Jim Smart
March 30, 2007
Photos By: Benton Jackson

Last month, we introduced you to Blair Jennings of Santa Barbara, California ("Eight Barrels-No Waiting," Mar. '06). When Blair started planning his '66 Mustang fastback project car more than five years ago, his vision was to build the ultimate street driver's car-a road racer with streetable qualities. He wasn't thinking about your typical restomod with a fancy stereo system, late-model seats, air conditioning, or plush surroundings. He wanted a real driver's car-doable for the street yet ready to go road racing at a moment's notice. And he wanted more than 600 hp and an equivalent amount of torque. It had to have Weber carburetors and a dry-sump oiling system, and it had to be fast.

When Blair rediscovered a family friend of his from 35 years ago, Marvin McAfee of MCE Engines in Los Angeles, he knew that based on his father's great experiences with Marvin, there was only one guy to build his 427W. Marvin knew exactly who Blair was and invited him to his shop. When Blair arrived with a stillborn 427W in pieces, Marvin knew he had a challenge before him.

Blair spent a fortune amassing parts for his engine. Marvin, however, was certain Blair didn't have the optimum combination of parts. The cam was too radical for street use-sacrificing low- to midrange torque, idle quality, and intake manifold vacuum. Those Weber 48IDA carburetors looked terrific, but they were too much carburetor for what Blair had in mind-a whopping 2,540 cfm with the throttle to wood. Marvin also questioned the need for a dry-sump oiling system when a deep-sump road-race pan would have worked just as well for street and weekend road racing.

Marvin didn't have the heart to suggest Blair sell most of what he had brought in. So, he and the MCE team evaluated Blair's parts and figured out how best to pull it off. Based on Marvin's computer analysis of the parts, MCE had a 600-horse 427W in the making. It was probably more power than Blair needed. The greatest challenge was how to make it tolerable for the street without breaking anything. You see, Blair wanted 600 solid horses and an equivalent amount of torque, but he didn't have a driveline that would take it.

This engine combination requires a clutch capacity of at least 700 lb-ft, accompanied by a well-built {{{Ford}}} Top Loader four-speed, a 9-inch Ford rearend backed up with a pair of heavy-duty Spicer universal joints, and a balanced driveshaft.

So what can we learn from Blair Jennings' 427W experience? We learn how important it is to do your homework before committing to anything. Like us, Blair is a typical Joe Six-Pack kind of guy who ordered parts based on his perception of how to build a car. We have learned the hard way in our car-building efforts how much a bad decision can cost us. This is where Marvin McAfee has the edge called experience. It teaches us what works and what doesn't. It's why MCE Engines generally doesn't build anything unless it has approved all parts. It's a policy born of hard-won experience. So let's address the learning curve of Blair's 427W.