What Is the Difference Between a Ford 302, 289 & 351 Engine?by Rob Wagner
Ford’s 289-, 302- and 351-cubic-inch V-8s are small-block engines that most notably powered Mustangs, including the performance Shelby GT models. The major differences between the three engines were their cubic-inch displacement and stroke size. All engines came either with a two- or four-barrel carburetor, and the compression ratios varied depending on year of production.
Although Ford launched the 289 V-8 in 1963, it took performance car builder Carroll Shelby to put the power plant on the performance map when he introduced the HiPo (or High Performance) 289 in the 1965 Shelby Mustang GT 350. Although the 289 was relatively small for a performance engine -- considering that Ford later produced the big-block 427 and 428 V-8s -- it firmly moved the Mustang into the pony car field with high output in a small package. The 302 replaced the 289 in 1968 and had a 27-year production run, primarily as a Mustang engine option. Ford manufactured the 351 in Windsor, Ontario, and in Cleveland, hence the “351W” and “351C” designations. It was not a replacement engine, but one produced as an entirely separate power plant. It stood taller, was heavier and had a bigger displacement than any previous Ford small-block. Again, the Mustang benefited by having the 351 as an optional performance engine.
The 289 engine displaced 289 cubic inches and came with a standard two-barrel carburetor or an optional four-barrel carburetor. The bore was 4.0 inches and the stroke measured 2.87 inches. Output for the original two-barrel version was 195 horsepower, with the latter four-barrel carburetor model generating 210 horsepower. The HiPo delivered 271 horsepower with a 10.5-to-1 compression ratio, compared to the first two-barrel’s compression ratio of 8.7-to-1. In addition to the Mustang, the 289 powered the North American Ford Falcon GT and the Australian-produced Ford Falcon XR GT.
The 302 differed little from the 289, with the exception of the stroke, which measured 3.0 inches. The bore remained at 4.0 inches. Best known as Ford’s “5.0” engine in the Shelby GTs -- although it actually displaced 4.9 liters -- the 302 also powered many Ford, Lincoln and Mercury passenger cars. Aside from the stroke measurements, the 302 also differed from the 289 with a higher nickel content in the engine block to create a stronger engine. The two-barrel version debuting in 1968 generated 210 horsepower. The four-barrel version generated 235 horsepower, with a 10.5-to-1 compression ratio. A high performance version delivered 235 horsepower, which was its best output. The 302 ended production in 1995.
The 351 displaced 351 cubic inches and had a 4.0-inch bore and a 3.50-inch stroke. Its most distinctive characteristic was its unusual 1-5-4-2-6-3-7-8 firing order, not found on any other Ford engine. The main bearing caps were stronger, and the connecting rods larger than those on the 289 and 302. Ford produced the 351W from 1969 to 1974. Enthusiasts consider the 351W superior to the 351C due to the 351W’s heavier block and larger valves and heads. Two-barrel 351s generated 250 horsepower, and four-barrel versions wielded 290 horsepower. Performance versions peaked at 300 horsepower. The 351 powered Mustangs, Torinos and Mercury Cougars. The 351 remained in production as of 2011.
Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.