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Ford 390 FE - Build A Low-Buck Street/Strip FE

A budget 500hp 390? We'll show you how we did it.

By Jay Brown, Photography by Jay Brown

Dyno Testing
After assembly, the engines were dyno tested on a Superflow 901 dynamometer. Prior to beginning the testing, calibration was checked on the dyno's torque link and fuel turbines to ensure accurate results. We started with the street version and had hoped to use a remanufactured Holley 750-cfm vacuum carb to reduce costs. However, despite making good power numbers, the engine was fussy at idle and in transition with the vacuum-secondary carb, so the 750-cfm double-pumper was installed. The four-corner idle circuit of the double-pumper made a world of difference, and the engine idled with a nice lope at 800 rpm and transitioned smoothly into the dyno pull. After making the initial tests on race gas, we filled the tank with 92-octane unleaded premium with 10 percent ethanol from the local BP station. Jetting had to be adjusted up one step and total timing adjusted down 2 degrees to 34 total for best power on the pump fuel. The power levels for this engine were just about in line with expectations at about 500 lb-ft and 500 hp.

The strip version was run on 111-octane Rockett Brand race fuel. With the single-plane intake and the big tube headers, the torque peak moved higher in the rpm band by about 1,500 rpm, and the engine peaked at 518 lb-ft and 551 hp. The addition of a roller cam and valvetrain would get this engine into the 575-600hp range, making it a very potent package.

Flow Numbers
Flow numbers from the three different head variations show the effects of the different modifications. The home port job left the standard 2.09/1.66 Cobra Jet valves in place. On the intake side, opening up the bowl and removing the pinch in the port opening improved flow at the higher lift levels. The same effort on the exhaust side resulted in no improvement, so those ports were left as is. The stock valve job limits potential improvements to the flow. The street/strip porting job gave away some flow in the lower lift ranges on the intake side, because the stock 30-degree valve seats flow better at low lifts than the 45-degree seats. However, by 0.300 lift, the bigger valves and 45-degree seats seriously outflow the stock setup. The porting job resulted in an average flow improvement of 10 percent on the intakes and 20 percent on the exhausts.

INTAKE PORT FLOW NUMBERS
VALVE LIFT EDELBROCK STOCK HOME PORT STREET/STRIP PORT
0.100 89 87 76
0.200 156 155 141
0.300 182 183 200
0.400 214 218 248
0.500 242 250 285
0.600 253 269 299
0.700 260 277 304
EXHAUST PORT FLOW NUMBERS
VALVE LIFT EDELBROCK STOCK STREET/STRIP PORT
0.100 53 61
0.200 99 118
0.300 132 168
0.400 170 202
0.500 191 221
0.600 200 236
0.700 206 244
By Jay Brown
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97 comments
Chris Hulings
Chris Hulings

One of each: '79 Nova/250 I6, '72 F-250/390 2bbl and a '69 Polara convertible/383 4bbl. All awesome vehicles.

Tobias Montoya
Tobias Montoya

I used to drive a crowne vic with more than 390,000 miles on it and it still passed emissions

Tobias Montoya
Tobias Montoya

Consider how much more it is to start with an after markit crate moter . 6000 not bad for something you can drive daily and 500 horse eazy . Shoot a modest 9 lb of boost and a roller cam and that's 800 horses easily.

Garon Combee
Garon Combee

Boss crate engine few mods 467 horsepower

Branden McNamee
Branden McNamee

Cool if your ok with the knocking after a short time.

Martin Kock
Martin Kock

Iam schizofreen...like both chevy and ford..I have a 63 1\2 galaxie with a empy enginebay. Very intressed in tips for my 352 ore 390 fe...;)) 4 speed toploader trans...carcraft is the coolest mag ever...thanxs...martin...

Daniel Scott
Daniel Scott

Should have found a 410 mercury crank. If you have enough meat in the bores to punch it out. Tara 428 c.j.

Bruce Anderson
Bruce Anderson

William Anderson might have use for an FE build....

Erik Larsson
Erik Larsson

Mopar, have had a couple of Chevys but no Fårrd.

Gene Stribling
Gene Stribling

the new ford motors are the best one? so far, but in old days was so hard to keep a ford motor running this hard now not. a chevy, can save your ass if you want power. and keep it up going fast all motors are good a for all time power (Chevy. 350ci. 350hp. Motor. the best one )

Gene Stribling
Gene Stribling

and this how to get 500hp. go get a chevy. motor first....?

Andrew R Meek
Andrew R Meek

Nice engine with the right oiling mods. Watch out for detonation. I like Windsors.

Age Cobra
Age Cobra

Ford for the most part but if I have to i will use Chev or Chryco.

David Kudrna
David Kudrna

At Jason McGowan, I would agree with you were it not for seeing the numbers myself on a Ford site. I'm building for torque, not horsepower. Using ported heads and comp cams 270 xe with 10:1 pistons.

Jason McGowan
Jason McGowan

Your power to torque is off. With 360 Ci and only 350 hp your torque is only going to be around 375-425. Cubic inches really limit the torque potential of a n/a engine.

Jason McGowan
Jason McGowan

Ever built an FE Ford? That kind of power in one at that price is pretty reasonable.

Jason McGowan
Jason McGowan

Like that left front mount. Cheesco brand by chance? At least gusset the darn thing.

Dan Edwards
Dan Edwards

Wow, somebody actually put the LS Crack-Pipe down.......good job!

Roger Womack
Roger Womack

Always liked the 390FE and had 2 cars and a truck with it !

Justin Valdez
Justin Valdez

Is there anything good you can do to a 352 for some more power?

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