Ford 390 FE Engine Overhaul



Here's the correct assembly setup for the roller cam I am using.  Previous years used the button and spring instead of a thrust plate (6269).  Ford dropped the old setup in favor of this one.  Unfortunately for older engines, parts are limited and high in cost.  Parts for these engines are plentiful and inexpensive.  I suggest if you have an old setup, you can use this one by drilling two holes and buying the thrust plate for ten bucks.  Then, a wide array of modern cams at decent prices are available at every speed shop.

At the time of printing, True Double Roller Timing Sets were not on the market.  They last three times longer than conventional chains and are available at for $40.

Verify the bearing holes are properly lined-up with the block.  Use a good engine assembly lube in each cam bearing.  Installing the cam before the crank is easier because it is open from inside the block.  It's easier to take pictures, too.  If your crank is already installed, you can still install the cam.

Carefully start turning and fishing the new cam into each bearing.




Everything looks and feels good.

Notice I use blue (removable) LocTite on the bolt threads.

This is just a mock-up because the crank needs to be installed before setting the chain and sprockets.  I'm showing how this will look when finished.

Follow the Shop Manual instructions for aligning the sprockets with the marks.  Don't forget to LocTite the cam bolt and torque to 45ft/lbs.  Notice the cam bolt washer holds the eccentric and it traps the locating pin from coming out.

I'm going to kill a few birds with one stone, here.  This is how your new timing set should look with one exception.  I slid the crankshaft sleeve on backwards (just to hold the slinger in place).  Normally at this point, a garage mechanic would wrap up this job, be done and get paid.

But wait, how do we know the marks are correct?  What happens if a mark is missing?  How can we double check cam-to-crank timing before bolting the covers back on?  What happens if the marks are WRONG?


We need to put the cam in position where it is at top dead center and see if the crankshaft agrees.  For this, we need no fancy tools, but let's use what we know. 

Let's look at the firing order.  Since this is a four-cycle engine, let's connect the firing order using two lines:
 1  5  4  2
 |  |  |  |
 6  3  7  8
When #1 is in its power stroke, #6 is in its exhaust stroke.  Both pistons move up & down together.  More specifically, half way between when #6 closes it's exhaust valve and opens it's intake valve, right when these two lifters are dead even, #1 should be at TDC.

I advanced my cam by just a small amount.  Let's see how the degree wheel verifies this.

Notice I bent and mounted a coat hanger as a temporary pointer.   I need to find TDC on the crankshaft.

I pulled #1 (or #6) spark plug and screwed a Piston Stop in the hole.  Then I installed my old trusty degree wheel.  It doesn't matter where the wheel location is, as long as it's tight on the bolt.

BTW, you can download a free degree wheel from the net, print it out and glue it to shirt board.

I ran the crank around until it stopped.  Then I made my first chalk mark on the degree wheel.  

Then, I ran the crankshaft around the opposite direction until it stopped.  Exactly between my marks is my center line or true TDC.  At this point,
remove the Piston Stop and store it away.

Ok, I rotated the crank until these Morel roller lifters are exactly in between exhaust and intake strokes as described.
You can use a 'straightedge' at the lifters or at the rocker arms.  For this picture, I'm using a pushrod for a 'straightedge'.

Look where the pointer landed.  It's about 5 crank degrees before my centerline.  That means the cam is advanced about 2-1/2 degrees.  That's right where I want the cam, advanced anywhere between two and four degrees.  That brings my torque curve toward low-to-mid range for more power and efficiency at street and cruising speeds.  If this roller chain ever stretches, timing will go toward zero advance or 'factory setting'.

Now that we know it's right, time to pull the crank sleeve off and install the timing cover.

After the cover is installed, slide the crank sleeve back on and install the key.
Clean up the pointer for easier timing mark viewing.

In 1973 this F-100 engine was Ford Blue.  I'm painting the block black for Penelope, a beautiful 1960 Thunderbird.
Pictures don't do well when everything is black.

I don't know if this oil pan, timing cover and damper pulley will be used, or the parts from Penelope's 352.

Tighten all the bolts and she's ready to go

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