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Getting Crazy With a 302

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Christian Hazel
| Brand Manager, Four Wheeler
Posted September 1, 2000

Would it Generate Power? Would it Blow Chunks on the Dyno? The Only Way to Find Out was to Do it

Step By Step

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  • Here’s the starting point. The Pep Boys remanufactured short-block sports a stock replacement cam and chain, 0.040-over cast pistons, and cam bearings.

  • Peterson removed the weenie stock replacement cam and timing chain and replaced them with Edelbrock Performer components. The Edelbrock stick features 204/214 degrees duration at 0.050 inch of lift and an advertised 0.420/0.442 inch of valve lift.

  • Older Ford small-blocks use one of two different pins to drive the cam gear. Too short and the gear may spin. Too long and the gear won’t tighten down all the way. You may have to grind a longer pin to get the proper length.

  • The No. 2 and No. 4 main cap bolts were replaced with studs, and the Canton Racing windage tray was bolted down. The windage tray will keep excess oil off of the crank, reducing drag and freeing up power.

  • A Ford Motorsports aluminum timing-chain cover was fitted in place and topped with an Edelbrock Victor series water pump. The high-flow pump flows 20 percent more coolant and has heavy-duty roller bearings and an O-ring backing plate seal.

  • Canton Racing also provided this slick rear-sump oil pan. The Canton pan is baffled inside to prevent oil slosh and increases the oil capacity to 6 quarts plus one in the filter.

  • The BHJ balancer will survive long past the 6,000 rpm this engine will be pushed to. However, it is a bit larger in diameter than the stocker, so Peterson had to grind a bit off of the water pump and timing chain cover for clearance.

  • The Edelbrock lifters were dunked in oil, coated with assembly spooge, and slipped in to their bores. Although it’s overkill, JBA applies JB Weld to the rear cam plug on all small Fords. At high rpm the plug can shoot out, causing evil breakage.

  • The 1.90-inch intake valves, 60cc combustion chambers, and runner and port configuration of the Edelbrock Performer heads are a major reason why this sucker makes the power it does. They come fully assembled with guides, seats, retainers, locks, springs, and valves.

  • The No. 1 cylinder was brought to TDC and the MSD Ford Street Pro-Billet distributor was slid in place. While we could have used the stock points-type distributor, the MSD unit is an electronic distributor with adjustable vacuum and mechanical advance that is spot-on. To facilitate rocker adjustment, Peterson marked the position of the terminals on the base of the distributor.

  • To adjust the valve lash on the Competition Cams Magnum Roller rockers, the engine was turned until the rotor lined up with the mark on the distributor for that cylinder. The adjuster nut was tightened to zero-lash, plus three quarters of a turn.

  • To complete the Performer package, the long-block was topped off with an Edelbrock Performer manifold, a 600-cfm Performer carburetor, and Edelbrock Elite series valve covers and breathers. Edelbrock designs all Performer components to work together to provide excellent power and torque throughout the operating range, while still delivering excellent driveability. Peterson insisted on using Fel Pro gaskets throughout.

Some of you may think that extracting any real power from an assembly line–remanufactured short-block would be like squeezing blood from a stone. For all the ink we’ve given to spot-on custom machine work, triple-checked tolerances, and high-zoot ultra-strength components, it’s not surprising that some of you think that an engine won’t even run if you don’t spend more money than you make in a year at the machine shop. Not so. In an effort to test the limits of common sense—and our own logic—we wanted to make at least 300 horses using a Pep Boys remanufactured short-block. What’s more, we’d do it with a measly 302 cubic inches. Would it generate power? Would it blow chunks on the dyno? The only way to find out was to do it.

Pep Boys has applications for just about any foreign or domestic engine. The Pep Boys short-block is your typical mass-assembled engine designed to be quick and easy to manufacture and to provide a long service life. Performance definitely doesn’t factor into the short-block equation, so it would be a major challenge to make power by simply bolting on speed parts. With no consideration given to final compression, quench, specialized cylinder wall honing, or rings geared towards maximum sealing, the bolt-ons would really have to do their job. Our Pep Boys Ford 302 was slugged 0.040 over, filled with all new bearings and freeze plugs, and fitted with an anemic cam and a replacement timing chain. Since they’re intended to be used as a stock replacement part, changing the cam or any other component voids the warranty, but that’s what credit cards are for.

We assembled a dream team of speed parts to slap onto the Pep Boys mill. For a complete list see the sidebar “Sum of the Parts.” The major players are the Edelbrock Performer cylinder heads, cam, and intake.

Finally, we wanted to make sure that if the short-block spit fiery piston pieces at us it wouldn’t be the fault of the assembly, so we hauled all our stuff to JBA Racing Engines in San Diego. The experts at JBA are wizards at making Ford engines do things mere mortals can only dream of. JBA builds engines ranging from reliable daily driver tow-rig stuff to full-psycho race mills, so we knew our parts were in good hands. Master engine builder Kevin Peterson handled the assembly of our 302 and imparted some of his wisdom to us. This is what you’ve been waiting for: an engine buildup that you can duplicate in your garage with little more than a torque wrench.


Canton Racing Products
North Branford, CT 06471
BHJ Products Inc.
Newark, CA
Wild Horses
Ford Motorsports
JBA Racing Engines
San Diego, CA 92120
JBA Racing