All these opinions are healthy to examine and compare. If money is no object then certainly, an overhauled 430 would be a real treat. Just about anything can be made for a price, but hang on to your hat IF you can find someone to make proper parts.
Pistons top the list of rare parts and we have lots of posts regarding that. Here's a post from 11-10-2010 about a 'marine 430'. He mentions Photobucket pictures that have been removed long ago:
Originally Posted by P Jardine
There has been a lot of discussion on pistons on the MEL engine forum, I have been part of that discussion. Although a number of manufacturers did make stepped pistons for the MEL series engines, most of them stopped based on demand. The pistons available from Kanter, Egge, and a few others are flat tops. This reduces the effective compression ratio from roughly 10:1 to about 7:1 and destroys the swirl in the combustion chamber further reducing performance. The 430 in particular was a VERY high performance engine with a short, yet fabled history. Ford paid particular attention to combustion chamber design, and piston style was big part of it.
In my particular build, which is a marine one, I ordered WISECO forged aluminum pistons with a 9.6 to 1 compression ratio. $1400 dollars. It was a fairly big investment, but overall in the big scheme of things.... not so much. My engine has been renewed completely with a 3 angle valve job, seats, new guides, crank was turned, Wiseco pistons, An original Mercury marauder intake with the 3 holley 2300's, Edelbrock M4 water cooled exhaust manifolds, Moon valve covers, etc etc. While cosmetics are important, a fresh engine costs for things you don't see, but they are the heart of the car/boat etc. I am looking forward to having an engine with a long life ahead of it, and no surprises or downsides.
If you visit the MEL engine forum, you will see a LONNNG thread on piston design etc.
Here are my Wiseco's and a couple of other pics of front and rear cover and polished manifold. Hours, I tell ya Hours.
The 430 MEL also used a special oil pump with a vacuum pump integrated on the bottom of the casting. Curiously, it was made by Delco-Remy.
The 430 never used an exhaust heat riser valve to warm the engine but they did have two thermostats, mounted into the block. I haven't seen these thermostats in many years at any price.
Soooo much discussion regarding heads... While it's true that heads are the heart of any engine, aluminum heads are far superior for transferring heat and shedding weight. I've never seen even a picture of an aluminum head for a 430.
Squarebirds came with two engine choices, the FE and MEL. Since FE engine sizes can not be readily identified from the outside, a 390 looks the same as a 352. Edelbrock offers aluminum heads and intake manifold for the 390 at a reasonable price. Edelbrock heads include bronze guides, Viton seals, Stainless valves, hardened seats, new springs and tapped holes with Helicoil inserts. They bolt-on right out the box.
I'm coming from a practical standpoint, in moderation. The 390 FE w/aluminum heads will solve heat problems whereas the finest cast iron heads lag far behind with a heat transfer factor of FOUR. Want high compression? Edelbrock added 5/8" of aluminum to the bottom of their heads so they can be shaved clear down to the valve seats (or not, your choice).
By contrast, the 430's combustion chamber is IN THE BLOCK. Sorry for yelling but nothing can be done about that. Any metal removed to clean up the heads or block will only make combustion chamber swirl and compression ratio matters worse.
The FE can easily produce more HP and torque than the MEL because of modern aftermarket choices, at reasonable cost. To top it off, savings in weight is well over 100 lbs. Swapping an FE in your SB for that MEL still keeps it 'Ford' and is a believable move, in keeping with the traditions of 'stock' parts. - Dave