351W Performance Tricks

by John Willis

The Ford 351W or 351 Windsor is classic American muscle. Part of the 90 degree small block V-8 family of Ford engines, the 351 Windsor reached its peak stock horsepower in 1969 at 290. Though this small block is a platform capable of much greater performance, you can easily modify it to make more horsepower and torque. Because of its performance potential, it has been used in race cars, hot rods and muscle cars.

Flow: The Key to Building Horsepower

The key to making more horsepower in the 351 Windsor, or any engine, is to move more gas/air mixture through the engine. That means improving the flow in the heads. You can use a myriad of performance tricks to achieve higher head-flow. The first one is making sure air isn't being restricted as it enters the engine. One of the cheapest performance tricks you can do is simply to buy a high-flow air filter and keep it clean.

Removing Flow Restriction

A cylinder head flows as well as its most constricted part. Part of the challenge is identifying the order in which to improve head-flow, so overall performance improves. Do the least expensive things first, such as air cleaners, unless they need to be done in unison.

Exhaust Headers

It won't help you to have high-flow into the motor if the exhaust is restricted. Exhaust is a common place for flow restriction. Upgrading to high-flow exhaust headers can build significant horsepower, as long as they're matched to the flow of the rest of your engine.

Cylinder Head Flow

Once you've removed flow-restriction from either side of your heads (exhaust and intake), the heads themselves need to be "flowed." Part of this may require some machine work if you plan on increasing the size of your intake and exhaust valves. But, you can achieve plenty of additional head-flow and subsequent power by simply installing high performance cams. It may be more economical to buy entire high performance heads, with cams, racing springs, rockers and valves. That way, a performance company has already matched individual components for maximum flow and performance.

Interchangeable Heads

A handy trick for the 351 Windsor is using parts from its cousins. The 351 is a redesigned 302 block. But the heads are interchangeable with most of the family of 90 degree small-block Fords because the bore is the same; the 351 has an extended stroke. So, if you come across vintage hot-rod heads at a swap meet or in classified ads, they needn't be limited to the 351 Windsor. Chances are --- unless they've been modified --- a set of exotic racing heads from a Ford 289, HiPo, 302, Boss or Tunnel Port may give you high-performance without the cost of buying them new from an after-market performance company. The Windsor is also similar to the 351 Cleveland used in the exotic American-Italian hybrid DeThomaso Pantera.

About the Author

John Willis founded a publishing company in 1993, co-writing and publishing guidebooks in Portland, OR. His articles have appeared in national publications, including the "Wall Street Journal." With expertise in marketing, publishing, advertising and public relations, John has founded four writing-related ventures. He studied economics, art and writing at Portland State University and the Pacific Northwest College of Art.

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