Jim Smart
March 1, 2004

If you've been a Ford enthusiast familiar with Southern California's San Fernando Valley for any time at all, you're also familiar with Arnold Marks of Mustangs Etc. in Van Nuys, which is right in the heart of the valley. Arnold founded Mustangs Etc. nearly 30 years ago. He has a huge inventory of new and used Mustang parts, and has been doing it longer than almost anyone we know.

Arnold's son, Garrett, is not only into Mustangs, he is into all kinds of Fords-old and new. He has a '69 Mustang SportsRoof with a 390, which is decidedly unusual because Ford didn't build many of them. Stored in the corner of his father's shop is a '59 Edsel station wagon that 24-year-old Garrett has been massaging for years. Not many Edsel wagons survive today because they just weren't all that collectable to begin with. Thousands of them went to the crusher in the '70s when fuel prices doubled. Even without the Arab oil embargo, most of them would have expired anyway.

Garrett's message to society is clear. He marches to the refined beat of a different drummer via the Edsel and apologizes to no one for it. He keeps an important segment of automotive history alive, thank goodness. About two years ago, Garrett decided to replace the worn-out 352ci FE big-block in his wagon. He found a '67 four-door Thunderbird sporting 428ci FE big-block power, coupled to a C6 Cruise-O-Matic transmission.

The 428 FE/C6 combo is perfect for a wagon. For one thing, Garrett isn't going drag racing or road racing with his wagon. He's going cruising. He wants something fiercely reliable that will give him lots of low-end torque and hold a steady 2,800 rpm for hours on end. What does it take to build an FE big-block for dependable operation? Let's take a look.

Building Reliable Big-Block Power
To build a healthy FE big-block, we need to know what's out there for Ford's biggest Y-block. It is important to remember how many different ways Ford offered the FE series big-block. Four strokes were available from 1958-76; 3.30-, 3.50-, 3.78-, and 3.98-inches. The shorter 3.30- and 3.50-inch strokes were common with the 332, 352, and 360ci FE engines. The 3.78-inch stroke was for the 390, 406, and 427. The longest 3.98-inch stroke, nearly four-inches, made the FE a twisting powerhouse at 410 and 428 ci. The 410 was a Mercury-only displacement, which took the 390's 4.05-inch standard bore and stroked it to 410 ci. The 428 has a 4.13-inch bore, coupled with the 3.98-inch stroke.

What makes the 428 different from the 390 is torque at lower rpm ranges. The 390 and 427, with a 3.78-inch stroke, are screamers, with peak torque coming in around 6,000 rpm with high-performance versions. The 410 and 428 are lower-revving torque powerhouses, where peak torque comes in around 4,500 rpm. They don't need to rev high to get you there quickly. You can move the earth with a 428.

We first want to improve the 428's oiling system by improving oil flow from the pump to the main bearings. We do this by opening up the oil galley between the pump and the main bearings. This improves oil volume, not necessarily pressure. We step up the volume with a high-volume oil pump, and a pan that will keep oil around the pick-up at all times. It is also good to improve return flow from the heads and camshaft to the pan by cleaning up rough iron surfaces with grinding or a paint composition. We need excellent coolant flow between the radiator, block, and heads. Coolant passages need to be free of rust and other contaminates. Radiator tubes need to be plentiful. We need a high-flow water pump and a good thermostatic clutch fan in front. We also need a fan shroud to ensure air velocity through the radiator. Because FE big-blocks are hard workers, we need hardened exhaust valve seats and 16 new valves to ensure healthy compression and reliable performance.

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Crane Roller Hydraulic Camshaft Specifications
Part Number:34HR00012
Grind Number:HR-210/294-2-12
Cam Specifications at .050-inch
Lift at Valve:.517/.546-inch intake/exhaust, with 1.76 rocker arms
Lift at Cam lobe:.294/.310-inch intake/exhaust
Advertised Duration:268.0 degrees intake, 278.0 degrees exhaust
Facts:The Crane Hydraulic Roller Special has an operating range of 2,000 to 5,500 rpm. Valve float happens at 6,500 rpm. This is a good street/strip camshaft with a broad torque curve. Torque comes on strong around 3,500 rpm and continues through 5,500 rpm.

Heads Up!
You might be inclined to think the 428 head is the best head we could top this engine with. But, you'd be wrong. Garrett has not chosen the 428 head or the 428 Cobra Jet head. He has chosen the '61 390 High Performance head casting for his 428 project. The 390 High Performance has the same 2.02/1.55-inch valves and, virtually, the same port sizes. However, the 390 Hi-Po head has smaller chambers for greater compression. We're going to have Valley Head Service work these heads and make them better with some mild port work, new guides and valves, and hardened valve seats for greater reliability.

Head Work
If you are ever in doubt about head gasket installation after cylinder heads have been installed, remember this: properly installed head gaskets always stick out at the outer, front corners of the heads and block. If they're backwards, the gasket won't be visible here.

428ci FE 6V Expected Performance Levels
RPMHorsepowerTorque
2000168386
2500220410
3000261446
3500310454
4000354466
4500378461
5000382449
5500393403
6000371347

What We Would Do Differently
Quite frankly, our 428 FE buildup is capable of greater levels of power than we have shown you here. We have built a rather conservative 428-inch mill. What does our FE big-block need to push power levels beyond 393 hp and 466 lb-ft of torque?

First, we would remove the tri-power setup. It looks terrific and, properly tuned for a racing environment, will make brute power in an FE big-block. All our 428 needs is an Edelbrock Performer 390 intake manifold and 750-cfm Holley, Edelbrock or Demon carburetor to improve horsepower and torque figures considerably. If we want to push the numbers closer to 450-500 hp and, at least, 500 lb-ft of torque, we opt for Edelbrock Performer heads, which offer us greater port and valve size for better performance. We would also step up our camshaft specs to something a pinch more radical, with more valve overlap and greater duration from Crane. Finally, we fit the 428 with an MSD ignition system and a 6A box for maximum ignition performance. These are all simple bolt-on modifications that will make a difference.

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