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Technical engine choice help: y-block vs w

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Graham Hood, Jan 12, 2018.

  1. Hello all, I hope that I am posting this in the right place

    I am busy with my first rod build, it's a '34 3 window coupe - this car was my late dad's first car and has been in the family since '65 - he bought it at 17 and built it soon after. He passed away in 2014 after having started but not finished about 3 subsequent builds of this car and I have decided to finish it.

    I have changed my mind and flip-flopped over many parts of this build, but the current one is perplexing me quite a bit: 292 Y-Block or 351 Windsor. I know that being a traditional hot rod forum most will say go with the Y-Block but please hear my reasoning for the question out and help me put this to bed. I've done a hell of a lot of reading here and on and on John Mummert's page but I am still not able to finally decide.

    The engine will be mated to a '68 4 speed toploader, a 9" rear (ratio still undecided) and 820-15 Firestones (29.56" diameter per Coker's webpage). I'm quite a fan of the Ford in a Ford idea.

    What I want out of the car is a reliable driver with decent power which could, if needs be, be driven every day. Not really after much strip but I'd love to put it on a dry lake one day. I'm hoping to achieve what I think is somewhere in the 50's style (before mag wheels, blackwalls, about 3" off the top, bit of chrome, split wishbones etc.). I am not really too hung up on making a perfectly period correct car though.

    My reasoning for going with the 351w motor was really one of convenience. I know that it is not traditional but I justified it by being my first build, ease of finding parts and reliability. I came across a really nice NOS '69 block, never assembled or run, and a donor motor basically for the heads and the rotating assembly. Have already bought a bunch of nice parts for it and I am not far away from building it but these parts could easily be flogged to finance the Y-Block if I go this route. Was aiming to get around 350hp out of it.

    Then I was offered a 292 Y-Block by the guy who helped me with my chassis. He has two motors pretty much the same and doesn't really need both. He suggested going with a more period correct motor which planted a seed in my head which has now become a whole forest of questions.

    It has been rebuilt however not by him and I would probably want to strip it, balance, and give it a good run through just for extra insurance. The nice part is that it comes with a Fenton tri-power intake manifold (pictured below), Isky cam and lifters (not sure of grind / condition). Carbs are not available however I am not too worried about this as I know someone with a stash of old Strombergs or I will fork out the cash and buy new. From the reading I've done I'd like to go with 3x2 Stromberg 97's and maybe ram horn exhaust manifolds.

    I helped my dad build a few motors over the years but they were mostly SBF's and SBC's, so I have a half decent knowledge of later model engines but not Y-Blocks.

    I guess these are mostly the questions that I am sitting with:

    Will the Y-Block be a reasonably reliable motor, comparable in difficulty to building the Windsor?

    Is it possible to estimate what kind of power will come from it with the specs mentioned? If more details are needed on the cam, can anyone suggest a cam that will produce good power with stock / mildly modified heads? I'm obviously not looking to get the same out of the Y-Block as the 351, but would still probably like to try reach around 300hp if possible (or is this totally unreasonable to ask of this motor with these mods?).

    Do Y-Block heads need a ton of work to get them breathing nicely or are they decent enough in stock / mildly modded form?

    Are there any inherently bad problems with Y-Blocks that I should be aware of before going down this road?

    Is the Y-Block physically similar in size to the 351 - it looks like the firewall will have to be recessed a bout an inch bit with the Windsor sitting where it is (see pic below, I was hoping to move it forward a bit prior to cutting up the firewall), or can a Y-Block fit into a '33 - '34 engine bay without recessing or does it create even more space issues?

    Ultimately, the biggest one is will I be opening a pandora's box and issues by going with the Y-Block or would I be playing it safe and stick to what I know with the Windsor.

    Is it normal that these have become some of my deepest and most compromising questions, which are on my mind all day every day and even while I sleep?

    (BTW coolness factor is not a question for me, I know that this lies squarely with the Y...)

    For interest's sake below are also some pics my chassis as it stands currently. I bought the 5 window to use the chassis and traded the body for services with the guy doing my sheet metal work. The 3 window body mocked up and as it looks now (next to my next build) and as my dad built it in the 60's is pictured below that - the whole cowl will be replaced along with the rear quarters and rear back to stock, and it will be un-channelled with a '34 hood and grill.

    Sorry for the long post - I hope this is enough info.

    Cheers and thanks, Graham









    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
  2. sawbuck
    Joined: Oct 14, 2006
    Posts: 1,729

    from 06492 ct

    y block y block y block !
  3. Terrible80
    Joined: Oct 1, 2010
    Posts: 531


    Going by your situation, I'd go with the y block. Seems meant to be.

    Sent from my LG-TP450 using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    Graham Hood likes this.
  4. I vote for that T-Bird also. Just so right for that build!
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  5. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 12,670


    I'd say you go with whatever you finally decide in the end, but the Y seems like it needs to be there as a "tribute"? to him, if that is why you chose to finish it?

    Andy Kohler (thunderbird esquire) <(sp?) on here built the same exact car from a 4dr shell, Y block and quickchange, into a 5w coupe that not only made it out of his shop in Ohio, with barely with 100 miles testing, to NJ Race of Gentlemen, but then back home, then out to Bonneville, and back again...

    any car engine out there was "dependable" back in the day,...especially those engines from that decade!

    Your location on the globe does not seem to have stopped you from getting what you need to make that engine survive? meaning proper repair.
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  6. GeeRam
    Joined: Jun 9, 2007
    Posts: 264


    Y-Block...........not even a serious question in my view.

    Wouldn't let a 351W anywhere near that car...:D

    I'd contact Tony at Ross Racing Engines for your Y-Block needs (GOATROPER02 on the HAMB), he's built some bitchin Y-blocks, including this one :)

    Graham Hood and czuch like this.
  7. danman55
    Joined: Dec 20, 2008
    Posts: 660

    1. 1952-59 Ford Social Group

    Biggest issues you will face if going with Y block:

    1. parts are more expensive, especially the performance parts or the adapter parts such as transmission adapters
    2. Parts not readily available off the shelf but you can acquire most anything you need
    3. Y block weighs much more than Windsor
    4. Distributor and carbs need to be matched. Ted Eaton has some excellent stuff on those mods if you use period carbs.
    5. Cam bearings - get these from Schumann’s, the OD, as well as the ID has a groove for oil flow
    6. Cam/lifter break in is extremely critical
    7. Get a set of “G” heads if you can’t go the Mummer Aluminum. These are the best Ford made and will give good numbers if massaged correctly.
    8. Make sure the rear main seal is installed correctly

    My vote is Y Block as you can see from my avatar, but do be prepared to invest more dough than what you would with other engines.

    Sent from my iPhone using H.A.M.B.
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  8. silent rick
    Joined: Nov 7, 2002
    Posts: 3,721

    silent rick

  9. joel
    Joined: Oct 10, 2009
    Posts: 1,394


    I have 2 thoughts:
    1. In the pic of the engine mock up, you can move the engine forward and the Y block should be able to go more.
    2. I would have a T 5 trans ( or equivalent) and use a OE rear gear ratio ( 3.7 ish). This will compensate for the short fall in Hp.

    Sent from my iPhone using H.A.M.B.
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  10. belair
    Joined: Jul 10, 2006
    Posts: 7,596

    1. H.A.M.B. Chapel

    I think y blocks are over-hyped, mediocre-at-best engines that took forty years to reach whatever level of performance they are at today. However, they are robust, dependable, and I would run a 292 all day before that 351W would get a chance in that car. I have a Model A coupe with a brand new 351C and can't wait to get it out and go with a 327, 322, or 324.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
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  11. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 40,554


    sounds like a pretty good response, so far.

    If you intend to ever do any land speed racing with the car, and you intend to keep it traditional looking...beware that safety requirements for LSR have really changed over the decades, and the stuff you need to be able to run the car, will make it look way more modern than you might want, especially if it's actually fast. At least, that's how it is in the US.
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  12. egads
    Joined: Aug 23, 2011
    Posts: 239


    You will love the sound of the y also.
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  13. 32Dan
    Joined: Nov 22, 2017
    Posts: 56

    from Chino, CA

    Doing my first build as well with a 1932 Roadster and using a ‘56 312. Definitely more expensive to build but way more traditional. Have a ‘56 F100 with a 292 built about 30 years ago that’s runs flawless.

    Sent from my iPhone using H.A.M.B.
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  14. Blue One
    Joined: Feb 6, 2010
    Posts: 8,900

    Blue One
    from Alberta

  15. I vote Y block.
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  16. No dependability issues for me with the Yblock. Keep the oil clean and it will go and go. Great sounding engine as well.
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  17. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 12,601


    My little brother has a 312 with a 60's 4-speed and a 9" in his A pickup. He uses 3 Strombergs on his, and it scoots along just fine. I think a similar setup in your car will move you along good too. But do be aware they are long engines, and the distributor way in the back might require some firewall messaging.

    I think the key to keeping a Y-block running well is keeping them clean and oiled, especially the top end. But since yours is all fresh you won't have any problem.
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  18. v8flat44
    Joined: Nov 13, 2017
    Posts: 62


    Y Block 4 me. Knew a guy in the early 60s with a 292 tri power 4 speed in a 57 Ford. Don't remember it ever getting beat and it never let him down...dependable. What a KOOL ride you will have!! mike
    danman55 likes this.
  19. joel
    Joined: Oct 10, 2009
    Posts: 1,394


    Since you asked pros and cons, I ‘ll mention the top end oilers that were added to many Y blocks in the early 60s. Mostly because of poor maintenance I think and I wouldn’t give it a lot of weight in your choice of engine.

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  20. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 40,554


    My take on the oiling situation is that the cam bearings are too narrow, especially the grooved one that has to send oil to the heads. When the bearing wears out, the oil pressure to the top end goes away. The top end oiling kits are patches to fix the symptom. The correct fix is to simply replace the cam bearings.

    Build it and drive it, and if it gives you problems later because you put too many miles on it, take it apart and fix it again, and keep driving. Wearing out a traditional engine in a traditional hot rod is a good problem to have!
    egads, danman55 and czuch like this.
  21. Blue One
    Joined: Feb 6, 2010
    Posts: 8,900

    Blue One
    from Alberta

    The top end oiling is an issue easily solved by modifying the rockers for full pressure oiling like Tim McMaster does and did for my Y Block.

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  22. 1969 was the first year for the 351 Windsor and it has a different deck height than all others produced until the end of production. Intakes are very hard to locate and expensive along with a host of other variances. With that being the case, Y block.
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  23. vickckik
    Joined: Dec 21, 2011
    Posts: 49


    There is an in-depth article in the March 2018 issue of Hot Rod magazine. It covers many of the questions you have about how to build a Y-block for power and dependability. Some of the tricks are inexpensive if you are capable of doing your own work. A couple of them I learned in the '60s when I was making do with what I had, a '55 Ford with a 272 bored to 292.
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  24. Few engines sound as sweet as a Y block through glasspacks!
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
  25. Y block or bust
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  26. J. A. Miller
    Joined: Dec 30, 2010
    Posts: 1,016

    J. A. Miller
    from Central NY

    y-block vs w
    When I saw the title, I thought you were talking about a w-motor and started thinking about a 409. Then I open the thread and you're talking about a 351.
    My votes is for the y-block!
    gimpyshotrods and Graham Hood like this.
  27. Drew Link
    Joined: Jun 28, 2016
    Posts: 27

    Drew Link

    I may be the only one to say this, yes the y-block is more traditional but try to get parts on the side of the road. If you are looking for something to do long distance trips and use a daily, I would go with the Windsor. Parts are readily available and they are very easy motors to get to run efficient and produce power. They are light as well. If you want to stay traditional then of course a y-block is the way to go.

    Sent from my Pixel 2 XL using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
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  28. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 40,358


    I am not Mr Ford, but I have owned and run my share. 350 horse from a 292 is going to be work. O raced a 312 in my first door slammer and while I probably told everyone that it made 400 horse it was probably closer to 325 and it was way less street motor than it was race motor. if 350 horse driven daily was my target then I would run the Windsor.

    All that said I have driven my share of Y blocks and they are more than peppy enough to push an old Ford coupe around and can be as dependable as a hammer. Add to that they have a sound all their own and it is righteous. I like them real well.

    It comes down to a personal choice and the concession of probably not making your target HP.
    Graham Hood likes this.
  29. I'd have to agree with the majority.....Y block....the Windsor is a great engine, but staying more period correct and traditional makes more sense to I'm a Ol' guy and still appreciate the Old stuff!

    Sent from my LGMS210 using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
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  30. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 40,554


    I still haven't figured out the "why" part of this modification. But then, I like using original designs when they work, and fixing only the part of the design that has a flaw, when they don't work.

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