Michael Galimi
February 27, 2006

The horsepower-by-mail concept has been around for years, but never has the market been so hot--especially when it comes to Ford V-8s. Today, crate engines are the rage, ranking right up there with nitrous and blowers. And, like ordering a pizza, you can literally dial the phone or click your mouse, plunk down your plastic, and a driver will deliver one with all the toppings. This includes stock-type, short- and long-blocks right up to balls-to-the-wall race engines making over 1,000 hp.

Before you get started, there are dozens of variables you'll need to sort out. Naturally, you'll want horsepower, but obviously you have a budget to consider, and your level of spending will directly relate to the number of ponies under the hood. While most of us have dreams of 700 hp, chances are your street-driven LX will be much more enjoyable to drive with a 450hp, 10.0:1 engine that runs on 92-octane fuel. Higher power levels require a stout driveline and more frequent maintenance. There's also more tuning difficulty and higher operating costs. In other words, sometimes less will give you more.

"When we sell an engine, we try to make sure it meets the customer's expectation," says Chris Huff of Coast High Performance. "That's the most important thing. We once had a guy who wanted a Dart block, but wanted to use a stock cast crank and stock rods, and that just doesn't make sense. In his case, a stock block would do, and that's what we recommended to him. It also saved him a bunch of money."

The foundation of any engine is the block. Stock 5.0 blocks (right) can be used reliably in the 500hp range--beyond that, an aftermarket block should be considered. Factory modular blocks can take quite a bit more, especially the Four-Valve Cobra versions.

So, exactly how can you get the right engine for your car or truck? You can start by answering a few questions. First, determine what you'll be doing with the car or truck. What type of vehicle is the engine going to be put in? Do you plan to drive it on the street and use 92-octane pump gas? Will it need to idle for long periods and not overheat? Will you be adding a supercharger or nitrous? Are you using an automatic, and if so, which stall converter? Or will it be a stick? How stiff will the gearing be? Lastly, how much power do you expect it to make, and how quick do you want your vehicle to be?

The answers to these questions are important because they will help you determine the best combination of parts for your applica-tion. For instance, if you have a 3,600-pound street Mustang, you won't want a small 302 that makes peak horsepower at 6,500 rpm. You might opt for a torquier combination like a 408 stroker or a smaller engine with a Roots-style blower. There are dozens of options to consider, and if you don't have the answers, you could easily pick the wrong heads, cam, compression ratio, or induction, and go down the wrong path. Thankfully, MM&FF is here to help.