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
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.
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