Jim Smart
August 2, 2012

If I remember high school science class accurately, the "Fe" symbol on the periodic table of elements means iron, correct? However, when we observe this pair of 427 "FE" iron, side oiler big-blocks JGM Performance Engineering just amassed, built, and dyno tested, you could have fooled us. Sure looks like a lot of lightweight non-ferrous metal on top--C5AE-6090-H Cobra Medium Riser cylinder heads with aluminum and magnesium induction you don't see everyday. And like most things Ford, it isn't always easy to explain. How did these two 427 side oiler blocks arrive at this location, at this moment in time, and what do we do with them?

When Jim Grubbs of JGM invited us into his Valencia, California, shop for a closer look at these engines, there was more there than anyone bargained for, as both blocks had unique and noteworthy histories. Both engines were for the same customer, a Cobra-builder with a deep passion for Shelby power. One engine would be a dyno-tested, stock "Cobra" build to be put on static display in the client's office. The other would be stroked to 482 ci, installed in a Daytona Coupe, and raced. Follow along as we take you through the builds of each of these remarkable powerplants. This month, we start with the stock 427 buildup.

A Tale Of Two FE 427s

Block 1 will be assembled as a 427 Cobra mill just as they came from Shelby American in the mid-1960s, yet Block 1 will never be considered mundane because it's a C6AE-B SOHC block. Yes, genuine SOHC iron discovered during mock-up and final assembly. We spotted the block's unique demeanor when our eyes rolled across the decks and noticed additional 5/8-inch oil drain passages--not seen on 427 FE wedge blocks. It will be built, dyno tested, and placed on static display.

Block 2 is a real 427 Cobra side oiler wedge block with its original Shelby Cobra VIN stamped in the iron. Several attempts to notify the Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC) of this find went without a response, yet the matching vehicle survives according to the Shelby World Registry. Block 2 is being built as a 482ci stroker with more than 600 horsepower on tap.

Cross-Bolted/Side Oiler Need To Know

Cross-bolted FE blocks first entered production in the 406 late in 1962 and into 427 production for 1963. Not all 427s have cross-bolted main caps. There are center oilers and side oilers. Some folks call center oilers "top oilers." And because the casting process wasn't always straightforward, you can expect to see some odd-duck combinations out there. You may see a side oiler block that isn't drilled for side oiler galleys. You may even see a 360 or 390 block that's part side oiler casting. You can't always count on a casting number to accurately identify a block.

And one more thing--to the best of our knowledge, the SOHC block with its 5/8-inch oil drainback doesn't have a Cammer specific casting number. Some blocks were drilled for the SOHC head with the 0.040-inch taller deck yet they had the same casting number as a side oiler wedge block without the drain passage. We may get arguments on this one. However, this is based on what we've seen and from what seasoned FE builders have told us. Always interested in reader feedback on this subject if you can come up with a consistent pattern.

Our friend at Total Performance in Mount Clemens, Michigan, John Vemeersch, is a longtime Ford racer and engine builder from way back and is an excellent source for information and Ford engine parts. He's a good contact for anyone baffled by a Ford casting they cannot explain.

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17b If a shop does the work for you, insist it does the same. Next month, we're going to wrap up our 427 Cobra FE big-block and spin it on JGM's 901 dynamometer, along with its soul mate, the 482ci big-bore stroker. We will have complete parts and dyno information for you then.