408ci Small Block Ford Engine 550 HP Build

One of the requests that we get over and over again is ‘More Engine Builds’. Well, you got your wish with this build of a 550 hp 408ci small block Ford by Ford Performance Solutions featuring Edelbrock Victor Jr. heads. Owner Troy Bowen used his over 15 years of engine building experience and got in touch with the industry leaders to come up with a engine combination that would make 550+ hp, run on pump gas, and be fully streetable — all without breaking the bank.

When building a custom-built stroker 351W – there are literally millions of options. From block decisions, to rotating assemblies, to cylinder heads; it’s difficult to know where to start. We think a good place to start is a good reputable engine builder that spends his every week creating engine combinations from wild to mild. Our guy: Ford Performance Solution’s Troy Bowen.

We gave Troy four basic parameters to work with when we started to blueprint out our 351W.

  1. Don’t blow the budget, but don’t scrimp. Make it affordable.
  2. Looking for 550-600 horsepower on pump gas
  3. Everything “off the shelf” No exotic or custom components.
  4. Use a carb and hydraulic cam.

We spoke with Troy for about an hour on the phone as he started to come up with a game plan. For the short-block, we would use a stock block 351W with a girdle to keep the price down, along with a steel crank and rods that would punch the engine out to 408 cubic inches. SRP pistons and JE Pro Seal rings would make an affordable 1-2 punch.

For the long-block, Troy selected a full compliment of Edelbrock goodies: CNC ported Edelbrock Victor Jr. heads, Edelbrock Super Victor Intake, plus Edelbrock valve covers and air cleaner. A Quick Fuel carb would top the intake.

Here is the quick run down on the parts we came up with.

Ford Performance Solutions’ 408 cubic inch Small Block Ford – Build Essentials

Block: Post 1971 351 W Block, .030 Over, Fully Machined by FPS
Crankshaft: RPM International, 4340 Nitrated, 4.00 Stroke, 2.100 Journals
Rods: RPM International, H-Beam 4340 Steel
Hardware: ARP Bolts
Pistons: JE SRP Professional Pistons
Piston Rings: JE Piston Rings; 1.2 mm top ring, 1.5 mm Napier 2nd ring, 3.0 mm oil ring
Oil Pan: Canton Oil Pan
Heads: Edelbrock Victor Jr Heads, CNC Ported by Edelbrock and Assembled
Intake Manifold: Edelbrock Super Victor Intake
Carburetor: Quick Fuel Carburetor
Gaskets: SCE Gaskets
Camshaft: Comp Cams Xtreme Energy Camshaft; Lift: .576 Intake, .600 Exhaust; Duration @ .050: 242 Intake, 248 Exhaust; Lobe Separation: 110.0
Lifters: Comp Cams Lifters
Push Rods: Comp Cams Hi-Tech, 5/16″ Diameter, 8.150″ Length
Valve Springs: Comp Cams Valve Springs
Rocker Arms: Harland Sharp Rocker arms
Balancer: Professional Products Balancer
Extra Goodies:
FPS Girdle, for increased bottom end support; Edelbrock Valve Covers & Air Cleaner, for good looks!

The Short Block

For this build, building a short block around a good used block made sense. We chose a premium early casting that was in good shape. Especially when you consider the prep that goes into these block when they come into FPS. Not only do they get a shinny new paint job at the end of it all, time is spent hot tanking, magafluxing, cleaning, and honing every surface to insure the blocks rigidity.

“Prepping the block is a big step in building an engine. It is the foundation of which everything is mounted to, and it takes the most abuse during combustion,” Bowen explained. We were confident that this block would hold up to the power we are expecting to see from this engine, and more so. This block should be good to around 600-675 hp.

FPS set us up with a post 1971 Windsor blocks, and for a good reason. “In 1972 Ford decided to battle emission standards by lowering the compression ratio of these blocks. Instead of redesigning the engine, they simply casted the block with a taller deck height. That means we can squeeze more cubic inches out of our small block,” explained Bowen.

FPS bored the walls of each cylinder out .030 over, bringing the total cylinder bore to 4.030 inches.


For the camshaft in this engine, we went with COMP Cams. COMP does a really nice job selecting the right cam for any engine. So when we told them about the rest of the components we were using, they fired over one of their Xtreme Energy Hydraulic Roller Camshafts. We spoke to Chris Mays from COMP to get all the facts on why this cam would work well with our engine.

Chris explained, “when deciding which cam to use in a street/strip car, you first have to decide how much ‘street’ you want out of the engine. That will determine how aggressive the cam can be made.” If your car has a stick, then you can have any “stall” speed you wish. (You simple press the clutch in and rev the engine to the desired speed.) COMP recommended a 3,000 RPM “stall” speed that their cam part number: 35-427-8 uses. This cam works very well with bolt on modifications such as headers, which is something most Fox owners have. It has a little bit of a rough idle, but again that because we wanted a little less ‘street’ out of our engine.

Here are the other specs on the cam:

  • Intake Duration at .050″: 242
  • Exhaust Duration at .050″: 248
  • Intake Valve Lift: .576
  • Exhaust Valve Lift: .600

The Bottom End – Crankshaft, Pistons and Rods

Going in right under the cam was a 4340 nitrated crankshaft from RPM International. This crank will spin our pistons to the tune of a 4.000 inch stroke. With 2.100 inch journals, this crank was right at home in our Windsor block.

To help stiffen the bottom end of our short block, FPS set us up with one of their Premium Main Girdles. This billet chro-moly piece ties all five mains together to help prevent crank walk and keeps the main webbing of the block intact. Troy clams that this girdle increases the strength and stability of the lower end of the block by 40%.

We then stuck on a COMP Cams Timing Chain Set. This gear has three keys to provide any adjustment we might need.


SRP Pistons by JE

We chose a set of SRP Professional Pistons that will be sealed to the cylinder walls via a set of JE pistons rings. We went with a flat top piston to work with our naturally aspirated set up. These pistons are forged from 4032 aluminum alloy that reduces the piston-to-wall clearance and will give us a quite stroke.

FPS fitted them with JE Pro Seal 1.2 mm top ring, 1.5 mm Napier 2nd ring, and a 3.0 mm for the oil ring. The 1.2 mm top ring is a design that SRP took from modern engines and retrofitted them to work with our older small block. It give us a more durable ring package that will help keep our engine out of the repair shop.

SRP Professional Piston JE Ring Package:

  • 1.2 mm Top Ring
  • 1.5 mm 2nd Ring
  • 3.0 mm Oil Ring

Tying the pistons to the crankshaft, are 8 RPM International Rods. These rods are an H-Beam design that are forged 4340 steel. They are designed to use ARP’s 8740 Cap Screws which are a 7/16th bolt that is designed to hold up to 200,000 psi – more than enough for this application.

Oil Pan

To seal the oil pan, and all other areas requiring a gasket, we used SCE Gaskets. SEC has gaskets and kits of gaskets for a number of late model and classic engines. This makes it easy when ordering as you are always sure you have the right gasket for your application.

To hold the oil under the block, we went with a Canton Racing Products street/strip oil pan. The pan has an extra deep sump that measures 9 inch deep by 7 inch long sump that gives this pan a total oil capacity of 7 quarts. It also helps this aluminum pan catch as much air as possible passing under the car to help cool the oil waiting to be cycled throughout the engine. There is a provision for one of Canton’s Pan Mounted Dipsticks, that way we can see exactly how much oil is in the pan.

Lifters – COMP Retro Fit Kit

Being that the cam we are using is a hydraulic roller cam, you die hard Ford fans will note that the 302 engine family, including the 351 Windsor, did not come with a hydraulic roller cam option. You would be correct. So why are we sliding a hydraulic cam into an engine not designed to use one?

Hydraulic cams are able to outlast and now recently, out perform their flat tappet counterparts. “If you can have your cake and eat it too, that’s always a bonus,” as Chris says. COMP Cams is aware of this and that is the reason they developed a kit that allows you to slide in a hydraulic roller into these older engines that were not designed to accept them. The kit we used features a spider like designed support bracket that screws into the bottom of the lifter valley.

Once the bracket is installed, we moved right into the install of the lifters. The lifters we used were specifically designed for use on a hydraulic roller cam. The High Energy lifters are an OE style design and will work perfectly with our camshaft. They installed very quickly as all we had to do was drop them in and tighten down the bracket once and for all.


To keep our rotating mass in balance, we installed a PRW Performance Quotient Series Fluid Damper. Inside this piece, is a steel inertia ring that is encapsulated by high viscosity silicone gel. The ring floats in the get to reduce engine harmonics across the RPM band. Outside are easy to read timing marks and the ever important SFI approved marking.

The Long Block: Edelbrock Victor JR CNC Heads

For our Ford, we wanted to build a really trick set of heads so we could really pump some power out. We started out with Edelbrock’s Victor Jr Heads that were completed CNC Ported by Edelbrock.

These heads leave the spark plugs and the valves in the stock general location, but everything else has been tweaked for more performance. We got in touch with Rick Roberts, an Engineer from Edelbrock, to find out more about these heads.

Edelbrock CNC ports the intake and exhaust ports on these heads to a smooth 210 cc on the intake side, and 75 cc for the exhaust. The entries and exits are CNC matched to the gasket and blended from there. The overall total combustion chamber on the Victor Jr’s were 60 cc on our application, but Edelbrock also has a 70 cc version for those running turbos or other forms of forced induction.

These heads are the key to how this engine is going to make big power. “It all comes down to air demand,” says Roberts on the sizes of the runners and combustion chambers, “These would work great with a small engine turning a lot of RPM or a big engine at moderate RPM. This head could be on a dedicated strip engine or equally at home on a street engine.” FPS confirmed this as well. “These heads will really shine the higher the RPMs go with the size engine we built,” says Bowen. Those large runners and smooth transitions will make getting the air fuel mix into the engine easy, that means less power lost in the engine and more for the tires.

Our heads came complete with valves already installed, but Edelbrock also has a version bare if you have your own special valvetrain to add. Our valves measured 2.05 on the intake, and 1.60 for the exhaust. We used a set of COMP’s dual springs to provide the closing power for our valves. COMP recommended a 160 lb. 1.880 spring for use on the intake valve and, a 3.95 lb. 1.35 spring for the exhaust.

FPS was kind enough to bolt the heads up to the Super Flow 600 flow bench they have at FPS to see what they would do. The results were very nice. Check out the results on the flow graph. Keep in mind that these tests were done with no pipes bolted up to the exhaust ports. Doing so would add 15-20 CFM.

Here is the flow graph from our heads.

Valvetrain – Harland Sharp

To really get these heads rocken, we choose Harland Sharp Victor Jr specific shaft style rocker arms. We spoke with Randy Becker, Jr of Harland Sharp to get the facts on the shaft style rocker arms.

“Shaft style rocker arms offer improved stability and eliminate flex in the rocker stud and girdle,” said Becker. “It lets you push the limits of the cam in high-lift race engines.” He also went on and explained how shaft style rocker arms offer more material in the mounts and other components compared to stud mount rocker arms.

“It also gives better geometry, which is why a shaft system can last longer in a high RPM engine.” Made sense to us. Plus, more valve lift due to less deflection is a bonus. Although our engine did not have a radical cam, this is insurance for the present, and gives us a stout rocker arm for the future.

Made from 2024 aluminum T3511, these rocker arms are very rigid. We stuck with the Ford 1.6 rocker arm ratio for our Windsor. When selecting what ratio you should run, Randy says pick your cam first. Then pick up the cam card and give them a call. They will help you select the right set of rocker arms and the ratio for them using the info about the cam.

Capping off our valve train was 16 pushrods from COMP. Their Hi-Tech Pushrods are a one piece design that is made from chrome molly. We selected their standard length offering in a 5/16 inch size to work with our Victor Jrs. They slid right in as we started to mate the rocker arms with the heads.


Intake Manifold: Edelbrock Super Victor 351W

To distribute the air fuel mixture to each cylinder, we went with the Edelbrock Super Victor Intake. This aluminum intake is designed to work exceptionally well with after market heads such as the Victor Jr Heads we are using. The runners are a 3.20 square-inch cross sectional design. This intake works well for everything from a high RPM race engine to the 6,500 RPM big Windsor we are using.


Finishing off the mechanical portion of our build is the Quick Fuel Technology Q Series Carburetor, in a 950 CFM size.

These carbs are offered in both race and street/strip models with CFM ranging from 650 to 1050. They recommend the Q-950 model for our Windsor. This starts with a 950 cfm Proform main body that is made from billet aluminum. This is a high end carb that features billet metering blocks and has a street price of around $650.

Quick Fuel also makes a variety of carbs designated for Street, Street/Strip, Drag racing and Circle Track depending on your engine combination. You really need to give them a call so they can spec out a carb for your exact combination. One of the best features of our carb was the fact that Quick Fuel set it up already with a great baseline setup for our engine:

Primary Main Jet: 78
Primary Nozzle: 33
Secondary Jet: 86
Secondary Nozzle: 35
Pri Idle Air Bleed: 70
Needle & Seat: 120
Hi Speed Bleed: 32
Power Valve: 4.5

The Finishing Touches

The last thing we needed to cap off our build was a set of valve covers and an air cleaner. We used Edelbrock’s new Victor Series Valve Covers and Air Cleaner. We are really in love with the finish on both of these parts. The valve covers are offered in two different sizes and fit most 302 and 351 Windsor-based engines.

These include breather holes on the driver side which we filled using a black satin breather to match. The air cleaner too comes in the black satin finish and is offered in two different sizes. Install on both of these were very straight forward and after a few more final checks, it was time for some completed photos.

The best part of the build in my mind, putting that last part on the engine.

Ready to be plugged into a Fox Body.

Looks good from all angles!

At this point many would expect to see use bolt this 408 up to an engine dyno to see what kind of power numbers it could produce. Not the case this time. We are going to stick this engine under the hood of a Fox Body Mustang, and then move it to our DynoJet to see what it can do. While we don’t expect to see any more than 500 hp at the wheels, that is still miles ahead of the tired old 5.0 L that was originally in our project car. Stay tuned as we plug this engine into the car and strap it up on the dyno!

About the author

James Lawrence

James started working on a Nostalgia Top Fuel drag racing team in 1992, and the rest has been history. A life-long automotive enthusiast, James is in fierce competition to see whether he can collect more cars or cats. Right now, the cars are winning. James co-founded the NMRA and NMCA Drag Racing Series in 1998 and continues to be an avid and passionate fan on everything 1320. He also thinks he can drive. Thinks, is the key word.
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