As America entered late 1950s, it became apparent there was consumer demand for smaller economical automobiles. With the Falcon and Comet in 1960 came a family of small lightweight six cylinder engines—which led to a family of small lightweight V8s. Ford realized at the cusp of the 1960s there was also a need for midsized cars, which resulted in the intermediate Ford Fairlane and Mercury Meteor for 1962.

A Brief History of the Ford 90° Fairlane Small Block V8

Ford’s small block V8 debuted in the all-new downsized 1962 Fairlane and its corporate cousin Mercury Meteor in displacements of 221 and 260ci. Known as the “90 degree Fairlane V8,” the small block Ford grew to 289ci in 1963 and 302ci later on in 1968.

Because Ford needed a fast-quick answer to midsized 350ci competition in the late 1960s, it raised the 302’s deck one inch to conceive the 351ci small block ultimately known as the 351 “Windsor” for 1969. Ironically, the 351W was conceived as a short-term answer to this mid-sized challenge, yet it has endured and the 351 Cleveland faded away. The 351C was dropped after 1974 in North America, yet it remained very popular in Australia through 1982 and a smash hit with enthusiasts for decades.

Learn more about the Ford Cleveland engine here: Getting to Know Ford’s Beasty 351C

Ford Small Block V8 Performance Potential

The small block Ford V8 was an engine with enormous potential when it debuted. The low displacement grey wall iron V8s offered buyers economy and power over the more mundane inline sixes. Ford’s petite V8 was a learning curve that led to Le Mans wins in the late 1960s. Carroll Shelby copped the 260/289ci engines for his two-seat Cobras.

The small block Ford only got better with time—ultimately becoming the world class 5.0L roller tappet High Output in the 1980s.

This engine family has been nothing short of success for six decades.

(Image/Jim Smart)

Understanding Ford Small Block V8 Cylinder Heads

There are a lot of misconceptions about small block Ford cylinder heads—including the age old 351W head swap on a 289/302. There’s virtually nothing to be gained from the 351W castings despite what you’ve heard over the years, especially when you consider what’s available from the automotive aftermarket today. What you might gain in airflow, you lose with a larger chamber and resulting compression loss.

Instead of the expense of port work on a 289/302/351W head casting, comb for cylinder heads and learn what’s available from the aftermarket for your 289/302/351W Ford.

Despite everything you’ve been told, there are very few differences in small block Ford head castings across time. Valve and port sizing was always modest even with the GT-40 cylinder heads of the 1990s. Prior to 1968, chamber, port, and valve sizing was virtually the same—with 53-57cc chambers and intake/exhaust valve sizing remaining constant up until 1968. Port sizing virtually never changed much in that time.

It is best to stay away from post-1967 cylinder heads because chamber size increased in 1968, sacrificing compression. The one exception is the rare 302-4V cylinder head for 1968 only with a 53cc chamber, which makes power via increased compression. Good luck finding a pair of these rare heads anywhere.

One endless debate is 1963-67 289 High Performance heads. The only elements that made them “high-performance” were screw-in rocker arm studs and valve spring cups cast into the head for valvetrain stability at high rpm. Port, valve, and chamber sizing is the same with the exception being the 1963 Hi-Po head, which has a smaller chamber and—therefore—greater compression.

You can take regular 289-2V/4V heads (1963-67) and install screw-in rocker arm studs along with valve spring cups, and have a pair of homemade 289 High Performance heads. Do a little port and bowl work and the news gets even better.

Cleveland heads on a 289/302/351W block (known as a “Clevor”) is one of the most doable modifications you can accomplish in your pursuit of power—and with off-the-shelf parts available from the aftermarket. Edelbrock has the heads and induction for this modification. Cruise for piston options—either custom or off-the-shelf. All you need is a savvy machine shop and the knowledge of what to order for your Clevor build. Building a Clevor small block gets you what is fundamentally a BOSS 302 engine, which can also be stroked to 331 and 347ci.

The (Technical) Truth Behind the Windsor Name

And one more thing before we go. The 221/260/289 and 302 are not “Windsor” engines—Ford never called them that.

Technically speaking, the only Windsor is the 351, which got christened in 1970 when Ford introduced the 351 “Cleveland” engine and wound up with two 351ci engines—confusing Ford service technicians in the process.

To clear things up, Ford issued a Technical Service Bulletin differentiating the two 351ci engines by identifying their engine plants: Windsor, Ontario and Cleveland, Ohio.

You can dig into the 351 distinctions here: What’s the Difference Between a Ford 351 Windsor, Cleveland, or Modified Engine?

The 221/260/289 and 302 engines were cast and manufactured at Ford’s Cleveland engine plant, with some being cast and manufactured at Windsor. And did you know some early BOSS 302 blocks and heads were cast at the Windsor Iron Foundry (WIF)?

At any rate, Ford’s versatile small block has been a mainstay for six decades and left an indelible mark on automotive history. You can bet it will remain a constant for decades to come

Ford’s 289 High Performance V8 was introduced in 1963 and only in the Fairlane. What makes the 289 High Performance head different from 2V/4V is screw-in rocker arm studs and valve spring pockets for stability at high rpm. (Image/Jim Smart)
Virtually all heads of the period are identified by the displacement and the model year. The 289 High Performance head will have “HP” and/or “4V” in the casting. Look for the alphanumeric date code, example: “5A20” meaning 1965/January/20. (Image/Jim Smart)
The 289 High Performance head has the same size intake and exhaust ports as the 2V/4V head. (Image/Jim Smart)
One exception is the 1967-68 “Service Replacement” head, which is said to have larger intake ports. Look for the “4V” designation only on 289 High Performance heads, but not the standard 2V/4V head. (Image/Jim Smart)
The 289 High Performance chamber is 53-57cc like the standard 2V/4V head. When you’re searching for a stock iron head for your 289 or 302, seek this chamber—which is the smaller wedge chamber common before 1968. The only exception is the rare 302-4V head for 1968 only with this chamber. The 289/302-2V head for 1968-up sports a larger 64cc+ chamber, which will cost you compression. (Image/Jim Smart)
Very important to know is the difference between conventional rocker arms and rail-style. Prior to May 8, 1966 were these conventional style cast rocker arms used on the 221/260/289 engines through May 8, 1966. These rocker arms were designed to work with short valve stems, which are nearly flush with the spring retainer. (Image/Jim Smart)
Beginning May 8, 1966 Ford went to rail-style rocker arms, which have guide rails cast into the valve end of the rocker arm to keep the rocker centered on the valve stem. This eliminated machining pushrod guides into the head castings. Rail style rockers call for longer valve stems, which keep the rails away from the spring retainer. This means you must never use rail-style rocker arms on a conventional rocker (pre-May 8, 1966) engine. If you do, the rails will depress the retainer and you swallow valves. (Image/OnAllCylinders)
From 1963 through 1967, 289 heads had this smaller 53-57cc wedge chamber, which offers good quench and healthy compression with a flattop piston. This is the chamber you want in your search for a good factory head casting. (Image/Jim Smart)
Beginning 1968, 289/302 heads went to a larger 64cc wedge chamber for reduced compression and cleaner emissions. This chamber was common through 1973. After 1973, Ford went to a larger 302 chamber. After 1975, Ford used the same 302 head on both the 302 and 351W. Ford also went to a smaller 14mm spark plug. (Image/Jim Smart)
The 351W cylinder head had larger ports than the 302 through 1975. After 1975, both engines employed the same head. Chambers got progressively larger, which hurt compression yet reduced emissions. These are the heads to avoid. (Image/Jim Smart)
This head has obviously had some port work. (Image/Jim Smart)
The 351W chamber is much larger, which sacrifices compression. Very little to be gained from larger ports when you lose compression. (Image/Jim Smart)
These are the four rocker arm studs available for the small block Ford. From left—the hex head screw-in stud, headless screw-in stud, positive-stop (non-adjustable) screw-in stud, and the standard pressed-in stud. It is suggested you use the ARP hex head screw-in stud for maximum security. Late model small block Fords went to a stamped steel rocker arm with a bolt fulcrum. (Image/Jim Smart)
Know your Ford castings. A circled “C” or a “CP” indicates the foundry where the casting was cast. (Image/Jim Smart)
A CF or CP in this case the Cleveland foundry. (Image/OnAllCylinders)
 A “WF” or “WIF” indicates the Windsor Iron Foundry. (Image/Jim Smart)
Scott Drake has been reproducing the 289 High Performance cast iron exhaust header for quite some time now. If you’d prefer to keep a more stock appearance, the Hi-Po “shorty” exhaust header is a nice looking piece and will give your small block a more throaty voice. It also bolts up easily to most reproduction exhaust systems. (Image/Jim Smart)
One good modification to make is eliminating the stock pressed in oil galley plugs and opting for screw-in plugs for oil system security. (Image/Jim Smart)
 Your machine shop can do this in the course of machine work. (Image/Jim Smart)
Small block Ford blocks had a five-bolt bellhousing bolt pattern (left) prior to the summer of 1964 as the 1965 model year unfolded. Ford went to a six-bolt bellhousing (right) that summer, which remained in production from then on. Watch out for this when you’re searching for a block. The six-bolt pattern was intended to reduce noise, vibration, and harshness. (Image/Jim Smart)
Quickest way to identify a Ford block is the casting number and date code located just above the starter. This is a C4OE-6015-E five-bolt block cast “5G26” which means 1965/July/26. This is a Service Replacement 260 block hence the 1965 casting date. (Image/Jim Smart)
Here’s a 1965 289 block, casting number C5AE-6015-E cast “5J15” meaning 1965/September/15—which came out of an early 1966 Shelby GT350. This block casting number is common with all 289s of the period. What makes this block “Hi-Po” is wider main caps. (Image/Jim Smart)
Here’s what could be termed an odd-duck block—a 1967 289 engine from a 302 block, which began entering production in mid-1967. The C8OE-6015-A block is a 302 block with extended cylinder skirts to take up the 302’s additional stroke. The casting date is “7F29” or 1967/June/29. (Image/Jim Smart)
Tired of leaky two-piece rear main seals? Did you know you can have your machine shop machine the #5 main cap and block to accommodate a one-piece rear main seal, which was first adopted by Ford in 1982? (Image/Jim Smart)
This is an easy modification to accomplish during an engine build. (Image/Jim Smart)
These are standard 289/302 main caps, which taper between the bolts/studs. Even if you’re building a stone stocker, opt for ARP main studs for added security and smoothness. (Image/Jim Smart)
The 289 High Performance V8 employs the same block as the 289-2V/4V. However, the Hi-Po sports wider main bearing caps for strength down under. Mexican 289/302 blocks use the same wider caps if you can find one. (Image/Jim Smart)
Here’s a factory original 289 High Performance engine with the wider main caps and rods with 3/8 inch bolts. Both rods and crank were painted orange for quick identification during manufacture. (Image/Jim Smart)
Before you is a machined 289 High Performance crank, rods, and pistons along with the wider harmonic dampener with slide-on balance weight. The slide-on offset balance weight is there to compensate for heavier rod bolts. The 289 High Performance nodular iron crank isn’t any different than a standard cast crank with the exception being handpicked and Brinell hardness tested (Brinell test dimple). These are coated Speed Pro forged pistons. (Image/Jim Smart)
Stock Ford rods can be made stronger via shotpeening and ARP bolts. This is a 289 High Performance rod with 3/8 inch ARP bolts. (Image/Jim Smart)
We’ve seen small block Ford blocks pushed to the maximum oversize of 4.060 inches. This is discouraged. The most you want to bore/hone these blocks is 4.040 inches. Sonic check the bores if you intend to go beyond 4.040 inches. You can have a block sleeved if you need to save the block. (Image/Jim Smart)
Even if you’re opting for a stock small block, toss the stock oil pump shaft and go with the ARP shaft for added security. (Image/Jim Smart)
The same logic applies to pushrods. If you’re building a stocker and especially if you’re going for power—go with single-piece pushrods (right) as a good life insurance policy. Avoid the stock three-piece pushrods. (Image/Jim Smart)
You can perform a certain amount of port and bowl work yourself to improve flow in a stock iron head. Larger isn’t always better, so watch yourself and be careful not to get into the water jackets. (Image/Jim Smart)
Valve jobs on old iron heads involve two options—stainless steel valves and keeping the iron exhaust seats or installing hardened exhaust valve seats. You can save money with stainless valves and avoiding the steel seats. (Image/Jim Smart)
George Reid’s excellent Interchange book from CarTech Books is a good source of small block Ford information and data. You can find Ford part and casting numbers in this book along with quick identification info. (Image/SA Design)

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Author: Jim Smart

Jim Smart is a veteran automotive journalist, technical editor, and historian with hundreds of how-to and feature articles to his credit. Jim's also an enthusiast, and has owned and restored many classic vehicles, including an impressive mix of vintage Ford Mustangs.