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FORDMUSCLE.com


Project FE is dead. Finished. It's over. It all ended fairly dramatically, with a huge puff of white smoke, a few weekends ago during a test and tune session. We had the '69 Mach one at the track to see if we could improve on the 11.39 ET with a 850 cfm carburetor. Victor made a few passes with the carb, and after seeing it no improvement, we swapped back to the 750cfm unit. The car was running fine, no problems whatsoever. But the very next pass, at some point near the eighth mile, we lost sight of the car and the rest of the track in a huge plume of white smoke. It's a shame we didn't get a picture of the smoke cloud, because it truly eclipsed the half end of the track. It wasn't until a few minutes later that we could see the Mach 1 coast on to the return road.

The rest of us knew immediately the car wasn't going to make it back to the pits on its own power. We loaded into a couple cars and drove out to where the red mustang was sitting. As we pulled up, like coroners to a crime scene, we could see the dreaded "blood" of the vehicle oozing out from under the car... the slick, dark mixture of antifreeze and oil that surely signifies death for a motor.

As we circled around the fallen horse, we started yelling out the findings.... holes in the pan.... missing chunks of block... broken rod. Victor explained that everything was going fine down the track, then before he could think about reacting, there was a harsh noise, and the back end started to slide. He knew something had broke and oil or water was getting under the rear tires. Smartly, he didn't attempt to brake, but rather held the wheel straight and allowed the car to coast down until it was safe to steer.

We pushed the car on to the trailer and headed home with the terminally wounded FE and fortunately no more than damaged spirits ourselves. On the way out one of the track workers told us they found about 80% of an Eagle Rod and a piece of broken cam on the track! Ouch.

The next day Victor performed the autopsy. It's important to know what caused the failure, so we can think about ways to prevent it in a future buildup. The damage internally was far more severe than we could have imagined. The Eagle forged steel rods were twisted, snapped, and bent like paper clips in the hands of a nervous secretary. Sections of the block skirt had broken off on both sides, with a four-inch long chunk still attached to the oil pan. The cam was snapped in three pieces, and lifters were in places they never should be. One of the pistons had been forced through the side of the cylinder bore.

Images of Destruction
A piece of block pan-rail still attached to the pan. Number 5 piston is forced through the cylinder bore wall.
The oil pan shows tell-tale signs of rod breakage. All but three of the steel rods were mangled beyond belief. One of them was left on the track!
(By the way, the rust obviously is flash rust from leaving the block outside the past few days.)
It's funny how weak an iron block looks when it's broken! We suspect the cause of the failure was this rod bearing and journal, which was the only one scored and displaying a overheated look.

So what gave? Surprisingly the one component unscathed in the demolition was the crank. All of the studs were in place, and besides the scars on the counterweights, the actual bearing journals had not been mangled from the flying and thrashing rods. After removing all the rod caps, it became apparent where the problem started. The number seven rod journal and bearing were black and blue, and showed signs of oil starvation and overheating. Eventually that bearing failed, and most likely started to seize and get very hot. The end result was one rod breaking and creating a highly destructive domino effect. When and why did the failure begin? It's hard to pinpoint exactly when, since there was no signs before hand. Oil pressure had not changed since break-in, the engine made no odd sounds or knocks. In fact the engine had only been running stronger and faster since day one. Of course we had the camshaft failure, and there is always going to speculation as to what, if any, effects it had on this engine failing the way it did. We're not ruling it out, but realistically if their were any aftereffects from the cam failure, we think they would have surfaced immediately after we put in the replacement cam and fired it back up. Should we have made oiling modifications when we built the motor? Maybe... but hindsight is always 20-20, and we're still proud that we got the FE 428 within a few tenths of running 10's.

So what's next? We contemplated a variety of different projects to replace the fallen FE, but after all the discussions were over, Victor decided it was best to comeback bigger, better, faster, and stronger! Take a look.....

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