The History of the Ford FE Motorby Richard Rowe
Back in the 1980's and 90's, Ford's FE series engine went through a lull in popularity. This had less to do with its design than the fact that demand had well outstripped supply, lending this engine series the unflattering epithet of "Freakin' Expensive." However, the stalwart old FE has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, primarily due to the fact that several aftermarket manufacturers are producing brand new FE heads and blocks.
It has been said that tragedy sometimes breeds triumph, and so it is with the FE. "FE" stands for "Ford Edsel," which should be the first tip off that this excellent engine was specifically destined to inhabit the 1958 Edsel (widely considered the ugliest car ever produced). The FE went through several iterations during its 18-year production run, culminating in what would become perhaps the most beloved Ford engines of all time: the 428 Cobra Jet and the 427 Single Overhead Cam (SOHC) Side-Oiler race engine.
FEs came in two versions, Generation I and Generation II, during the 1966 model year. There isn't much difference between the two, aside from the Gen II's larger bores and displacements. Gen I came in cubic inch displacements (CID) of 332, 352, 361 (Edsel only), 360 (truck only) and 390. Gen II powerplants came in some of the most well-known flavors ever known. They include 406 CID, 410 CID, 427 CID (in both standard and SOHC configurations) and 428 CID (a longer stroke/smaller bore variant of the 427, prized primarily for its greater torque) in Cobra Jet and Super Cobra Jet form.
Gen I Applications
332 CID FEs have been used in Edsels, Pacers and Villagers. 352 CID motors saw duty in Mercury Meteors and Montereys as well as Ford Thunderbirds and Interceptors. From 1968 to 1976, Ford used a 360 CID variant (called the "FT") specifically for its F-series trucks. 390s have been used in practically every V-8 car and truck Ford made between 1956 and 1963.
Gen II Applications
Like its big brother 427 Cammer, the 406 was a dedicated race-only engine, and Ford sold just enough of them to the public to meet homologation requirements. The 410 utilized a 390 block and 428 crankshaft and was actually a production standard for some 1966 and 1967 Mercurys. Although the 428 (and its Cobra Jet variant) was a great street engine when installed in certain Galaxies, Police Interceptors and Mustangs, it also had very tight tolerances and cost more to manufacture than it ever made for the Ford Motor Company.
427 Cammer Engines
In 1964, NASCAR was dominated by Chrysler's all-crushing 426 Race Hemi. When Ford decided that two could play at the Hemi game, they one-upped Chrysler by granting their large-bore 427 both hemispherical combustion chambers and a set of overhead camshafts. Additionally, Ford made a dedicated race casting of the 427 block with a large, external oil passage cast into the block. These "side-oilers" were far superior at providing consistent oil pressure to the rod and main bearings; a crucial factor at constantly high rpm.
Richard Rowe has been writing professionally since 2007, specializing in automotive topics. He has worked as a tractor-trailer driver and mechanic, a rigger at a fire engine factory and as a race-car driver and builder. Rowe studied engineering, philosophy and American literature at Central Florida Community College.