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Building Ford’s Fabulous 429 Super Cobra Jet

(Image/Jim Smart)

Ford’s legacy of powerful big block V8s dates back to 1958 with the skirted Ford FE Series 332/352ci engines that ultimately grew to 427ci by 1963 and 428ci by 1966. There was also the MEL (Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln) fat block displacing 430 and 462ci produced from 1958-68, a low-revving luxury car monster mash that ultimately became a popular mill for marine racing applications. The MEL made brute low-revving torque for just about any application, which made it perfect for luxury cars.

These engines were right for the time. The FE went on to win Le Mans, putting Ford in the world’s spotlight with new respect from around the globe, settling a battle of egos between Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari in the wake of a business deal gone bad. In fact, the FE big block remains the standard for Ford enthusiasts and the aftermarket.

Both the FE and the MEL swiftly became dated mills in the marketplace back in the 1960s. The MEL had these bizarre flat-deck, no chamber cylinder heads similar to Chevrolet’s 348/409ci big blocks where the angled block deck made the top of the cylinders the combustion chamber. Not sure why anyone thought this was a good idea, however, it was proven successful—especially for Chevrolet’s 348/409. At Ford, the abundant torque the MEL made worked perfectly in marine applications and for drag racers. It was also a quiet smooth luxury car powerplant long on twist for heavy Lincolns. It was incredibly quiet.

Enter the Ford 385 Series Engine

By the mid-1960s, Ford product planners and engineers saw the need for new technology in its big block engines. They needed to be lighter with a less complicated manufacturing process. Ford took the 90 degree Fairlane small block blueprint and grew it to big block size. It called its new big block engine the “385 Series” family of big blocks displacing 429 and 460ci also known as the “Lima” engines for their manufacturing plant Ohio. Unlike the small block, Ford conceived a totally new poly-angle valve cylinder head with “right size” port sizing for its new big block. 

The result was a Ford big block similar to the big block Chevy. Ford took the valuable assets of the big block Chevy and married them to its own traditional approaches to engine design with the distributor and oil sump in front. Poly-angle valve heads combined with port sizing made the 429/460 Ford a powerhouse. Ford didn’t conceive the 429/460 as a high performance engine. The intent was low-revving luxury power.

Ford soon found the 429 had great potential as a high performance engine. Just two years into production, Ford introduced the 429 Cobra Jet and Super Cobra Jet for compact and intermediate sized rides like Mustang, Torino, Cyclone, and Cougar. It was a natural marriage between a powerful big block and lightweight car models.   

Ford 385 Series Engine Performance

The 429/460 makes plenty of horsepower and torque without having to sell off the farm. You can do a cam and manifold swap and make abundant street power. The 429/460 cylinder head flows generously right out of the box and, with good professional head porting, it makes a lot of power.

What the 385 Series big block has going for it is simplicity. There’s very little to understand and, unlike a lot of Ford engine families, very little confusion. There’s one basic block for both the 429 and 460 with a 4.360-inch bore. The difference in displacement between the two was achieved via stroke, with the 429 checking in at 3.590 inches and the 460 at 3.850 inches. If you have a 429 and want displacement, it is easy to get via a 460 crank and you’re good to go. The aftermarket offers plenty of displacement via great stroker kits.

The Ford 429/460 Engine Block

The 429/460’s block is undoubtedly its greatest asset. You can infuse a tremendous amount of power—upwards of 800 horsepower—into this block with little concern. It is suggested you opt for a Milodon four-bolt main conversion kit if you’re going to push the power. You may also opt for a stud girdle for two-bolt main blocks. The 429/460 was never produced with a steel crank. All were fitted with a strong nodular iron crank with I-beam rods. None were ever fitted with forged pistons. The only significant change was an externally-balanced 460 with a slide-on counterweight from 1979-up.

Don’t get these components mixed up or you will wind up with compatibility issues.

Very little needs to be done to the oiling system. It is good to chamfer oil galleys to reduce turbulence. A good high-volume Melling oil pump is adequate for most 429/460 street/strip applications. If you’re going drag racing, you’re going to want a deep-sump pan. Road racers and canyon cutters will need a baffled road race pan.

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Did You Know?  The 370…For Trucks
A sidebar to the 429/460 is the 370ci truck 385 Series big block brought into the lineup to replace the rotund Super Duty truck engines in the F-, C- and L-Series heavy-duty trucks. The 370 had a 4.050 inch bore with the 429’s 3.590 inch stroke.  It was discontinued in 1991 and replaced by the 460.

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Ford 429/460 Cylinder Heads, Intake & More

Factory cylinder head choices are simple. There’s the standard 429/460 head casting for 2V/4V engines, the large-port Cobra Jet and Police Interceptor castings, and the aluminum Boss 429 castings. There’s also the fuel injected iron truck head that came along late in the 1980s through 1996. What you want for a 429/460 build is the 2V/4V head, Cobra Jet, or the Police Interceptor head if you can find the latter. Cobra Jet and Police Interceptor castings tend to be costly because they are so scarce, especially if you add port work to the price tag.

Because the factory high-performance castings tend to be expensive, especially if you intend to do port work, you are often better off with aftermarket aluminum castings, which run about the same cost and you can bolt them right on. Trick Flow offers a wealth of cylinder head options for the Ford big block. Ditto for Edelbrock, AirFlow Research, Ford Performance, and Speedmaster.

Factory intake manifolds consist of two basic types—Holley square base and spread bore for Rochester Quadrajet and Holley Spread Bore. The aftermarket brings you a wealth of dual- and single-plane intake manifolds depending upon what you want the engine to do. High rpm operation calls for a single plane manifold. Dual-plane manifolds are best for street and strip. Carburetor sizing depends upon expected rpm range and the priority of torque versus horsepower. Which is more important to you?

Unless you’re performing a concours restoration, ignition points are for the birds. If you’re running a stock Autolite or Motorcraft distributor, you can always employ a drop-in electronic ignition system. Time-proven Pertronix Ignitor kits can be installed in 30 minutes. Just don’t forget to install the ground wire. MSD and Accel ignition systems perform reliably and last virtually forever.

Building a Ford 429

We’re at JGM Performance Engineering in Valencia, California for a look at a rare box stock 429 Super Cobra Jet build with all the right parts. The Cobra Jet had hydraulic lifters. The Super Cobra Jet has an aggressive cam profile and a choppy idle with the sweet melody of 16 solid tappets thrashing out a beat. On the dyno, our SCJ exceeded factory power numbers thanks to a port job and induction system improvements.

Let’s get started.

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We’re working with a four-bolt main “CJ” block. These blocks, as well as four-bolt main Police Interceptor blocks, are virtually impossible to find—and expensive when you can find one. You may perform your own four-bolt main conversion with help from a qualified machine shop and a Milodon kit. (Image/Jim Smart)
JGM’s formula for power is simple. Speed Pro forged aluminum pistons and ARP bolts in reconditioned and strengthened rods. These rods can withstand upwards of 500 to 600 horsepower. If you’re going beyond 500, seriously consider aftermarket I or H-beam rods. (Image/Jim Smart)
There’s endless debate over how to install piston rings. Some roll them on carefully. Others use an expander. The main concern is not to distort the rings. They must retain their normal shape. Once you have distorted the rings, they will not seal. (Image/Jim Smart)
Pistons and rings deserve a generous coating of SAE 30 engine oil or engine assembly lube engineered specifically for pistons, rings, and cylinder walls. Soak the piston and rings with lube as an assembly and slip them into the bore with caution making sure you don’t tag the rod journals below. Bolt caps will protect the rod journals. (Image/Jim Smart)
Rod bolts are lubricated and torqued to 40 to 45 ft.-lbs. Check connecting rod side clearances and crankshaft endplay. (Image/Jim Smart)
We’re building a 429 Super Cobra Jet with a 3.590 inch stroke. Did you know you can stroke the 429 to 460ci (3.850 inch stroke), a hidden stealthy modification with a 460 crank that will deliver abundant torque without a lot of expense. Summit Racing also stocks a variety of stroker kits that will get you closer to 500ci. (Image/Jim Smart)
This is a factory 429 Cobra Jet block with four-bolt mains, which are becoming increasingly harder to find. But there’s a cool four-bolt main conversion kit from Milodon, which can be installed by a qualified machine shop. Always ARP stud your main caps in any case to improve durability. (Image/Jim Smart)
Not enough of us do this before degreeing a cam. Find true top-dead-center using a dial indicator before you do anything else. Get the piston to static top-dead-center, then, slowly roll the crank until piston movement is indicated via the dial indicator. Slowly roll the crank both ways watching the dial indicator. Find dead center of the piston movement and you’ve found true top-dead-center. (Image/Jim Smart)
We’re running a dual roller chain for precision timing and reduced internal friction. Note the two-piece fuel pump eccentric for reduced internal friction and wear. (Image/Jim Smart)
Even if you’re reinstalling a cam, it should be degreed to confirm valve timing events as they would compare with the cam card. Even if you don’t have a cam card, this is information critical to performance and durability. (Image/Jim Smart)
The 429 Cobra Jet heads offer generous flow thanks to huge drive-through intake ports. These ports have been cleaned up and port-matched for improved flow. (Image/Jim Smart)
The 429’s poly-angle valves are what make this cylinder head rock. They allow for better flow going in and coming out for better scavenging. The Super Cobra Jet with its mechanical tappets and an aggressive cam profile calls for adjustable screw-in studs and guide plates. Standard 429/460 engines have bolt/fulcrum stamped steel rocker arms and a fixed “no adjust” configuration. (Image/Jim Smart)
The 385 Series’ 74 – 76cc kidney bean chambers offer excellent quench, which is important to efficiency and power. Be careful about cylinder head selection and look at casting numbers and date codes. Chambers became larger as time went on to get compression down. This is the D0OE-R Cobra Jet head casting with 74 – 76cc chambers and 2.190/1.730 inch intake/exhaust valves. The Police Interceptor casting to come later is similar with larger chambers, which loses compression. (Image/Jim Smart)
These huge Cobra Jet intake ports have been ported and massaged to improve flow. They do their best work at high rpm. However, because we’re dealing with a lot of displacement (and stroke) at 429 or 460ci, we’re still getting the torque at low to mid-range rpm. Remember, this is basically a stock 429 Super Cobra Jet, which was factory rated at 375 horsepower and 450 lbs.-ft. of torque. We’re reaching for better. (Image/Jim Smart)
JGM studded the intake manifold for spot-on installation. These studs allow the manifold to seat perfectly. Note the modest amount of Permatex’s The Right Stuff around the cooling passage. You don’t need much. (Image/Jim Smart)
Exhaust ports were cleaned up to improve scavenging. Ford has never been strong on port sizing—either too small or too large. These exhaust ports needed help. (Image/Jim Smart)
The 429 Super Cobra Jet was fitted with a flat tappet mechanical cam from the factory, which calls for valve lash adjustment. Valve lash for the Super Cobra Jet is 0.024/0.026-inch intake/exhaust with valves seated and camlobes on the base circle. If lash seems excessive (noisy), tighten it up a bit to 0.020/0.022 inch. (Image/Jim Smart)
When you’re running a dual-roller timing set, do not install the factory oil slinger on the crank, which can get into the chain and do a lot of damage. There’s always a debate on this one, which is more critical with small block Fords. Best advice is not to use it. (Image/Jim Smart)
Use only brass or stainless steel block plugs with a thin film of The Right Stuff around the perimeter. Some builders use JB Weld for added security. Do not use steel freeze plugs, which will corrode. (Image/Jim Smart)
Because the 429/460 has a generous oiling system, all you really need is a high-volume Melling oil pump and a fresh pickup. Always good to inspect the pump and measure clearances before installation. Check the relief valve’s spring pressure and freedom of movement. Never install an oil pump right out of the box. (Image/Jim Smart)
We like the Cobra Jet’s baffled oil pan, which keeps oil where it belongs at high rpm. Summit Racing stocks a variety of high-performance oil pans for drag racing and road racing. Choice depends upon how you intend to use the engine most of the time. (Image/Jim Smart)
This crank spacer is common from 1968-78. From 1979 on up, a slide-on counterweight is positioned here for externally balanced 429/460 engines. (Image/Jim Smart)
This is the D0OE-9425-C iron intake for square-flange carburetors. Most 429/460 engines were fitted with the spread-bore Rochester Quadrajet. (Image/Jim Smart)
This is the more common spread-bore intake manifold for the 429/460. This particular intake manifold is a factory experimental casting (#XE-152211) found in John Vermeersch’s Total Performance shop outside of Detroit. Most 429/460 engines in the 1970s were fitted with the Rochester Quadrajet carburetor. (Image/Jim Smart)
On top is a Holley HP Series 750 cfm four-throat, which was optimal for our 429 SCJ. The Holley HP gave us the expected horsepower and torque we were looking for. Horsepower came in at 467.2 hp at 5,700 rpm, with peak torque—480.7 hp rolling in at 4,400 rpm making this a terrific street/strip engine. (Image/Jim Smart)
JGM opted for a Pertronix billet distributor, #D132710, for this street/strip application along with Pertronix ignition wires and coil for optimum results. The beauty of the Pertronix ignition is its simplicity and ease of installation. Durability with these Pertronix system along with improved energy makes them a slam dunk. (Image/Jim Smart)
Our completed 429 SCJ is quite stealthy with its hotter cam, Crane rocker arms, Pertronix ignition, and Holley HP carburetion. There’s so much you can do here. Opt for the stroke of a 460 for an easy increase in displacement and get all kinds of power your 429 doesn’t have. Stroke equals torque and lots of it. What’s more, no one will know it’s in there but you. (Image/Jim Smart)
Comp Cams Multi-Viscosity Break-in Oil with ZDDP zinc additive is what you should use for your engine break-in. It is the zinc additive that protects a flat tappet cam best along with other critical parts trying to seat properly. Zinc aids the work hardening of the cam lobes during the break-in process. Fire the engine and immediately get it to 2,500 rpm for good oil splash and leave it running at that speed for 30 minutes. Although dyno time is not cheap, it is necessary for proper break-in. (Image/Jim Smart)

Ford 429/460 Engine Block Identification

Displacement
(cubic inches)
YearsFord Part/Casting Number (6010)Bore SizeNotes
429/4601968-70C8VE-F4.360"
429/4601969-70C9VE-B4.360"
429
Cobra Jet
Super Cobra Jet
Police Interceptor
1970-71D0OE-B4.360"4-Bolt Mains
429/4601971+D1VE4.360"
429/4601971+D1ZE-AZ4.360"
429/4601975+D5TE4.360"Truck Block
429/4601975+D6TE4.360"Truck Block

Ford 429/460 Cylinder Head Identification

Displacement
(cubic inches)
YearsCasting Number Chamber Size Valve Size Port Size
429/4601968-71C8VE-A76cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
429/4601968-71C8VE-E76cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
429/4601969-71C9VE-A76cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
429/4601970-71D0VE-A76cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
429/4601970-71D0VE-C76cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
429/460
Cobra Jet
1970-71
Only
D0OE-R76cc2.19" Int.
1.73" Exh.
2.51" x 2.11" Int.
2.25" x 1.30" Exh.
429/4601972D1VE-A76cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
429/4601972-74D2VE-AA91.5cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
429
Police Interceptor
1972-74D2OE-AA88cc2.19" Int.
1.73" Exh.
2.20" x 1.93" Int.
2.06" x 1.31" Exh.
429
Police Interceptor
1972-74D2OE-AB91.5cc2.19" Int.
1.73" Exh.
2.20" x 1.93" Int.
2.06" x 1.31" Exh.
429/4601973D3AE-A2A91.5cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
460
Police Interceptor
1973-74D3AE-FA91.5cc2.19" Int.
1.73" Exh.
2.20" x 1.93" Int.
2.06" x 1.31" Exh.
429/4601973-74D3VE-AA91.5cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
460
Police Interceptor
1974-78D4VE96.2cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
4601974-78D4VE-BA96.2cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
4601974-78D4VE-B2A96.2cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
4601975-78D5VE-A96.2cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
429/4601979-85D9TE-FA96.2cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
429/4601979-85D9TE-HA96.2cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
429/4601985-87E5TE-HA96-97cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
429/4601985-87E5TE-TA96-97cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
429/4601986-91E6TE-DA96-97cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
429/4601986-91E6TE-EA96-97cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
429/4601986-95E7TE-BD96-97cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
429/4601988-96E8TE-JA96-97cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.
429/4601988-96F3TE-JA96-97cc2.09" Int.
1.65" Exh.
2.18" x 1.87" Int.
1.99" x 1.30" Exh.

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