Jim Smart
July 25, 2006
Contributers: Bob Moore

Imagine being able to make 680 hp and 530 lb-ft of torque from a low-deck 289/302ci block. Most people would say this is impossible, but MPG Head Service and CamResearch in Englewood, Colorado, did it, in cooperation with Primedia's Popular Hot Rodding magazine, at the '06 Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge, held at Bill Mitchell's Hard Core Racing on Long Island, New York. Think of the Engine Masters Challenge as dyno racing with a twist. It isn't just about who can make the most power, but how you make that power in order to become "World Champion Engine Builder.

The Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge is an arena for the best engine builders in North America. It isn't easy. Mandatory displacement is 410 ci, and the engine must run on 92-octane fuel through 3-inch pipes and mufflers. Competition is divided into three groups for the first round of dyno racing. The top two engines from each qualifying round move on to final competition. With a score of 993.90, MPG Head Service came in Fifth in the Top Six from a field of 50 top-drawer participants from around the country. First Place, which went to Jon Kaase Racing, netted a score of 1,043.20.

This is the Dart cast-iron 8.2-inch low-deck block (PN 313847) with four-bolt main caps, a priority main oiling system, and siamesed cylinder bores. This block is based on the old Boss 302 with an 8.2-inch deck, 4-inch bores, and 2.249-inch main journals. The block is sonic-checked and treated to a 0.250-inch overbore (that's 1/4 inch!), bringing bore size to a whopping 4.250 inches. With a stock bore spacing of 4.380 inches, this leaves a scant 0.130 inch between cylinders. But not to worry, Chevrolet buffs have been doing this with big-blocks for years.

It wasn't easy for MPG to enter a Cleveland-head, 302-based engine in this competition. Remember, the mandate was 410 ci. How do you stuff 409-410ci into a 289/302 block? We're going to tell you. Because MPG wanted to remain loyal to its mainstream 302-inch customer base, it was determined to build something based on this engine instead of the 351C or 351W. MPG contacted the rules committee and told them what it wanted to do. Remarkably, the committee agreed, and MPG went to work.

Just about any savvy engine builder can throw together something that can make {{{600}}} hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. The greatest challenge is where and how you make that power. Where do horsepower and torque begin and end? How useful is your power on the street? If power happens only at 6,000 rpm, your engine isn't very useful on the street, let alone the track. For an engine to be truly competitive, power needs to happen and last across most of the engine's operating range. This means useful power from 2,500 to 6,500 rpm.

Meet Scott Main of MPG Head Service and CamResearch. Three and one-half decades ago, $50 a month bought a lot of car. With lawn mowing and paper-route money, 14 year-old Scott bought his first car-a '69 Super Cobra Jet Mach 1 with the Drag Pack option. Even before he could get a driver's license in the state of Colorado, this relentlessly determined kid would talk to anyone who would listen into driving him to the racetrack in order to compete at the drags. That gut determination paid off when he won NHRA's World Championship in 1978.

Shortly after accomplishing such an incredible feat, Scott opened MPG Head Service and CamResearch, taking his passion and channeling it with specialty parts for {{{Ford}}} V-8s such as made-to-order intake manifolds, heads, and more. CamResearch was his avenue for custom-ground cams and valvetrain components for most Ford and {{{Chevrolet}}} applications. Scott has several patents to his credit, which means he's always thinking of new ways to make or improve performance. Suffice it to say we're not surprised he did so well at the Engine Masters Challenge.

The MPG/CamResearch Ford small-block seen here doesn't use a factory block, but it employs the same deck height, bore spacing, and oil-pan rails as the 289/302ci Ford. What's more, it will fit into just about any Ford you can think of. At first glance, it looks like an aluminum-head small-block Ford with some fancy bolt-ons. Closer scrutiny reveals a motive to Scott's madness, and insight into how productive power is made.