"The real weak link in the FE has always been the cylinder head design along with the combustion chamber," Barry is quick to state. To further complicate matters, Rabotnick told us, "Ford offered three different versions of the basic casting with low, medium and high-riser applications. To a guy used to a Chevy, the engine was just too confusing to make any sense." Since horsepower is cylinder pressure and heat, an engine's propensity to detonate is increased with the specific output. Since our feature engine was based on the one Barry had in his Torino race car with the old Ford-style heads, the 11.8:1 compression ratio was chosen due to parts availability. Coincidentally, A. T. Francais of Blue Thunder Cylinder Heads, working in conjunction with John Marcella at ET Performance (of Walled Lake, Mich.) for CNC programming, was about to introduce a cylinder head that as Barry says, "took the FE into the 21st century." With a modern quick-burn Yates-style combustion chamber that is the mainstay of Pro 5.0 racers, the FE would now be fuel-friendly. In addition, the spark plug was moved to the proper location, closer to the center of the bore. This allows for less detonation and a cylinder pressure peak sooner in the crankshaft's arc of rotation past TDC. The medium-rise runner allowed 360 cfm of airflow at 28 inches of water. The exhaust port, though slightly shy of the commonly desired 80 percent of the intake flow, blows the spent gasses out at a rate of 240 cfm at the same depression. This value was obtained without an exhaust extension. With the proper six-inch pipe attached, the exhaust flow would pick up due to the elimination of sheer.

The deck on the Blue Thunder cylinder head is very thick and 0.102 inches needed to be milled off to achieve a combustion chamber volume of 72cc.

The intake manifold and carburetor are nothing too exotic, and feature an Edelbrock Victor FE that had a good deal of welding and reconturing done by ET Performance. This was required not only for good volumetric efficiency, but to match up and work with the CNC-ported medium-rise cylinder heads. The fuel mixing duties were handled by a Holley 1050 Dominator modified by Quick Fuel Technology with the company's float bowls and billet metering blocks, among other tricks. As Barry says, "The carb is so beautiful it could be a piece of art."

The one and only test session the FE underwent before heading east was done at Wheel-to-Wheel in Madison Heights, Mich. There, the Rabotnick crew ran into some disappointing results. "We struggled to make 600 horsepower, which was about 100 less than it did with the old Ford-style heads. This baffled everyone since the engine did nothing wrong other than being a pig." After much trial and error, it was discovered that the used ignition coil that Barry took from the Torino, due to budget constraints, had seen better days. Poor saturation was the culprit. With a new MSD coil bolted on, the engine produced 712 hp with a mixture of 12.5:1. This was after about two hours of undoing everything that, as Barry said, "got screwed up during diagnosing the low-power problem." On the Michigan dyno, the headers needed to be turned upside-down for cart clearance, and from previous testing, Rabotnick knew this was costing him about 12 ponies. So he calculated around 725 horsepower at the Engine Masters Challenge.

With a very conservative 27 degrees of total timing and a rich mixture, the engine was sent off to Long Island for the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge. Barry knew that he was not going to win, but needed to play it safe to keep the motor together and keep him out of divorce court. With only a switch to 5W-20 Royal Purple synthetic oil from mineral-based lubricant, and the lower 91-octane spec gasoline, the time of reckoning was near. At Bill Mitchell's shop, the FE was out-gunned on paper by a host of other competitors. There, the mighty yet written-off Ford made history with 1.49 hp/cubic inch, or 752 hp. The engine picked up 40 horsepower with the spec fuel leaning out the air/fuel ratio to 13.5:1. Remarkably, Rabotnick made no tuning changes at all, not even an air bleed. No signs of detonation were present and nothing broke. That's always important for a working man. The power was good enough for ninth place overall. Not bad for a CPA turned engine builder.

PHR could not help but ask Rabotnick if he would've done anything different given the opportunity. His response was without hesitation: "This FE is a 752-horsepower engine that has many 450-horsepower parts inside. I will be back. This was only a shakedown run. I know where to find a lot more power." With a work ethic like that, PHR is sure Survival Motorsports and Barry Rabotnick will be a huge success. He just might bring Ford FE power back to the front burner. Sounds like the good ol' days all over again.