Dale Amy
December 17, 2013

In these days of we-sell-everything big-box stores, Survival Motorsports is a rare, true specialist dedicated to the survival and enhancement of Ford's vintage FE series of big-blocks—that wide-ranging family of powerplants most notable for its 390, 427, and 428 cubic-inch variants which spearheaded Blue Oval street and track assaults during FoMoCo's Total Performance years. Though the FE lineup has been out of factory production for decades, Survival Motorsports' boss, Barry Rabotnick, is so committed to its continued improvement that he recently invested mass quantities of time and cash to design, engineer, and produce a brand-new high-performance aluminum FE cylinder head. Barry calls it the FElony head.

This is just the latest chapter in Survival Motorsports' ongoing FE muscle-building program. A few years back, Rabotnick developed a cost-effective stroker kit to turn readily available, run-of-the-mill 360 or 390 FE workhorses into 445-inch stallions. FE fans took big notice. Naturally, it didn't take much dyno testing to confirm that the handicap of those common old passenger-car or truck FEs was their restrictive (and heavy) factory cylinder head design. As the horsepower wars of the 1960s raged on, Ford developed better flowing medium-rise and high-rise head castings for 427 and Cobra Jet applications, but these, too, have their limitations and are becoming ever harder to find and more pricey. Plus, they were all made of cast-iron, handicapped by being production-based, and conceived over a half-century ago.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

In the aftermarket, both Edelbrock and Blue Thunder currently make aluminum FE heads. Rabotnick reports that each is excellent for its intended purpose, and he utilizes and endorses both in his shop. But for large-displacement, high-performance street applications, he concluded there was need for a modern head to fill the performance gap between the cost-effective Edelbrock offering and the more race-oriented Blue Thunder variants.

His resulting FElony heads are externally of the same configuration as existing medium-rise castings—meaning they work with typical FE intake and exhaust manifolds, and valvetrain components—yet have the advantages of modern combustion chamber design, optimized ports, and even coolant passage revisions.

Survival Motorsports offers the FElony head in either as-cast form, or assembled to suit customer specifications.

So, What's To Be Gained From a FElony?

Obviously, better flowing heads are capable of supporting more horsepower, and the FElony head is primarily targeted for big-cube applications in the 500- to 600-hp range. But the FElony can also contribute to improved engine civility for street-driven cars or trucks. To be specific, Barry is finding that with these heads he can now utilize a less aggressive camshaft to achieve a given level of power. For example, he used to figure on a pretty gnarly cam of around 0.594-inch lift and 234-degree duration to see about 500 ponies out of one of his 445-inch strokers. He now derives the same power level out of a much more street-friendly bumpstick with specs of 0.563 lift and 224 degree duration. Using less spark timing, too.

Barry also finds these heads can help keep overall costs down. He recently built a 427-based, 482-cube stroker that generated 604 hp using un-ported, out-of-the-box FElony heads. He reports that to do so with other factory or aftermarket FE heads would have required labor-intensive—and expensive—aggressive porting.

Who says FElony doesn't pay?