and scan the displays to see what was once available new. If you’re building a period car, it’s often exciting to find an old cast-aluminum Edelbrock, Offenhauser, or Weiand high rise from the 1960s that can be media blasted to look like new. Clear powder coating can keep it looking new. Here’s what’s available new today:
In terms of factory performance pieces, the 429/460 engines were quite limited and therefore selection is simple. The 429 and 429 Cobra Jet were both equipped with the same basic spreadbore- style manifold (D0OE-C) designed for use with the Rochester Quadrajet carburetor. The 429 Super Cobra Jet manifold was a uniform four-hole piece designed for the Holley 4150, 780-cfm carburetor. Later 429/460 manifolds were designed for the Motorcraft 4300 carburetor.
The aftermarket offers much for 429/460 engine builders when it comes to induction systems. Your favorite speed shop has most of the answers when it comes to these modern-day big-blocks. Among the sources are Ford Motorsport SVO, Edelbrock, Weiand, and Blue Thunder (Ford Power Parts).
The carburetor’s job is to meter and mix air and fuel based on driver input from the gas pedal. With so many millions of engines mass produced over the years, the carb became a reliable, durable, and finely adjustable component. A welltuned carb can almost equal the efficiency of fuel injection!
Carburetor sizes and types ranged from the humble Autolite 2100 2-barrel carburetor all the way up to twin Holley 4-barrel atomizers. In base form, the 332, 352, 360, and 390 were all equipped with the Autolite 2100. Some were fitted with the Holley 2300-series 2-barrel carb early in the going. The Holley 2300 was little more than the primary half of a 4150 4-barrel carburetor. Engines equipped with the Autolite 2100 carburetors were the largest of the type, with 1.23- and 1.33-inch throttle bores flowing 356 and 424 cfm, respectively.
Because you are more interested in performance, I focus here on performance carburetion for the FE engines. Ford fitted the first FE-series 332- and 352-ci engines (1958–1959) with Holley 4160- and Autolite 4100-series 4-barrel carburetors. The type of carburetor installed depended on the application. The Carter AFB 4-barrel carburetor was used briefly in 1958.
As the FE engine progressed into 1960, some changes in carburetion occurred. The Autolite 4100 was the base carburetor used on the 352 and 390. The 352 and 390 High Performance engines got the Holley 4160. Beginning in 1963, the Holley 4160 was replaced with the 4150, found only on the 427. The difference between these two carburetors was the presence of a secondary metering block in the 4150. The 4160 lacked the secondary metering block.
Multi-carburetion first appeared on the FE in 1961 with the 401-hp, 390 High Performance engine, which was equipped with a trio of Holley 2-barrel carburetors. This engine was offered through 1963. Beginning in 1963, Ford topped the 427 with a pair of optional Holley 4150 4-barrel carburetors. Dual 4-barrel carburetion was a 427 option through 1967. It was standard on the 1967 Shelby GT500 with the 428.
Most 352-4V-, 390-4V-, 410-, and 428-ci engines were equipped with the Autolite 4100 carburetor until 1967. Beginning in 1967, Ford started seeking improved emissions with the Autolite 4300 carburetor. The 4300 wasn’t half the carburetor the 4100 was in terms of performance and reliability. Ford’s judgment in the development of this carburetor has often been questioned. Its first year out, the 4300 was available in one size—441 cfm for small- and big-block alike—not a good thing for big-blocks. The 390, 410, and 428 engines suffocated while trying to breathe through the 4300’s limited bores. Performance suffered, which is why many 4300s were tossed in favor of aftermarket Holley 1850/4160/4150 carburetors. In time, Ford improved the 4300 carburetor in the years following 1967. It is a tricky carburetor to tune. Because it is mandatory in some states, due to emissions laws, it may pay to learn how to cope with the 4300.
The 4300 was enlarged to 600 cfm beginning in 1969 for 390-4V engines, which helped performance to some extent. This carburetor continued in production for the 429/460 engines until 1975, when it was substituted with the advanced 4350.
As you cruise through the following table, you see many variables. When I differentiate between a manual-transmission carburetor and one for a Cruise-O-Matic, this means there is likely a difference in the throttle linkage. A carburetor engineered for a Cruise-O-Matic has a kickdown-linkage attachment point— one for a manual transmission does not. California-emissions-type carburetors have smaller jets and different float calibration. They can be re-jetted and calibrated quite easily for your 49-state application. The 428 Cobra Jet engines didn’t differentiate between California and 49-state because all were Thermactor emissions (smog pump) equipped.
The 429/460 carburetor story is a simple one. In base form, the 429 was equipped with an Autolite 2100 series 2-barrel carburetor with huge 1.23-inch throttle bores. In 4-barrel form, the 429 was equipped with a 605-cfm Autolite or Motorcraft 4300. The 460 was never fitted with anything less than an Autolite or Motorcraft 4300 4-barrel carburetor.
Where the carburetor picture changes is in the area of performance for the 429 and 460 engines. The 429 Cobra Jet, available from 1970–1971 only, was fitted with a 715-cfm Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carburetor. Ford chose the Q-Jet because it didn’t have a suitable performance carburetor in its 4300. Meeting emissions standards also had a lot to do with it. The 429 Super Cobra Jet engine of 1970–1971 was equipped with a Holley 4150 carburetor flowing a whopping 780 cfm at wide-open throttle. The very-limited-production Boss 429 engine was also equipped with a 780-cfm Holley 4150. There were seemingly dozens of Ford, Shelby, Holman-Moody, and aftermarket manifolds for the Boss 429, despite its limited availability.
Ford produced more air cleaners for FE-series engines than there is room to list here. It seems each vehicle type had a different air cleaner, dating back to 1958. I touch on the more popular ones, because very few of you who have purchased this book are going to be interested in a huge drum-type air cleaner housing for a 1958 Edsel.
High Performance FE air cleaners date back to the simple open-element types found on 1961–1962 390 High Performance, and the 406 and 427 Hi-Po engines of 1962–1967. Single 4-barrel 390, 406, and 427 High Performance air cleaners were the same round, open-element chrome air cleaners found on the 260 Sprint and 289 High Performance engines of 1963–1967. Multi-carb setups received the long 6V/8V cast-aluminum affair used from 1961–1967. This air cleaner designed for the 390/406/427 High Performance, the Cobra, and even the Cougar, has many variables. These are easy to find, especially if you’re happy with a reproduction.
Beginning in 1966 on the Fairlane and Comet/Cyclone, the 390 High Performance engine received a Fairlane/ Mustang/Cougar-specific air-cleaner type designed for improved breathing, while keeping induction noise down.
Written by George Reid and Republished with Permission of CarTech Inc