Engine Performance Upgrade - X Marks The Spot, Part 1
Ford Racing’s X302 crate engine is the perfect starting point for a fresh performance upgrade
From the September, 2011 issue of Modified Mustangs & Fords
By Mark Houlahan
Photography by By The Author
In today's day of six-speed automatic transmissions, fuel injection, and power everything, it's easy to be intimidated by traffic on a major highway when you're trying to get up to speed in your classic Ford with a carbureted 289 small-block backed by a C4 three-speed automatic. We know dozens of people who have, over the last five years or so, taken their classic Fords to fewer events and stayed closer to home, using surface streets to get to their cruise night destination. Many more have moved to a late-model Mustang for a fun cruiser and their classic Mustang or Ford now sits, rarely used, in their garage. That's not what we want to hear. We want to hear about how much fun our readers are having taking their classic cars out; getting thumbs up on the highway and being asked questions at the gas pumps when filling up. That's why many of us want to drive our classics in the first place, right?
The phrase "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" comes to mind here. Meaning, why not build or upgrade your classic Ford with some modern drivetrain features to keep up with today's traffic? Got a tired small-block under the hood? Then yank that engine and give it a well-deserved retirement. A modern, aluminum-headed small-block (or even a stroker engine if you have the budget) topped off with an EFI system will give your Pony or classic Ford the pep it needs to merge with today's traffic. Back it with an overdrive transmission, upgrade to power disc brakes, and a few other goodies and you'll want to take your classic Ford everywhere!
This was exactly the case with our good friend, Merv Rego, who owns Classic Creations of Central Florida along with his wife, Pat. Merv's '65 Falcon Ranchero benefitted from a fresh paintjob about 10 years back with some custom touches, and a new interior was fitted. Unfortunately, as clean as the 'Chero looked on the outside, its 200,000-mile 289, wearing nothing more than a modified set of Mustang Tri-Y headers, was more than tired. Between the wheezing engine and stock C4 automatic trans, the Falcon-based ute was far from highway worthy, relegating it to local shows and the rare hour-plus ride to Ocala for the Silver Springs Ford & Mustang Roundup.
To remedy the situation and make the '65 into a "hop in and go anywhere" classic Ford, Merv had slowly amassed parts, including an AOD four-speed overdrive automatic trans, front disc brakes, a power brake booster conversion, and a power steering conversion. The last piece of the puzzle was a new engine to mate to the AOD.
Ford Racing's X302 small-block crate engine ended up being the perfect solution for this build. Ford's newest small-block crate offering provides good power with all new parts built by one of Ford's top engine remanufacturers using a production block/crank and tested by Ford to pass all OE durability tests. The X302 features a late-model cast crank with 50-ounce balance, forged Mahle pistons, forged OE connecting rods, a Ford Racing E303 hydraulic roller cam, Ford Racing GT-40 aluminum cylinder heads, roller rockers, and more. It comes fully assembled with a 12-month/12,000-mile warranty. Best of all, the X302 is as close as your nearest Ford dealer.
Rated at 340 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, the Ford Racing X302 will move this Falcon Ranchero with ease, especially since we plan to top off the X302 with a Ford Racing EFI harness and Summit Racing/Trick Flow induction hardware to help the X302 return great modern-like driveability and fuel economy. In Part 1 this month, we're going to tackle the removal of the old drivetrain, spruce up the engine bay a little bit, and look at some of the X302's hardware. In Part 2, we'll prep and install our new crate engine, wire up our fuel injection, and plumb our EFI-spec fuel system. Hang on; it's going to be a fun ride when the dust settles around this Ranchero buildup.
1 As noted in the opening...
1 As noted in the opening text, this ’65 Ranchero gets its power from a 289 2-V small-block that had seen more than 200,000 miles before it was even swapped into the Ranchero, replacing the original inline six and three-speed, column-shift setup. The 289 is stock except for a set of Tri-Y headers.
2 Since our plan was to...
2 Since our plan was to give the engine compartment a fresh start as well, everything in the engine bay had to go—wiring, brackets, and so forth—so we could paint the engine bay body color. First up was the owner-installed Monte Carlo bar.
3 We found this nice cooling...
3 We found this nice cooling system disaster when removing the upper hose at the thermostat housing. The Ranchero wasn’t running a thermostat, so the engine was running too cool, plus the engine’s cooling was almost straight water.
Inside The Ford Racing X302 Crate Engine
The Ford X302 crate engine offering came about last year as a solution to offer a budget-friendly catalog offering directly from Ford. With Ford switching over to modular engines completely (the last Ford pushrod small-block was installed in the ’01 Explorer 10 years ago), there have been no new block castings available for a production-type crate engine. Sure, Ford Racing had its Sportsman block, and now the Boss 302 block for its beefier higher-horsepower capable crate engines, but some people wanted a simple and basic engine to power their street rods, kit cars, and classic muscle. Ford Racing, which has worked with numerous engine builders and rebuilders in the past for various catalog offerings, put together a plan to build a budget-friendly package using a reconditioned block and crankshaft with new production connecting rods, Mahle pistons, a Ford Racing performance camshaft, and aluminum heads that would pass all of Ford Racing’s stringent testing and be able to offer a 12/12K warranty to boot. Let’s take a quick peek inside this 340hp small-block for more details.
Ford Racing’s E303 roller...
Ford Racing’s E303 roller camshaft is a bestselling grind and has been used in countless 5.0L Mustang builds over the years. The E303 offers great low-end torque, along with good driveability and just enough lumpity-lump to sound cool in anything it’s installed in.
The reconditioned crank swings...
The reconditioned crank swings a set of stock forged rods from Ford Racing. These rods feature a stock I-beam configuration with 5⁄16-inch bolts and a stock 5.090-inch length. Don’t be fooled by the word stock, though, as these babies have been known to handle great amounts of power without issue. On the ends of these rods hang a full set of forged Mahle pistons.
The icing on the cake are...
The icing on the cake are the aluminum GT-40X Turbo Swirl cylinder heads. The M-6049-X306 aluminum heads are cast from 356 T-6 aluminum and flow 240 cfm on the intake side and 170 cfm on the exhaust, both measured at 0.500-inch of lift. Features of the X306 include 1.94/1.54-inch valves, bronze valve guides, thick fire decks, and a weight savings of 50 pounds over stock iron heads.
Ford Racing Crate Engine Specs
||Reconditioned production 5.0L roller block
||X306 GT-40X, 64cc, 9:1cr
||E303 Hydraulic Roller
||Cast 3.00-inch stroke, 50 oz. imbalance
||Forged I-beam, 5.090-inch
||Lightweight forged, 4.030-inch
||Production double-sump “Fox” Mustang
||Standard or reverse rotation (V-belt pulley or serpentine)
4 While a new aluminum radiator...
4 While a new aluminum radiator and electric cooling fan are on the upgrade list, there’s no need to purposely ruin the stock radiator during removal. Find yourself a piece of cardboard or a foam pad or something to place in front of the core during removal of the fan and pulleys.
5 Once the fan was out of...
5 Once the fan was out of the way, the radiator got the heave-ho as well.
6 Under the car, the header...
6 Under the car, the header connections are unbolted, the driveshaft removed, and the engine is supported with a floor jack so that the transmission crossmember can be removed as well.
7 All that’s left are the...
7 All that’s left are the engine-mount fasteners and the engine and trans combo is ready to be extracted. With the help of employee Levi Kelly, Merv mans the engine hoist and the engine combo clears the core support.
8 With the engine and trans...
8 With the engine and trans out of the way, Merv can continue stripping the engine bay. Shock tower caps are retained just like the early Mustang. These will be painted and new shocks will be installed, too.
9 Levi jumps in and removes...
9 Levi jumps in and removes the well-worn hood hinges. A fresh set of hinges will find its way back in the engine bay after paint, that’s for sure.
10 The Falcon’s wiring had...
10 The Falcon’s wiring had seen better days, and while we’d love to just rip it all out and put in a universal street rod-type harness solution, for now the plan is to simply replace the underhood wiring and clean and rewrap whatever is reused.
11 At this point, the engine...
11 At this point, the engine bay is empty of everything but the brake master cylinder, heater blower and hoses, and the steering gearbox. We need to keep the brakes and steering intact for now, but they’ll be upgraded before the new bullet hits its mounts.
12 Merv opted to paint the...
12 Merv opted to paint the engine bay body color to give the Ranchero’s engine upgrade a little more flair. The battery tray area had a quick patch previously welded in, so now is the time to add a little body filler and make things look good.
13 Just like a regular exterior...
13 Just like a regular exterior paintjob, the end result is very dependent upon the prep work. After a thorough cleaning and sanding, a high-build primer is applied to the whole engine bay.
14 Next comes our favorite...
14 Next comes our favorite pastime—wet sanding. The high-build primer is given the once over with 80-grit paper to prepare it for a final coat of epoxy primer as a seal coat.
15 The epoxy primer used...
15 The epoxy primer used is the same PPG DP-50 epoxy primer we used for our recent paintjob on our Generation Gap fastback project. The DP-50 doesn’t require sanding if top coated within the time limits of the primer’s instruction sheet.
16 Roughly an hour after...
16 Roughly an hour after the DP-50 has been sprayed, we were able to lay in our exterior color—in this case, Blue Pearl Metallic from the Dodge Viper. Danny Gaydos, shown here, handled all of the paintwork underhood over the course of two days so we could quickly get back to our engine swap.
17 The finished engine bay...
17 The finished engine bay is shown here, all clearcoated and dry, ready for us to get back to work spinning the wrenches. While a good portion of the engine bay will be filled with Ford Racing power, we’ll give the major visual spots some wet sanding and buffing for a show finish.
18 Stay tuned for Part 2...
18 Stay tuned for Part 2 of our X302 install where all these goodies find their way into our Ranchero and we put the little sport ute to the test in an upcoming issue.