View Full Version : 58 tbird camshaft

06-18-2014, 05:35 PM
Gday guys, I'm pretty new to the whole Tbird/Ford game. I'm in the process of restoring my 58 and am now looking at rebuilding the engine. Now being from Australia it's probably a little more tricky so I need to be spot on with what parts I purchase. First thing I'm stuck on is the camshaft, after looking through the web I've been unable to figure out what type I would have, ie solid or hydraulic. The car is a March 19 build with original 352 engine.
Thanks in advance.

06-18-2014, 06:31 PM
Aside from the heads, your camshaft sets the stage for the type of service an engine will deliver. To answer your question, I need to know what you are looking for.

How long do you plan on keeping this car?

Is this car a daily driver?

Are you looking for high performance?

Are you looking for longevity?

Do you care about how the exhaust 'speaks'?

Long trips, cruises or garage/trailer queen?

Do you want to keep the car pure stock, upgrade some features or retrofit so your family is safe among modern cars on fast highways?

Now let's talk about you...

Do you wrench, or pay a mechanic?

Do you belong to a car club?

Stereo or mono?

Owning a classic car can be a money pit. Squarebirds were designed and built to standards that are fifty years old. Everything has changed including:



seat belts

disk brakes

Motor oil formulation, and a host of optional accessories that didn't exist back then like electric radiator fans, 100-amp alternators, etc.

Before you start into this, you need to be sure you know what you want. Everyone is different and I cannot tell you what you like or don't like. I would sure hate to see you spend money for things you really didn't want, but sometimes that happens because you didn't 'know' about conditions or products before hand.

If you set your sights on a certain dream, see it to the end and enjoy your passion. - Dave

06-18-2014, 06:54 PM
Sorry I probably worded the question wrong. I understand all the above. Basically I'm really just looking for a basic cam which won't require a ton of compression or large stall and maybe a little bit of an aggressive idle. The car will be a keeper, just a cruiser basically. Ill leave my other car as the toy lol.
I've rebuilt a couple of stock engines over the years but usually leave the more modified stuff to the pro's
This being the 3rd car I've built I've got a reasonable grasp on the other stuff, but this is the first Ford I've touched so there are certain thing I need to come to grips with.
I've been looking on line at rebuild kits, cam kits etc but I'm actually really unsure on whether the engine is a hydraulic or solid canned engine.
The engine is still in car atm but will be out shortly.
Thanks Chris.

06-18-2014, 07:33 PM
Ok Chris, I have somewhat of an idea. If this engine is coming out, I assume you want to overhaul it with new pistons, right?

If so, I suggest you leave the 352 the way it is and buy a 1963 (or newer) 390. 390s were put in just about every Ford car, truck, marine, construction equipment, etc. They are in very good supply over here. Because we have so many, the parts are actually cheaper than 352 parts. Looking at both from the outside, you really cannot tell the difference.

1958 was a very early FE engine. Since then, Ford made a lot of changes. Consequently, the early stuff isn't supported by the aftermarket because everyone went to the '62 and newer FEs.

If you are familiar with most of the speed shops (summitracing.com (http://summitracing.com) or jegs.com (http://www.jegs.com/)) look at their cams, for example, and see which ones are reasonably prices and available. Same for pistons. Now, check out true roller timing chains for a '58 and a '62. Remember, these are the same FE engines.

Being the same FEs, you can swap your water pump, fuel pump, all the 'final dress' parts, rocker shafts and covers, etc. Yes, intake and exhaust manifolds as well as heads, swap.

I strongly suggest you spend some serious money on aluminum heads and intake manifold, and get a hydraulic roller cam. Why? Because aluminum allows higher compression (if you want), it gets rid of heat faster, and it's worth a lot more if you sell it as used. BTW, it's lighter.

Edelbrock makes aluminum FE heads for the 390/427, but not for the 352. The performer RPM heads include hardened valve seats, stainless valves, bronze guides, Viton seals and helicoil-ed tapped holes. They are well worth the money, and will prevent your engine from overheating (a problem with cast iron heads). A roller cam will allow you to use regular oil with no ZDDP additive (like modern cars). I suggest you get a 260 grind and advance your distributor 36 degrees total at 2,500 rpm (and above).

If you like adjusting lifters, you could buy a solid lifter cam, but I don't suggest it. Hydraulic lifters do a great job and you can use your stock rocker arm assemblies.

Check out my (latest project) 390 build, below. This one is going to Perth. - Dave

06-18-2014, 07:46 PM
How readily available are 390s in Australia. What sort of dollars is something like that worth.

06-18-2014, 09:51 PM
Well, since this is a used engine and you intend on rebuilding it, look for a tired but good short block. You want the crank, rods and block. Everything else can come off your 352 or you can buy new, like an oil pump, pistons, rings, bearings, timing set, etc.

We have Craig's List over here for folks who want to sell used but good stuff. In your situation, I would have a local machine shop check the casting before shipping it across the Pacific.

Old tired engines over here are worth a few hundred dollars. If you can find some guy who pulled it out of his truck and it still has the C6 trans bolted on, that's even a better deal. Remember, you're buying with the intention of rebuilding, not for saving money. When you're done, this should be a brand new engine that will last a very long time. - Dave

06-19-2014, 04:34 AM
How readily available are 390s in Australia. What sort of dollars is something like that worth.

Hi mate this is exactly what I'm going though now, there's a place called easypower has a rebuildable 390 for $1200-$1400 and there's another guy called john who wrecks thunderbirds on eBay he's got a few ranging from $600-$2200 for a running one

06-19-2014, 05:10 AM
Thanks mate, have you got any contact details for these people. What's a rough price for a good runner over here.
Thanks Chris.

06-19-2014, 06:17 AM
Yep the eBay guy is John 0438 008 390 and easy power are at 19 Capital Link Dr, Campbellfield VIC 3061
(03) 9357 7344
I'm not sure if John had a runner but easypower had 5-6 engines, one was a runner(didn't say if it was good lol) said he wanted $2200 for the running one and $1200-$1400 for a complete one, that was rebuildable
Thats just two out of about 5 or 6 people I rang, apparently these engines are "too old and nobody wants them" so not a lot of guys buy them from the states anymore. which means the ones that are here are big $$$$$

06-19-2014, 11:17 AM
Chris, I suggest that you buy a book written by Barry Rabotnik called "How to build max performance Ford FE engines" and pay attention to the chapter on oiling. Some of the early FEs had low oil pressure issues that can be easily solved.

On my 390 build I purchased a mild hydraulic roller cam for pretty much he same goal as you stated. I get a smooth idle with just a little bit of rump-de-bump. The roller assemblies allows me to run modern oil without worrying about the zinc issue. Since the lifters are taller than stock I also used adjustable roller tipped rocker arms and custom length pushrods.

The pushrod length has to be measured after head assembly and then ordered. There are companies that make them up and ship them out to you the same day for about $130 so it's not a huge issue.

06-19-2014, 04:30 PM
Thanks hunty, I'll try get in touch with both companies shortly. Yadkin I will look at getting that book (probably that aswell as many others as I know nothing about Ford's lol).
What sort of oil pressure would be a real concern as I'm going to be checking that this weekend. Also what is a reasonable amount of compression to have per cylinder in one of these motors.
Thanks Chris.

06-19-2014, 05:51 PM
The 390 is a monster-work horse, and if you bore it for new pistons, you will be knocking up close to 400 cubic inches.
Compression will be determined by the components you choose. You can make this a very high compression racing engine or a long-hauling desert mill that runs cool on regular octane gas all day and all night long. Just about any new build should produce ~150 psi in all cylinders. Of course with age, that number goes down.

Oil pressure will be determined on the type of oil pump you use (standard or High Volume), temperature, internal engine resistance to flow and the pressure relief valve (internal to the pump). Motors straight from Dearborn produced a very low 5-10 psi at hot idle. A rebuild should produce at least 25 psi at hot idle, and over 40 psi at speed. - Dave

06-19-2014, 08:29 PM
I guess it's all just a matter of how much I want to spend. Fingers crossed that the current engine is still reasonably healthy, it is only 71000 miles old. It's a shame that 390s aren't as readily available here and the ones that I've found are quite expensive for a 'rebuilder', $1200 upwards, then add in all the machining, goodies and transport from the US, could easily see the price get out of hand.
May just be easier to throw a half decent 351/C4 in.
Thanks Chris.

06-19-2014, 10:49 PM
...I'm not sure if John had a runner but easypower had 5-6 engines, one was a runner(didn't say if it was good lol) said he wanted $2200 for the running one and $1200-$1400 for a complete one, that was rebuildable
Thats just two out of about 5 or 6 people I rang, apparently these engines are "too old and nobody wants them" so not a lot of guys buy them from the states anymore. which means the ones that are here are big $$$$$
FE engines are old but I certainly wouldn't say, 'nobody wants them.' That's not true at all.
The truth is, Ford produced many millions of them and wherever you go, someone has one for sale. It's simply a case of 'supply and demand'.

Notice that the big boy aftermarket speed shops have plenty of performance choices for FE engines, at reasonable prices. Over here, if sales don't move parts they get dropped quickly, for modern cars as well.

As a kid, I remember lots of guys who pulled their engines to either make them faster or to swap for a bigger mill. Today's cars are different. If an engine gets pulled, it usually goes right back in, or another just like it. So much for smokin' your front tires... - Dave

06-20-2014, 12:09 AM
Definitely not my words that's what we come up against here in Australia. If it's not an ls motor lately no one wants to know about it.
I envy Americans you guys have heaps of these motors cheap, but for us even a bare block is $600.
I love these engines and the fact they were put in everything over there but here we got 6cyl or windsors and Clevelands so if I wanted one of these it would be easy.

06-20-2014, 12:09 AM
I think what hunty is trying to say is the market in Australia is so much smaller than the US, and people who do deal in these types of engines here know that, which basically means they can charge what they want.
A $20000 camaro in the states would be a $50000 car here, Aussie market is ridiculously overpriced when it comes to this type of stuff.
I've got no doubt the performance market does have everything needed to build/play with these types of engines unfortunately in oz there's maybe 12 reputable speed shops and same again, they too charge a fortune and near on impossible to get fe parts from.
Unfortunately most f trucks in oz don't use fe engines they're all mainly 302/351 combos, and the other models of cars that do have them here are pretty much non existent so it does make it hard, all comes back to supply and demand.
I guess I'll just keep my fingers crossed that the old 352 still has a few miles in her yet. Then to sort cruise o magic repairs, oh the joy.
Cheers Chris.

06-20-2014, 12:12 AM
Haha I did mention to a mate last night that I should just throw an LS in it.

06-20-2014, 12:24 AM
Yeah don't take the wrong way I'm not having a go it just is annoying not to have the vast amount parts and support for these engines like you guys do,
I suppose the plus side is we have a 6cly turbo Ford falcon engine that, with some small mods get 1000rwhp!😊 so all is not bad in aus

06-20-2014, 04:36 AM
I didn't take it as offensive. I know you guys down under have a good supply of Y-Blocks as well. I'm running a 292 in our '59 Galaxie because that's what it came with. I also have a '55 Customline I will put a 351Windsor EFI into with a Automatic OverDrive trans (4-speed auto). I love 351Windsors.

It would have been cheaper (much cheaper) for me to throw in a 390 FE in the '59 (because I could have used aluminum with a roller cam). One engine option for that year was the 332 (that nobody seems to like at all because it's a very early FE). Only Police Interceptors and Thunderbirds got the 352.

BTW, how much are you guys paying to ship an engine across the Pacific from Los Angeles? - Dave

06-20-2014, 07:03 AM
Im trying to find out actual costs but the company's over here advertise from $400, the opium word there is from :rolleyes: so by the time we buy a cheap block, say $300, plus the shipping it works out cheaper to buy one here. I think that's why there so pricey.

06-20-2014, 11:49 AM
One engine option for that year was the 332 (that nobody seems to like at all because it's a very early FE). Only Police Interceptors and Thunderbirds got the 352.

- Dave

Not true, the 332cid was the 2-barrel option, the new T-bird 352cid was the 4-barrel option for 1959 Ford cars too....

-Jon in TX.

06-20-2014, 04:00 PM
Oops, I do stand corrected. Thanks, Jon.
After reading the Shop Manual it says, "THUNDERBIRD 332 AND 352 SPECIAL V-8, AND 352 POLICE SPECIAL V-8".

Apparently there were two 352 engines offered to the '59 lineup, not just one. - Dave

06-20-2014, 05:55 PM
Not true, the 332cid was the 2-barrel option, the new T-bird 352cid was the 4-barrel option for 1959 Ford cars too....

-Jon in TX.

All FE powered cars assembled new in NZ were 332s and only in our 60 and 61 Fairlanes, I think the '59s all still had Y-blocks.

Anything with a 352 or 390 etc would have been privately imported.

06-21-2014, 12:24 AM
Ok, ran all the checks today, got timing set, tuned mixtures with vac gauge go steady 17inhg at idle with no fluctuations, so all good. Checked oil pressure, nice 50 at idle up to 65 at roughly 3500 rpm, so I was getting real happy, then done compression test. 120 on cylinders 1,2,3,4,6,7, dropped to 70 on cylinder 8 but no.5 there was 0. Is 0 possible and I'm assuming the engine is screwed. Any thoughts.
Thanks Chris.

06-21-2014, 12:35 AM
...120 on cylinders 1,2,3,4,6,7, dropped to 70 on cylinder 8 but no.5 there was 0. Is 0 possible and I'm assuming the engine is screwed...
Absolutely it's possible.
What happens if the cam lobe is worn down and the intake valve never opened.
What happens if you have a bent pushrod and the intake valve never opened?

We could play, 'what if' all day but you need to run more tests. First, take the valve covers off and watch. Look for the rocker arms to lift about 1/2" on the short side, or about 3/4" on the valve side.

If one or more is 'tired' and worn, you need a cam. This is the result from our reformulated modern oil.

Get an old spark plug, carefully gut it and weld-in an air hose quick-connect fitting. You want to blow air into the cylinder and listen.
If air comes out the carb, you have an intake valve leak.
If air comes out the exhaust pipe, you have an exhaust valve leak and,
If air comes out the valve cover (bottom of the engine) you have a piston ring leak.
Cams can be changed with the engine in the car but much easier if you pull the engine. Piston rings need to be done on an engine stand. - Dave

06-21-2014, 12:41 AM
Thanks Dave, I've already checked without valve cover on and the rocker arms are moving as the should. Engine was already going to come out I'm just checking the damage before hand. It's a shame, thing purrs like a kitten too.
Thanks I'll try checking the other stuff soon.
Cheers Chris.

06-21-2014, 12:46 AM
Chris, with all due respect, how can it purr with a dead cylinder and another that's limping?

These are problems that can be fixed, but they are serious issues.

Another possibility is that a valve has receded (from burning gasohol), which means it cannot close. That will show zero or very low compression as well. - Dave

06-21-2014, 12:55 AM
Dave exactly what I was thinking. It just idled real well, freely revved out so I'm just as surprised. It was a little smokey at first but that's cleared and I'd just put that down to not being driven for so long, maybe not lol.
Could I tell if a valves receeded without taking the head off.

06-21-2014, 12:58 AM
Sure! Simply loosen the rocker shaft and watch the heights of the valve stems (springs). If one or more stick up, there it is.

06-21-2014, 01:14 AM
When I purchased a used, tired, old 390 from a '73 F-100 this is what the heads looked like: CLICK HERE (http://squarebirds.org/images_FE-valves/)
The seller was a very nice guy, and he said the engine ran when he pulled it (but I don't know how). Regardless, I bought the engine to totally rebuild into a modern version.

So, 'buyer beware' is always on my mind but the only thing I cared about was the stroke. I didn't want to buy a 352 when the guy said it was a 390. I pulled two plugs and checked the stroke right there before hauling it away.

BTW, I gave the heads away to some guy who was picking up metal in my neighborhood. He was happy to get both heads (and I was just as happy to be rid of them). - Dave

06-21-2014, 01:23 AM
So just loosen the 4 bolts on top of the shaft.

06-21-2014, 01:52 AM
#2 bolt (from the front) is different on the driver's side (LH). #3 is the same on the RH head. Take the bolts loose as an assembly, and lift the whole thing to the side. Take pictures as you go. Disassemble the shafts and clean the inside. Re-assemble if the shafts are not worn or scored badly. Both rocker assemblies are identical.

You will notice that the second bolt has a skinnier shank. It's because oil for the rocker shafts come from this tower and the bolt is undercut to allow for more oil flow.

If you are changing cams, pull the distributor out, pushrods out of both sides and keep track of where they came from. Then pull the intake manifold, then the lifters. Keep the lifter/pushrod pairs together unless you find the lifters are too worn (dished at the face). Normally, when we change cams we don't put the old lifters back, we buy a new set.

Next, pull both heads. Again, this is an area where you don't want to go cheap. Do whatever machining it takes to bring these heads back to stock.

I love doing head work outside in the sun. (I know you're in winter right now.) But I make a wooden table, disassemble all the keepers, springs, valves, seals, and I check for worn guides. As a minimum, have the machine shop tank and both heads decked, your seats machined, new inserts installed and any guides repaired or replaced (clearance is under two thousandths inch). You can do the assembly at home. Buy new stainless valves. Over here, new springs cost 25-cents each, so I put new ones in. New springs make a difference in performance because they aren't stiff.

Buy a good timing set, and advance your cam by 4 degrees. This is a good time to change your oil pump and driveshaft. You will need a Master Engine Gasket Set. Buy Fel-Pro.

Get what you can from Rockauto.com as they have decent prices on quality parts. - Dave

06-21-2014, 01:58 AM
Thanks mate, yep eventually figured the different bolt out, all looks good there. I'm hoping to pull the motor in the next week or 2 so I'll get more into it then.
Haha yeah Sun would be nice, I live in the hills, but luckily I have a fireplace and a beer fridge so all is good.
Thanks again.

06-21-2014, 02:02 AM
Hey, we speak "Foster's" over here too, mate. Stay warm.

My folks are from the mountains of Pennsylvania. I always said dad had one leg longer than the other from running those ridges. - Dave

06-21-2014, 02:08 AM
Yep and them fosters may go down a bit faster now after today's work haha.