Ford’s family of big-block engines encompasses a wide variety of cylinder heads and applications. Ford engineers stayed busy focusing on engineering changes that drive enthusiasts crazy. Most of these engineering changes are hard to see on the surface, but each had a purpose. Few of these changes have any effect on power. Port size variation is something having little, if any, effect because ports are generally too large or too small, depending upon which engine family you are addressing.
FE Series port sizing is befuddling because there’s very little difference in port size across the board unless you’re talking 427 cylinder heads. The 385 Series big-block employs four basic cylinder heads even though there are a number of casting/part number differences. The MEL was a low-revving luxury car engine. However, it achieved fame in powerboat cruising and racing. Despite both factors, Ford produced one basic cylinder head for the MEL with slight variations.
The real beauty of Ford big-block heads is easy identification and broad selection in each engine family.
A big plus for FE big-block buffs is a plethora of factory head castings, with the added bonus of OEM-style head castings from Blue Thunder, Robert Pond, Bear Block Motors, Survival Motorsports, and Edelbrock that give an FE build a stock demeanor without revealing what’s inside. These manufacturers offer more choices than ever and that means unprecedented power gains.
FE cylinder heads have 10 head bolt holes and 4 rocker arm pedestal attachment bolt points. Each end sports 3/8-inch threaded bolt holes for accessories. What makes the FE cylinder head odd is that it shares the valvecover with the intake manifold. That makes the FE head narrow compared to the 385 and MEL series heads. All valves are on a common plane of 13 degrees in relation to the block deck. Combustion chambers range in size from 58 to 88 cc, depending upon which head you’re thinking of.
Most FE cylinder heads have the smaller chambers at 58 to 74 cc. High-performance cylinder heads such as the 427’s traditionally have larger 77- to 88-cc chambers, with compression regulated by piston dome configuration. Exhaust port passages jut way out from the valvecovers as they do on a Pontiac or Oldsmobile cylinder head.
It is well known that massproduction FE cylinder heads don’t vary much across all castings. Port sizing across FE production history varies little despite dozens of part and casting numbers. For example, the GT High Performance cylinder head doesn’t have enough of a port/valve size difference to be worth its distinction. It is basically the same head found on Galaxies and pickup trucks with only minute variations.