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How to build a reliable, powerful Ford Y-block

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  • How to build a reliable, powerful Ford Y-block

    Found this article and thought some might find it interesting:

  • #2
    The book is written by two of THE foremost authorities on Y-Block engines. They have dedicated themselves to this engine because they are passionate about it as evidenced in the following quote:

    "Forget the 90-degree Fairlane V-8 known as the small-block Ford, and both the FE and 385-series big-blocks a lot of enthusiasts like to install in classic Ford trucks. If you're building a vintage Ford truck, the Y-block is the only mill that will do from an emotional standpoint."

    Funny but here in Detroit, Hot Rodders claim, 'it's not a real hot rod unless it has a flathead Ford engine.'

    There's an old saying that goes, 'There's no replacement for displacement." Nyles, you should know this well.

    I have a Y-Block in our '59 Galaxie because it came with the car. It's a nice engine but c'mon... 292 cubic inches is way underpowered in a full size Fordor. Everything you can do with a Y, you can also do with an FE only cheaper.

    The 'Y' was Ford's first attempt at building an overhead valve engine. This was one step up from the Ford flathead. The 'Y' came with many design flaws, most (but not all) of which were corrected in the FE. Notice, none of the Squarebirds had a 'Y'. Also notice, NONE of the Squarebird builders reverted to the 'Y' as it was a good 'first attempt' but far too small for a personal luxury car.

    I'm sure I'll get feedback about this post but it is all true. I will only go through and name the 'Y-Block' faults if asked. I spent a lot of time and effort correcting them for my build. - 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


    • #3
      The old Y-Block’s got her faults, yes. Heavy, small displacement, inefficient, and the world’s crappiest upper oiling system.
      But when I was a Chebby hating kid, I found massive satisfaction in making these things run, and run hard. Blowing away 327 Vettes gave a certain satisfaction unattainable through much else.
      In the early 80’s, there was zero performance stuff except for any old vintage goodies you found, and I found precious little.
      So what to do? Study the interchange manuals, learn the good parts, open hoods in scrapyards and liberate what you needed. Hitting the Ford Stores payed dividends too. Oftentimes dealers had old engine parts they’d darn near give away just to clear it out.
      I lived, breathed, and became fluent in Y-Block, and should have bought stock in Fel-Pro I bought so many gasket sets.
      Spent countless hours at the bench doing Dremel port and runner jobs, and they didn’t always work out. Nobody ever told me glass smooth intake runners were a bad idea...

      These days it’s easy. Mummert and others did your research for you. Just swipe your card and you can have a race ready hunk of ancient Ford iron ready to kick some ***, AND sound awesome doing it, too.

      No joke guys. If I ever win the PowerBall, I’m picking up the nicest 57 Chebbie fuelie convert in the world, and dropping in a 292 with a turned down 312 crank.
      That should nicely erase a few of those evil 350 into 55 Ford sins....


      • #4
        Originally posted by Y-Blokkah View Post
        The old Y-Block’s got her faults, yes. Heavy, small displacement, inefficient, and the world’s crappiest upper oiling system...
        God love ya, Ernie. You would have been 15 or so back in 1980. At that time, everyone was dumping their muscle cars because gas became expensive, they started using gasohol (with lower BTUs in the same amount of gas) and the EPA had long demanded emissions standards that ruined high compression ratios in cast iron engines.

        It was indeed, a sad time for those of us who cut their teeth on real muscle (426 & 440 Chrysler, 427-8-9 Ford, Chevy, 390 Ford and American Motors) that easily produced 400+ HP, naturally aspirated.

        Where did the 'Y' fit in? It didn't. Yes, it sounds wonderful but it had too many limitations (and faults). This is an engine that cannot ever have hydraulic lifters or a roller cam. The center two exhaust ports cause a heat problem and it's small. We tried sleeving all the cylinders to accommodate larger pistons but the block caved in because all the strength was cut out in the process. So, Ford sent the tooling to Australia and S. America (where their environmental standards allowed continuation of the 'Y'). It tickles me to no end that S. America adapted a 302 (Mustang) head (with the same cylinder centers) to the 'Y' in order to eliminate the center exhaust port problems. But that only solved one problem of many.

        Ford quickly went to the FE because further development of the 'Y' meant a total revamp, which Mummert is attempting by marketing his aluminum heads, intake, timing cover, etc. History shows that Edelbrock never made an aluminum head for the 'Y' but that's exactly who is making Mummert's heads.

        Our first rebuilds produced fond memories as we learned with little money and we produced 'better' than what we started with. But the 'Y' is so constraining, it needs to be appreciated for what it was designed for; leaded fuel, oil with ZDDP for solid flat tappets and scheduled valve lash adjustments. The exhaust speaks sweet but money talks loudest and it says, 'Mustangs offered cheap HP with loads of potential like EFI, hydraulic roller cams w/True Double-Roller timing sets, aluminum heads and intake, tube headers, solid state ignition, serpentine belt, supercharger... all from the factory and widely supported by aftermarket sources.' - 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


        • #5
          Dad told me that if I wanted a car, I could build it myself.
          So I started opening hoods. I can’t tell you how many times I ran like a scalded *** cat because I disturbed the yellow jackets under the hood of some old Ford.
          I ran the snot out of those engines. And created plenty of problems.
          Points always closed while on a highway in a rainstorm. It took me a month to finally figure out the “slobbering Holley” in my 56, where leaking secondary tubes dripped raw fuel directly into the venturis.
          The most memorable was ‘rebuilding’ a buddy’s 3 speed on the side of I-94 in ND, 75 Miles from anywhere. We were on the way to some Rod Run and it started getting loud. For some stupid reason, I had bearings and seals for one in my box, so we did it. All went well until I scattered the needles. Invented new words then. But, found them all and got it back together. Memories.
          Y-Blocks got in the blood and they’ve never left. Last month a buddy asked me if I could see what was up with his 57 Skyliner.
          Nobody could figure it out.... It took 15 minutes to diag, clean and set the points, then another hour to set the valves and adjust the carb.
          New breed techs raised on EFI and plug and play parts are clueless. EFI belongs on the wife’s econopod. If it has fins, it has a carb. Siamese ports make goodwill too. Rule #1 and 2 at my place.

          As for the Y’s limitations. Who cares. We’re building them for fun, today. One of these days I’ll buy all the cool new stuff, shake the box, pull out a new Y and drop it in a car. I’m sure the result will make my peach fuzzed busted knuckle journeys look feeble in comparison.
          Last edited by Joe Johnston; October 14th, 2018, 09:08 AM.