Typically when you see engine build-up projects in magazine,
they are aiming for one thing -performance. And up until
now, we've been just as guilty as the others, by focussing
all of our projects towards a goal of running some set
ET or making 'x' amount of horsepower.
Well we realize that many of our readers have other,
perhaps more important, criteria when it comes to building
or rebuilding their engines. What could be more important
then sheer horsepower you ask? Well reliability, fuel
economy, and the ability to pass emissions testing are
a few examples.
Many of you may own Fords that serve double duty, as
daily drivers and weekend warriors. Perhaps your 5.0L
Falcon wagon hauls the kids to school in the morning,
and then hits the Thursday night bracket races. Whatever
the case may be, we decided to take the challenge and
see if we could build the all-around perfect motor.
We choose a 5.0L fuel-injected powerplant as the test
case simply because it offers more complexity, in terms
of rebuilding and proper parts selection, compared to
a carbed engine. It also happens to be the engine in
our '88 Mustang LX project vehicle -which has been burning
more oil than a Iraqi oil field. (More on this later.)
So here is what we set for our goals with this project,
at the end of this series of articles we'll come back
to these and evaluate how we fared:
- Reliability: Daily driver, 100,000 mile capable
- Economy: 20 mpg (freeway) or greater
- Performance: 260-275 RWHP, Mid-High 12's
on sticky tires, full weight '88LX
- Streetabilty: Near stock "feel and manners",
must pass California emmissions
So settle in and get ready to take some notes. In typical
FORDMUSCLE fashion, we're going to get into every detail
regarding building up a 5.0L EFI motor.
To rebuild or not to rebuild?
First off, you've got two options when it comes to the
short block. You can have a machine shop do the basic
block work, then assemble the rotating assembly yourself.
Or, purchase a ready-to-go new or rebuilt shortblock.
While we are big fans of do-it-yourself assembly, let's
face it, for an engine that needs to get you to and
from work or school, everyday, you probably want a professional
to put it together- even if for the sole reason that
you need someone to blame and yell at if the thing blows
So for this project we opted to go with a pre-assembled
shortblock. Due to the large number of production vehicles
that utilized the 5.0L engine, availability is no problem.
You've got the choice of pulling your engine and rebuilding
it, however this would mean some downtime for the vehicle,
something we could not afford with our sole mode of
transportation. You also could find a local engine rebuilder
and buy a rebuilt 5.0L, and once the swap is done, take
the old motor back for a core deposit refund. Another
option is to buy a brand new production 5.0L shortblock
from Ford Racing. (You can also buy a new longblock,
but we won't get into that here, since we have specific
plans for the top end of the motor -details in part
Ford Production 5.0L Shortblock
(M-6009-B50) We decided not to go with this new
So which option is best?
We spent a great deal of time comparing and contrasting
a rebuild versus the new Ford production short block.
While initially it may seem obvious that the new FRPP
5.0L shortblock (M6009B50) from Ford is the best bet,
we found that there were several reasons not to go this
route. First and foremost is cost. A new production
5.0L shortblock (meaning an assembled new block with
new crank, rods, pistons, rings, bearings, cam and timing
chain) costs $1299 from most large Ford Racing dealers.
Add in $150 for freight, and you are at about $1450.
Of course you could by it from a local dealer and avoid
freight, but then the tax hits you...so it's a wash
However there is more to why we didn't select the new
5.0L option. Upon further research, we found that many
dealers are mis-advertising this shortblock as a "Cobra"
shortblock. (Look at any of the ads in the print mags,
you'll see the above part number listed as a "Cobra"
shortblock.) This makes no sense. The Cobra shortblock
has not been in production since 1995, the last year
of the 5.0L Cobra Mustang. The only 5.0L engines in
production over the past 5 years has been the Explorer
engine. So what this means is your shortblock comes
with an Explorer timing belt and gears and low-duration
camshaft. These are not huge issues, especially since
we'd be replacing the cam anyway, nevertheless it was
a negative in our book.
Perhaps the strongest temptation for going with the
FRPP shortblock would be reliability. Ford 5.0's are
built rugged, and can easily run up to 150,000 without
a glitch. However, as we saw with our Project 460, you
can always get a dud that breaks on the first trip around
the block. This brings us to our final point - we don't
like the idea of having to ship a block back across
the country (assuming you don't live in Dearborn) in
order to have a warranty repair. (By the way, Ford Racing
offers no warranty on their engines - another point
to consider.) It's much easier in our opinon to deal
with a local machine shop that built the engine. Besides,
most will offer some sort of warranty, such as thirty-days
after installation or similar.
When it comes to having a short-block rebuilt, you can
spend as little as $600 (ala the national autoparts
chains) or in the several thousands or dollars, as you've
seen advertise in the major magazines. Naturally a good
deal of the cost is due to the quality of parts being
used, but also to the attention to detail. While the
$600 Kragan engines seem like a steal, we've found assembly
to be shoddy and their overall life expectancy is short.
Due to the nature of our project, we're going to focus
on the middle-ground - the local rebuild and exhange
shops. An engine rebuild and exhange shop is one that
builds engines day-in and day-out. They are typically
not performance oriented, but rather production oriented,
and probably supply engines, import and domestic, to
most of the repair shops in their local area. We feel
that for a stock, or close to stock, short block, these
shops offer a great value with a high level of quality,
and typically with a warranty.
Having a engine rebuilder put together a short block
for you offers many advantages. As we mentioned above,
the biggest advantage is that they are local. Most rebuilders
offer some sort of warranty, so if there is a problem,
you don't have to travel far, or make a bunch of long
distance calls, to get the problem solved. However don't
be lulled into thinking this simply requires writing
a check and hauling the motor home. If you want a shortblock
done correctly, you need to be on top of every little
detail regarding the machine work and parts, otherwise
the shop will build the engine according to their standard
practice. We ran into some classic problems with our
rebuilder, and fortunately they were willing to resolve
everything without much of a hassle.
First and foremost, find a reputable shop to do the
work. Talk to fellow enthusiasts in your area (the local
drag strip is a great place for references, as are local
clubs), and always visit the shop to talk to a builder
or owner. As you all know, a dirty and unorganized m
shop, or a machinist that doesn't seem to listen to
your requests, is sign to go elsewhere
We went with Diablo Engine (located in Dublin, CA) a
local engine rebuild and exchange shop that has a good
reputation, knowledgable staff, and more importantly
we've had a engine built by them before. They quoted
us $795 for a rebuilt 5.0L roller short block, with
exchange of our old engine. This may sound like a great
price, but read on...you'll find out just how many cost
cutting measures are involved in a production rebuild.