by Jim Dove

So, you have decided to build an F.E. engine. Good, because it is the best V-8 to come out of Detroit ever. We will cover four different levels of performance.

          A: Warmed over street performance

        B: Limited Sportsman, Circle Track

           C: Unlimited Sportsman, Circle Track

D: Unlimited Injected Alcohol

Let us talk about blocks for a Hot Street Engine. All F.E. blocks are suitable. However, the non- high performance block needs a little work.

The first thing is to select a core suitable for your application. For a performance type street engine, any of the stock blocks will do. But for a high compression race engine, you should use a known high performance block or start out with a heavy duty truck block.

For a 4" bore CIRCLE TRACK engine, use a 330 Heavy Duty Block. It has a 3-7/8" bore, and some have cross bolt bosses already cast in the bottom end. If you plan to cross bolt the block, make sure it has heavy duty main webs.

For a 4.050" bore, 390 or 410 STREET engine, a 352 block is very good because it has a 4" bore to start with, and can be finished at a standard .390" bore size of 4.050". Later, it can be bored another .030" for a 10-1 STREETER.

For High Compression, Nitrous, or a Blower use a truck block with heavy duty main webs.

Note: Heavy duty truck blocks have a large pilot hole to support the end of the distributor. It must be fitted with a bushing. Use a car distributor, and do not forget to drill the oil hole in the bushing or the distributor will seize up in the bore from lack of oil.

For a 4.130" bore, it is best to use a 406 or 428 block. Here again, for a STREETER with 10-1 C.R. just about any block will do. For a HIGH POWER RACE MOTOR, you must check the block for cylinder wall thickness.

NOTE: A quick way to check a candidate for a 4.130" bore block, is to remove a core plug from the side of the block and use a allen wrench as a gauge to check the distance between the bores. Use the following chart for reference.

If an allen wrench fits between the bore.......






No Good



No Good



4.080" Max



4.160" Max



4.18" Max (In a 406 or 428, Good Block)


3/16" (427) 

4.293" (68 C8AZ-6010-G) .125''


1/8"  (427)

4.310" (Marine Block & Some Early 427's)

This method does not check for core shift, but it does qualify the block for further interest and inspection, such as a sonic test, which will find thin spots from core shifts or broken cores.

For a 427, things get complicated. For example, the C8AZ-6010-G block is supposed to be made from high strength iron. However, they are really only gray iron like a standard block. If you want a high strength casting, the best bet is a '66 casting or one from a 300 H.P. Chris Craft boat. The problem, with boat motors, is that they are machined as a top oiler. However, the bosses are there for the side oiler but are not machined. This operation is performed at Dove Performance on a regular basis.

The Marine blocks are also the choice with thicker cylinder walls. For instance, the front and rear of a C8 block is approx. .080" thick. The marine block cylinder is .125" thick. This, combined with the tough iron, makes it the strongest of all factory F.E. blocks.

The C8AZ-6010-G is acceptable for most Hi-Performance operations, but when the compression gets over 12to1, or the H.P. over 650, you need a stronger block; like a C6 427 block or a marine block.

NOTE: All F.E. blocks should be honed with TORQUE PLATES INSTALLED.

Bore deflections follow:



427 Marine Block

.001" to .002"

Thick Walled 390,428 

.004" to .006"

Thin Walled Blocks

.006" to .008"

As you can see, they all benefit from torque plates, in some cases as much as

80-90 H.P.


This section will talk about modifying the block for Hi-Performance oiling. We will start with the top oiler 332 through 428.

First, let us look at the OIL PUMP FLANGE. We will start with a 5/8" DIA. DRILL, opening the hole at the OIL PUMP MOUNTING FLANGE. Then, using a grinder and carbide rotary file, we will port the opening to match the pump.

The next operation is opening the passage to the filter adapter to 1/2", using a 3 fluted core drill. (A 2 Fluted Drill Will Do, But You Better Have A Good Hold On The Drill Motor.) Finally, check the diagonal oil hole that runs across the front of the block, it should be 7/16" minimal diameter. The main oil passage, that runs the length of the block, needs to be opened to 7/16" diameter. At least beyond the 3rd main bearing hole, and probably all the way through.

Next in line are the passages that run from the main oil gallery to the cam journals on the center 3 cam bearing. With the cam bearings removed, we will use a 5/16" DIA. TAPER LENGTH drill, through the oil holes in the main saddles are already 5/16". For this operation, we will put a flat or 0 rake on the drill, to prevent it from screwing itself into the hole and breaking. This is a good idea for any drill used for opening up an existing hole. One other bit of prevention, would be to take a old main bearing insert and grind off the locator tag, then placing it in the main saddles prior to drilling. This would prevent the drill chuck from damaging the main bearing bore. It would not hurt to open the passages to the front and rear main saddles. However, they each feed only one rod and do not need as much supply as the center three main's do, which each feed two rods.

This would be a good time to tap the lifter offshoots from the main oil gallery with a 3/8"-24 tap. Then, a 3/8"-24 set screw can be used to block off oil to the lifters, should a solid lifter cam be used, or for easy removal to go back to hydraulic lifters in the future.

The oil hole exit at the main bearing on 1, 2, and 4 will need to be chamfered to make the oil hole line up with the hole in the bearings. All of the oil holes that had plugs in them can now be threaded and fitted with pipe plugs. (DO NOT FORGET THE ONE BEHIND THE DISTRIBUTOR, AT THE END OF THE LIFTER GALLERY !! THIS IS A MAJOR CAUSE OF LOW OIL PRESSURE AFTER A REBUILD.)


The oil pump we use for most wet sump applications is the MELLING M-57-HV. This is a high volume pump, and features a dampening chamber at the end of the relief valve. The only modifications needed: check of the clearance and installation of the 100 PSI spring, which is available at DOVE PERFORMANCE PARTS. Inspect the complete pump with the spring installed.

The specs are as follows:

Rotor End Play  

.002" TO .003"

Rotor To Housing

.006" TO .012"

Inner Rotor To Outer Rotor 

.005" TO .010"

Torque Specs For The Cover

95  TO 100 INCH LBS

The relief valve should move freely in it's bore, and once removed, inspect the bottom of the bore for manufacturing defects such as metal turnings or other foreign matter.

The use of LOCTITE or SAFETY WIRE is not necessary unless you are going to run very long endurance races. For STREET ENGINES using hydraulic lifters, the 100 PSI spring will cause LIFTER PUMP UP and limit your R.P.M. For these applications, use the 70 PSI spring that comes with the M-57-HV pump.


FOR CLASS DRAG AND CIRCLE TRACK STREET STOCK racers, the F.E. has the unusual ability to run with no oil to the lifters. So if the rule book says you must run hydraulic lifters, it probably does not say anything about having oil in them. So in this case, we will block off oil to the lifters and leave the oil galley plug out of the front left side lifter passage. You will then drill a small 1/8" hole through the center of the bolt that plugs the front of the right side lifter oil galley. These modifications are to prevent residual oil from building up at the lifters. The next thing is to remove the small ball or flat check valve from the lifters to prevent any pressure built-up. Reassemble the lifters, leaving the big spring in. Now, you can install your favorite solid lifter cam and set the lash as usual, but at the bottom of the lifter travel. The engine has now met the rules, but has a solid cam and the TECHNICAL INSPECTOR will be able to compress the lifter and verify to all that it is a legal hydraulic lifter. THIS TRICK WILL NOT WORK ON OTHER ENGINES THAT OIL THROUGH TO PUSH RODS!!!

After you have finished with the oil pump, the next consideration is the OIL FILTER ADAPTER. For a standard filter location, use a COAE6881-A adapter from Ford or DOVE. Ford used their head on this one, because they substituted the 352 part with the one from a 427, with large properly contoured oil passages. Upon assembly, MAKE SURE YOU DO NOT PUT THE GASKET UPSIDE DOWN!! If you are using a remote oil filter, use the DOVE-6881 adapter. In both cases, put a gasket on the block and modify it to match the oil holes in the block. Then place it on the adapter and blend any mismatch that would be found.


If you have noticed dirt embedded in your bearings after a tear down, no matter how clean the engine was on assembly, try putting the oil cooler ahead of the filters in the oil system. When cleaning the oil cooler, you will notice that you can clean all day and still find more dirt coming out. By putting the cooler ahead of the filters, the residual dirt that you did not get out, (You can be sure there is some.) will be stopped at the filters. For OIL FILTERS, use 2 mounted in parallel. This will give less pressure loss and keep the relief valve in the filter closed, thus filtering all of the oil.

In situations where very high R.P.M.s' are used, you can route 2 lines from the "OUT" side of the oil filter adapter on the side oiler engines. One line will hook up at the normal remote oil filter adapter, and the other, at the rear most side oiler port. This goes directly to the rear main at the other end of the main oil passage. When preparing the side oiler block, it is desirable to enlarge the pipe thread at this point to take a 3/8" or 1/2" pipe fitting. Be very careful not to drill to deep, because the boss looks much larger from the front than it actually is from the rear, or the flywheel end of the block. FOR TOP OILER BLOCKS, the second oil line can be attached at the top rear of the main oil passage. The line can pass through a special cover at the rear breather opening in the manifold.

This system of oiling from both ends of the engine does help durability in high R.P.M. long endurance races. One example of how much this helps is a 427, in particular. This 427 was assembled with a Ford steel crank, with push in plugs in the hollow crank throws. One of the snap ring grooves was improperly machined from the factory. The engine ran the first day, which consisted of about 100 LAPS of SUPER MODIFIED RACING. We took down the pan to make an inspection and found the plug and snap ring in the pan. We thought the bearings were shot, but upon inspection, they were perfect. We did not notice a change in oil pressure, which means the plug must have came out on the initial start up. The only thing that saved that engine was the oil being fed from both ends. We fixed the plug without having to tear the engine down. It never even had a head off or a push rod out. Also, it had less than a 2% leak down after 2 years of SUPER MODIFIED RACING. (Let's see a BOW TIE do that.)


The most important thing to keep in mind, with a DRY SUMP SYSTEM, is a good pan with a properly designed tray and oil scraper. The pan must have 2 totally independent oil pick-ups, one at the front and one at the rear. Each one must have it's own independent scavenging stage of the dry sump pump. The capacity of the scavenge must be 2 to 4 times that of the  pressure stage. The pressure stage must be large enough to hold 90 to 100 PSI at racing speed. The oil reservoir must be a large 16 quart minimum. It takes time to get the air out of the oil. For plumbing on these applications, use fittings and hoses that have at least 1/2" I.D. at their smallest point. Do not use fittings that make very tight bends. Use MANDREL bent tube type hose ends. Solid tight angle fittings have no place in a hi-performance oil system. The line feeding the pressure pump is in the stock location; it can be a standard or high volume unit. The pump is still driven in the conventual manner from the distributor via shaft. In this application, the pressure pump receives it's oil by way of a tube and fitting arrangement from outside the pan. The bottom of the large reservoir is designed to deliver DE-AERATED OIL directly to the pickup side of the pressure pump. The exit side of the pressure pump feeds the conventional oil system in the standard manner. This means the oil is cooled and filtered after the dry sump.


The F.E. need's very little work to perform well and to live long, but we will still cover the tricks of the trade that make more power. The most noticeable item is the use of a  TORQUE PLATE when preparing the cylinders. This alone is worth 30 H.P. on a mild engine, and 150-200 H.P. on a HIGHLY MODIFIED RACE MILL. The TORQUE PLATE should be attached to the block with the fasteners, and head gaskets of the same type that will be used on final assembly. The threads should be lubricated, preferably with MOLY LUBE or at least ENGINE OIL. The TORQUE PLATE should be left on for BORING, HONING, and all HONING OF THE MAINS. The MAIN CAPS should be torqued in place during cylinder honing. In some extreme cases, where absolute last H.P. must be found, the heads are installed and a BORE GAUGE used from the bottom of the block, and the actual dimensions  recorded. When the TORQUE PLATE is installed, the fasteners are "tweaked" until each cylinder matches the recorded data. In these cases, everything is usually bolted to the block just like it is in the car, such as BELL HOUSING, MOTOR MOUNTS, WATER PUMP, MAIN CAPS, ETC.... (The perfectionist will also circulate hot water through the block while honing it to size.) It is very important to use a TORQUE PLATE even for a STOCK OVERHAUL. If your local engine shop does not have one, we at DOVE HAVE ONE AVAILABLE. For CYLINDER WALL FINISH, use the piston ring manufacture spec's. For serious endurance racing, we use MOLY TOP RINGS, a DUCTILE IRON 2nd RING, and a LOW TENSION OIL RING. In this case, we use a SPECIAL SERIES OF STONES to finish the cylinder walls to a final finish of ''4'' RMS. When using a finish this smooth, you must be sure of the trueness of the cylinder, and the accuracy of the rings being used.

In our Super Modified Circle Track Alcohol Engine, after 3 full seasons of competition, we are still seeing leak-down figures in the 2% range. We have one Sportsman Late model engine with four seasons of use, that checks from 4 to 6 percent leak-down. After seeing the power and longevity of these engines, they are proof that attention to detail in block preparation is worth the effort and the time it takes to perform.

When align honing the block, stop when you get to the low limit of the size, then install a bearing and check the vertical dimension with an ID micrometer. DO NOT DEPEND ON THIS READING! Take the same micrometer that is used to check the crank, and check the ID micrometer with the OD micrometer. This will give you an accurate comparison of diameters. The difference we are looking for:

Stock Street Engines

.001" to .002"

High Performance Street under 6000 RPM

  .002" to .0025"

Endurance Circle Track, Road Race, and Drag Racing

   .0025" to .003"

After checking this clearance, we can remove the bearing and finish the main bore to the proper bearing clearance.

If we had just Align-Honed the block to the factory specs, we would have no control over the resulting clearances.

Another factor is variation of the wall thickness on the actual bearing insert. I have seen .010" under bearings clearly marked as such, actually being .020" under. Another factor is STD tolerance used to manufacture bearings. So to prevent trouble, use a micrometer to check all of the bearings for variation. You may have to go through several sets to find what you want. In some cases, you can use the differences you find to make up for variation on crank journal diameters or housing bore variations.

I have seen cases where I would discard a half set of bearings while preparing them, some with minor flaws and some with major flaws. The same goes with rings. What happens when someone slips or makes a mistake end gapping the rings? If he has more on the shelf and is honest, he will get another ring. If he has only one set, he will probably put it on the engine. If the only F.E. parts in the place are for your engine, then you are in the wrong shop!

Another cause of low oil pressure is the parting line chamfer on the main bearings. This chamfer should not be more than .010" max. A set of bearings with an excess parting line chamfer will cause 20 oil leaks and very low oil pressure.


This job on a standard engine may seem fairly straight forward. However, it can be very involved if done properly. The first requirement is the cam must turn freely. This is seldom the case. The next step is that the oil holes must line up in the #1 bearing on top oiler blocks, or on the side oiler positioned correctly. Another thing to watch for on side oiler engines is the location of the oil groove on #2 and #4 bearing journals. I use a gauge to get a measurement from the front face of the cam to the oil grooves in the cam. Insert the gauge from the front of the block to check the location of the oil hole in the cam bearings. Without this inspection, you might not get oil to the rocker assembly on one or both sides of the engine. Another thing to take note of is the side oiler uses a different set of cam bearings than a top oiler block. The Dove Iron and Aluminum blocks use still another.

The side oiler FORD blocks have 2 oil holes 90 degrees apart on #2 and #4 cam bearings. These holes must line up with the oil passage that goes to the deck to lube the top end. As previously mentioned, they must also match the groove in the cam.

The Dove blocks use a special bearing with the oil holes in #2 and #4, 140 degrees apart. This is necessary to clear the large cylinders with the oil passage. These bearings can be manufactured from standard FE cam bearings very easily.

Fitting the cam. If there is any operation you should be on hand for, this is it. Most engine builders accept the fact that they can not turn the cam very easily after installation. The cam should turn freely with very little effort. If it does not, the cam bearing must be hand fitted. A lot of people do this, but not very many are good at it.

At Dove, we have devised a cam bearing tool that will install the bearing straight, and then, a sizing tool that automatically, when pressed through the cam bearings, sets the proper clearance and also sets the depth of the front cam bearing. The use of this tool takes a all day job and reduces it to a half an hour. The results are incredible! A properly sized bore that will live and prosper; not a hacked up mess that will only last a short time and cause the loss of oil pressure and inaccurate valve action, or in extreme cases, a broken cam from excess flex. The proper clearance is from .001" to .003". This cam bearing tool is available for all engines, so you must specify application.

After cam installation, use a new thrust plate. These are available from Dove or Ford. Be very careful to use the proper length bolts; to long a bolt will shut off the oil to the distributor pilot and cause it to gall up in the bore. In S.O.H.C. applications, where this plate is not used, a bolt must be installed in the open bolt hole on the distributor side of the cam bore, or the oil will run out the open hole and cause the same problem.

When degreeing the cam, be sure to put a load on the timing chain and sprocket assemblies. Do this by holding the cam stationary from the rear with pins inserted in the 2 holes in the cam, or by installing the rocker assemblies. Turn the crank in the direction of rotation, while holding tension on the assemblies. Then, torque the cam bolt. This technique has been shown to eliminate as much as 4 degrees of error in cam timing.

We found that upon tear down, the cams were not where we put them. When you thought you were running the cam at 102 degree intake lobe centerline, it was actually 106 degrees.

One last thing, even if you are not using the mechanical fuel pump, install the fuel pump drive anyway. It will keep the cam bolt from loosening up. Also, the drive pin in the cam sprocket must be 1 5/8" long and made from chrome moly steel. These are available from Dove.


The FORD rods are good, maybe even better than other stock rods. The best rods for endurance racing applications is the CARRILLO ROD. It is the closest thing to bullet proof available, even though there are other brands.

For a High Performance Street Car or a low RPM bracket engine, the standard 390 rod with 3/8" bolts is more than adequate. I know of some Super Stock racers that run these rods to 8500 RPM with very light weight pistons and properly prepared rods.

The first thing to look for in used rods is their history. If they have been running in a high RPM stick shift car without an RPM limiter, stay away from them. Look for rods from a stock hydraulic lifter engine, they will have less stress and fatigue. Have the rods magna fluxed and reconditioned in a reputable shop that has experience with FORD rods. These rods must be honed 2 at a time to prevent a barrel shaped bore (big in the center). The size should be taken to the flow limit. Then, a bearing can be installed and the bore size measured and compared with the crank pin size. The rods are finished honed to adjust to the proper clearance. In racing applications, where the bore size of the rods is up to the high limit, use MICHIGAN 77 CB-952-P rod bearing. It has .002" to .003" extra crush built into it and is ideal for such applications.

To assure the correct clearance, use the same micrometer that was used to check ID, and check the bearing size in the rod. At this time, each pair of rods can be fitted to each crank pin.

The recommended clearance are:

Low RPM Street

  .001" to .0015"

High Performance Street

.002" to .0025

Endurance Race Engine

 .0027" to .003"

Long Drag

   .0028" to .0032"

As for bolts, use a good after market bolt, such as ARP, with a recommended torque spec of 50lbs or over.

If you wish to polish the rods, they must be Re-Shot-Peened. They are shot-peened from the factory, and the benefits from polishing may not be as beneficial as once thought.

Be cautious of rods that have been excessively lightened at the small end. Watch for: too thin of wall thickness around the wrist pin and on the big end. If the stock removal goes beyond the balance pad into the ribs of the cap, it is too much. However, some stock may be removed from in-between the ribs, as long as you do not go over board. Use some common sense. The use of Le-Mans rods should be limited to those who have the time, knowledge, and money to correct manufacturing defects common to rods: such as special alignment dowels, special bolts, heat treat checked, and precise sizing of the big and small ends.

At present, the value of a good set of Le-Mans rods is very high. With the amount of work necessary to make them raceable, it is much cheaper to go to a custom rod such as CARRILLO, which will last far longer than any stock rod.

Using stock rods is a bit like playing with snakes, sooner or later you are going to get bit!!!!!


When Circle Track Racing with the FE, even in small CID ranges with a 2 barrel carburetor, there is a special tuning problem. When the RPM gets over 6000, we are pulling a lot of vacuum, even at wide open throttle. (This closes the power valve at the big end and can burn pistons and cause bad plug readings.)

All the carb books will tell you not to remove the power valve, but when the Horsepower starts to get up to 400 to 500, you are moving some serious air through the motor. So here is the recipe for a fast HOLLEY carb, for the 2 barrel class, that will still pass tech.

We will start with a 4412 or a 80095 HOLLEY. The 80095 features annular discharge boosters and staged throttles. This is my choice!

The first thing most people do is remove the air horn. DO NOT DO THIS!!! THIS MODIFICATION ALONE WILL COST YOU 35 HP EVERYWHERE!!! LOW END THROUGH THE TOP END!!!

Now that was easy. The next step is to remove the power valve and replace it with a plug, available from HOLLEY. When using the plug, it is necessary to increase the jet sizes about 10 numbers. If you are using the 80095 HOLLEY, which is also 500CFM, you will have to change to the center hung flat bowl from a 4412 HOLLEY. If your class rules do not allow the 80095, then meet with your tech man and show him that this is the same size as the 4412. If he still will not allow the 80095, then have the annular discharge boosters and base plate in you 4412. This is especially important if you use a stock manifold. The 80095 is great for mounting sideways, due to the staged throttles.

In some cases, if the jet changes do not seem to make any difference in the plug readings, then you must drill an additional 1/4" vent hole in the top of the float bowel, or cut out a piece of the bowel gasket at the top center. This will stop the effect that high speed air has on the fuel in the float bowel as it passes the original vent tube. This will make the engine easier to tune for maximum power.

The proper jet sizes for both carbs will be in the low to high 80s. If you are already running jets this large, with the power valve installed, it means that the power valve is closing at the big end and cleaning up the plugs, which hide an over rich condition at the low end, making the car lazy coming off the turns.