Tag: Engine

Why Prewar Car Engines Need Bearings Made From Scratch – Sam Smith @Road&Track

Why Prewar Car Engines Need Bearings Made From Scratch – Sam Smith @Road&Track


When he lights the burner, the pot is cold. It is ceramic, roughly the size of a small trash can, and essentially fused to the lump of metal inside it, tin blended with antimony and copper, maybe 100 pounds in total. The whole thing is mounted in a steel cart, next to another virtually identical pot, which is also full of cold metal. There is a lit burner under each.In about 30 minutes, those burners will melt that metal to liquid, and the pots will become too hot to stand next to comfortably. And then Alec Giaimio, the cart’s owner, will pour that metal onto an engine’s connecting rod.

“I met an old-timer in this business,” he says. “He’d been doing it since 1926. I needed a bearing job on an old Delage. He had a hard time setting up the crank centerline—that Delage had three cams—so I helped him. And he taught me how to pour babbitt, every Saturday for four years. I worked for him in order to learn, had to buy him lunch. That was . . . 1978? 1980?”Giaimio is a babbitt man. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is widely regarded as one of the best automotive babbitt pourers on earth. And because automotive babbitt is deeply obsolete, he is also one of the last. If you own a prewar road or race car, it almost certainly has babbitt in its engine. If that car gets used hard and doesn’t regularly blow up, Giaimio has probably seen some of its innards.

Babbitt is a loose term for a metal alloy used in bearings. It’s also a process. Consider the crankshaft in a combustion engine: It rotates and is subject to thousands of pounds of force. It has to spin in something. The modern solution is a hydrodynamic shell bearing, a replaceable piece of metal that sits between engine block and crank. Most new engines have many of these, including two at each of the crankshaft’s supporting journals, but they’re also used in or around other rotating bits, like camshafts and connecting rods.Modern engines feed pressurized oil to these bearings, which helps keep them alive. That’s the “hydrodynamic” part—if the engine is healthy, the bearing doesn’t touch anything. (A layer of oil supports the spinning pieces.) But shell bearings wear out like anything else. When they do, their design makes them easy to replace: You open the engine, typically during a rebuild, pop the bearings out with a fingernail, and replace them

It wasn’t always so easy. Until the middle of the last century, most engine bearings were made by custom-pouring liquid metal into place. Many cities had shops that specialized in this—some guy with a ladle, a burner, and a pot full of alloy. He’d heat the metal to melting and then dollop it into place. When the metal had cooled and hardened—about 30 seconds later—he’d set it aside for finishing with machine tools.The process and the alloy are named after a 19th-century Boston goldsmith. In 1839, Isaac Babbitt patented a type of bearing carrier for railroad-car axles. His patent description notes, almost as an afterthought, that he had also developed an alloy for the load surface on those bearings. The structure of Babbitt’s metal helped make it resistant to galling—wear produced from momentary adhesion during sliding—and on a microscopic level, it had a remarkable capacity for carrying oil. This was an important benefit for early automobiles, many of which lacked oil pumps and relied solely on “splash” lubrication—the calculated hope that a running engine would kick enough oil around its guts to stay alive. (One of my old mechanic mentors used to describe prewar car engineering as “ingenuity crossed with blacksmithing and prayer.” He wasn’t exaggerating.)

The catch lies in the application. Metallurgy is science, but the results of babbitting must be gauged by eye and feel, which means the practice includes a healthy dose of art. Even the tamest engine subjects its bearings to force that would seriously injure a human being. If your poured babbitt isn’t perfect, it will come apart under that load and take the engine with it. And there are myriad ways to make a babbitt bearing imperfect. You can pour it too quickly, too slowly, or at the wrong temperature. Or use the wrong blend of babbitt for the application, allow impurities into the melted metal . . . the list goes on. As with a weld or solder joint, you can kill a good pour through improper prep or sloppy machining. The poured metal has to be free of porosity (internal air bubbles, invisible from outside), it has to adhere properly to the underlying surface, and it has to solidify at the right speed, its structure cooling neither too quickly nor too slowly. And unlike a bad weld, bad babbitt doesn’t always give clues in its finished appearance. You have to watch the work, as it happens.“After I tin the surface,” Giaimio says, “I can see the capillary action of the babbitt, the oxidation. As it amalgamates . . . if it looks like molasses poured over a piece of glass, or welding to it as it disperses . . . it’ll be like bread dough on a piece of marble, if it’s not sticking.

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Isaac Babbitt


Isaac Babbitt (July 26, 1799 in Taunton, Massachusetts – May 26, 1862 in Somerville, Massachusetts) was an American inventor. In 1839, he invented a bearing made of a low-friction tin-based metal alloy, Babbitt metal, that is used extensively in engine bearings today.Babbitt was a goldsmith by trade, who experimented with metal alloys

In 1824, he made the first Britannia metal manufactured in the United States, from which he sold table wares as Babbitt, Crossman & Company. As this proved financially unsuccessful, he withdrew, and in 1834 moved to Boston.

There he engaged as superintendent for the South Boston Iron Company, better known as Alger‘s foundries, where he produced the first brass cannon in the United States. Also while there, in 1839, he invented the widely used metal now known as Babbitt metal, an alloy of four parts copper, eight of antimony, and twenty-four of Banca tin, used for reducing the friction of axles in heavy machinery.

For this invention he received in 1841 a gold medal from the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, and afterward the United States Congress granted him $20,000.

He subsequently patented this material in England (1844) and in Russia (1847). For some time, he devoted his attention to the production of the metal, and he was also engaged in the manufacture of soap. He died in Somerville, Mass., May 26, 1862.

Source – Wikipedia

Engine Project for the Model A Sport Coupe


As part of future proofing the Model A, picked up an unfinished engine project, first task is to review what we have and what we need in terms of parts and effort

The block looks in good shape and appears to be a 30 and has been bored and sleeved back to standard. Babbitt looks OK, crankshaft looks in good shape subject to measurement. Camshaft and timing gear will most likely be replaced. May look at a slightly hotter camshaft during the build. The engine also came with two oil pumps and some other duplicate parts which will be reviewed, along with a nice restored oil pan.

Whilst looking at the engine number I noticed that the 1, 6.9 looked a little odd. This is explained by the text on the right (Source Steve Plucker)

The main cap babbitt also looks OK with the exception of the rear main which has some damage. An additional main cap with decent has been supplied so will need to take a call later down the line

The original pistons are still on the rod and the babbitt also looks OK. New pistons and rings have been provided.

A good number of other new parts were part of the haul. Valves and guides, adjustable tappets, valve springs, head studs, babbitt shims, oil drain pipe to name but a few.

Upon examination it would appear that at least some of the engine components have their origin in Argentina, further investigation to be carried out!

Watch this space for future updates

Automotive Specialists Builds An Ardun-Headed Ford Flathead For Bonneville – Jeff Hunnycutt @Hemmings


Preparing To Take On Speed Records In Two Classes

Back when Henry Ford released the Flathead V8 early in the last century, it was revolutionary in numerous ways. But the power wasn’t exactly revolutionary. The flathead was designed to provide adequate torque while being economical to produce and relatively (at least for the time) durable. Horsepower, unfortunately, was not at the top of the priority list.

In fact, the first examples produced just 65 horsepower, which was 10 horsepower less than the Chevrolet straight-six from the same era. In fact, the most Ford’s version of the flathead was ever able to produce on its own was a measly 110 horsepower.

And that’s the reason why brothers Zora and Yura Arkus-Duntov decided to develop a better-flowing overhead valve setup for the flathead. (If you are wondering, yes, that’s the same Zora Arkus-Duntov of Chevrolet’s Corvette fame.) They formed Ardun – a company named after an amalgamation of their last name – and developed their own overhead valve kit for the flathead. In 1945 they even approached Ford Motor Company, in the hopes of selling the Ardun cylinder head design to the automaker.

But the powers at Ford turned down the offer and rejected the Ardun cylinder, so Zora and Yura decided to produce and sell the engine kits on their own. The big advantage of the Ardun design is the overhead valve arrangement allowed for highly efficient intake and exhaust ports which flowed much more air than the convoluted ports cast into the flathead block. Overhead valves also had the opportunity for greater lift without lowering the compression ratio like it does in a conventional flathead, and finally, the hemispherical combustion chamber makes for a cleaner burn than the OEM chamber.

Doug Kenny’s 1929 Ford Roadster LSR racer. The Ford is slated for two classes: XXF/BFR (Blown Fuel Roadster) and XXF/BFR (Blown Gas Roadster).

Unfortunately, while they did make more power, the Ardun kits did have the same issues that caused the decision makers at Ford to say no thanks. Namely, the bigger cylinder heads added weight, made the engine significantly wider so it would no longer fit in many stock engine compartments, had durability issues (particularly valve seats falling out of the heads after a few heat cycles), and at $500 a set were quite costly for the time period.

Plus, while there were power gains, they weren’t exactly extreme. Depending on tuning, most customers saw a power boost between 25 and 60 percent, with most engines averaging around 160 horsepower.

So the Ardun cylinder head kit never quite caught on like Zora and Yura hoped. Still, they managed to produce somewhere between 200 and 250 pairs of heads and associated parts. And although the Ardun heads never caught on with the mass market, racers almost instantly recognized their potential. It’s their constant improvements that have helped make the overhead valve cylinder heads for the Ford Flathead take on the almost mythical reputation they have today.

These days, those original 200 to 250 pairs of Ardun cylinder heads are as rare as a snowman in Alabama, but thankfully, reproductions are still available. Just be prepared to wring out your wallet. Today, Don Ferguson owns the right to produce Ardun cylinder heads and associated products, and you can purchase a brand-spanking-new pair of heads, shaft-mount rocker arms, valley cover and a few other things for your flathead build. But you’d better be serious, because it’s going to cost you a whopping $16,000 for a set.

Which brings us to the topic of this story. Land Speed racer Doug Kenny purchased a 1929 Ford roadster from another racer that had a supercharged Ardun engine already in it. He and his crew spent weeks tearing the car apart and rebuilding it and even refreshing the engine before taking it back to Bonneville for Speed Weeks back in 2001. But unfortunately, the engine burnt two pistons while on the salt, and Kenny had to come home without setting any records.

For help with the engine rebuild, Kenny turned to father-and-son duo Keith and Jeff Dorton at Automotive Specialists in Concord, NC. After dominating several series in oval track and stock car racing for decades, in the last several years Automotive Specialists has turned their focus to really high-end unique builds, usually either for show cars or for land-speed racing

As we went to press, the Ardun was ready to be fired up. The Roadster hasn’t been to the Bonneville Salt Flats with the new engine yet. These images are from the car’s last outing in 2021.

Because of pandemic-related supply chain issues, it took nearly two years for Kenny’s Ardun to be rebuilt to Automotive Specialists’ standards. Thankfully, we were able to step in just as everything was coming together. Please note that this is not a story about building a flathead with the original Ardun components. In the same vein that racers and innovators built their own highly modified Arduns when Zora and Yura first began selling the heads in the 1940’s, this story is how a smart engine builder is continuing to advance power levels with these iconic heads almost 80 years later.

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How to Tell if an Engine is Healthy – Jeff Smith @Hemmings


Muscle Car Forensics

The trip to check out a potential car purchase is always a highlight for any car guy or gal. There are a ton of items and processes to evaluate, and often red flags are easy to overlook when the urge to snatch up this latest tasty machine is too much to overcome. Especially when the seller claims he has two other perspective buyers who might just be ready to snatch it out from underneath you.

That’s why the more common-sense approach is to view this next potential purchase with a jaundiced eye. Look for its flaws and then decide if the price warrants the issues that you know will likely have to deal with.

The cliché holds true: the first impression is the most important. A clean engine bay beats a grease pit with oil puddles underneath. This engine bay is somewhere in-between, but kudos to the serpentine belt accessory drive over the V-belt system

The experienced buyer has looked at hundreds of potential purchases. They’ve bought some, passed on many more, and been beaten to the purchase on just as many. For this story, we’ve condensed a few of these experiences into some logical approaches for evaluating the heartbeat of your next muscle car purchase. The engine isn’t the only arbitrator, but it’s an important one.

Even before you fire the engine and listen to it rumble, popping the hood and evaluating the engine’s overall visual appearance will reveal many secrets. Is the engine compartment clean and detailed or heavy with baked-on grease or an inch of dust? We can begin our inspection by looking for the obvious runs, drips, and errors. Do the valve covers reveal clean spots where oil is leaking past the gaskets? Look to see if the engine has a PCV valve or breathers stuck haphazardly into the valve covers.

Our first quick inspection revealed a slight coolant leak from around the thermostat housing. Cheap thermostat housings are infamous for leaking, but this might be as simple as a new gasket to fix. Keep tabs of maintenance issues like this as you look everything over.

Look for coolant stains. They will generally be green if the coolant is fresh. If the engine is cold, remove the radiator cap and use your flashlight to inspect the inside for corrosion. If it’s brown and crusty, that indicates the engine has not necessarily had the care it deserves. Do the radiator hoses look pliable or are they brittle and ready to split? Look at the less visible freeze plugs. Steel freeze plugs and a rusty cooling system are poor bedfellows, and you can expect to replace all the freeze plugs after cleaning the cooling system. That’s a very common issue with older engines that have not seen proper attention.

Next pull the dipstick and check not just for level but also for its condition. A rusty, crud-encrusted dip stick tells you the engine’s interior is likely in a similar state. If the oil level is good but black as coal, this means the owner didn’t even bother with simple maintenance to improve his chances of a sale. That tells you something.

Checking the oil can tell you plenty about the engine’s condition. If the oil is clean and fresh, then the owner has put care into the car. This oil looks recently changed, a good sign. Be sure to check the automatic transmission fluid dipstick for pink-to-red fluid, if equipped.

If the above considerations don’t deter you to look deeper, then that’s when you can ask to have the seller start the engine. Listen carefully to how it cranks. If the engine is already warm when you arrived, it might be because the engine is balky and not happy when cold. Listen to how the engine cranks over. If the cranking is consistent, that indicates cylinder pressure is probably good through all the cylinders. If it cranks with a change in speed before it fires, this may indicate at least one or two cylinders are not making the same pressure as the others.

If the engine cranks very slowly, this may be an indication that the starter or its connections are not up to par, or it could be the battery or cables are suspect. Once the engine starts, does it idle consistently or does it appear to have a misfire? Listen carefully for internal engine noises. A light knock is a bad sign but not necessarily an immediate deal-breaker. A bad hydraulic lifter can mimic a rod bearing knock. But either way this is not a good sign.

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What Cars Offered Four-, Six-, and Eight-Cylinder Engines All at the Same Time? – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


This trait may be the only thing a Sixties Scout has in common with a new Cadillac CT5

By its very nature, the automobile has identity issues. Rarely can automakers afford to conceive, develop, and market a vehicle with just one customer set in mind, so they either find an acceptable compromise or offer a slate of options to reach a broad range of customers. That can then lead to some strange bedfellows on the showroom floor, including dozens of instances of cars, trucks, and vans that offer four-, six-, and eight-cylinder engine options all at once.

While praising the remarkably long-lasting Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size vans, I noted that the vans had, late in their run, joined a small list of vehicles available with factory-available fours, sixes, and eights all in the same model year. Predictably, several commenters noted other vehicles on that list, which of course warranted an afternoon spent further researching all the vehicles I could think of that might qualify for that list.

Not saying I exhausted every single instance of a vehicle offering such a wide variety of powerplants, thus covering the spectrum from economy to power, but I came up with enough to offer some broad generalized insights about postwar American history and to justify that afternoon. (If you can think of any more, keep your suggestions coming in the comments.)

By its very nature, the automobile has identity issues. Rarely can automakers afford to conceive, develop, and market a vehicle with just one customer set in mind, so they either find an acceptable compromise or offer a slate of options to reach a broad range of customers. That can then lead to some strange bedfellows on the showroom floor, including dozens of instances of cars, trucks, and vans that offer four-, six-, and eight-cylinder engine options all at once.

While praising the remarkably long-lasting Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size vans, I noted that the vans had, late in their run, joined a small list of vehicles available with factory-available fours, sixes, and eights all in the same model year. Predictably, several commenters noted other vehicles on that list, which of course warranted an afternoon spent further researching all the vehicles I could think of that might qualify for that list.

Not saying I exhausted every single instance of a vehicle offering such a wide variety of powerplants, thus covering the spectrum from economy to power, but I came up with enough to offer some broad generalized insights about postwar American history and to justify that afternoon. (If you can think of any more, keep your suggestions coming in the comments.)

4/6/8 Criteria

First, some ground rules for my search. I didn’t care about the type of fuel or the cylinder configuration, only the actual cylinder count. I also didn’t consider the recent (and not-so-recent) multi-displacement systems that electronically shut off certain cylinders; I wanted actual effort on the part of the automakers to build a vehicle small or light enough for a four-cylinder to push around but also with enough room in the engine bay for a V-8. And I’m not counting versions built with an additional engine choice by a company other than the original carmaker (sorry, Ford Capri Mk1). Some British models did offer fours, sixes, and eights at various times in their model runs, but not at the same time, so I’m not counting them. I am counting vehicles that used engines in a hybrid configuration as well as vehicles that offered fours, sixes, and eights at the same time but not in the same market.

Based on those criteria, this appears to be a phenomenon that generally occurred in three different time periods in postwar history: the mid- to late Sixties, when American carmakers engaged in a horsepower war at the same time that the American car-buying public started to demand greater thrift in their cars; the mid-Seventies into the Eighties, when American carmakers and car buyers, shocked by the oil crises and the need for greater pollution controls, nevertheless still wanted power, still wanted size, and still hadn’t processed the geopolitical implications of the price of oil; and the mid-2010s to the present, when the carmakers’ addiction to ratcheting vehicle size (and ratcheting profits) put them at odds with equally more stringent CAFE figures, leading them to implement technological solutions like turbocharged and hybridized four-cylinders to try to maximize power from minimal engine sizes.

That said, not every vehicle that I or our readers identified fits neatly into those eras, and other than a few gaps here and there, 4/6/8 vehicles have been with us pretty consistently since the Sixties.

Many thanks to those of you who chimed in on the original version of this article with your suggestions for further models to investigate. I’ve tried to include all of those below.

1964 to 1970 Chevrolet Chevy II

The earliest instance of a postwar American 4/6/8 vehicle we’ve found dates back to 1964 when Chevrolet dropped a 283-cu.in. V-8 into the Chevy II. The compact already had the Super-Thrift 153 four-cylinder and the Hi-Thrift 194 six-cylinder, and both engines used the small-block V-8’s bellhousing bolt pattern, so it didn’t take much engineering to add the V-8. In 1966, Chevrolet relegated the 153 to the basest of base-model Chevy IIs, but the division still kept the engine on the books through the 1970 model year.

1966 to 1969 Checker

If thrifty Sixties cars make perfect candidates for the 4/6/8 trifecta, then of course we have to include Checker (we considered Rambler and Studebaker, but both of those carmakers used six-cylinders as base engines), which, as it turns out, qualified for the list sometime in the mid- to late Sixties when it offered Perkins four-cylinder diesels alongside the Chevrolet-sourced 230-cu.in. straight-six and 327-cu.in. V-8. According to the Internet Checker Taxi Archives, the Perkins option lasted from 1967 to 1969 here in the States, while Israel-bound Checkers received the diesels starting in 1966. The ICTA also notes that Studebaker offered a Perkins diesel in 1963, which would put that car on the list as well.

1967 to 1971 International Harvester Scout 800

International Harvester, like Pontiac, took a unique approach to crafting a four-cylinder by essentially lobbing off half of a V-8’s cylinders, so the IH Scout 800, with a base 152-cu.in. slant-four, easily accommodated International’s V-8 starting in 1967. To fill the gap between the two, International used AMC’s 232-cu.in. straight-six for a brief period in the late Sixties, though as we can see from the brochure pages above, the company didn’t seem to publicize that option well.

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According to you: Your favorite name for an engine – Sajeev Mehta


Turns out there are lot of great engine names out there! You, a member of the Hagerty Community, helped fill my list with engine names that stood the test of time. Or at least been memorable enough to never forget. And some were just nicknames that caught on! No matter the name’s popularity or where it came from, here is your list of favorite engine names!

Blue Flame

You just gotta keep the flame for Chevy’s famous inline six cylinder engine. It powered so many vehicles, ranging from the work-ready to the weekend fun generated by the original Corvette. It’s almost a shame we only got two upvotes for it!

  • Peter: The “Blue Flame Six” baby!!
  • DUB6: Yeah, I always thought Blue Flame Six was a catchy name for an engine.


I was a little surprised to see that only one person (@JBD) mentioned Chrysler’s famous Hemi V-8. Or maybe this comes as no surprise, as the name is so common that the Hagerty Community wanted to dig up other names that we might have forgotten?

AMC Torque Command & Typhoon

Be it the V-8 or the straight-6, AMC’s Typhoon name was so catchy and so perfect for the era. There was even a special edition AMC Rambler called the Typhoon in 1964, but the name lived on in their engines.

  • Gregory: AMC’s “Typhoon” is my favorite.
  • Adam: 343 Typhoon by American Motors.

Mopar Grab Bag

Thanks to Commando, Super Commando, Magnum, Wedge motors, and likely many more, the Chrysler brands likely had the coolest engine names of any manufacturer. Be it Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth, and DeSoto, there are so many names to love:

  • Safetyguy: My ’63 Plymouth says “Golden Commando POWER” on the fender badge but has a 318 poly head, the “Semi Hemi” small big-block.
  • Tom: Super Commando is another one I remember from high school days.
  • JBD: Magnum, Super Commando.
  • GrantSonoramic Commando Power.
  • Stephen: Plymouth “Golden Commando Power” and Dodge “Super Red Ram” are two of my favorites.
  • TA: Super Commando, Magnum.
  • Clare: Dodge’s baby hemi, the “Red Ram.” A fantastic little engine at 241 cubes (basically 4.0 liter), but what a HEAVY SLUG. Just about pulled the chicken barn down pulling the engine and trans out of my ’53 Coronet!!
  • Paul:  Chryslers Golden Lion 361 four-barrel.
  • WLB: The Chrysler Firepower and DeSoto Firedome Hemis.

Buick: Nailhead and Wildcat

While giving catchy names to engines in more premium luxury cars wasn’t commonplace, Buick had the Nailhead and the later Wildcat V-8s.

  • Robert: Nailhead by Buick!
  • DUB6: Not sure if Nailhead was actually a name that Buick coined, but it sure is descriptive enough if one knows what it means (most of the general public doesn’t, I think).
  • KJ: I’m still ol’ school: 6 – 2s on a 425 Nailhead!
  • Mark:  Nobody mentioned the Buick Wildcat engines? (Sad but true, luckily you resolved that! – Ed.) 

Iron Duke

The famous Iron Duke was as tough as the name suggested, if tragically short on power and refinement for many automotive applications where it saw frequent use. Luckily I am not the only person who loves this little motor and its fantastic name.

  • DUB6: Iron Duke sticks in my mind as memorable.
  • Mark: My favorite name is Iron Duke.

Willys Tornado & Go Devil

Did the Willy’s Go Devil (L134) engine win World War II for the good guys? Not singlehandedly, but it was a big part of getting people in the right place at the right time. But it wasn’t the only name from Willys:

  • Dean: Go Devil Willys L134.
  • JohnfromSC: Tornado by Willys.
  • Reggie: The Jeep Willys “Go Devil.” That’s quite a name; I would drive that into war.
  • Ren: Willys “Go Devil” flathead four used in WWII jeeps and early CJ

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10 Most Reliable Ford Engines Ever Built – Simon Kim @HotCars


Along with a storied history of legendary cars, Ford boasts an incredible range of iconic engines that helped shape the automotive landscape

Since its establishment in the early 1900s, the Ford Motor Company boasts an enormous fleet of trucks, cars, tractors, and vans, estimated at well over 300 million. Under the hood of this beautiful and stylish range of automobiles are some of the most famous engines in American automotive history. An impressive engine catalog includes robust V8s, venerable V6s, and the occasionally successful inline-fours that won the hearts of fans.

But in the upper echelons of performance cars, a handful of engines stand out as significant achievements in engineering prowess and their importance to the brand. Most importantly, many industry experts and everyday enthusiasts have given these trustworthy engines favorable reviews for their dependability.

Read on to find out the most reliable Ford engines ever built.

10 – 289 V8 Small-Block

Ford designed the 289 CID, 4.7-liter V8 engine with a relatively small weight, small dimensions, and decent power to serve as an entry-level V8 for all models. Introduced in the early 1960s, the small-block V8 ultimately became the perfect match for the legendary Ford Mustang when it debuted in 1964.

The 289 V8 small-block later spawned iconic iterations such as the factory-tuned HiPo 289 and the race-ready 289 fitted in the ultimate 1960s Mustang, the Shelby GT350. Despite being in production for five years, Ford still makes parts and aftermarket components for the reliable 289 V8 small-block.

9 – Voodoo V8

The Voodoo engine is a 5.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine that Ford produced specially for the Mustang Shelby GT350 and GT350R. Interestingly, Ford’s SVT team barely based the Voodoo on the Coyote V8 architecture.

The Voodoo V8 distinguishes itself with a flat plain crankshaft, new high-flow heads, new forged piston designs, heavy-duty internals, and a heavy-duty exhaust system. With a 526 hp displacement, an 8,250 rpm redline, and more than 100 hp per liter of displacement, the Voodoo V8 is arguably one of the most advanced and reliable Ford engines.

8 – EcoBoost Family

In 2009, Ford introduced the EcoBoost engine family, boasting various cylinder configurations, sizes, applications, and power outputs for modern passenger cars. The economic engine family ranges from small 1.0-liter three-cylinder engines to 2.3-liter four-cylinder units, 3.5-liter V6s, 2.7-liter V8s, and 3.5-liter V8s.

However, the first generation of the three-cylinder EcoBoost and EcoBoost V6 variants proved problematic and should be avoided at all costs. Luckily, the refined second-generation EcoBoost engines addressed all the issues of their predecessors to become some of the most reliable engines on the market

7 – Boss 429

The mythical Boss 429 engine is a true muscle car legend, conceived as a pure racing engine for NASCAR championships. Unlike other Ford big-blocks, the significantly wider Boss 429 featured semi-Hemi combustion chambers and better flow to achieve higher revs and produce more power and torque.

Ford used the bulletproof Boss 429 in limited Mustang models and homologation editions of the Torino Talladega and Mercury Cyclone. Despite failing to fulfill its street racing potential, the Boss 429 helped Ford to win 30 out of 54 races, making it a highly desirable engine today.

6 – 428 Cobra Jet

With 427 Medium Risers becoming obsolete in the late 1960s, Ford introduced the 7.0-liter Cobra Jet V8 as a durable, powerful, yet affordable muscle engine to take on Chevrolet’s 427 V8, Pontiac’s 428 V8, and Mopar’s 426 Hemi. Rated at 400 to 450 hp (Ford officially claimed 335 hp), the 428 Cobra Jet and even rare Super Cobra Jet engines were enough to claim Stock Car Championships and several illegal street races.

Ford offered the Cobra Jet as the top engine choice in the Ford Mustang and an optional powertrain for models like the Torino. Today, most remember the incredibly reliable Cobra Jet as the ultimate Mustang power plant.

5 – Flathead V8

Revered as the first highly influential Ford power plant, the Flathead V8 was the first mass-produced V8. Booming with new technology and an impressive 65 hp, Ford beat its biggest competitor, Chevrolet, to V8 power by more than two decades. Over twenty years of production, power grew to 125 hp, putting the Flathead-equipped luxury Fords of the day as the most powerful in the class.

The most important aspects of the Flathead V8 were its durability and tuning potential, with a few mechanical tweaks almost doubling the power. The Flathead V8 aftermarket offerings that arrived later became the first engine tuners for the community and hot rod crews.

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For Sale: A Rare Ford 427 SOHC Cammer V8 Crate Engine @Silodrome



This is an unused ex-Holman-Moody Cammer V8 in original zero hour condition.

The Ford 427 SOHC Cammer V8 is one of the rarest and most desirable big block V8 engines ever made. Unusually for an American V8 it has overhead cams rather than pushrods as it was built specifically for racing.

It’s been called the “90 Day Wonder” thanks to its compressed development schedule, some have gone so far as to call it “Ford’s Greatest Engine” however there’ll be plenty of people who argue that statement, and point to the highly influential Flathead V8 released in 1932 and engines like the more recent Coyote V8.

A Hemi Dilemma

In the mid-1960s Ford was faced with a dilemma, a dilemma in the shape of Chrysler’s 426 Hemi V8 which was an exceptionally capable engine no matter your brand loyalties. In order to effectively race against the 426 Hemi and win Ford needed a new engine, and it needed to be a doozy.

Rather than stick with the tried and tested pushrod V8 architecture so beloved of American automakers Ford decided to develop an engine with single overhead cams per bank allowing higher RPM operation, and hopefully more power

The Development Of The Ford Cammer 427 V8

Ford engineers had developed the Cammer on the 427 FE V8 platform. The FE is a pushrod engine of course so it needed new heads, a timing chain set up, and they designed an idler gear shaft in the traditional cam location in the block that operated the distributor and oil pump.

The FE block was modified with cross-bolted main bearing caps and a revised oiling system to better suit overhead cam and roller rocker operation. Originally the Cammer had an iron block and iron heads, though later engines were fitted with alloy heads to help reduce the engine’s prodigious weight.

Above Video: This episode of Unity MotorSports Garage covers the history of the Cammer, including a range of interesting historic images and video footage.
Though the engine had its issues it likely would have proven competitive in NASCAR thanks to its high-RPM capability that was well-suited to the high speed banked circuits typically used in the racing series.

Though the engine had its issues it likely would have proven competitive in NASCAR thanks to its high-RPM capability that was well-suited to the high speed banked circuits typically used in the racing series.

On its release the Ford 427 SOHC Cammer V8 was rated at 616 bhp at 7,000 rpm and 515 lb ft of torque at 3,800 rpm – excellent figures by the standards of the mid-1960s.

The Cammer’s Achilles’ Heel

They say every engine has an Achilles’ heel, some element of the design that wasn’t particularly well engineered. Some engines seem to be made up almost entirely of them as a matter of fact.

Here with the covers removed you can see the timing chain in all its glory, it’s almost 7 feet long and it would stretch so much that engines needed to have as much as 8º of timing difference between the two heads to compensate. Image courtesy of Ford.

The Achilles’ heel of the Ford Cammer engine was its timing chain – at almost 7 feet long it’s one of the longest timing chains ever used in an automotive application, and as any mechanic will tell you, timing chains take on the characteristics of bungee cords given enough time and use.

The timing chain issues were a result of the compressed development timeline, they necessitated different valve timing for the left and right banks to account for chain stretching, and the camshafts themselves needed to a be a mirror image of one another in order to function.

Sadly the Cammer would never get to turn a wheel in NASCAR as the rules were changed to ban special racing engines, the series was supposed to be for stock cars not prototype specials.

The Cammer Goes Drag Racing

Rather than dump the Cammer project Ford continued to develop the engine in the hopes of changing the minds of those making decisions at NASCAR, in the meantime they sent the engine off into the world of drag racing – where it proved wildly successful.

Many of the big names in 1960s drag racing were putting the Cammer to good use, including Bill Lawton who won the AHRA and NHRA Winternationals in 1966. Other Cammer pilots included Mickey Thompson, Gerry Schwartz, Tommy Grove, Tom Hoover, Pete Robinson, Connie Kallita, and many others.

1967 would see Connie Kalitta’s Cammer-powered “Bounty Hunter” slingshot dragster win the Top Fuel events at the AHRA, NHRA, and NASCAR winter meets – becoming the only “triple crown” winner in the history of American drag racing.

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In addition to powering U.S. aircraft in WWI, the Liberty V-12 helped create the Lincoln Motor Co – Mike McNessor @Hemmings


Advanced engine design used overhead cams, an aluminum crankcase, liquid cooling

Aerial combat advanced at an astonishing rate during World War I, and though it seems unimaginable today, there were no American-designed aircraft deemed suitable for battle in the skies over Europe. There was a U.S.-designed engine in the fight however: the Liberty V-12 or L-12.

The L-12 engine was America’s greatest technological contribution to the aerial war effort. Its initial assignment was powering the “Liberty Plane”—a version of the British-designed De Haviland/Airco DH-4 bomber produced in the U.S. by Dayton-Wright in Dayton, Ohio; Fisher Body Corporation in Detroit, Michigan; and Standard Aircraft in New Jersey. In addition to powering the DH-4 and a variety of other airplanes, over its long service life the L-12 powered tanks, high-speed watercraft, and land-speed racers.

The L-12 came about because Packard’s head of engineering, Jesse G. Vincent, recognized the need for a standardized line of aircraft engines that could be mass produced during wartime. The government assigned Vincent the task of creating this engine and teamed him up with Elbert J. Hall of the Hall-Scott Motor Company. The two met in Washington, D.C., on May 29 and, with the help of volunteer draftsmen, created detailed drawings and a full report by May 31. This original design was a V-8, but in their report Vincent and Hall outlined how the engine could be configured as a four-, six-, eight-, or 12-cylinder engine.

By July 3, a V-8 prototype assembled by Packard was running, and a V-12 soon followed. Due to its superior horsepower potential, the 1,650-cu.in. V-12 was given the nod for mass production

An I.D. tag shows the L-12’s firing order and reveals that this example at the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum was built by Lincoln on September 25, 1918.

Not only did the Liberty engine mark a great achievement for American aviation, it was responsible for creating a landmark car company: Lincoln. Henry Leland, who founded Cadillac, and his son Wilfred started Lincoln with a $10 million government contract awarded to build Liberty engines. The Lelands left Cadillac to form Lincoln because General Motors President William C. “Billy” Durant was a pacifist and initially rejected the government’s call for GM to build L-12s. (Durant later recanted and Liberty engines were manufactured by GM.) Production numbers seem to vary for output before and after the war but in total Ford, Lincoln, Packard, Marmon, and Buick produced 20,748 L-12 engines.

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