View Full Version : MOTOR, Equal Time for Ford...289/302 budget bombs!

Fat Hack
09-20-2003, 09:54 AM
After preaching the value and performance/mileage advantages of the 305 Chevy, I felt it only right and propper to give the small block Ford it's fair share of attention from the perspective of low-buck, back yard, REAL world performance!

First arriving on the scene in the early 60s as a 221 cubic inch overhead valve engine in a lightweight package, the "Windsor" engine has been around a while. It soon grew to 260 cubes, then 289 and finally 302. In the late 70s and early 80s, Ford issued a 255 cubic inch variant, but that was a desperate measure to bump up fuel economy figures, and the 255 is a forgotten oddity in the small block Ford ranks.

There is also the 351 Windsor engine, which is essentially the same design as a the smaller motors, although it does feature a raised deck height to accomodate the longer stroke, so it uses a different (wider) intake manifold. Valve covers, valvetrain components, and many other parts interchange between the 351 and 302 small blocks, but blocks and manifolds are unique.

I feel that a quick note on identifying these engines is in order, since Ford managed to create a little confusion with all of their V8 engine designs. The Windsor small blocks use a "wet" intake manifold...that is to say, that coolant flows through it, and that the thermostat housing bolts to the intake facing straight out in front. (Cleveland engines use a 'dry' coolant flows through them.). In addition, Windsor engines also use intake manifold bolts that go in vertically, rather than angled towards the head as most V8 engines do.

When all else fails, of course, you can resort to the age old 'count the valve cover bolts' trick:

5 bolts per cover = FE series big block
6 bolts per cover = Windsor small block
7 bolts per cover = Lima series (429/460) big block
8 bolts per cover = Cleveland or M series

The small block Ford is a fairly compact engine design, and it is pretty light to boot. However, the front sump oil pan design and the length of the engine when equipped with all accessories can make for a tricky fit in some chassis. There are dual sump oil pans available for factory applications such as the Fox chassis platforms that have a small sump in front, with a larger sump in the rear. These pans will bolt onto older small blocks, but will also require the proper oil pump pickup for the given pan. The angle of the oil filter coming off of the block in the front of the engine can also complicate fit issues, but shorter filters or re-location kits are an easy answer there.

Any honest Ford engineer will tell you that you just can't coax the mileage figures out of a small block Ford that you can get out of a similar sized small Chevy. They know it, and it's been proven dozens of times. It was one of the contributing factors that lead Ford to push for an all new engine design to replace the small block.

Part of the hurdle that stands between performance and mileage gains in the small block Ford and you is the cylinder head design. This is true of most older Ford V8s. The intake side of the head flows pretty well, but the exhaust side is quite restrictive. This is due in large part to the fact that these engines had to fit into vehicles that used shock towers which made for a very tight squeeze under the hood. The exhaust port and exhaust manifold designs had to be compromised to allow the engines to fit these cars!

Although a small Ford will respond favorably to basic bolt-on performance mods, the real key to making them run lies in maximizing cylinder head flow, especially on the exhaust side. Years ago, the "hot set-up" was to install 1969-70 351 Windsor heads on a 289 or 302. It was a good performance upgrade at the time using available factory parts. Carefull porting on the exhaust side with the aid of a flow bench does wonders for these engines, even with stock 302 or 289 heads. Also, in hot rods where header design is far more open, a good set of pipes is a big help!

Selecting a good dual pattern cam which favors the exhaust valve is also vital to getting the most out of your small Ford. The older Isky Mega Cams series feature a good set of specs in a few different options from street/strip friendly to more competition oriented. A good place to look!

Also, be aware that there is an "early" and a "late" firing order for small block Fords. It used to be that 221/260/289 and 302 engines used one firing order, and 351 Windsors used another. Later small blocks all used the same firing order. You CAN change and swap cams in the earlier engines to change the firing order...nothing else needs to be changed...just the camshaft and the resulting wiring change to the firing order you are using. The cam determines which. A stock 351 Windsor cam was a popular low-buck performance gainer for 289 and 302 engines once upon a time. It smoothed out the engine and gave a better feel throughout the useable rpm range.

Once you've selected a cam and paid some heed to the restrictions in the exhaust ports and added some good headers, you need to think about intake manifolds. In the case of most small block Fords, the factory four barrel intakes really work quite well. Cast iron versions were available, but the most popular ones are the later 1983-86 Mustang GT intakes made from aluminum. They are a dynamite low-buck street intake for stock small blocks.

That said, the 289/302 engine really prefers a good dual plane design such as the old Cobra intake, or the various aftermarket examples. The Performer works about on par with a Mustang GT intake, but the Performer RPM works REALLY well with a little more cam and good headers. A 600cfm carb is sufficient for most milder engines, but the 750 Holley does it on the Performer RPM intake.

Single plane intakes work on small Fords only if the heads can flow enough to take advantage of them. On a milder engine with little or no porting, or when using stock heads, a single plane intake like the Torker or others will actually HURT performance and economy.

The curious exception is tunnel rams. When topped with small vacuum secondaries carbs, like the 390 or 450cfm Holleys, a tunnel ram works very well on a warmed over 289 or 302. Not the best mileage option, but a decent performer with a good cam and headers.

The factory low-rise dual quad and tri-power set-ups also worked pretty well, but can be pricey. In addition Weber set-ups and cross-rams are available for these engines, but I've never had any personal experience with either of them.

In this day and age, it is possible to get significant power gains out of small block Fords thanks largely to the popularity of the late model Mustang crowd. There are MANY good aftermarket cylinder heads on the market today that offer VAST improvements over the stockers, and can help you take your Windsor engine to the next level! With the better heads, a Victor Jr intake and a big Holley DO work well on the little engines!

The 289/302 engine is a good buy for backyard hot rodders looking for a cheap, reliable engine in a light weight package that offers a break from the sea of small block Chevys at the typical cruise nights or shows. They take a little more finesse to get up to small block Chevy power levels, but in a light little coupe or roadster project, it's almost a non-issue! The little Fords will make enough power to have alot of fun...and they can do it for roughly the same cost as a mild Chevy.

Transmission choices come into play when running a small block Ford. The C4 is a good, light and cheap tranny that offers a good performance aid in that it takes very little power to operate, but it isn't as tough as a TH350. There are small block C6 trannys out there, but they cost more and soak up more power in return for their increased strength. The rock-solid Top-Loader four speed is more than adequate behind a typical street/strip small block, and the T5 is also an attractive option for some rodders. Again, running a small Ford takes a little more planning, but it's still a viable option for low-buck rodders who want to go fast without spending a fortune!

Some other notes:

Small Block Fords like to run on the cool side. I found that my Chevy engines ran best at 180-190 degrees, but Fords like to run better in the 160-170 range. The proper thermostat and fan selection should keep you where you want to be.

Spark plug selection makes a difference. I used AC/Delco plugs in all my Chevys, and even tried them out in some Fords. Following a suggestion from a friend, I tried a set of Autolite plugs in an old Mustang and they worked better than anything else I messed with. Just one of those funny quirks, but my buddy said that Autolites always worked better in his Fords.

Vacuum advance...GM engines used manifold vacuum to provide full vacuum assisted advance at idle and part throttle cruise to promote smooth running and increased mileage. Some early Fords used ported vacuum to the distributor. Switching to a manifold vacuum source and making the appropriate timing adjustments will smooth out the small Ford's idle and make it more efficient around town and on the freeway. Be carefull to avoid spark knock, though. Use good fuel!

Header the 60s, the hot set-up for the 289 was a tri-y header design. This made big gains over stock manifolds, but the tri-y design is pretty rpm selective. It's still a good bet for chassis where it will work, and works wonders to boost midrange performance, but in a typical rod, you will either be using a chassis header, or an over-the rails design most likely. Just be sure to jet you carb accordingly, and ANY header will work better than stock manifolds!

Balncing act...up to 1980 or so, small block Fords used one balnce, after that, they change somewhat. Be sure to use the right balncer and flexplate or flywheel for the year of your short block!

Cleveland heads! The infamous Boss 302 engines were created by using a set of Cleveland style haeds on a beefed up 302 short block. This requires a unique manifold and Cleveland style headers. There have been many successfull attempts by home-brewed hot rodders at duplicating this set-up at home. The best results came from installing 2v Cleveland heads on a 289/302 with the "Street Boss" aftermarket intake designed for this particular swap. Strong in it's glory days, this option isn't nearly as popular now. It still makes for a screamin' small block, though...and if you can locate the intake manifold required, it offers a cool alternative to what most small block Ford guys are running! Not the cheapest way to go...but it really wakes up your Windsor!

Intended as a basic overview, I offer this post to help share some of what I've learned in my experience with street small block Fords with you. I've had about an equal number of small block Ford and small block Chevy toys in my time, and these days, I kinda like the Fords a little more...if only because they're not as mainstream in the world of hot rods as the Chevy is...yet! Either one will provide you with a cheap, plentiful, reliable and stout performer for your hot rod project, even though there are a few more little quirks to learn about with the Ford. It's part of what makes them fun to me, though...I'm an engine guy...and I love tuning and tweaking them! Fords just don't get the mileage figures of their Chevy rivals...the BEST I ever coaxed out of a small Ford was 18mpg highway in a little Mustang 2 with a 351 Windsor...and that took carefull attention to detail! But still, that factor alone isn't enough to keep me from running one in my Vickup project!

09-20-2003, 11:02 AM
Good informative read Hack.I have a 289 auto in My shoebox very dependable and good on gas.Rear gear is a 3.00 its an all day 70 mph cruizer.Not fast but keeps right up with traffic.Motor was put in in the mid eighties from a high milage 65 mustang.Added a alum dual plane 600 holley vac sec swapmeet headers.3 yrs ago put in new oil pump and timing chain.Still has low oil pressure but runs great.This is good info for all THANKS.---FEDER

09-20-2003, 01:42 PM
Cool post!

The later 351w, 302HO fireing order is a better one. It is less stressfull on the front main. The early one has 1 and 5 fireing right in a row.

I have seen many times that the SBF weighs 460lb. I shaved off 62lb with a set of aluminum heads and intake. You do the math

It should also be noted that those shock towers are there because Ford was planning on going to front wheel drive.

Fat Hack
09-20-2003, 04:52 PM
Here's a little trick I picked up years ago for dealing with the thermostat housing on a small block Ford. Unlike most engines, the Windsor thermostat mounts vertically, so it can be fun to keep the thermostat , gasket and housing all in alignment while installing the assembly onto the front of the intake manifold.

A rubber band looped through the little "handle" on the thermostat as shown, and then held fast with a pencil over the opening will hold the termostat tight against the housing while you line up the bolts and install the housing, stat and gasket. Obviously, you'll need a rubber band short enough to apply adequate pressure on the stat to pull it against the housing, but that's not too difficult to locate. You probably have a few in your "junk drawer" that will do the trick!

<img src=>

This crude drawing shows a too-long rubberband, but it illustrates the concept!

I always run a 160 degree thermostat in small block Fords.
(vs a 180 one in small block Chevys).

09-20-2003, 05:13 PM
<font color="green"> The trick of switching to manifold vacuum; you think it'd do better on an old 352 also? What kinda timing adjustments would I have to make?

Thanks for both of these posts. I've really enjoyed them. Always good to learn. </font>

Fat Hack
09-20-2003, 10:27 PM
Disconnect and plug your old ported vacuum source.

Locate a manifold vacuum source and fit a piece of vacuum hose from there to the distributor.

You will now have vacuum assisted spark advance at idle and under light throttle cruise conditions. You may need to use softer mechanical advance springs and lower your initial timing advance setting to make this work properly. Been a number of years since I've done this, as my last Ford ran an Accel dual point distributor with NO vacuum advance! (That works great for performance but hurts light throttle driving and fuel economy).

09-21-2003, 11:41 AM
FH - Your engine posts rock. I have a question:

"Any honest Ford engineer will tell you that you just can't coax the mileage figures out of a small block Ford that you can get out of a similar sized small Chevy."

This is because of the stock cylinder heads--which pretty much everyone modifies or replaces if they're looking for performance--right? I ask because I don't see any reason (from an engineering standpoint) why a 302 Ford wouldn't be right there with a 305 Chevy if the heads have been 'fixed'. If anything, it seems like the Ford might have a slight advantage due to the layout of the intake and exhaust ports (equally spaced vs. the SBC layout)?

Not to mention having 100+ less pounds to haul around...

Fat Hack
09-21-2003, 12:20 PM
I always thought that, too, Zonk, but for somereason it's hard to coax mileage out of a Windsor engine! Back when I worked for Ford Light Truck, and had the chance to talk to engineers on a regular basis, I asked a few of them why the GM pickups with 5.0 and 5.7 engines were faster than the Fords with 5.0 and 5.8 engines, and got better mileage to boot. The replies were all along the lines of "The Windsor is a 'dirty' engine can get power out of them, but mileage is's always been that way".

What always amazed me was that the faster I got my 305 Malibu to go...the better it's fuel mileage got as well! There would come a point where that curve would have to reverse to gain any more horsepower, but it was fascinating to me that making the little engine more efficient boosted performance AND fuel economy at the same time!

With my 351 Windsor powered Mustang 2, I coaxed 18mpg highway out of it and average around 14mpg city, which is pretty damn good for a Windsor engine! Several factors may contribute to the differences between my Chevy and my Ford experiments, like engine temperature and fuel mixture, for example...

...I've always gotten the most out of Windsor motors by running them cool and a pinch to the rich side...they just seem to perform better that way. Meanwhile, the Chevys always ran better hotter and more towards the lean side of normal. I keep my Fords at about 160-170 degrees, and run my Chevys at 180-190 degrees. Plug readings on my Fords will show a darker grey...not overly rich, but not the nice, light tannish-grey color of a perfect mixture. My Chevys will read with a trace of white, or light grey really. Again, not OVERLY lean, but on the lean side of optimum.

Running an engine cooler and richer will obviously have a negative effect on mileage, but the power gains seem to come from doing this on the Fords, so I didn't really mind the extra petrol consumption! On the other hand, a hotter running engine with a leaner mixture will of course deliver better economy, but my 305 loved to run that way! Go figure! Just like cats and dogs I guess, the two are just different animals!

I'd like to have the means and resources to do some more scientific research on two like vehicles, one with a Ford 302 and one with a 305 Chevy to see what I could do with both of them, and how they'd compare to each other! You two kit t-buckets, one Chev powered and one Ford...and do some dragstrip and highway testing with them! With time and money, it'd be fun to see if I could find a way to get better mileage out of the Ford!

Government Hot Rod Research Grant???!!!

09-21-2003, 12:36 PM
Hot rod grants! An excellent idea.

Did the Ford engineers ever pinpoint exactly what they thought the shortcomings of the SBF design were?

09-21-2003, 12:38 PM
It should also be noted that those shock towers are there because Ford was planning on going to front wheel drive.

[/ QUOTE ]

Front wheel drive in the '62 Fairlane? Seriously?? Blech, thank God they didn't!

FH, this is a neat post, I've really enjoyed your tech posts, but since I haven't had anything to contribute really I've kept quiet. Keep 'em coming, this is the most I've learned from the HAMB in months!

Fat Hack
09-21-2003, 01:18 PM
Thanks for the encouraging words, gang!

I guess I'm like many others, in that I tend to take for granted that everyone else knows what I know. A friend of mine asked me what the firing order on a small block Chevy was recently and I was kinda shocked! I thought EVERYONE had that memorized!

I guess I just though that it would be cool to offer up some of the low-buck backyard tech I've learned over almost 20 years of messing with cars for the benefit of the younger guys and the ones who haven't been doing it as long. I wish the HAMB had been around back when I was younger and learning this stuff by trial and error!

My way of giving something back to this cool little family we got here, and to hopefully help inspire others to share a few tech stories, tips, observations, etc! I still have much to learn, and this place is great for both teaching AND learning new things about old cars!

Humboldt Cat
09-21-2003, 03:31 PM
Great post, Hack- am working with my first Ford V8 (a 390)
but the project on-deck is a '60 Ford church bus with a '60 292. I'm planning on rebuilding a 351 Cleveland (or Windsor, am not sure which is the better motor) for it, and save the 292 for the first street rod project.
I figured a 292 would be too small for the weight it's pulling. I'll have pictures of the bus soon, when I'm in Redding next month. Girlfriend's brother wants to give it to us. It was an Orange County church bus that someone turned the interior into an RV, complete with shower/toilet room, oven, the works.
Anyway- great post. What's yer vote, guys, the Cleveland or Windsor?

Fat Hack
09-21-2003, 06:05 PM
Uh oh, the Cleveland vs Windsor question!

They're both good engines, and both have their pros and cons. You'll make more power with a Cleveland all day long, but they're more expensive to build and harder to locate. The 351 Windsor was built from 1969 right up until just a few years ago, plentiful and cheap for sure!

Clevelands were a great idea born too late! Arriving in 1969 also, they were just getting up to their full potential when the Musclecar Era came to a screeching halt! Ford pulled out of racing in 1970, and by 1972 the Cleveland was a detuned gas hog that only lingered until 1974 before being replaced by the less impressive 351-400M.

As a tribute to just how well the 351 Cleveland was as a performance engine, the 1971 Boss 351 Mustang was the fastest of the three Boss pony cars at the the biggest and heaviest body to boot! A stock Boss 351 Stang could out-run a stock Boss 302, and a stock Boss 429 in the quarter mile! (Of course, the Boss 429 was severely choked down for street use, to be fair.).

Cleveland engines came in both 2 and 4 barrel varieties. Aside from the obvious difference in factory equipped carburetion, the cylinder heads were different from the two to the four barrel engines as well. Four barrel heads have HUGE ports and are actually not real efficient below 3500 rpm. The two barrel heads are a little more forgiving, and are actually the best choice for most street/strip combinations.

(The aftermarket industries make intake manifolds that allow the use of four barrel carbs on two barrel heads. Edelbrock, Offy and Weiand all had various offerings in this catagory.)

Two identify Cleveland heads quickly, they are labeled with a cast in "2" or "4" found in the upper left hand corner of the cylinder head if looking at it over the fender of the car with the exhaust ports pointed at you. You'll see it just outside the upper corner of the valve cover. 351-400M heads will bolt on to a Cleveland, but there's nothing to be gained there! the 351-400M heads are blank in that corner of the head with no "2" or "4" barrel designation.

Cleveland heads can be machined to accept fully adjustable rocker arms, and aftermarket units for a big block Chevy will work on them, making roller rockers and such a little more affordable! The heads use a canted valve arrangement much like a big Chevy, and are the secret to the engines excellent horsepower potential! The Cleveland engine is still the basic design being used by today's Ford teams in NASCAR competition.

The Windsor version of the 351 is a good performer in it's own right, and with good aftermarket heads being plentifull for them, they can rival their Cleveland cousins a lot more closely today than they ever could before! The big Windsor can be poked and stroked to upwards of 450 cubic inches, although that gets into some serious money, and out of the realm of low buck street performance!

I really like the way the Cleveland engines scream...I've ridden in a few cars powered by these mills that were just plain scary fast! They'll run like Hell, but there are some things to watch out for.

Oil restrictors are a must for any serious Cleveland engine. If not installed, they'll litterally pump the valve covers full of oil faster than the precious lubricant can drain back at the stratospheric revs this engine design is capable of!

The Boss 351 blocks are the best of the factory production units, but very rare and pricey too! The 351 Cleveland Cobra Jet four bolt mains block is a good and more affordable basis for a healthy street terror.

Again, consider two barrel heads with a good aftermarket intake for your street motor, unless you plan to run steep gears in a light car and wind that sucker up to keep it in it's "happy zone"! You'll be far better off with lightly massaged 2v heads for a dual purpose car, believe me!

Clevelands are no different than most other Ford V8s...the exhaust side of the head needs the most attention. Again, their design had to be compromised to clear the shock towers in many of the cars it would see use in. A good machine shop with Ford experience can work the exhaust ports over and gain you some power there. The huge intake ports are fine as-is, and some guys actually weld 'em up to make them SMALLER to improve velocity! Like with most spend your money on the heads to make it fast, and you spend money on the short block to make it last! Induction typically falls to a single plane intake design such as the Torker or Victor series to take advantage of the Cleveland's rpm ability, or a tunnel ram for more serious applications! A big single double pumper carb in the 850cfm area is a good start, or two 660 center squirters if running a tunnel ram. The engines ain't about mileage...they're about high revving POWER!

09-21-2003, 06:13 PM
I LOVE FORD SMALL BLOCKS!!! Small, sturdy, and strong.

09-21-2003, 10:29 PM
great post hack.......
hcat...windsor is by far a better choice, lighter, much easier to find parts for, and a MUCH better bottom end.
Never understood why, but a cleveland oils the upper end first?????
Just a few opions here...NGK plugs will out perform anything in a small block ford, (or most anything for that matter) I always run a 195 thermostat in a sb ford, after all heat is horsepower, and i run them on the lean side. Has been my experience that a lean motor has a much better throttle response...but ya GOTTA watch the timing, i learned how the hard way, many years ago
Hack, one point you touched upon that I think about every now and then, I"ve been around this stuff for danm near 40 years, and take the things i know for granted, that everybody should know this stuff, yet i don't want to come off as some arrogant asshole.....or something like that...
anyhow, thanks again for a great post

09-22-2003, 04:23 AM
Dont forget the super trick Aussie 2v heads. Smaller ports AND a closed combustion chamber.

How about a set of 4v heads on a 400 block? Give them some more cubes to work with

09-22-2003, 08:44 AM
Great post Hack.

I never woulda thought off that trick with the rubber band. I used a different approach when I put a t-stat in my 289. I glued it to the housing with a tiny dab of silicon sealant. NOT too much now...

Also, I don't think you covered this, but there are two different 289's. The earlier one with a 5 bolt bell housing and then the later one with the 6 bolt bellhousing.

I have the 5 bolt....
The changeover happened around 1964 somewheres.

Also I found a way to tell a 221 from a 289 by looking at the side of the engine. On the 221 I have, there are 2 freeze plugs. on the 289 there are 3.
Other wise the damn things look the same. (except for bore size of course).

Later, JT.

Fat Hack
09-22-2003, 08:54 AM
Good points, Von! Many a hot rodder has been stumped when finding out that they have an early 5-bolt bellhousing and a six bolt engine, or vice-versa! I guess I overlooked that point...but it's a good one to remember!

09-22-2003, 08:13 PM
top stuff (hey Ryan, how 'bout putting these in the T'o'Matic.....please).