The Hot Rod 400 Ford on the Dyno

A few years ago Hot Rod magazine published an engine build story trying to see if it could build a 500-horsepower motor from scratch for five thousand dollars. So of course, it started with a Chevy small block and was successful. But that’s kind of like trying to predict whether a kid is going to prefer candy or broccoli–too easy.

As a sort of follow-up, the magazine allowed me to take up the same 500-for-$5,000 challenge with a bit of a twist. Instead of going for the safe bet, I started with a 400 Ford. The idea was that since nobody gives the old 400 any respect, you can find a block and crankshaft dirt cheap. That gives you more cubes for less money compared to a SBC, and hopefully a leg up right out of the gate.

I got this one out of a junked F100 pickup for free, but for the magazine we started with a figure of $125. The secret weapon in this build was a pair of aluminum Edelbrock Performer RPM 351C heads. An update on Ford’s great Cleveland heads, Edelbrock’s Performers feature signifcantly improved chambers and ports over the stock heads, besides being about half the weight than the origianl cast-iron pigs. Edelbrock also makes a dual-plane intake for this block and head combination, and that was used as well.

But from there things got more difficult. That’s because the 351M and 400 engine family enjoys almost zero aftermarket support. I partnered with KT Engine Development for the build, and we did a lot of head scratching to find parts on the cheap that would help us hit the horsepower goal. We ended up going with a set of K1 connecting rods with a 6.300 inch length for a big block Chevy and matched them with eight KB hypereutectic pistons for a 340 Dodge because the compression distance was what we were looking for. Custom slugs would have been much preferrable, but we couldn’t afford them under our five-grand budget.

Because the 400 rarely gets any love from performance enthusiasts and because we built it with a variety of parts for different makes, we ended up naming this engine “The Mutt,” and the subsequent article that ran in Hot Rod was headlined the same. We ended up getting an OK 504 horsepower out of it, but what was really impressive was the incredibly flat torque curve that started out at 560 lb/ft at 3,800 rpm and didn’t drop below 500 until 5,400 rpm. Peak torque clocked in at a whopping 565 lb/ft. But we did, however, exceed our five-grand budget by a few hundred–and that’s not counting the new valve covers you see in the photos.

Below is a short video of the dyno session at KT Engine development when we were finishing up this motor. It sounds great and has never been seen before, so I thought I’d include it here. I believe the dual-plane intake was great for torque but really choked off the air flow beyond about 5,500 rpm. One of my regrets with this build is we didn’t have the time or money to try a single plane intake, which I think would have produced a big jump in peak horsepower.

This engine is still sitting in a corner of my shop, and I’ve been pondering using those fantastic heads on a Windsor block for a future build. It probably won’t have this engine’s 431 cubic inches of displacement, but with the right selection of parts it should come close to matching the horsepower numbers, if not the torque. And a Windsor won’t have the same bellhousing and engine bay fitment problems the primarily truck-based 400 will have when trying to squeeze it into a car. So what do you think? How should we build out our upcoming Windsor and Cleveland mix? (Clevor in Fordspeak.) Let us know in the comments, or the forums, and we’ll try to work ‘em into the build. 

 
If you’re interested, you can check out the original Hot Rod article here.

Here’s the dyno sheet showing the Kansas-flat torque curve:

And here are more photos from the original build:

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  1. Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was a can of Dupli Color engine enamel (because that’s about all my local speed shop carries) and I remember thinking the same thing. But it was definitely labeled “Ford blue.”

    Does anyone know if that was an older color or something?

  2. Also, I just posted the build sheet for this engine. It breaks down every part, where I got them and the cost. It’s a couple years old now so some of the prices may have changed, but the part numbers should still be good. In the future I plan on including these in the post, but this one is on the forums. While you’re there, please sign up and let us know how you would built it.

    You can find it here:
    http://streetmuscleaction.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=12&start=0

    Thanks!

  3. THIS BUILD SEEMS TO ME YOU GUYS DID IT THE HARD WAY WITH THE RODS AND PISTONS..WHAT YOU SHOULD HAVE DONE WAS USE THE STOCK 400 RODS BUSH THE SMALL ENDS TO FIT 351C PISTONS BECAUSE THE COMPRESSION HIGHT IS THE SAME AS A 400 PISTON..BUT YOU HAVE A BETTER CHOICE OF PISTONS FOR THE 351C I WOULD HAVE USED SOME TRW FLAT TOPS WITCH ARE FORGED..THAN DECK THE BLOCK TO 0 DECK HIGHT SHOULD GIVE 9.5 COMP.JUST MY TWO CENTS WOULD HAVE BEEN A LOT CHEAPER AND LESS HEADACES…

  4. IF YOU USED SOME DOME PISTONS YOU WOULD HAVE A HIGER COMPESSION THIS MOTOR WOULD ONLY BE 408 NOT A 431 LIKE THE ONE YOU GUYS BUILT BUT WITH THE RIGHT CAM AND SOME HEAD PORTING WOULD MAKE 500 HP BECAUSE ALL THE WORK YOU HAD TO DO TO THE K-1 ROD BUSH THE ENDS TO FIT THE 340 PISTONS THAN NOTCH THE PISTONS TO FIT THE HEADS.THAN YOU HAD TO CUT THE COUNTER WEIGHTS THAN BALANCE SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF MACHINE WORK .351 C PISTONS WOULD WORK JUST FINE WITH A SIMPLE BUSHING OF THE STOCK 400 RODS YOUR DONE .THAN JUST USE SOME ARP ROD BOLTS AND BALANCE IT .

  5. Thanks for the comments FordRacer, you make some good points. I remember being worried about how well the stock rods would hold up. How much horsepower, and rpm, do you think they are good for?

  6. WITH SOME SEARCHING ON THE INTERNET I FOUND.TEMEYER THEY MAKE A STROKER KIT FOR A 400 STROKED TO 434 NOT CHEAP THOUGH. THAN I FOUND TMD ON EBAY SAME THING 434 STROKER KIT.FOR $1900 CHINESE PARTS I’M SURE.BUT LIKE YOU SAID THERE IS NO ONE MAKING A ROD OR PISTON OUT THERE SO I GUESS YOU GOT TO BE CREATIVE WITH A 400.I RAN 351C STOCK RODS IN A 357 C MOTOR RAN 10.20 THAT MOTOR LASTED ME A LONG TIME WITH THE OIL MODS IN BLOCK SPUN IT TO 7500 RPM..NOW A 400 ROD LOOKS PRETTY STRONG.WITH SOME LIGHT PISTONS LIKE PROBE 351C PISTONS. WITH SHOT PEENING POLISH BEAMS AND SOME ARP WAVE LOCK BOLTS SHOULD BE GOOD IN A 400 I WOULD NOT TAKE IT OVER 6500 RPM PLUS 400S ARE KNOW FOR BEING A TORK MOSTER.

  7. Your theme was to keep it under $5K. Dang easy, if you don’t get so fancy. Edel heads? Why? The 400 Ford uses 351 Cleveland 2bbl heads and they are excellent heads. Stop worrying about the exhaust hump. Die-grind that some if it makes you happy. Running the Cleveland heads you got with the core block saves you big dough. Yes, you gotta deck the pedestals, screw-in studs etc. That machine work is worth it and lasts forever and you keep your local machinist in business.

    Edel & Weiand both make dual-plane & single-plane intakes for 400 Clevelands. $100 is a going price for a decent used intake via ebay.

    If the crank can be turned .010, use it and save a bundle. Stroker crank? What for in a 400?

    Use the money where it counts: rods, bolts & pistons. This is what young new kids need to know in building a less-expensive motor. KB has the rods with the good wave bolts already installed. It’s cheaper to buy the KB forged rods than rework the 400 Ford rods and they are still just cast rods.

    Forged pistons, not the hyper-pathetic (cast) pistons. KB has just the pistons that go with their rods.

    Balance the motor. Magnaflux the block & heads. Mandatory valve job. Toss the plastic valve seals and get the good rubber & steel-coil seals. Best quality head gaskets from Fel Pro.

    MSD & Mallory high-end electronic ignition setups are WAY expensive and over-rated. And they break alot and cost big bucks all the time to replace parts. Remember, high-end electrical burns up alot. Get a Davis Unified Ignition distributor. Put your money here. They last a long time and work very well. Clearance issues can occur here in some Ford apps.

    Carb motor is WAY cheaper to set-up than buying an aftermarket EFI system. You did say build an inexpensive motor? Wanna really keep it under $5K? Set up a Holley or even an Edel carb on your intake of choice. Carb over fuelie motor: less expensive, workable, serviceable on the road, dependable.

    powertrain: You gotta deck the pedestals and install better cam with roller rockers. Match your cam to your tranny, rear-gears and intended use. This is a non-roller motor.

    We love the 400 Clevelands. You don’t gotta get fancy to make horsepower or torque with them.

    peace gearheads!

    page crow

  8. .. I agree, build it for under $1,000, not $5,000… re-use everything, valves already bigger than SBC ‘fuelly valves’, but add new or used domed 351C pistons/rings, Summit cam/lifters, and Howard’s valve springs… prolly 450-500 HP… no need to twist over 5500-6000 RPMs… drive the hell out of it… better MPG also…