Insights Into The Ford FE

        By Jim Dove

Whether you are a novice or an experienced hot rodder, who is about to embark on an adventure in Cobra land, this is a must read. We will deal with the Ford FE engine, which includes the 332,352,360,406,427, and the 428 C.I.D. I will go over some reasons to use a FE engine in a Cobra or Project car, and dispel a few myths.

In this case, the letters "FE" DO NOT stand for the Chemical Symbol for "IRON", they are the initials for the Fairlane Engine. The Fairlane was, in 1958, the top Ford model ,that used the FE. The first version of the FE was a 332 C.I.D. at 265 H.P. with a 4BBL, followed shortly by the 352 at 300 H.P. with the 4BBL. In 1960, the 352 was updated with a hot cam, new heads, an aluminum intake manifold, free flowing exhaust manifold and with a rating of 360 H.P. By the end of 1960, Ford had won 15 Grand National Races, more than any other models. By 1961, the cubic inch race began while the development of small C.I.D. F.E.'s stopped.

In 1961, the 390 was born. It used the same heads, cam, and manifolds as the 352 and also had the option of the famous 3 Deuces, or 6-V, as Ford called it, which took the H.P. to 401.

In 1962, the 406 was developed, and with it came the now Famous Cross Bolt Mains. Very few 406's had the cross bolts. They were found mainly on the factory race cars.

In late 1962 the 7-Liter Limit had not gone into effect yet and Ford produced a few 483 C.I.D. F.E.'s. 1963 brought the NASCAR 7-Liter Limit. (The 483 was the first F.E. to use the 4.233 Bore size-the stroke was 4.3".)

In late 1963, the 427 sprouted the now Famous HI-Riser Heads. The HI-Riser has provided the basis for our most potent head designs to date.

In 1965 NASCAR outlawed both the HI-RISER Ford, and the Chrysler HEMI. Chrysler had a fit, but Ford was strangely quiet. Ford had developed a new MEDIUM-RISER head that would out flow the HI-RISER head of the day. However, this MED-RISER was not the one that came from factory production. These heads became known as the S.K. MEDIUM-RISER and had much better ports than the standard MED-RISER. This (SPECIAL) MED-RISER port became the basis for our DOVE ALUMINUM S.K. MEDIUM-RISER HEADS. In 1965, the SIDE OILER BLOCK was developed.

Ford developed a few aluminum medium-riser heads. (Casting#C6FE-6090-F). These heads are not desirable for use in performance applications because they were part of the GT-40 project. They were DE-TUNED to lower the power output to increase durability for 24 hour races such as LEMANS. The chambers were too big, the ports were too small, and the castings were too thin. Their value was only as a collector


The Fords ran well during the 1965 and 1966 NASCAR seasons. By 1967, the Chrysler HEMI was back and the Ford S.O.H.C. had been factored out of competition. Ford's answer to the HEMI was the now famous TUNNEL PORT. The new heads had round ports that went straight to the valve, rather than bending around the push rods like other wedge engines. The push rods on the T-PORTS were routed through the center of the port via tube, which incidentally, did not effect the airflow. These new tunnel port heads were a big hit in all types of racing, and gave Ford some of its finest moments. However, the HI-RISER was still king of the shorter tracks, because of its broad power band. At DOVE, we manufacture both the ALUMINUM TUNNEL PORT (#SK-37080) and the CAST IRON TUNNEL PORT (#C70E-6090-K). They are very strong runners even today, especially on large C.I.D. engines.

In 1968, the 428C.J. became the rage on the street. A stock C.J. would turn the quarter mile in 13.6 seconds @ 108 M.P.H. and that was on street tires!

In 1970, both the 428C.J. and the 429C.J. were available. The 428 still turned 13.6 but the 429 would only turn 15 seconds. Handling was not that good on the 429 as well. It weighed 150 lbs more than the 428F.E.

Even today when you look up N.H.R.A. class records, you will find 427's and 428's but no 429's or 460's. The F.E. is faster, lighter and if it helps, better looking.

In early Super Stock days, the factory teams would run much faster than the private teams. The reason was that the factory teams were running special heads with better ports than the over the counter stock heads. When the Sanctioning Body found out about the special heads, they asked Ford what was going on. Ford's answer was that the special heads were the ones used on cars built in Canada. N.H.R.A. accepted this explanation. After this, the Canadian heads were then factored to produce an extra 80 H.P. , and that is how these special heads got their name.

The Canadian Cobra Jet Head Port is the basis for our DOVE Aluminum C.J. Heads. We also manufactured the Canadian C.J. in cast iron as an exact replacement for the original. In 1995, we produced an improved 428C.J. Head and FORD HAD ISSUED A NEW PART NUMBER (F5WE-6090-A). These heads have been approved by N.H.R.A. for Stock Eliminator and Super Stock Competition.

What this aluminum head means to people building Replica Cobras is that its peak flow is achieved at .400" Lift. This will improve power in all ranges, and as an added benefit, FUEL ECONOMY will also be improved. The 427's will benefit from a S.K. MEDIUM-RISER DOVE HEAD in aluminum.

For F.E.'s, 427's, and larger engines, the DOVE HI-RISER and RAISED-PORT HI-RISER HEADS will produce world class power, beating all competition in the horse power race.

As for powering a 427 COBRA, the FE is the only choice. But what is wrong with a 351-W or a 351-C? The FE engines, 352 and 360 C.I.D, will make more power when comparably equipped. The F.E. is lighter than the 351-C, and with an aluminum manifold is about the same weight as the 351-W. When aluminum heads are installed, the F.E. is about 40lbs lighter than the 351-W. With this knowledge at hand, there is little reason to build a COBRA with anything but a F.E. on board.

Even a budget car can enjoy F.E. power. A 352, 360, or a 390 can be found in most wrecking yards. The absolute worst head used on a F.E. of any year, flows better than either the popular 1969 351-W, 4-V HEAD or the NEW GT-40 Head.

Cam's cost no more for a F.E. than any other engine. Without exception, there is no other engine of any make with a better selection of intake manifolds.

When you go to a swap-meet, there is usually F.E. manifolds as far as the eyes can see. AT DOVE, WE HAVE OVER 30 DIFFERENT COMBINATIONS OF MANIFOLDS AND A WORLD CLASS FUEL INJECTION SYSTEM. Every maker of manifolds has at least one option for the F.E.

We have proven over and over again, at the Sandusky, Ohio half mile circle track, that the F.E., both small (355 C.I.D.) in our Stock Car and the larger 481 C.I.D. 1000 H.P. Fuel Injected F.E., in our Super Modified (The Worlds Fastest Short Track Ford), will out power and outlast the fastest Chevy's in the world, both small block and big block. Our F.E.'s will do the same to the other Ford's, including S.V.O.'s and professionally built Cleveland's.

For the not so budget oriented cars, the 427's are alive and well. With the on-going development of new parts at DOVE and other manufacturers, the 427's will out run all the competition. Blocks were getting hard to find but not anymore! You can find NEW 427 BLOCKS, thanks to our DOVE FOUNDRY and CNC MACHINE SHOP. We produce a CAST IRON 427 with a bore capacity of 4.44 and an ALUMINUM 427 with Ductile Iron Cylinder Sleeves.

Billet Crankshafts with up to 4.5" stroke, custom connecting rods of many lengths, many types of pistons, and cams of every description are available. The F.E. has been reborn!

At DOVE, we did the F.E.'s before they were fashionable. The fastest Cobras  were powered by F.E.'s. With our efforts over the years, and more and more parts from other manufactures, I have met my goal: not let the F.E. die. Now that it has new life, it can still beat the competition.

Here are a few tips about F.E. engines.

1. Do Not use a transmission from a small block without cutting the end of the input shaft to F.E. length. As a result, the end of the shaft will bottom out on the crank, and cause #2 & #4 main bearings to spin as well as wipe out the thrust main and the crank itself.

2. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!! If your F.E. is the only one in the engine shop, FIND ANOTHER SHOP!

3. Even a mild F.E. will accelerate very hard in a COBRA. This will cause all the oil to rush to the rear of the pan and allow the oil pickup to draw air instead of oil. The cure is not to use the stock pan. Even the pretty cast aluminum "T" pans are not good enough. Use an after market oil pan with trap doors that will let the oil move to the oil pickup, but not away from it in all directions. The COBRA PAN built by AVIAD was used on original race COBRAS and works well. The use of a DRY SUMP is highly recommended.

4. When balancing a F.E. using a 428 or 410 crank, have it internally balanced. It only takes one piece of MALORY METAL to do the job. It allows you freedom in choosing or changing clutches and flywheels when you don't have to worry about the Detroit balance used on the 428 and 410.

5. There is a FAD going around: using 400 Ford rods in a 427 with an offset ground 428 crank. My advice is DO NOT DO IT!! The 400 rod was no good in a 400. Why put it in a valuable 427 block? The same price will get the crank machined to a 2.2 journal that will fit an off the shelf CARRILLO ROD. The CARRILLO ROD cost more than a 400 Ford Rod. By the time you put in good bolts, have the rods reconditioned with the bronze bushings in the small end, resize the big end, have them shot peened, heat treated magnifluxed or x-rayed you will loose a $3000 427 block because they failed. The 400 rod is made of 1041 CARBON STEEL with NO CHROME, NO MOLY, NO NICKEL, AND NO HI-PERFORMANCE BEARINGS AVAILABLE TO FIT THEM. A 390 rod would be much, much better. I have seen stock 428's run over 8300 R.P.M. with properly prepared 390 rods. There are HI-PERFORMANCE bearings available for the 390 rod and the rod is spot faced to accept the football shaped rod bolt head. The 400 rods are broached, which makes a perfect place for the 400 rod to break. The 390 rod cap is well designed and has large ribs added to the cap for strength. The 400 cap is plain with no ribs. It is designed to run under 4000 R.P.M with a 2 barrel carb and pull Mark 5's and 3/4 ton trucks around. It was never offered with a 4 barrel carb.

The Moral of this story is either use the stock F.E. rods or use one of the premium after market rods available, such as the CARRILLO, OLIVER, or MANLEY just to name a few. DO NOT RISK THAT INVESTMENT ON JUNK!!