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Big-Block Ford Engine Build - Easy 500 HP From The Ford 460

Did you know that Ford built the same big-block for 30 years? They're everywhere, making them a simple score for an easy 500 hp from the Ford 460.

Photography by , Jim Grubbs

What is it about American iron that is all about massive? Chrysler's original Street Hemi had valve covers that you could rent out as a dance floor. Pontiac's V-8 is a hefty chunk of iron and so are the Olds 455s. But if you want to talk cast-iron overkill, perhaps we should speak of the Ford 429/460. Massive 3-inch main bearings and hefty iron heads combined at one time in the smog era to put out a measly 206 hp. Thank god those days are over.

But in classic car crafter tradition, we see not those inept days past and look instead to the massive amount of power we could create out of all that iron. Here perhaps is one of the domestic world's overlooked power gold mines. Yes, it's heavy, and yes, it costs more to build than a small-block Chevy-but then you already knew that. Think of this as a line drawn in the sand. Are you man enough?

We decided to do more than talk about Ford's big-block and actually build one ourselves. Well, actually Jim Grubbs Motorsports built it for us because we're inept at time management. The crew at JGM are true Ford 460 fans, and so we found an enthusiastic partner to point us down the proper path to Blue Oval power. Think of this as looking at the horsepower world through Ford blue-tinted glasses. Very, heavy glasses.

What's Out There

The Lima series engine is one of Ford's most enduring powerplants. Arriving on the scene in 1968 first as the 460 in Lincolns and as the 429 in other big Fords, this 385-series engine survived until 1997, a 30-year run that is astounding given Ford's proclivity for change. Used in tugboat Lincolns through 1978 and later in fullsize Fords and Mercurys, the 460 also torqued its way into 31/44-ton trucks and E-350 vans from the '70s all the way through the early '90s. This veteran engine can also be found in motor home, marine, and even stationary industrial applications and has been electronically fuel injected since 1987.

The going price for complete motors varies on condition, but we've heard they go for as little as $200. We bought ours for a bit more from Memory Lane mainly as a complete engine including all the accessories because we were in a hurry and couldn't take the time to look for a less expensive version. Adopt one and take it home. The Ford gods will smile on you.

Bores and Strokes

The 460 and its 429 cousin are big-bore, short-stroke thumpers. The 460 employs a 3.85-inch stroke while the 429 uses a mere 3.59-inch reach. This makes increasing displacement on the 429 easy enough. The rod length is 6.605 inches, which makes for a 1.71:1 rod-length-to-stroke ratio with the stock 460 stroke. Most production blocks can tolerate over-bores to 0.060-inch, creating a 472. If you're willing to search for a thick-wall casting, it's possible to go to 0.080-over (4.440-inch bore) and 477ci with the stock stroke.

If massive inches are your plan, there are several stroker crank options. You can offset-grind the stock 2.500-inch rod journals down to 2.200 big-block Chevy or Chrysler pin size. Or plug in any one of three Scat cast stroker cranks. At 0.030-over, the 4.150-inch stroke makes 502 ci, the 4.300-inch stroke swings 521 inches while the big 4.500-inch stroker will bulk this behemoth up to 545 cubes. The main journals are massive at 3.00 inches, so the cast crank and stock rods are not conducive to engine speeds above 6,500 rpm. Be forewarned that these stroker cranks also generally require a sizeable investment in Mallory metal to balance properly, and that heavy metal will significantly drive up the total cost of a stroker swap.

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