Ford F-150 Engine Upgrade - 460 Big-Block Power
No Replacement for Displacement
The writing was on the wall for the 351M in our F-150 from the moment we dragged it home. There were some good components, like the Edelbrock intake manifold and MSD ignition, but a bent pushrod and missing lifter were indicators that the engine was on borrowed time. While Cleveland and Windsor motors enjoy a loyal following and good aftermarket support, the same cannot be said of the Midland motor. This led us to explore other engine options for our Ford.
At the far end of the spectrum, we considered running a new Ford Racing Coyote crate engine. This would require significant fabrication to mate the engine to the frame and transmission and provide proper fuel delivery. Instead we chose to pack more cubes under the hood of our F-150 with a 460 big-block from L.A. Speed. Boring? Well, we admit that we are not breaking new ground here, but there is a reason this swap is so popular. It works. And with L&L Products offering every component you need to perform the swap, we can spend less time in the shop and more time on the trail.
The engine L.A. Speed machined and assembled for us was built with off-the-shelf components from Summit Racing Equipment that offer more power and reliability than stock components while taking budget into consideration. This month we will talk about those components and why they were chosen. Next month we will get into the nitty-gritty of actually stabbing the big-block in our F-150 at Nate’s Precision in Reno, Nevada.
The 351M engine that came in our Ford was in need of help. We briefly considered rebuilding the existing engine, but the limited aftermarket support and associated costs led us to consider other options.
This bent pushrod was the first indication that we would be performing engine work on our F-150 soon. The associated lifter was never found and is still hiding somewhere in the engine!
With the engine out, we took the opportunity to clean up the framerails and firewall on the Ford before installing the new engine. This is time well spent since you don’t normally have this kind of access in the engine bay.
The foundation for our 460 is a stock block from ATK with factory crank and rods that were balanced by L.A. Speed. The rods connect to KB hypereutectic pistons with moly rings that generate a 9.9:1 compression ratio and allow us to run pump gas.
We specified a rather mild camshaft to maximize low-end torque for use on the trail. Comp Cams recommended 218 degrees of duration on the intake side and 224 on the exhaust (at 0.050-inch lift) and a lobe separation angle of 110 degrees.
Ford big-block cylinder heads (front) have much larger ports than small-block cylinder heads. Edelbrock offers aluminum cylinder heads for both engines as well as a host of other options, including AMC motors for the Jeep guys.
The Performer RPM Air Gap manifold we chose (right) is a dual-plane manifold with longer intake runners than the single-plane Victor manifold (left). The longer runners maximize torque at the expense of high-rpm horsepower.
Summit Racing Equipment carries speed parts from just about every manufacturer you can think of. Summit also has its own line of parts that offer a lot of performance for the price, like the balancer we used on the front of our 460.
The Summit billet distributor we chose is ready to run with a simple three-wire hookup, but it also works with our existing MSD 6A ignition box. We added a bronze distributor gear to work with the billet roller camshaft from Comp Cams.
While aftermarket fuel injection systems like Holley’s Terminator EFI are relatively simple to install, Holley’s Truck Avenger carb got the nod for price and performance with no compromises. We chose a 770-cfm Truck Avenger in a new lightweight aluminum construction. Like all Truck Avengers, it uses square fuel bowls with side-hung floats and HVS annual boosters to minimize fuel sloshing and maximize throttle response.
The oil pan from L&L Products holds 7 quarts and is designed to clear the Dana 60 front axle in our F-150. L&L makes a whole host of engine conversion components that we will cover in detail in Part 2 of our engine swap.
The engine showed up from L.A. Speed bolted to an engine stand inside a crate. The engine was fully assembled and ready to install; all we had to do was stab it in the engine bay and add front accessories and the Holley carb to the top.
|What worked for us might not work for you, depending on your use and budget. Building a Ford for mud drags? You will probably want more camshaft and carb than we are running. Does your diet consist mainly of Top Ramen because of the serious budget you are on? A stock replacement engine with iron cylinder heads is likely the best choice for you.|
|On a Budget||All-Out Power|
|ATK remanufactured engine||Stroker crank and rods|
|Iron cylinder heads||Camshaft with more lift and duration|
|Flat-tappet camshaft||Ported cylinder heads|
|Factory head bolts||Higher compression ratio (requiring race gas)|
|Stock stamped rocker arms|
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