While Ford's "Total Performance" approach to motorsports defined the company's racing successes in the 1960s, the FE big-block engine series defined success by being the "Total Everything" engine. Introduced in 1958, the FE was an integral part of Ford's performance effort during this era, serving as the powerplant for legendary racing packages, ranging from the lightweight Galaxy drag package cars and later Fairlane Thunderbolts, to sports cars such as the iconic Shelby Cobras and the GT40. In its long production run up until 1978 in heavy-duty FT truck engine form, variations included everything from the rare and exotic Tunnel Port and SOHC race engines, to standard passenger car and light truck engines and a wide range of industrial, marine, and medium truck applications. The versatile FE's history literally includes everything from the world's most successful sports racing cars to municipal garbage trucks.
Barry Rabotnick's Survival Motorsports is a company that is dedicated to keeping FE performance alive and well through specialty engine building and parts development. A major step toward that goal was the recent introduction of an all-new aluminum cylinder head casting from Survival. Aided by years of experience with the FE architecture, the new cylinder head is designed as a direct replacement for a factory cylinder head in the common "Medium Riser" layout. As a longtime competitor in our annual AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge engine building competition, Barry saw the 2013 Challenge as an ideal venue to debut these new heads and show the world what they can do.
Bottom End Beef
When it comes to performance FE blocks, the largest bore version was the coveted 427 with a factory bore size of 4.23 inches. These low-production blocks are extremely difficult to come by today, making the smaller-bore 360/390 or 428 the staple of production-based builds. Needless to say, for a serious FE build, OEM block choices are limited. Barry opted to go with an aftermarket block from Genesis for its many advantages: "Genesis, as a company, no longer exists. The guy who did the original design of the block has restarted the company under the name of Side Oiler Garage. The new block has many of the same features. The aftermarket blocks allow a much larger bore than any of the factory blocks did. The factory 427 blocks were very thin walled, and once you get up to 0.030-0.040-inch overbore they become very marginal. The Genesis block or the Side Oiler Garage blocks allow a bore up to 4.400, though I have never gone that far. We regularly go to 4.350 or 4.375 inches, as compared to the factory 4.230-inch, so we are more than 0.100-inch larger on bore than the factory blocks."
Barry continued, "The factory Ford blocks were cross-bolted mains, as are the aftermarket blocks, but unlike the factory setup that used spacers between the caps and side of the block, the new block sizes the main cap to precisely bridge the crankcase. The main caps are billet steel rather cast iron as used in production. These blocks are a side-oiler design in terms of oiling, but it is a bit of a hybrid as it still has oiling to the lifter gallery to allow hydraulic lifters. A lot of the factory 427 blocks up until about 1968 were solid lifter only, with no lifter oiling. My particular block is a Genesis block, but it is one of only two that were cast with a short deck. It has a 9.900-inch deck instead of the normal FE 10.170-inch. The reason we used it in this case was because I had it, but there are certain advantages. When you shorten the deck you narrow the width between the banks, and it takes weight out of the assembly. It allows you to run a shorter and lighter piston with a given stroke; it makes everything shorter and lighter."
Filling the block was an unusual combination of parts, designed to greatly reduce the weight of the internal assembly. As Barry details, "I was trying to reuse parts that I had available, and that included the crank and connecting rods. The crank started out as a 391 FT truck crankshaft out of something like a dump truck or a heavy-duty truck. The normal FE crank has a much smaller snout than the FT, so I had Adney Brown from Performance Crankshaft reduce the snout diameter to FE specs, and he re-machined the flywheel side, and he removed a ton of weight from the counterweights, as these cranks are very heavy. If you do not take a lot of material out of it the crank will be very difficult and expensive to balance.
Looking into the crankcase of the Survival FE Ford, the sheer beef of the Genesis block eclipses the strength of any production FE block. The billet main caps of the aftermarket side-oiler block are precision fit wall-to-wall, in contrast to the production cast caps fitted to the block with spacers.
The crankshaft is actually a forged production FT (Ford Truck) unit, coming from a big gasoline-powered Ford 391 truck engine. The crank was heavily modified by Performance Crankshafts, with extensive work on the counterweights, a massive reduction in rod journal diameter to 2.000 inches, and a reduction of the snout diameter to fit the lighter-duty FE.
AMSOIL 20W-50 synthetic motor oil is pushed through the engine via a stock replacement Melling oil pump. The pickup tube is an OEM Ford big truck piece, which works with a stock pan.
Holding the oil is an OEM full-length pan, commonly found on Ford F, LN, or C series trucks used in industry. Barry Rabotnick of Survival Motorsports tells us on the dyno the deeply skirted FE block does not show a significant gain with a high-performance oil pan.