Inside Kaase's Killer Ford
It takes an experienced engine builder to fully appreciate the accomplishment of Jon Kaase Racing's Engine Masters winning engine. For a little perspective, let's say you build a pump gas 10.5:1 compression, single four-barrel, flat-tappet street mill, and go ahead and have it dyno'd. If you're good enough to pull down an honest 1.28 lb-ft of torque at peak, chances are the dyno operator will pat you on the back and give you credit for a job well done. This engine pulled that output at an astonishing 2,500 rpm, and even harder to believe, given the constraints inherent to the contest, achieved 1.54 ft-lbs per inch at peak. Those numbers just don't normally happen, but this isn't a normal motor.

So what are some of the secrets? We'll take a quick tour of what makes it work, starting with the bottom end. Actually, the foundation is nothing special, just a junkyard core 400M, usually considered good for nothing more than scrap. Back in their heyday, they were more likely to be used as a dump truck engine than as a high-performance mill. Kaase likes the stroke this engine offers over other small-block Fords, and the fact that it accepts Cleveland-style cylinder heads. The notoriously thin cylinder walls of the 400 block were beefed and brought to standard specifications with thin-wall cylinder sleeves, and reinforced with a tall fill of Hard Block filler in the water jackets. Cylinder wall stability is key to ring seal, and pressure is power. The stock main caps are fastened by ARP studs and wrap around a Scat forged crank. Since no crank is made specifically for the 400's stock stroke specifications, this crank was heavily reworked to fit the application by Adney Brown of Performance Crankshaft, a fellow EMC competitor.

For this event, Kaase likes to combine a long stroke with a short rod, in this case 5.965-inch Scat H-beams. Naturally, this peculiar combination requires short counterweights, which meant additional crank modifications. Another result of the short rod, in light of the tall 10.297-inch deck height of the 400 block, is an exceptionally long piston, with a 2.350-inch compression distance. The pistons were custom made by CP, and cut for a thin-section, low-drag ring package of .043/.032-inch compression with a Napier face on the second, and a 3mm oil ring, and the piston/rod assembly is piston-guided. Get the idea that this engine was built to do a job?

Topping the block are the CHI Cleveland heads and a CHI manifold specific for the 400 combination. These heads are the Kaase signature version of the CHI castings, available from CHI with a CNC-ed version of the ports Kaase developed for Engine Masters. Kaase is enamored with the original layout of the Cleveland, comparing it to modern Pro-Stock designs, and relates: "The CHI head is just sized right; they did such a good job on those." The manifold runners on the tall-deck 400 are longer than those of the more popular 351C, which has a shorter deck height. The longer runners provide a torque advantage. To expand on this idea, the naturally short inside runners of the symmetrical-layout intake were modified by Kaase to increase the length and improve the shape. The intake is topped with an 1150 Holley Dominator, a carb Kaase finds works best for him, while a complete ICE ignition system lights it off.

An engine like this can be good by just bolting together the parts, but testing and development of the combination is what separated it from the pack. The COMP solid flat-tappet cam is ground on an unusually narrow lobe separation angle of 98 degrees, and runs advanced to 92 degrees intake centerline. Kaase tells us, "...when I finally got the intake manifold and the headers and the cam in the right place, it worked good, but if you took any one of those things out of that system, it wasn't very good. It had to all work together." Like we have all heard, the combination is everything-and in the case of this 400M Ford, it is the winning combination.