At the heart of most great automobiles, lies a great engine. The two simply go together like bread and butter-neither being complete on their own, but perfectly complementing each other when offered in tandem. It could even be said that a beautiful body which lacks a compelling powerplant is easily doomed, while conversely, the right engine can turn a turd into legend-witness certain Chrysler Max Wedge and Hemi cars. Ford has a rich history of building quality V-8 engines, most of which have a high-performance variant that left a mark on history-or at least on a group of enthusiasts who call it their own. Here, we present 10 of them; what we believe to arguably be the most significant production V-8s in Ford history.
Probably more than any other manufacturer, the sheer variety of Ford V-8s produced over the last 78 years can make your head spin. Take 1970 for example. In addition to the FE big-block that was still available in ponycars and trucks, Ford had the 2-year-old 385-series big-blocks (429 and 460) for its intermediate/fullsize offerings, not to mention two distinct small-block lineups-the Windsor, and the new Cleveland. Factor in two different deck heights for the Windsor series (302 and 351), along with an engine that combined parts from both lineages (Boss 302), and the lineup could be deemed downright confusing. But never fear, this is all just part of the Ford fanatics' lot in life-you learn about each engine's attributes, choose the one that works for you, and end up realizing it's not as complicated as it may seem.
As we reviewed some of the players that could be considered for this story, some were decidedly evident. Others were more difficult to call, so we asked ourselves "what makes a great Ford V-8?" It's certainly not just which engines make the most power, though output is a legitimate consideration. Some of the following also ended up in our criteria. "Was it a 'production' engine?" While we debated including pure racing engines such as the revolutionary '64 DOHC Indy effort, we decided to limit our discussion to engines actually installed in mass-produced cars-and in volume such as would be available through most Ford or Mercury dealerships. Other questions we asked included the subjective "Was it truly significant?" "Did it change the 'rules' of the game?" "Is there a notable racing history?" We didn't consciously place a given value on each question; rather we came to realize that engines in the running would answer yes to some, or possibly even all. Now it's time to sit back and see how our list jives with yours-and do recognize there are differences that might be found in a "10 favorites" list, as opposed to this "10 most significant" story. There is no ranking from 1 to 10; rather the order is simply chronological.
A fat-fendered '47 creates...
A fat-fendered '47 creates difficulty in getting a good view of a modified flathead's true beauty, but here you can see most of the eye candy that continues to make Ford's first mass produced V-8 a winner. The Edelbrock heads, a high-rise intake, and dual carbs are readily apparent, but the 4.25-inch crank and healthy camshaft are completely hidden.
It's hard to imagine how revolutionary the flathead V-8 was when first introduced in 1932. In one single blow, Ford had created the first mass-produced V-8, and the powerplant that would power a generation of racers and rodders. Though initially sporting just 65 horsepower, a high-performance aftermarket quickly sprang up in support of the "flattie," eventually developing a huge variety of performance parts that was essentially the beginning of the aftermarket speed industry we know today. You name it, and the speed parts were there; carbs, intakes, camshafts, headers, and cylinder heads-even the Ardun overhead-valve Hemi heads by none other than Zora Arkus-Duntov-later of Corvette fame.