1966 Ford Mustang - Project '66 - Ford 289 Short-Block Buildup Part 1 - Project '66 Engine Build
Just Like a Well-Built House, a Strong-Running, Small-Block Ford Needs a Good Foundation to Build on.
During the course of a restoration, there are hundreds of decisions to be made. Some are made up front before a single wrench is turned, while others are often made on the spur of the moment because of a great deal on a rare option or for personal changes. For Mustang Monthly's Project '66, we knew right up front this hardtop was going to be converted to a V-8 with all the correct and proper accoutrements, such as V-8 suspension, steering, and brakes. Most of the conversion fell into place easily, since these areas needed a complete restoration anyway. Instead of replacing the six-cylinder steering with new six-cylinder steering components, we simply ordered the V-8 parts instead.
The biggest problem in our quest for V-8 power was finding the 289 V-8. We scored a freebie from a fellow club member, only to have the machine shop tell us it was too worn out for another overbore. The second engine we found was a short-block, but it had been sitting so long unprotected, it was rusted up solid.
We were about to give up and order a 302 long-block from a local auto parts store when our savior came in the form of Mustang & Fords Editor Jeff Ford's '66 Ranchero. It had a California-emissions 289 under the hood, backed by a C4 trans. Best of all, Jeff was planning a 351 Windsor swap and didn't need the 289. He wanted to keep the emissions-style cylinder heads for a friend, and he wanted the C4 as well, but we could have the short-block and any pulleys, brackets, and so on.
After pulling the 289, it was disassembled and inspected-lo and behold, the block was usable. We finally had a foundation for a 289 buildup.
With a good block to work with, a plan was hatched. The 289 would receive all the modern technology we could hide inside, but it would look like a stocker on the outside. We made a wish list of modifications, such as a roller-cam conversion, forged pistons with low-friction coatings, Extrude Honed manifolds, CNC ported cylinder heads, and more. With a few calls to Comp Cams, Federal-Mogul, Power Heads, Extrude Hone, and Pony Carburetors, all our ducks were in a row to build one sweet 289.
In this first installment, the short-block is prepped and built by A&S Motorsports' John Douglas. John has been building and racing Ford engines for decades, and he knows how to make power and build a reliable engine. We were more than willing to let him wave his magic torque wrench over our pile of parts.