Introducing EngineLabs

Introducing EngineLabs’ Retro 5.0 Small-Block Ford Project

If you follow our Instagram page, you saw this engine as soon as we got it into our hands back in November of 2020. It’s no secret that your editor has his roots in Ford Performance, so it only stands to reason that we would have a traditional small-block Ford project sooner or later. Well, after a year of sourcing parts in one of the craziest supply shortages in history, we are happy to finally announce project Retro 5.0.

The 5.0 H.O. Engine

This project’s core 5.0 H.O. engine came out of a low-mileage 1993 Ford Thunderbird in a sweet Facebook Marketplace deal. That means it came with E7 heads, an SN-95-style low-profile intake manifold, and something we are really excited about — the “Cobra” cam. In reality, the ‘93 Cobra had the T-bird cam with 1.7:1 ratio rockers instead of the standard 1.6s, but that’s simply a chicken and egg situation, and it sounds so much cooler to say it has a Cobra cam.

Retro 5.0 engine

Out of a low-mile 1993 Thunderbird, this Windsor engine was exactly what we were looking for. We scored it from Facebook Marketplace and once torn down, it confirmed that it hadn’t lived a hard life in the slightest.

When we first tore the engine down, the low-mileage claims appeared to be true, as the bearings looked good enough to reuse (until one of your author’s friends sent a few flying across the shop in a minor mishap) and the bores were stock diameter and still had crosshatching visible. However, our plan doesn’t involve reusing old junkyard parts. BUT, it doesn’t involve throwing a bunch of wild parts at it either. At least not at first.

Retro 5.0 pistons

Rather than dealing with the stock pistons, we decided to use a set of Icon forged slugs right out of the gate. These flat-tops will bump compression a little bit, but that’s ok, as it will all be accounted for in the baseline.

The Project Plan

Ok, so the fun part. The plan is to rebuild the engine into a very stockish configuration, with a few concessions to reliability down the road. Initially, the engine will be getting some Clevite H-series coated rod and main bearings, a set of forged ICON pistons, and all-new fresh MAHLE gaskets. We’ll be using all-new OEM-replacement valvetrain components from Melling, and have even sourced an original Foxbody intake manifold from eBay (that is currently a shade of faded yellow, that looks like someone’s failed attempt at matching Tropical Yellow).

Retro 5.0 GT40P heads

One of the first tests we’re planning on doing is one that was king back in the day – a set of Explorer GT40P cylinder heads and intake. We already rebuilt the heads with all-new goodies from EnginePro in a previous article.

So for the first round of tests, we’ll baseline the engine in its nearly stock configuration. Then, we are planning to relive the late-model Mustang performance craze of the late-‘80s and ‘90s, but with a twist. In addition to recreating many of the old-school tests that your author remembers reading about back in the day, we’ll be adding in new technology as well to see how far we’ve come in the past 25-plus years.

If it all works out as we’re hoping, we will be able to directly test quite a few period-correct parts against their modern counterparts. So, make sure to keep your eyes peeled, as Retro 5.0 is ready to go back together in the coming weeks, and we’ll be bringing you updates on this totally righteous project not only in the magazine itself, but on our various social media channels as well.

Stay rad!

The Icon forged pistons came in significantly lighter than the OEM slugs, requiring a rebalance. The engine's rotating assembly is back from the balance shop and we're ready to start assembling the baseline configuration. Quick tip — a Coleman cooler makes a great parts caddy (crankshaft, cylinder heads, whatever) when you have an S550 as your parts hauler.

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About the author

Greg Acosta

Greg has spent seventeen 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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