Ford engines fall into one of two categories: those produced before the Windsor V8 and those produced afterward. With a production run spanning nearly 40 years, the Windsor marked a turning point for the company. Ford produced two basic V8 engines before the Windsor's introduction in 1962: the Y-block and the Flathead.
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The Flathead may be gloriously obsolete, but its recent resurgence in popularity means that the modern Flathead builder is spoiled for choice when it comes to hot-rod parts. We can thank the French government for this modern revival. The French military long ago purchased the flathead block from Ford and continued to refine and use it all the way through the 1980s. The French had stockpiled thousands of bare blocks when they began selling them off in the late 1990s. French blocks are stronger than vintage American blocks and are competitively priced when you consider that they're already machined and ready for assembly and that their thicker cylinder walls will allow you to expand the engine to 334 cubic inches.
"Ardun" is a portmanteau of the name "Zora Arkus Duntov," who solved the Flathead's biggest problem long before he went on to Corvette fame. The flathead engine's namesake flat heads and in-block valves flow far less air than more modern overhead-valve engines and limit its horsepower output to about 300. Ardun overhead-valve conversion heads not only address the Flathead's inherent flow problems but up the ante with a fully modern overhead-cam arrangement. Ardun heads aren't cheap but they're the only way to go if you want to make more than 200 horsepower with a street-driven Flathead.
Nothing says classic cool like a huge GMC-71 supercharger sitting atop a flathead engine. Originally pirated from contemporary six- and eight-cylinder GM diesel engines, these superchargers can easily add over 100 horsepower to a flathead engine. Combine a vintage GM supercharger (or a modern equivalent) with a set of Ardun heads and block reinforcements and you're looking at well over 400 horsepower on pump gas. Bolt an old-school McCulloch turbocharger to the engine and you could be looking at another 50 horsepower at the expense of some low-rpm torque.
Ford Y-Block Basics
The Y-block got kind of a raw deal where hot-rodders were concerned. The overhead-valve Y-block was far stronger and more powerful than the Flathead it replaced but had the bad luck of being introduced alongside Chrysler's early hemi and just before the Windsor. The Y-block had an industrial-strength engine block, but the large 312 did have a few engineering problems that led many to crack between the main bearing bores and main bolt holes. Instead of a 312, you'd be better off starting with a 292 block and installing a 312 crankshaft and rods.
Ford Y-Block Parts
The aftermarket is rife with intake manifolds, exhaust headers and camshafts for this engine. Many Y-block enthusiasts like the engine specifically for its provenance, which means that many current manifold designs are improved but visually similar versions of original Ford castings. A lack of hard-core induction/exhaust parts isn't the biggest problem; the Y-block's niche market means that high-flowing aftermarket heads are practically non-existent, which ultimately limits power potential. The only real option is to have the stock heads ported and to have larger 1.94 inch/intake (or Chevy-spec 2.02-inch/intake) and 1.60-inch/exhaust valves installed. The good news is that a set of professionally ported Y-block heads can flow as much as 227 cfm of air on the intake and 177 cfm on the exhaust at 0.550-inch lift, which can support nearly 500 horsepower on a naturally aspirated engine.
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