Building a Simple Yet Powerful 1000HP Small Block Ford

1,000 horsepower, 91 octane, and reliability are all words that you normally don’t hear together. But that is exactly what we are going for with our 427 cubic inch small block Ford destined for our ’65 Mustang we call “Biting the Bullitt”. Our goal with the project is to make an engine combination that is simple and easy to work on, while dropping right in between the frame rails of our Mustang. Also, this car is not a trailer queen and we need to be able to drive the car to and from the track with nothing more than a fire suit and helmet in the back seat.

When we purchased the‘65 Mustang, it came with anemic inline six still installed in it. This was obviously not going to propel us to the 9-second quarter mile times that we want to run with the car. For anyone that knows about first generation Mustangs, it isn’t a secret that tolerances are tight when you put in a 351-based engine. In preparation for our 427, we eliminated the shock towers and installed a  TCI Mustang Custom IFS, which really helps open up the engine bay of our Mustang.

In a lot of circumstances, the rest of the car is designed around how much power the engine is going to produce. That’s why in addition to our TCI front suspension, we also went with a fresh 9-inch from Strange Engineering along with a complete rear suspension package from Calvert.  With the rest of the chassis ready to handle the power, we needed an engine that could compliment our Mustang. We were amped when we teamed up with local So Cal badasses QMP Racing to help us build and dyno our engine.

A Look at the Components

The goal of our engine build was to create something that any person could purchase off the shelf, and not require a horde of custom-made, one off parts. There are a few pieces that we wanted to go slightly overkill with to ensure that this engine would be completely streetable; while Dart’s Sportsman block would have done the job, we opted for their Iron Eagle mainly because we wanted the additional support of having full four bolt main caps on all five caps.

For the valvetrain and induction, we again wanted to keep things simple. While going with solid lifters would have made this engine capable of revving well over 7,000 rpm, our power calculations were 1,000 horsepower in the low 6,000 rpm range.  Thus, we stuck with a hydraulic roller valvetrain to reduce the need of servicing the engine after every run.

Dart's blocks come very close to finished. QMP performed a final line hone and bore before opening up the lifter bores for the brass bushings. The block was then painted and made its way back to the engine stand where the main studs and cam bearings were installed first.

A blow-through carburetor would be the choice here – to stray away from the complications of installing and tuning an EFI system. Paxton’s Renegade supercharger bracket mounts the supercharger off to the driver’s side and is extremely easy to work on – a pulley and belt change can be performed in a matter of minutes to change our boost level.

As we said before, 1,000 was the horsepower goal, which would help us ensure solid 9-second quarter mile times.  The Mustang doesn’t fit in any specific racing classes since we don’t have a stock-type front suspension, but with the new NMCA West series, we hope to make this a powerful contender in the True Street class.

Short Block

This is the same block that Dan Millen used to support nearly 2,500 hp with in his Super Street Mustang. – Jack McInnis

First and foremost, this engine build couldn’t have happened without help from our friends over at Dart Machinery. We opted for their baddest iron Ford block they offer – their tall deck Iron Eagle.”The Iron Eagle blocks have all the race-style features like dry sump provisions, full four bolt steel main caps on all five caps and oil restrictor previsions,” said Jack McInnis of Dart.  “It has the most built-in customization ability and strength out of all the blocks. This is the same block that Dan Millen used to support nearly 2,500hp with in his Super Street Mustang.”

Dart offers this block in 8.200, 9.200 and 9.500 inch deck heights, though maximum cubes was the goal, we selected the 9.500 deck block in a 4.125 bore. Add in our four inch stroke and alas we had our 427 cubic inches of displacement. Dart recommends a maximum bore of 4.165, though you might not want to go that big if it is a forced induction application. “For someone that doesn’t need all the bells and whistles, the Sportsman block is a really great bargain,” said McInnis. “For example, the Sportsman block still comes with steel main caps, though the first and last caps are two bolts.”

QMP checks the wrist pin bore and fills each piston top to ensure they are in spec...which they were. Also pictured are Total Seal's AP steel rings, which is the baddest rings you can get from Total Seal

Reinforced head bolt bosses are blind tapped to prevent leaks while extra thick decks prevent head gasket leaks. Also the block features Dart’s proven priority main oiling system that feeds the main bearings before being pumped to the cam. This system also promotes better oil pressure and does not need a high pressure pump.

The bottom end comes with large journal, 351 Cleveland mains and splayed billet steel four bolt main caps. Dart also offers billet aluminum main caps as an upgrade.

The rotating assembly starts with Ross Piston’s 4.125, 9:1 dish pistons that are based from a single piece of 2618 billet bar stock that has been heat treated and aged to a T61 condition, just like a fine wine. Again, we selected a set of Ross’ shelf pistons that doesn’t feature and 3D profiling for increased longevity of our street engine build.

They are wrapped with a set of file-fitted Total Seal AP steel rings which are among the flattest, tightest tolerance piston rings available. The pistons and rings were hung on a set of Eagle’s 6.200-inch length, 4340 H-beam connecting rods with ARP 2000 rod bolts. The rods have been surface treated with Eagle’s ESP process that is designed to help shed oil and increase horsepower.

To compliment the pistons and rods, we went with a Eagle 4340 forged, internally balanced, 4-inch stroke crankshaft that also features the ESP finishing process.

Superchargers put additional strain on the crankshaft, so QMP machined a second key in the crank that will be matched with our Innovators West dampener. After the machining, QMP checked the balance on the crank and it was spot on, not needing any additional drilling.

A properly matched oiling system is crucial to an engine’s survival. While we could have loaded up the car with a complete dry system (that is supported by our Dart block), we again wanted to keep things simple by retaining the stock-style wet sump.

The Melling high volume, standard pressure oil pump supplies the additional oil we need to lubricate our Paxton NOVI-2500 supercharger while retaining standard pressure due to Dart’s priority main oil feeding design. The bottom end is covered up with a Canton extra capacity, rear sump oil pan that is perfect for a street/strip application and is secured with ARP fasteners. We chose the baffled rear sump pan to better compliment the suspension design with our TCI Custom IFS.

QMP machined a second key in our crank that was designed for our Innovators West Super Duty dampener. It is an all new design that sports an upgraded blower hub and larger 3/8-inch hub bolts. The hub is even so thick that it includes a new, thinner front main seal.

Video Overview of the Short Block Assembly

Long Block

A high flow cylinder head is paramount when trying to create a lot of horsepower, especially in a forced induction combination. Our cylinder head of choice was the Dart Pro 1 225cc, CNCed cylinder heads.”We first started doing CNC porting on cylinder heads in 1993, starting with Top Fuel HEMI heads,” said McInnis.

They feature full CNCed runners that flow a LOT of air, and a lot meaning 325 CFM on the intake and 235 CFM on the exhaust at .700 lift. The assembled heads come fitted with high quality components, including dual valve springs and titanium retainers, though you can get the heads bare if you have your own combination in mind. “What you are getting is a very good porting job for a very reasonable price,” explained McInnis.  “Custom port jobs are typically associated with very specific type of racing classes, and we give a port job for a wide range of applications that fits a wide spectrum of vehicle applications.”

QMP disassembled the heads to check the spring pressures, filled the combustion chambers to check their volume and flowed them. As you can see, Dart's CNC heads are beautifully crafted and finished before shipping to the customer.

Backing the Dart heads are a set of Crower’s extreme duty, 1.6 ratio, stainless steel shaft mount rockers. You might be thinking, “What’s simple about shaft mount rockers?” Well, Crower’s pieces are designed to work with the stock valvetrain geometry and aren’t anymore complex to install that a traditional stud-type lifter. Overkill when spinning 6,200 rpm? Possibly, but valvetrain deflection will now be the last thing on our mind.

The shaft mount rockers heavily resist flex under load while keeping the rotating weight low onto the valve. The needle bearing tip option further reduces resistance and valve guide wear.

Since our 427 is designed to see a lot street driving, we again turned to Crower for their hydraulic roller tie bar lifters. These lifters feature a redesigned body and bearing for superb longevity. Tying the rocker to the lifter is a Crower one piece 7.600 length push rod. These are beefy 3/8-inch diameter push rods with 5/16-inch ends that fit right up to the rocker and lifter, though we should note, a bit of clearancing was needed to fit in these hefty push rods.

We turned to Crower for our valvetrain components. Their hydraulic roller cam and lifters keep things low maintenance and living up to 6,500 RPM without any problems. The shaft mount rockers are extreme duty applications and can handle much more valvetrain stress than what we are throwing at them.

The Crower custom ground hydraulic roller camshaft features a 260/266 duration at .050, .619 lift and a 114 degree lobe separation. Capping off the heads are a set of Dart’s trick looking, fabricated aluminum valve covers.

A direct line of sight and a port volume large enough to flow the air you need is critical to a boosted application. We selected Edelbrock’s Super Victor intake manifold that features everything we are looking for. To enhance the intake manifold even further, Ford Performance Solutions hand ported our Super Victor for a smoother flow over the casting and boasts an additional 45 CFM of airflow.

For the remaining top and bottom parts we start with a Canton rear sump oil pan that will work perfectly with our TCI Custom IFS front suspension conversion. Innovators West balancer is extremely beefy and comes double keyed, ready to handle 2,000+ hp. Lastly, the devise controlling our air/fuel mixture is AED's 950 CFM blow-through carburetor.

Differences on a Forced Induction Carburetor

Providing the air/fuel mixture to the intake manifold is a AED 950 CFM blow-through carburetor. “Virtually every metering circuit is changed on our blow-through carburetors,” said John Dickey of AED. “Also the carburetor sizing can be reduced since you have a pressurized carburetor by around 10% from what you would need in a naturally aspirated combination.”


AED wet flows and designs their carburetors specific to a customer’s combination so that it performs the best it can right out of the box, on both the street and strip. “Each custom carburetor is wet flowed,” said Dickey.  “We go as far as wet flowing the primaries and secondaries separately.  So if a particular engine combination needs 1300 CFM of airflow to achieve its goal, we will start at around 300 CFM and go up to 650 CFM on each side of the carburetor, and work on the fuel curve accordingly.”

Acting as the glue to hold all our components together are a full line of ARP bolts and studs as well as Fel Pro and Cometic gaskets that were supplied by

Ignition, Supercharger and Accessories

The spark comes from none other than MSD Ignition with their mechanical, billet body, pro race distributor. Accompanying the distributor is a set of MSD 8.5 MM plug wires. This setup will deliver all the power we need to make over 1,000 horsepower! Since we this is a blow-through application, we are relying heavily on MSD’s tried-and-true 7531 ignition box and HVC-II coil. The 7531 will allow us to dial in the ignition timing based of the boost it sees from the three-bar MAP sensor. Additionally, we can use its ignition retard switch wires as a safety measure for our Snow Performance water/methanol kit in case our tank were to run dry.

MSD supplied their race proven 7531 ignition box that will allow us to create an adjustable timing map that will allow us to dial in the Mustang's launch. Holding the entire engine together are none other than ARP fasteners.

For our power adder we turned to Paxton and their all-new NOVI-2500 supercharger. It features a redesigned compressor wheel that allows it to produce over 1300 hp at 30 PSI of boost. “The NOVI-2000 has been a highly successful piece over the years and we knew that by using our current suite of tool and technology, we could improve on its performance, “ said Engineering Manager Mike Reagan. “The impeller wheel and shroud contour was created using CAD and specialized compressor design software. From there we tested and tweaked the NOVI-2500. The NOVI-2000 did not originally have access to these modern compressor design and testing tools.”

The supercharger feeds Paxton’s new PowerHat carburetor hat which has been engineered to distribute air evenly across the top of the carburetor…a common problem with other carburetor bonnets on the market. “We have seen that moving the position of the bonnet within five degrees on any given direction can vary 15-20 horsepower and half the motor running lean with half the motor running rich,” said Bob Endress of Vortech/Paxton. Exhausting the additional off-acceleration boost pressure from the system is Vortech’s Maxflow BV57 blow off valve.

Assembling the Engine

Brad Lagman and the QMP Racing team started on the machining, which took up most of the day Thursday.  The Dart Iron Eagle block was loaded up and CMM’d first to map out the block.  Once the CMM had finished getting the coordinates it needed, it began opening up the lifter bores to make way for the lifter bushings.  From there, the block was decked and line honed.  The final bore hone was done on another machine and washed afterwards.

First piece to be placed into the motor was Crower's hydraulic roller camshaft. Next up the Eagle crank was dropped in placed, torqued to spec and end play checked. Once the pistons and rods were hung with the file fitted rings, they were shoved down into the bores and secured to the crank.

In the mean time, the Eagle H-beam rods and Ross forged pistons were paired up.  Brad set the proper gap on the Total Seal AP steel rings, loose enough to support the 13-18 psi of boost we are going to need to hit our goal.  Also the Eagle 4340 forged crank was balance tested and came back perfect, not needing any mallory or further drilling.

Friday started with the crank in the block along with a test rod and piston to check for proper rod and crank clearance.  A light amount of grinding needed to be done on the bottom of the bores to ensure proper clearance before the block got its final bath before assembly.  The block with lifter bushings, oil feed restrictors, and pipe fittings installed was ready to be assembled. The ARP main studs were snug in place along with the coated main bearings.  Eagle’s crank fit right back into place and was secured with Dart’s 4-bolt, splayed, billet steel main caps.  The slugs were dropped into their corresponding holes and the short block was complete. gaskets help seal our motor up. The ARP head studs were hand threaded into place and the Dart 225 CNC heads were dropped on. Crower's valvetrain is a direct fit, including the shaft mount rockers that didn't need any machining to fit. We used large, one piece 3/8ths pushrods with 5/16ths ends.

The Melling oil pump with standard pressure and higher volume was put in place.  With the TCI Mustang custom IFS suspension installed, a rear sump Canton oil pan replaced the traditional front sump setup.  The Cometic head gaskets were put in place next as the Dart 225cc CNCed heads were slid down the ARP head studs. The Crower-supplied custom grind hydraulic roller camshaft made its way into the motor and the Crower shaft mount rocker stands were bolted in place, though the stainless shaft mount rockers have not been bolted down, since we needed to order push rods that were dialed into our application.

The last order of business was to mount up the Ford Performance Solution’s ported Edelbrock Super Victor intake manifold and AED blow-thru carburetor.  The Paxton NOVI-2500 supercharger and Renegade bracket system was mounted up to the motor for pictures sake, though it still needs to be properly clocked, along with a fabricated intake pipe that will mount up to Paxton carburetor PowerHat.

Wrapping up our oiling system was a Melling standard pressure, high volume pump. A high pressure pump is not needed, thanks to Dart's priority main oiling system. We did go with the higher volume version to help feed the supercharger. The Canton rear sump pan with welded supercharger drain-back fitting was bolted to the engine. Getting the engine ready for the dyno, the AED blow through carburetor and massive Paxton NOVI-2500 was bolted in place. The NOVI-2500 uses a YSI race blower bracket, which comes with a new alternator bracket as well.

Engine Dyno Testing

Naturally Aspirated

The engine dyno session started by warming up the naturally aspirated engine with a few short pulls.  In the end, QMP made 535.3 hp and 446.2 lb/ft with a 11.6:1 air/fuel ratio and 35 degrees of timing on our low compression Ross pistons.  The pull was made with a naturally aspirated carburetor lying around and would have produced closer to 575 hp with optimized jetting…but naturally aspirated numbers wasn’t what we were aiming for. From there, we put the belt back on the Paxton NOVI-2500 supercharger and the Paxton PowerHat on top of the AED blow thru carburetor.  We used 110 octane race gas on the boosted runs to simulate the octane levels we would see with our Snow Performance water/meth kit, once the engine was installed in the car.

In the end, QMP made 535.3 hp and 446.2 lb/ft with a 11.6:1 air/fuel ratio and 35 degrees of timing on our low compression Ross pistons.

Boosted Runs at 6 psi

Paxton supplied us with a host of pulley combinations and we started off with the smallest crank pulley and largest supercharger pulley we had.  This netted a first run pull that produced 730.4 hp and 639.1 lb/ft on a low 6 psi of boost – a remarkable increase of nearly 200 hp and 200 lb/ft over naturally aspirated.  This put the horsepower gains at 33 horsepower per pound of boost, which was surprisingly efficient for turning this big blower at such a low boost level.  Our air/fuel ratios were a little lean in terms of pump gas, but stable for race gas, averaging in the 12.4:1 range.

A first run pull that produced 730.4 hp and 639.1 lb/ft on a low 6 psi of boost – a remarkable increase of nearly 200 hp and 200 lb/ft over naturally aspirated.

Boosted Runs at 9 psi

Confident on what we produced at 6 psi, we swapped out the blower pulley for the small one we had.  Since we were going a little lean on the 6 psi pulley, we swapped out our 76/89 jets that came installed from AED for 78/94 jets.  Our first pull on 10 psi was abnormally lean and after a little bit of thinking, QMP realized that they still had their carbureted fuel pump installed on the dyno. With the Fuelab regulator commanding  17 psi of fuel pressure for the 9 psi of boost, the pump simply could not keep up.

The torque curve on this motor couldn't be more awesome. The Fuelab regulator was doing its job perfectly, adding 1 psi of fuel pressure per pound of boost. Additionally you can see from our jet change that our air/fuels were much more stable.

With the pump replaced, we were ready to go.  Mike loaded the motor against the dyno brake at 4700 rpm and let her go.  Starting at 6 psi of boost off the brake, the motor accelerated to 6200 rpm where it ended at 9 psi.  It actually created 9.6 psi at 6000 rpm, but we experience a little belt slip those last 200 rpm. The final numbers ended up at 852.1 hp and 734.2 lb/ft, though we would have been closer to the 875 hp range without the slip.  The air/fuel ratios were now spot on, producing an average ratio of 12:1.  This was a gain of 122 hp and 95 lb/ft – 41 hp per additional psi of boost; we are starting to get into a better efficiency range of this supercharger.

Boosted Runs at 16 psi

With the smallest pulley we had on the supercharger, we went to our big crank pulley.  This was going to be ‘make it or break it’ time as this was the most boost we were going to be able to produce with our pulley combinations. With the hammer down, my eyes were fixed on the dyno computer screen, looking for that four digit number.  Finally at the top of the run, I saw it…1030.3 hp.  Everyone shouted in excitement as the final dyno graph was displayed.  Unlike previous runs where the motor started to flat line for power at 6,000 rpm, the 427 wanted to make more power past our 6250 rpm shutoff point.  Job complete – we called it a day.

We were going for broke. With the carburetor jetted up slightly and the larger crank pulley attached to the balancer, it was on. At 6200, where the motor normally starts to flat line its power curve, it was still wanting to climb. Shutting it off at 6250 rpm we eclipsed our 1000 hp goal.

Recap of Power Numbers

From naturally aspirated to 16 psi of boost…from 535 hp to 1030 hp… every piece of our Dart 427ci engine combination worked flawlessly. Despite a few issues with belt slip (which making this much power was expected) we were excited that not a single part broke.  This was achieved with quality components and a shop that knew how to properly put them together.

This huge power was made by only spinning the motor up to 6200 rpm (and it was still making power).  We had nearly DOUBLED the horsepower of our small block on this moderate boost level, gaining 31 horsepower and 27 lb/ft per psi of boost. Now we really can’t wait to get this motor into our ’65 Mustang and tune it up for water/methanol injection with our Snow Performance dual nozzle kit.

The Specs

Short Block

• Dart Iron Eagle 9.500″ deck height, 4.125″ bore and 4.000″ stroke
• Eagle ESP 6.200″ long H-beam rods with ARP-2000 bolts
• Eagle ESP 4340 steel internally balanced 4.000″ stroke crankshaft
• Ross 4.125″ bore, horizontal gas ported, 9:1 compression billet pistons
• Total Seal AP steel rings, 1/16″ top 1/16″ second and 3/16″ oil rings
• Melling 10833 standard pressure, 25% additional volume oil pump
• Canton 7-quart capacity rear sump oil pump and pickup
• Innovators West Super Duty internally balanced balancer with double keys

Long Block

• Dart 225cc CNC Pro1 aluminum heads, fully assembled
• Crower 3/8ths 7.600 length pushrods
• Crower premium hydraulic tie bar roller lifters
• Crower hydraulic roller camshaft 260/266 at .050″, .619 lift, 114 degree lobe separation
• Crower 1.6 ratio steel shaft mount rockers
• Edelbrock Super Victor intake with Ford Performance Solutions hand porting
• AED 950 CFM blow-thru carburetor
• Paxton PowerHat carburetor bonnet
• Assorted brand gaskets from for entire engine build

Ignition and Supercharger

• MSD 7531 Digital 7 ignition box
• MSD HVC-II ignition coil
• MSD 3-bar MAP sensor
• MSD 8.5mm plug wires
• Paxton NOVI-2500 supercharger with YSI Renegade bracket kit
• Vortech BV57 blow off valve

About the author

Mark Gearhart

In 1995 Mark started photographing drag races at his once local track, Bradenton Motorsports Park. He became hooked and shot virtually every series at the track until 2007 until he moved to California and began working as a writer for Power Automedia. He was the founding editor for its first online magazines, and transitioned into the role of editorial director role in 2014. Retiring from the company in 2016, Mark continues to expand his career as a car builder, automotive enthusiast, and freelance journalist to provide featured content and technical expertise.
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