View Full Version : 352 FE rebuild options

05-13-2012, 01:18 PM
I have a 1959 thunderbird with the 352; it still runs but is in need of a rebuild. From researching the internet it seems I have a few options. I would really like a 390 or better but this is the factory engine. So I have seen people boring out the 352 block from 4.00 to 4.050 and then dropping in 390's pistons, rods and crank, to make a 390. I am guessing the 352 block would need to be checked by a machine shop to make sure it has the metal to do this. Also I have been told you could use a 410 or 428 crank with the 390's pistons and rods to make something like a 406 or 418ci. Has anyone ever done this? If so how did it work out?

06-05-2012, 12:30 AM
hi Mike

I would strongly suggest buyin and reading Steve Christ's book How to Rebuild Big-Block Ford Engines (HP Books ISBN: 0-89586-070-8) as well as following SimplyConnected's work on a 390 in this site (http://www.squarebirds.org/penelope/390Build/index.htm)

You might consider selling the 352 to someone trying to keep his Squarebird original and buying a block that provides a foundation for whatever direction you decide to go in.

Keep us posted!


06-05-2012, 03:36 AM
You need to make a major decision as to what you want this engine to be. Originally, it was built for oil that doesn't exist, gasoline that doesn't exist, etc.

If you do a proper head job including bronze valve guides, hardened exhaust seats, stainless valves, viton seals and surface decking, you will spend over a grand and still end up with cast iron heads with a resale value of ~$250. If you are familiar with the characteristics of cast iron, you already know they take a while to heat, then they are terrible at shedding heat to the cooling system. Very few modern engines still use cast iron heads.

Edelbrock aluminum heads cost around $1,500 per set, complete with all the goodies. They have a resale value of about $1,000. The real advantage is in heat transfer and weight loss. As a bonus, they allow higher compression ratios without detonation, preignition, or run-on; all due to fast heat transfer.

Look at the big picture and try to keep your overall costs down by investigating parts' cost and their availability. Labor for a major overhaul is about the same regardless of engine with few exceptions. FE's were designed to interchange many parts but the same engines went through different stages as technology advanced.

For example, I only use true roller timing chains because they last three times longer than conventional chains. They aren't available for Squarebird FE's because the cam snout was different before 1964. Ebay is LOADED with inexpensive and common FE parts but not pre '64. 390's were much more common than 352's. Edelbrock makes aluminum heads and intake manifolds but the heads won't fit FE's under 390 cu in. because the valves will hit the cylinder walls.

So... find a good 390 from the 1970's, and do a major overhaul on it. When you are ready, the swap will be a breeze.

As far as the quality and kind of parts to buy, I always ask myself, 'what do modern engines use?' They get 250,000 miles between overhauls using modern oil. They also use moly rings, roller cams, and as much aluminum as possible.

Here is a link of OEM heads from the '73 F-100 390 I am building. Look what the exhaust valves did when unleaded gas was used. This was not from abuse: CLICK HERE (http://squarebirds.org/images_FE-valves/index.htm)

http://squarebirds.org/images_FE-valves/DSCN0279.jpg - Dave

06-05-2012, 06:29 AM
I agree with the alum heads and intake (over all costs projection) but it should be noted the early 352 block can usually be safely bored to 4.03" (390) (the 1958 EDSEL 361 had a 4.03" bore). Of course the block needs to be sonic checked in case of casting shifting.

A 410 and/or 428 crank is externally balanced which is another concern. A properly built and well thought out 390 will give a big enough smile on your face. Build it for low end torque, not high RPM screaming.

Always save old parts for either the next guy or a dedicated restoration.

07-31-2012, 05:53 PM
Hey all, after doing a lot of research I went back 100% stock with the 352. I had a local machine shop do the full rebuild. In the end It cost me right at 2100.00 with EVERYTHING done. This was 100% rebuilt heads and new everything. The block had to be bored .60 over because it was the engins 2nd rebuild. I should be getting it back this week I hope. I will post some picture's soon.
Thanks for all the info.

08-02-2012, 11:45 AM
That's a heck of a deal Mike - a local shop here quoted me $3500.
So how do like the motor? Did they also do hardened valve seats?
That motor is what I had original in my 59 also - 300 hp and good torque. I ended up swapping mine for a 390. I haven't had it built but did get some old heads and should have it running very soon.
Post those pix if you get a chance.

Dave J

08-11-2012, 12:09 AM
well I went and picked up the engine Monday, turns out it cost 2260.00 but still a good deal I think. Yup everything in the heads were redone so I should be good to go. They even had the oil and filter installed lol. I have not got it installed BUT I hope to really soon. They painted it the ford blue lol.. I HATE that color. I am going black with White vaule covers and the factory breather. The car will be the two tone red/white with the red/white inside. Now if I could only find the time to get it done lol. This work thing keeps getting in my way.

Joe Johnston
08-11-2012, 09:28 AM
They painted it the ford blue

I told my engine builder "do not paint!" for just that reason. I stopped in to check their progress one day and the can of Ford Blue was on the bench so I got there just in time. Looks better in high gloss black!

08-11-2012, 10:29 AM
I'm not a big fan of the blue either. It all depends if you want to go original or not I guess.
My 390 is just a bare block with scratched up silver spray painted valve covers. It's a Rat rod kind of car so that's how I left it. We call the silver spray paint a "poor man's chrome". ;0)
I fired it up the other day, hadn't set or adjusted anything, just put the distributor back where it was. I was surprised at how easily it started up! It has a pretty good knock because the back end of the oil pan is hitting the crank. I had to hammer it up a little so it would clear the power steering cylinder. Guess I'll have to pull it and bang it out a little. One guy said he had welded a nut to the bottom of his pan and pulled a dent out, but I don't have a welder. I wonder if JB weld would be strong enough? Any thoughts gents? I hate to have to pull that oil pan again.

Dave J