Building An All-Aluminum, All-Aftermarket, 482-Cube Ford FE Engine

When it comes to Ford Engines, there are some definite icons in the engine world. One of those icons is the Ford FE engine. The “Ford-Edsel” engine is unique in that it’s not a small-block and it’s not a big-block. Instead, it’s been referred to as a “medium-block” that replaced the Y-block and was eventually replaced by what we now refer to as the big-block Ford.

Best known as the 427 cubic-inch engine which powered the MkIII Shelby Cobra, the GT-40, numerous competition-variants of Ford vehicles, and was the basis of the SOHC 427 Cammer engine designed for NASCAR competition, as well as the 428 Cobra Jet and Super Cobra Jet engines.

That said, it’s no wonder that they enjoy a healthy aftermarket. While not as varied or widely available as the small-block Windsor or big-block Ford aftermarket, it is still possible to build a brand-new FE motor without a single factory part in the engine, as Prestige Motorsports proves with this 482 cubic-inch, all-aluminum FE build, as documented by Jeff Huneycutt of Horsepower Monster.

Out of production since 1976, but still enjoying a healthy aftermarket, the Ford FE engine is a unique beast which occupies a rightful place in the history books.

Building Blocks

It’s saying something that there are new aftermarket parts still being built for an engine which hasn’t been in production for approaching half a century and only had an 18 year production run. The basis of this build comes from a Carroll Shelby Engine Company aluminum FE block cast from virgin T356-T6 aluminum. With a revised priority-main oiling system and added reinforcing webs, the block is not only 45-percent lighter than a factory iron block, but also stronger as well.

With a maximum bore of 4.375 inches, and coming pre-clearanced for up to a 4.375-inch stroke, the block can handle up to 526 cubes of displacement. Although for this project, the bore was only punched out to 4.250 inches. Another unique feature of the Shelby block is the main caps. Unlike the usual billet-steel main caps, the Shelby block features billet 7075 aluminum main caps, which will allow for a more even expansion at operating temperatures.

The aluminum foundation for this FE is cast for A356 aluminum by the Carroll Shelby Engine Company. This block is both stronger and significantly lighter than the original iron block, tipping the scales at approximately 125 pounds.

Sealed Power main bearings cradle a forged-steel 4.250-inch stroke crankshaft. While the crankshaft uses a standard FE main-journal diameter, it uses the standard 2.200-inch BBC rod journal diameter which is smaller than the 2.438-inch FE standard rod journal size. Not only does that open up connecting rod selection, it also reduces rod bearing speed.

For connecting rods, the team at Prestige went with a set of 6.700-inch Eagle big-block Chevy forged H-beam rods. With a .990-inch wrist pin and 7/16-inch ARP2000 rod bolt upgrade, these rods are rated to 1,300 horsepower by Eagle. Hanging off those rods are a set of custom 4.250-inch-diameter pistons from JE Pistons.

Designed with a 25cc inverted dome, the custom aluminum slugs keep compression in the realm of “pump-gas friendly”, allowing for a 10.8:1compression. Since this engine isn’t intended to be a monster, a standard JE ring piston set is used, with standard ring gaps.

The custom 4.250-inch JE pistons have a 25cc inverted dome to bring compression into a pump-gas friendly 10.8:1. The rods are 6.700-inch big-block Chevy forged H-beams from Eagle, with an ARP2000 bolt upgrade, rated at 1,300 horsepower.

For the heart of the engine, Prestige went with a solid-roller camshaft from Howards Cams, measuring .589 inch of lift at the valve on both the intake and exhaust, and 244 degrees of duration, at .050, on both the intake and exhaust, with a 110-degree lobe-separation angle. Keeping the cam in-time is a billet-steel double roller timing set, covered by a Shelby cast-aluminum timing cover, with an Innovators West harmonic damper installed.

Sealing up the bottom end is an Aviaid fabricated road-race oil pan, which has extra width and lots of oil-control baffles, in order to increase capacity without adding excess height — a consideration especially important considering it’s going in a replica Cobra and won’t have tons of ground clearance. Additionally, the pan features a perforated-style windage tray to help prevent excess oil on the crank, and is fed by a Melling M57 high-volume oil pump. 0.062-inch oil restrictors are installed in each bank of cylinders to increase oil pressure around the cam journals.

The oil pan is a fabricated unit from Aviaid, built to handle acceleration, braking, and lateral G-forces, as well as have an increased capacity without losing any ground clearance. In addition to controlling the oil supply, the perforated windage tray helps minimize horsepower-robbing oil-splash on the crankshaft.

All-Aftermarket Top-End

Topping off the Aluminum FE short-block are a set of Edelbrock Performer RPM as-cast aluminum cylinder heads with a 170cc intake runner, stainless-steel 2.09-inch intake and 1.660-inch exhaust valves with a three-angle valvejob out if the box. These heads have been decked to reduce the factory 72cc combustion chambers to 69cc

For the valvetrain a set of Howards Cams’ solid roller tie-bar lifters ride on the cam and actuate a set of 3/8-inch hardened steel .080-inch wall-thickness pushrods. The factory shaft rocker system has been replaced by a Harland Sharp 1.76:1 aluminum-rocker-arm version which oils through the pushrod, instead of the factory rocker shaft oiling configuration. Additionally, to account for the altered valve locations on the Edelbrock heads, there are shims added to the rocker shaft to accurately locate the rocker arms.

The cylinder heads used on this build are a pair of Edelbrock Performer RPM aluminum pieces. While the ports are "as-cast" the deck has been milled to reduce the combustion chambers by 3cc, to 59cc volume. A set of Harland Sharp shaft rockers actuate the 2.09-inch intake and 1.66-inch exhaust valves, as well as convert the FE to a more traditional oil-though-the-pushrod configuration.

On top of the heads sits Borla’s intake manifold which looks like the base of a standard individual throttle body intake. However, since each runner still needs cylinder-to-cylinder pressure equalization, and that is accomplished through a hidden plenum in the cover plate, and holes drilled at the base of the runner.

The individual throttle body butterflies measure 48mm each and are controlled by a rotating wheel in the center of the manifold, which controls linkage to all eight butterflies (in groups of two) identically. Engine management comes via a Holley Terminator-X ECU, and the combination runs far better than it ever did in the days of the carburetor.

On the dyno, the combination peaked with 501 horsepower at 5,400 rpm and 573 lb-ft at 4,100 rpm. The average torque throughout the pull was 529 lb-ft, making for a solid powerband for both the street and some spirited jaunts on the road course.

This engine might not be setting any power records, but that was never the goal of the customer. This engine was built as a fun engine for a Cobra replica car. With 501 horsepower, and 573 lb-ft this, there should be plenty of power on tap throughout the RPM range, whether on the street or exiting a corner onto a straightaway.

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About the author

Greg Acosta

Greg has spent fifteen years and counting in automotive publishing, with most of his work having a very technical focus. Always interested in how things work, he enjoys sharing his passion for automotive technology with the reader.
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