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Ford 390 (FE) starter question

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by CadDaddy42, May 24, 2008.

  1. I'm trying to set up a 390 (I'm assuming it's a 390, since it supposedly came out of a '68 3/4 ton truck, but I haven't measured the stroke yet - someone wrote '390' in junkyard marker on the flex plate, anyway), and I'm having trouble with the starter. Everything seems right spacing wise (gear location and kickout distance), and the starter has the right 3 bolt pattern. The starter tests OK on the bench, but on the engine, it spins against the edge of the ring gear teeth instead of engaging. Are there different gear tooth pitches, or what I should be looking at? Or am I missing something simple and obvious that Ford people all know?
    If it matters, the engine is hanging from a cherry picker with the trans supported by a dolly. Just trying to get a compression test to see if the engine is usable before I invest time and money in resealing and installing it.


    Note to self: never buy a basket case thinking it will go together over a single holiday weekend...
  2. Tbomb428
    Joined: Aug 18, 2006
    Posts: 506

    from SoCal

    What transmission does it have? Manual trans (flywheel) or Auto trans (flexplate)? I've read where 65 & up FE starters are different from 58-64 FE starters. Are you dealing with the starter that was on it in, or you went out and got one?

    Also, is the block plate there? It's a thin metal plate that goes between the block and trans.

    For what it's worth, if you pull of the transmission, you can look at the rear flange of the crankshaft. 352 (same as 360) cranks have a half-moon shaped cutout on the edge of the flange whereas 390 & up FE's have a hole inside the perimeter of the rear flange.

    For a bigger audience of FE specific tech info, I'd ask these guys:
  3. Thanks TBomb. Starter came from a shelf full of assorted junk at the shop - boss man said he was pretty sure there was only 1 3-bolt starter. The crank has the hole I think. Just found the block plate in the pile of air cleaners in the back of the truck (oops). I take it that's important? Got an AZ starter, but it's identical to the one I have. I'll head over Network54 if it won't work with the new starter and the block plate. I should probably go check them out anyway. Thanks again.

  4. Tbomb428
    Joined: Aug 18, 2006
    Posts: 506

    from SoCal

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  5. THe 64 and earlier starters had the long shaft and the pinion engaged fron the rear. 65 up had a short aluminum nose and the pinion engaged from the front. OldWolf
  6. Yeti Man
    Joined: Nov 11, 2007
    Posts: 35

    Yeti Man
    from NorthTexas

    If that block was supposed to have a plate and it's not installed, you will never get the starter to engage properly; also, the earlier flexplates were just a bit smaller and had fewer teeth to accomodate the long starter drives found on the earlier models. The newer "bendix" style starter flywheels have more teeth (83 I think). Either one will work, but the block plate is crucial for starter positioning!

    I only had to pull my trans 3 times before I figured it out.........
  7. Conder
    Joined: Jan 16, 2005
    Posts: 983


    I got a '64 390 with a C-6. Had a HELL of a time finding a new flywheel and no matter what I do with shims, the starter is still noisy. Now I guess I'd better crawl under there and see if it's got that plate....
    Joined: Sep 7, 2008
    Posts: 242

    about that old starter with this kind of [​IMG] whatever.... starter drive ?

    Starter drive gears are supposed to roll with flywheel all time ?

    Last edited: May 27, 2011
  9. Magnus
    Joined: Apr 30, 2006
    Posts: 904

    from Sweden

    There's a difference in how wide the ring gear is. Info's from RobbMc page (super clean products)

    331-428 FE V8 (manual or auto trans) except with early 153T ring gear
  10. MeanGene427
    Joined: Dec 15, 2010
    Posts: 1,207

    from Napa

    If it's a '68, it should have a block plate. Also, if the block has four engine mount bolt flanges on the sides, not just two, it's a '65-up block, and should have the plate, and all C6 trannies will have a plate. If you have a late trans, late flywheel, block plate, and short-nose three-bolt starter, it should work. Another thing to check, what shape are the starter drive teeth in? If the teeth are worn, the drive won't engage well, and is a cheap fix and easy to replace

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