Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
January 28, 2011

This past September marked the 15th anniversary of the Y-Block Nationals, which was held in conjunction with the NMRA Expo at National Trail Raceway in Columbus, Ohio. While we haven't done much more than include a photo of the past winner within our NMRA coverage before, this year, we opted to dedicate several pages to those who cherish the Y-Block engine, and wring it out on the track.

The Y-block replaced the legendary flathead engine, and debuted in 1952 with Lincoln, and 1954 with Ford. Engine sizes ranged from 239 ci to 312 ci, and dual four-barrel carburetors and superchargers were optional. The Y-block served duty in everything from trucks to T-birds. The engine's name came from the design of the block itself. Where the flathead's crankshaft centerline was on the same plane as the bottom face of the block, the Y-block featured deep-skirted walls that held the crank some 2 3/4 inches up inside. Many later gas and diesel engine designs incorporated this feature, as it strengthens the engine in a number of ways, thereby increasing durability and reliability.

Though it seemed to be a stout foundation on which to build upon, by 1958 the writing was on the wall for the Y-block, as Ford phased it out in favor of the FE-series big-blocks, and eventually the Windsor family of engines. Within that relatively short lifespan, the Y-block gathered fans and foes alike. It was employed in stock car racing, as well as Bonneville Salt Flats racing, and saw moderate success.

For the past two years, Ted Eaton has competed with a 375ci Y-Block (a bored and stroked 292) in the Popular Hot Rodding Engine Master Challenge. With Mummert aluminum heads, the engine produced nearly 100 more horsepower this year. Eaton, an FE racer and engine builder, learned a lot about building Y-Blocks since he started running one, and brought a Y-Block-powered Altered to the 2001 event.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

In 2005, one of Eaton's Y-blocks propelled a supercharged, rear-engined dragster to a quarter-mile Y-Block record of 8.10 seconds. Then, a few years later, Oregon's Bob Lindsay dropped the Y-Block mark into the 7.90s with a front-motored blown dragster with a Jerry Christenson powerplant. Ted and Jerry have been going at it ever since, and have pushed the Y-Blocks into the nostalgia technology wave.

Whereas most people moved on to the later engine options that offered improved weight reduction and/or increased dis-placement, there are a small number of enthusiasts who have stayed loyal to the Y-Block. They keep the Y-Block current with things like the bi-monthly Y-Block magazine, and the web forum at www.y-blocksforever.com. Each year, these enthusiasts trek to Columbus, Ohio, and take their turns at the quarter-mile drags for bragging rights, a good time, and a chance at a pretty decent prize purse.

The Y-Block competitors were given their own dedicated class in 2000 at the NMRA Expo event, known then as the Y-Block Nationals. The Y-Block racers eventually invited streeters and cruisers to pit with them, and the events turned into great gatherings at a race place. Now called the Y-Block Shootout, the class offers two shootouts with one for Saturday and one for Sunday. This year, the group gathered more than $3,400 in purse money.

We ventured out to National Trail Raceway to check out what these folks were up to, and if you're into Y-Blocks, or just early Ford products, these guys can tell you a lot about the unloved and often overlooked Y-Block and the machines that they propelled. Special thanks goes to Bob Martin, who introduced us to the Y-Block community and helped us out with the details of this story.

Be sure to visit our website, www.mustangandfords.com, for extended photo coverage from the Y-Block Shootout and NMRA event action.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery