E.R.A. doesn't build engines.  If you have a trusted local engine builder with experience in Fords, by all means use them.  Because of the quirky nature of Ford engines, we don't recommend having someone - no matter how good - build a Ford engine without extensive Ford experience.  Having someone you can hold accountable is very important.  Ask around your local Ford/Shelby Club for references.  A search on Club Cobra might also find someone close to your home.  

Link to the Ford V-8 engine specs

Ford Single-Overhead-Cam 427

Many people think that if 400 bhp is good, 500 bhp must be better (and 1000 bhp is probably just enough). smile Remember that higher output (horsepower per cubic inch) unsupercharged engines will lose some low speed torque, driveability and reliability, probably require more maintenance, and will be more expensive to begin with.  Nothing is free when it comes to engines.  Sometimes it's better to be conservative - most of your driving is done below the torque peak and well below the horsepower peak, so you probably won't notice the difference between 400 and 450 bhp in normal driving.  But sometimes an engine that pops and farts can get frustrating (and embarrassing).

Recommended Engines

427SC Body FE (390/427/428) Ford Small Block (289/302/351) 429/460 (with reservations)

289FIA and Slabside Body Ford Small Block

Ford Engines Defined:
  • A Small Block Ford is within the 260/289/302/351 series
  • The Big Block can be either an FE (360/390/427/428, vintage 61-68) or a
  • 385 Series (429/460) after '69.
  • The Modular series, including the quad-cam 4.6L and the SOHC 5.4L

(See a size comparison here)

Each series is a completely different design.

FORD SMALL BLOCKS (as defined above) are plentiful, and generally simpler to deal with than the FE series.  Of course there are several variations of the small block:  Windsor, Cleveland, Boss...  The Windsor series is the most supported with aftermarket heads, blocks and ancillary parts.  Fortunately, new head designs have raised the power potential of the Windsor considerably.  And now there are aluminum or steel aftermarket blocks yielding as much as 425 cid - with potentially 600 bhp if you are willing to spend the money.   Weights vary from 375 lbs for an all-aluminum 302 CID to 575 lbs for an iron 351.  An aluminum-headed 351 stroker on a Dart block was measured at 467 lbs.

 Here's some advice on building an engine.

Some measured weights, comparing steel and aluminum components

IronAluminumTotal Savings
Heads2 x 26.4 kg2 x 13.5 kg25.8 kg/57 lbs
Intake manifold18.6 kg8.3 kg10.3 kg/22.7 lbs
Timing cover6.4 kg1.5 kg4.9 kg//10.8 lbs
Total71.4 kg36.8 kg41 kg/92 lbs
One of our ERA GT owners is an expert on Ford Small Blocks and has written a couple of books on the subject.  His newest book, How To Build Small-Block Ford Racing Engines will be available soon from all the regular outlets.

Cleveland/Boss engines, while known for their high horsepower potential, are scarce - and are notorious for not having much low speed torque because of the huge ports.  The 2V heads are somewhat better than the 4V.  Few parts are interchangeable with the Windsor, so aftermarket parts are few and sometimes more expensive.  It's best to avoid these engines unless you're after that last bit of power - and are willing to sacrifice.  Parts are scarce, and we don't have primary exhaust pipes to fit the heads.  Custom pipes will have to be fabricated at some extra cost.

Approximate Prices:

The FE series of Ford engines started with the 352 cid engine, and continued through the 390, 427 and 428.  The series also includes a number of truck variations as small as 332 cid.  They haven't been produced since the early 70's!   The FE series was a thin-wall design preceding the 221/260, so the weight was pretty reasonable: 610 lbs for an all iron engine, with flywheel and carburetor.  With the current parts available, we have measured the weight of a complete all-aluminum 427 (Shelby) to be as low as 460 lbs, 20 less than a 289 iron small block.  Aluminum heads, water pump and intake on an iron block results in about 520 lbs.  In contrast, an iron Chevy big block is about 700 lbs and the 350 small block about 560 lbs.

All FE engines are a bit scarce, but the 427 Side-Oiler is a very rare breed - with commensurate price.  Almost all the good cores have been absorbed by the major engine builders, who keep them for their own use.  The 427 block cannot be bored more than .030" safely, but several engine builders have used sleeves successfully.   New  427 (up to 494 cid) block and engines are available from GenesisShelby and Pond.  Because of the availability of the new blocks, the price of a complete aluminum engine is actually coming down, finally!

Original Shelby Cobras used both the 427 and 428 engines.  For FIA homologation purposes, the first 120 427s (approximately - the exact number is not known) had the NASCAR 427 Side-oiler.  They produced about 475 bhp from 12.5:1 compression ratio with Medium-riser heads.  The middle third of the original "427" street cars used the Police Interceptor version of the 428, producing about 340 bhp from 10.5:1 compression ratio. The reason: Cost.  Shelby was paying Ford close to $800 for 427s and a shade over $300 for 428s. The last third of the production run seemed to be a mix of 427s and 428s, but it seems that no one knows exactly!  Visually, the FE engines look the same from the top end, so you can claim practically anything if you can't see the bottom of the block!  If you already have a block, you can use this casting number chart to determine its origin.

Fortunately, the 390 and 428 were put in many Mustangs, mid and full size Fords and Mercurys.  You can usually find a good 428 core for under $2000.  CobraJet and Super CobraJet blocks are best: They have reinforced main bearing webs for higher RPM reliability.  Fortunately for us, new quality aluminum heads are available for all FE engines from Shelby and Edelbrock.  The Edelbrock heads won't add much cost to the basic engine either.  Many engine builders would rather start out with new parts than recondition old stuff anyway.  Here's a Hot Rod build up of a 450 bhp version of the 390.

Side Oilers are the most valued of the 427 series.  All 427 engines used a special high-nickel alloy and went through a slow-cool process to reduce internal stresses.  The block was also reinforced through the main bearing webs and used cross-bolted main bearing caps.  Originally designed for high rpm use, the 427 had a short stroke crankshaft - and pushed the bore size to its limit.  Consequently, overboring the 427 past .030" is not recommended.  Sleeves can be fit, but the resale value of the block is reduced considerably, although many people sleeve engines very successfully.  

They used a separate oil passage along the left hand side of the block to channel oil to the main bearings.  The theory was to take any problems with camshaft oiling out of the picture.  The crank and rods would take priority.  Side oilers are rare and expensive.  $5000 for a rebuildable core is not unusual, and the price seems to go up every year. Those with good parts generally know their value, and most cores are saved by engine builders for their own use.  Be wary of "service blocks" of recent vintage.  Ford had a bunch of rejected (with unacceptable core shifts) blocks that have come into the market.  Some may work.  Some may not.  All 427 blocks should be sonic tested for wall thickness.

Like the 390 and 428, the 427 Center-oiler passed the oil to a passage underneath the camshaft.  In practical terms, this means the engine is not great for continuous running at 5000+ rpm, but who of us do that on the street?  (Don't tell me about it!)  The 427 Center-oiler was frequently put in boats - but be aware that many of the boat engines were installed in pairs, with one of them rotating clockwise and the other counter-clockwise.  Because the crankshaft uses a labyrinth seal at the back, it cannot be run in the opposite direction without some serious oil leaks.  You must replace the crank, camshaft and drive in all counter-rotating engines.  But - see the next paragraph!

SOHC Engine
The quart-in-a-pint-pot 427 SOHC
engine in an ERA.

Weber IDA carbs - about $4K extra

Available from Inglese Induction

The 428 crankshaft can be installed in a 427 block (with Chevy pistons) to yield a torquer with 454 cid.  You lose the forged crank of the 427, but it does make a sweet and strong street engine.  Cast crankshaft failures on the street are extremely rare.  The 427 crankshaft is internally in balance, while the 428 crank relies on the counterweighted flywheel to complete the balance.

Finding a builder: Ford FE engines tend to be quirky.  There are many variations of the same basic engine series - and knowing which part is the best for your application is very important.  You are better off finding someone with Ford experience than going to the best Chevy engine expert in the world.  There is a new FE-centered forum that may have parts, hints and other general knowledge, and the these builders have supplied us engines with good results.

Approximate Prices:

  • 390 with 400 bhp - $7000
  • 428 with 425 bhp - $8500+
  • 427 Side-oiler with 450 bhp - $16,000
  • 427 All aluminum engine from Shelby - $25,000

All engines are quite streetable, with 800-1000 rpm idle and good response over the entire range.  Compression ratio for the street is 9.5:1 with iron heads, 10.0:1 with aluminum heads.  Higher horsepower is available at some sacrifice to low speed running - and more out of your pocket.

429 engines (also known as 385 series) are now available from Ford Motorsport.  While this series is not an original engine, it has become "tolerable" because of its cheap horsepower.  They are a tight fit into an ERA and we don't have suitable off-the-shelf exhaust pipes.
  • 429 (Ford Motorsport) with 485 bhp - $5000

Engine and Transmission Specifications


Remember!  Our bias is to use engines made locally.  
Check around your neighborhood for a "Ford Expert".


Cobra Automotive - Wallingford, CT, 203-284-3863.  Jim Inglese and Curt Vogt - A prominent local builder of small blocks.

Danbury Competition Engines, Danbury, CT 203-748-7356 - Joe Lapine - A local (to us) engine builder who specializes in Ford small block and 390/428  engines.  He doesn't have any original 427 cores that he's willing to part with, but will put together a good '27 with your core or a new aluminum block.

Dove Manufacturing, Cleveland, OH - 440-236-5139 - Manufactures complete engines, aluminum blocks, heads and water pumps.  Our experience with the aluminum parts has been mixed. You are better off buying a complete engine that has been tested rather than individual parts.

The Engine Factory supplies several variations of the Ford small block and FE.  We have no direct experience with them, but the reviews on Club Cobra have been very good..

Ford High Performance Exchange, Melville, NY 631-643-8834 - Tony Carey - An experience builder of all Ford engines.

Keith Craft, Inc., Arkadelphia, AR, 870-246-7460 - An experience builder of small and FE-block Fords.  Both iron and aluminum available.  Currently KC offers a base 482CID aluminum FE for around $17,000.

Genesis Performance - Indianapolis, IN, 317-357-8767.  A new supplier of complete FE engines and blocks.  Both iron and aluminum available.

Gessford Machine - 402-463-9844 or 800-829-3448, Hastings, NE 68901.  George Gessford is an experienced Ford builder with a loyal following.   His web site also has a wealth of engine and parts information. 

Keith Craft Racing Engines - Tel: 870-246-7460, Fax: 870-246-7418, Arkadelphia, Arkansas.  Complete FE and small block engines, and many Ford Motorsport parts.

Shelby American - 310-538-2914 - Brand new all-aluminum 427 engines.  More money, but have that famous Shelby signature on 'em.

Southern Automotive (Bill Parahm - 800-255-8236) - builds complete small blocks and FEs.  Our customers have had mixed results, but Parahm seems to have a very strong general following.  Do a search on ClubCobra for more information.

Total Performance, in Michigan. 586-468-3673, e-mail - John Vermeersch
They have an extensive cache of 427 parts and the expertise to put them together right. Years of experience have built a very loyal following.  

289/302/351 Windsor

Cobra Automotive - Wallingford, CT, 203-284-3863.  Jim Inglese and Curt Vogt - A prominent local builder of small blocks.

Danbury Competition Engines, Danbury, CT 203-748-7356 - Joe Lapine -  A local builder with lots of experience with both the small block and FE.

The Engine Factory supplies several variations of the Ford small block and FE.  We have no direct experience with them, but the reviews on Club Cobra have been very good..

Ford High Performance Exchange, Melville, NY 516-643-8834 - Tony Carey - An experienced builder of all Ford engines.

Ford Motorsport (Through your local dealer) - Economical new crate engines directly from Ford.  Built to a price, so don't expect any exotic parts.

Gessford Machine - 402-463-9844 or 800-829-3448, Hastings, NE 68901.  George Gessford is an experienced Ford builder with a loyal following.   His web site also has a wealth of engine and parts information. 

Other suppliers on the web
(no guarantees - caveat emptor)

Ford Power Products
(There have been a number of complaints about delivery from FPP - check on Clubcobra.com for details)

Forte's Auto Parts

The Engine Factory

FE Casting Number Breakdown Charts

The ERA Chart
See also this Fordification.com page for part number details..

Decade of Manufacture:

  • A = 1940
  • B = 1950
  • C = 1960
  • D = 1970
  • E = 1980

Year of Decade

The year of the decade is determined by adding a number (0-9) to the letter of the decade. Example: C6 would be 1966, D0 would be 1970, D1 would be 1971.

Car Line/ Manufacture Codes

  • A = Galaxie
  • D = Falcon (60-69)
  • F = Outside USA, Trans Am racing
  • G = Comet / Montego
  • J = Industrial
  • M = Mercury
  • O = Fairlane / Torino
  • P = Autolite / Motorcraft
  • R = Rotunda
  • S = Thunderbird
  • T = Truck
  • V = Lincoln (61 - current)
  • Z = Mustang

Engineering Departments

  • A = Chassis
  • B = Body
  • E = Engine
  • F = Engine accessories
  • J = Autolite (67-72)
  • P = Automatic transmission
  • R = Manual transmission
  • W = Axle
  • X = Muscle parts program
  • Y = Lincoln / Mercury service parts
  • Z = Ford service parts

More interesting links

What's "Octane"

Octane Boosters

Other engine weights