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1958 to 1959 engine questions

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  • 1958 to 1959 engine questions

    Can anyone tell me if the heads for a 1958 to 1959 332 or 352 are interchangeable? A guy in my area has 2 rebuilt heads for a 1958-1959 Ford 332 or 352. The valve seats are not hardened so I would have to see how much I could get that done for.
    Also, another guy has a 390 small block engine out of a 1968 Ford truck for sale. He says it's an "FE" and that it is a small block. Does that sound correct? I thought a 390 FE was a big block. I've never heard of a 390 small block. Basically my 352 is a 390 with a smaller bore and different stroke. Once again, mine is a 1959 and his is a 1968.
    thx in advance, Dave J

  • #2
    The 332 is an often forgot motor due to the fact that it was only around for 2 years (58,59) and was the first hack they made at the FE. Most FE parts are interchangeable, but the wrong combination could make a really poor performing motor or not work together at all. Without going into every single piece, check out Steve Christs book here:

    The book is an oldy but goody. Without spending any money check here for some useful info:


    • #3
      David, I believe that in Steve Christ's book you will find that the heads are interchangable for those years and that the diffence in CID is in the lower block with bore and stroke; cranks, pistons and rods. As far as your little block FE guy goes, he knows not what he's talking about. The small blocks were the 289 and 302 stuff. Maybe even the Cleve's and Winsdors were considered small blocks. FE is Big Block.

      Just read a bit in the Steve Christ book and in several places he states that the 332 and 352 are the same, but goes on in detail at how they are or how they became different. Same goes for the heads in the 332, 352 and 390 in years 58 and 59. Read his book on page 28, 39 and 55-56.
      Best Birding,
      Jed Zimmerman
      '58HT and '48 Dodge Panel in MN
      Thunderbird Registry #3810 VTCI#7652


      • #4
        I agree with c4clewis and Ca58bird. FE's are not SBF (small block Ford) engines. Those are basically Mustang engines (302, 5.0, and Windsor engines).

        Are you SURE the guy isn't selling a 390 'short block'? 'Small' and 'short' can easily be confused.
        My latest project:
        CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

        "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
        --Lee Iacocca

        From: Royal Oak, Michigan


        • #5
          I'll bet that's it Simplyconnected - he had to have meant short block. He wrote (and said) small block though. He said the engine was rebuilt but they never finished assembly. It's been sitting for a few years. The heads are off the engine and in the cab of the truck, so the top of the motor is open. He said it turns over by hand just fine. He says he just wants to get rid of it and would take offers. I offered him $100 and he said he might go $200 - but he wants to wait a week to see if any one else will take the engine and transmission together. I figure this could be a good engine to build over the next couple of years. Once he gets me the numbers off the engine I'll look it up and see just what it is. I had a guy try to sell me a truck a while back that supposedly was a 390. I checked out the numbers and it was actually a 360.

          The guy with the heads wants $250 (or make offer). He took the heads to a well known machine shop in Albuquerque that has been doing engines for 30+ years. I've met the guy that owns the shop and he is regarded as the best engine machine shop in the state. Very nice guy, and very well respected. I guess the owner of the heads is selling them for a friend who is in Iraq. He took them to the shop to have them identify what they are, and what they will work with. That's where he got the 332 and 352 info. I'll try calling the shop tomorrow and see what they'll charge for replacing the valve seats. I can also ask him what he thought of the heads and what kind of shape they were in.

          thx everybody! Dave J


          • #6
            Originally posted by davidmij View Post
            ...He said the engine was rebuilt but they never finished assembly...
            Just what did they do to 'rebuild'?

            You can easily measure the bore and stroke yourself, if you just need an engine size. But get specifics. A properly 'rebuilt' engine would have been boiled and magnafluxed, first. Then all freeze plugs and oil plugs would have been replaced with new. Ask what brands of parts were used.

            Did they bore the cylinders?
            New pistons are worth over $100.
            New rings are worth $50.
            New Main Bearings...
            New Rod Bearings...

            You can see that $200 won't get it IF this is truly a rebuilt short block, because I didn't include any machine shop work. An offer of $100 would be for an engine NOT restored in any way.

            Does it have lifters and pushrods? How about a cam and timing set, all the bolts for the flex plate, heads, intake, water pump, and final dress?

            If this deal is a properly rebuilt short block and you have an old tired engine to rob parts off, this would be a great deal for you. On the other hand, why did they stop assembly? It doesn't make sense to me, to invest in a major overhaul and just stop. There are too many 'unknowns' going on. I would not go by 'word of mouth' but I would carefully go through and check out the work for myself before buying.

            Pull the oil pan off. Check the oil pump. Pull a bearing cap off and check a bearing. If it looks new, stick a little piece of Plastigage in there and measure the clearance. If everything is good, cylinders have nice crosshatch and new pistons, it's worth over $500 just for the short block.

            This is one of those Buyer Beware deals. If you don't go through it and something fails later, you're on your own. So a ounce of prevention... - Dave
            My latest project:
            CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

            "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
            --Lee Iacocca

            From: Royal Oak, Michigan


            • #7
              Thx Dave. Yes, I have the same gut feel as you that this is far from a ready to run engine and may be too good to be true. But I kind of figure that a 390 block alone is still a good deal for $200. He said it has a 4 barrel manifold, but they used an adapter to make it a 2 barrel because the base of the carb they had is cracked. Hm, the heads are off so it'll be super easy to check the bore of 4.05 inches and stroke of 3.785 inches to see if it's a 390. Here's what the add from Craig's list said.

              He told me the tops of the pistons and the cylinders have a light coating of rust - that's why I figured I might use it as an engine to build over the next couple of years.
              Remember, I'm just putting together a Rat Rod type car that will probably only ever see 100 miles of road a year, so I don't really care about a "spec on" engine. Just want something to take to shows and spin the tires for fun - a low geared car with a torquey engine. Purely in a controlled and safe environment of organized events. If I can get something like a 390 in it and running, maybe I'll gradually rebuild the 352 I have now. I'm sure I'll change my mind again as time goes on. I also have a friend with a 430 in a 59 Lincoln or Mercury - he said he wants to replace it so I might be able to buy it.

              regards, Dave J


              • #8
                I just finished rebuilding my engine, which turned out to be a 390 and NOT a 352. This was actually a good thing. The cost to rebuild a 352 is enormous! Parts are hard to come by,aftermarket heads don't fit because of the smaller bore, etc. Unless you REALLY want a 352, I'd go with a 390, it will actually be cheaper. And the real kicker is, unless you really know what to look for, you can't tell the difference between any of the FE engines (except the cammer) without pulling the heads and measuring the bore and stroke.

                Good luck on the deal, I hope it works out for everyone involved. But like Simplyconnected said, be wary and do some looking!


                • #9
                  VERY good point Mr Lewis. Now that you mention it, I remember when I was in this Albuquerque machine shop last Spring the owner priced rebuilding my heads for me - then he looked up the price of pistons for my 352. They were twice as expensive as a 390. He gave me the same advice - to buy a 390 and build it. I think I'll take a good long look at this 390 and trans. i want to put a 5 speed in this Rat eventually so the bell housing etc would be good to have too. I may even be able to re-sell the trans and break even.
                  thx, Dave


                  • #10
                    58 heads

                    the Early 58 heads had Machined combustion chambers, bettr ports. These work very good with the early 1958 430 valves installed. I have done it twice, in a 390. Installed the hottest 427 cam Ford made, really sounded and ran very well. plenty hot for the street.the 390 only had a .050" bigger bore than the 332/352. 332/352 can easily be bored to 4.050", get a 390 crank kit, 390 rods, and have a great running engine. Just get the flat-top pistons for the early(1961-1964) 390.If you ar going to rebuid, might as well gain some power.
                    Last edited by 63-4drpost; September 9th, 2011, 07:11 AM.


                    • #11
                      Is that basically what is called a stroker Henry? It's a great idea - I'd kind of like to find a 390 to put in the car while building an engine just so I can drive it a little here and there. I've never done any engine work so it'll take time.
                      - thx, Dave