Modified Mustangs & Fords
How To Identify Classic Ford V-8 Engines - Demystifying Displacement
Identify Classic Ford V-8 Engines At A Glance
Tech | Engine ID
Back in the beginning of our classic Ford madness we used to wonder, "How can you tell the difference between a Ford 427, 428, and 429?" Also lurking in our mind was some confusion about the 351 Ford engine because there were two types, the Windsor and the Cleveland. When you're walking the rows at a swap meet how is it possible to tell them apart? When it came to big-blocks there was also some confusion because there were really two varieties, the FE and the 385-series. The FE was introduced to replace the Y-block, and began at 352 cubic inches. However, the FE also came in 390, 406, 410, 427, and 428 cubic-inch displacements. Is it possible to tell a 427 from a 428 just by looking at it? The 385-series 429 and 460 engines were certainly big-blocks from the beginning, and, as you will see, it is possible to distinguish them from the earlier FE series at a glance.
When it comes to engine diversity Ford has always been a leader and the Total Performance years were no exception. While, for example, Pontiac made the 326, 350, 389, 400, 421, and 455 all from the same block, Ford had many different engine castings in production during this same period. Indeed, in the '70 Mustang there were six distinctly different engine varieties available, using four separate engine block castings, not including six-cylinder models. There was both a standard and Boss 302 short-deck offering, the tall-deck 351 Windsor and the completely separate 351 Cleveland engine. Although the 390 had been discontinued in the Mustang, the FE was still available in the form of the 428 Cobra Jet. The 385-series Boss 429, which was completely different from the 428 FE, was also offered. Part of what makes classic Ford vehicles so interesting is the wide variety of engines that these cars came equipped with.
Whether you're admiring a finished car at a show or searching for parts while walking the rows at Carlisle or Pomona, it's nice to be able to distinguish one engine type from another. In our discussion we'd like to examine the various visual cues that you can use to indentify the different classic Ford V-8 engines from the Ford Total Performance years. The engines we'd like to include are the famous Fairlane V-8, the Windsor and Cleveland 351 engines, as well as the FE and 385-series big-blocks. We'll also talk a little about how to distinguish the Boss engines, the 302 and 429, from their more numerous brethren. Finally, we will take a look at how to identify the Ford Y-block, famous for use in the early Thunderbird.
We could fill this whole magazine with info on block codes, casting info, mid-year changes and other little tidbits that make verifying a certain engine is what you think it is, so you can see we're just skimming the surface with some basic "new guy" information here. We strongly suggest that once you've determined the engine family you dig deeper with books specific to that family from the likes of HP Books, SA Designs, Classic Motorbooks, or even Ford shop literature. Don't forget there's plenty of info on the Internet, though you need to be careful and weed out the correct info from the years of rumors and misinformation. Sites like www.fordfe.com, www.351cleveland.net, www.y-blocksforver.com, and others are where you can get answers to your questions from individuals who live, eat, and breathe these specific engines.
To find as many classic Ford V-8 engines as possible in one place we traveled out to the JBA Performance Center in San Diego, California. Owner J. Bittle is a Ford engine expert of considerable renown and his outfit is a Ford performance focal point for all of Southern California and beyond. We'd like to thank JBA for its assistance in the compilation of this story.