John Hedenburg
May 19, 2003

Step By Step

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0306mm_z Ford_Mustang_LX Front_Side_Pulling_Engine

Before any of the work began, our 302 was put on an engine stand. Despite running like a champ and having gone 13.80s, the engine was on its last leg. Our plan is to rebuild the 302 and make it better than new.
The disassembly process began with us removing the connecting rod caps. When we did so, both halves of the rod bearings stayed on the crank when they should have remained attached to the rods. According to Bob Oster of B&B Performance Machine, this is a sign of excessive clearance between the caps and the bearings, and also a sign that the rod bearings were about to spin.
Oster covered the rod bolts with protective boots and then he tapped the pistons out of the bores.

Welcome back to part two of our Hot Handler engine buildup. As promised in an earlier issue, we've yanked the old engine, pulled it apart, and the rebuild is well underway. While there's an amazing list of potential parts to stuff into our 302, we decided to serve up a simple (and super affordable) engine that's a little hotter than stock. Fact is, many readers are on a budget and can't afford to build a radical small-block, so this time we'll cater to the budget-minded and rebuild the engine using a common selection of parts. By carefully picking the heads, cam and intake, we hope to end up with about 80-100 horsepower over stock and plenty of reliability.

To achieve our goal we looked hard and long at the seemingly endless list of parts found in a number of catalogs and, of course, in the pages of MM&FF. We decided to leave the bore and stroke alone and stick with the 302 displacement to keep cost at a minimum. In addition, we decided to maintain the stock EEC computer system so we had to pick parts that would keep peak power well below the 6,250-rpm redline. Once built, the engine will be returned to our corner-carving '87 LX and put to the test.

The rotating assembly we selected is right out of the Summit Racing catalog. It's listed as the Summit Racing Engine Rebuild Kit, which includes new pistons, rings, bearings, oil pump and gaskets. We also selected a set of AFR 165 heads that have 1.94-/1.60-inch valves. The combination will be topped off with a classic GT-40 intake fed by a BBK 70mm throttle body, and fuel will be injected by a set of 24-psi squirters. The combination of the 165 heads and the long-runner GT-40 intake will give the engine excellent port velocity, and that should translate into awesome throttle response at low rpm. In any road race car, especially one designed for a smaller track, mid-range power is critical and these parts should give us what we're looking for.

As you know, it's hard to get things done by simply talking about them, so let's clam up and get to work. After delivering the 302 to Bob Oster at B&B Performance Machine in Rahway, New Jersey, we set the engine on a stand and Oster walked us through the entire disassembly process. After breaking it down we cleaned the block, checked it for cracks, and started putting the new pieces into place. We stopped after completing the short-block and next month we'll complete the engine by installing the heads, intake and oil pan. The next stop will be on the dyno and at the track.

Now, go ahead and check out the photos and captions, but be careful because you may want to rip out your own engine and freshen it up.