A competitive FE is as close as the local boneyard, and if you happen to have a 427 block
For years FE stood for "freakin' expensive." The good factory performance parts were scarce even in the engine's heyday, and when Ford stopped producing them in the early '70s, demand soon outstripped supply, resulting in a high per-horsepower cost for any serious FE build. Things have changed over the last few years, though, and now a multitude of aftermarket manufacturers are producing blocks, heads, and stroker kits, leading to a resurgence in popularity for the venerable engine. The end result is that it's now possible to put together a strong FE combination using aftermarket parts and do so without breaking the bank.
We decided to take a stab at putting together an economical FE engine with a target of 500 hp and 500 lb-ft, based on a readily available stock block and bolt-on aftermarket parts. From the beginning, two versions of this engine were planned: the street version for the occasional trip to the track and the strip version for a bracket car with significant power potential using a roller cam and valvetrain.
Survival Motorsports' basic stroker kits include a cast Scat crank, 6.700-inch I-beam rods
The local junkyards yielded several truck FEs in the $125-$175 range that were likely candidates for this project. But in the end, we located an old 390 circle-track warrior with the factory adjustable rocker arms and Mercury pent roof valve covers for $300 and brought it home to start the project.
The first call was to Barry Rabotnick at Survival Motorsports. He suggested a stroker kit to reap the benefits of more cubic inches. The 4.25-inch stroke was nearly 0.500 bigger than stock, and with a 0.040 overbore we got 446 cubes-a good start to the project. For $1,949 we got the crank, 6.700-inch rods, and Probe pistons, plus the complete ring-and-bearing package, balanced and ready to install.
Rather than spend a grand to revamp and port the stock 390 heads, we opted for a set of Edelbrock FE heads. They're aluminum and offer a more modern chamber than the stockers, and they flow like 427 Medium Riser heads out of the box, offering good power potential. To keep the costs down, we used the factory valvetrain and a Comp solid lifter cam with matching springs. Also required was the addition of rocker-shaft end support stands from Precision Oil Pumps.
Bryan Hansen at R&R Performance measured the diameter and runout of the 390 block's main b
We topped off the street version with an Edelbrock Performer RPM dual-plane intake and a 750 Holley double-pumper and sent the exhaust on its way with a set of Dynomax truck headers. Ignition was handled with a remanufactured Ford Duraspark electronic distributor and Accel wires.
The strip version got a beefed-up bottom end with H-beam rods, a high-volume oil pump, and a Rollmaster indexable timing set. The Edelbrock heads got a street/strip porting job and a switch to bigger 2.19/1.71 valves with 11/32 stems, resulting in intake flow of more than 300 cfm at 0.700 lift.
For top-end performance, we chose an Edelbrock Victor intake and an 850 Holley, plus a set of Hedman 2-inch primary headers to fit a Mustang chassis.
The end result was 500 lb-ft and 500 hp for around $6,000 from the street version and a bump to 550 hp for the strip motor, with plenty more available from a cam swap. That's enough to turn an old Fairlane, Galaxie, or Mustang into a serious street bruiser or strip contender. The FE is back!