Tom Wilson
November 1, 2010

This is a crate engine story that talks about everything except the crate engine. We did that last month when we detailed our new M-6007-X302 engine.

Just in case you missed it, the X302 is Ford Racing's affordable stock-block small-block. At a competitive $3,495, it's ideal for real-world projects, either fuel-injected, such as our '91 5.0 LX hatchback, or carbureted. Under best conditions, it's rated at 340 hp and has a rumpty-rump E303-cam persona.

This month we address everything else surrounding a crate-engine install. That's because it's natural to get excited about the crate motor and the intake or blower you're going to put on it, but oh-too-easy to overlook the mundane, such as engine mounts, fan clutches, and radiator hoses. It sounds pedantic, but you must have a plan. An engine change is relatively easy work-a collection of many small, easy steps-but the key word is "many." Not thinking it through is begging for frustration and disappointment.

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The first step is setting the scope of the work. Are you changing just a blown engine in an otherwise great-running car? Or, like us, are you making the pivotal improvement on a high-mileage daily driver? Obviously, you need to set a budget.

As you think through where you want to be at the end of the project, we think you'll be surprised at how many parts you want to change besides the core engine. Don't be surprised when your simple crate-engine job turns into a full-car restoration. That's what happened to us.

Our case is hyper-typical. Our '91 LX hatchback had 198,062 miles when it's original engine came out. As a daily driver, the car was up and running, but it was used up in so many mechanical ways. The valve covers and oil pan had never been off, nor had we changed the ignition wires or upgraded the stock exhaust manifolds. The radiator had who knows how much gunk in its tubes, the power steering pump was grrrring a little, the engine mounts had sagged. Furthermore, the clutch was unknown, the transmission noisy, and the U-joints were likely original.

We opted to change everything. Along with recent upholstery and other interior work, plus cutting and polishing the paint, a new set of mechanicals would give us a fairly new Fox-and no new car payments, big insurance, or registration bills.

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Parts Gathering We're covering most of our parts details in the photos and captions, but in general overview, consider the following. You need a place to work. Do you have a home shop? Great. If not, go with a local shop. We chose GTR Performance, and the staff not only did the work, but provided indispensible knowledge and support services (receiving, research, and bargaining with suppliers).

All crate engines come bare from at least the valve covers on up. Select the intake manifold, throttle body, and cold-air intake that work with your heads and cam. We chose Edelbrock's Performer RPM II because it's a good power maker and has an E.O. number.

What about your front-of-engine accessories? The alternator, water pump, power steering, and so on are normally changed as-needed, but you might want to upgrade now to reset the clock on high-mileage units and gain shiny new parts to match your new engine.

Interestingly, we swapped what we thought was a noisy but still working power steering pump against Ricardo Topete's recommendation at GTR. He was right. Our zillion-mile PS pump was much quieter than the one we got from NAPA. Water pumps we would change no questions asked, but alternators, air pumps, and so on we'd clean and re-use.

If the original radiator is old or you're stepping up the power with the new crate engine, then a new radiator is smart; ditto for the fuel system. Old in-tank fuel pumps, tired filters, and new injectors don't mix.

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