Ford's Amazing Small Block: The Early Years - 1962-1967

Ford Used a "stock block" 260 V8 (highly modified)
in the 1963 Indy 500. Here it is at full song on the dyno.

by Society Staff -
Reprint with permission only

We can look back at the forty plus years that the 221-351 Ford V8 was installed in cars - not to mention that you can still buy one as a crate engine even today and marvel at how versatile the compact design was – powering everything from a mundane Ford sedan to an Indianapolis race car.

But how did it come about, and why did it reach such popularity? In this article, we intend to talk about the how – later on we’ll address its successes and iterations.

First, we should remember that Ford already had a “small block”; the 234-312 “Y-Block”. A few things worked against this tried and true V8; one, it was heavy, weighing in at over 600 lbs; and two, the cylinder heads were not state of the art - and were limited in their breathing. Second, dimensionally, it was as large as many “big block” V8s of the era, making fitment in Ford’s planned “mid-size” Fairlane and Meteor impractical.

Thus, their design parameters resulted in not only a light weight and compact V8, but they were determined to make it sturdy and very reliable. Larger than necessary main bearings were designed in ostensibly because they had removed the deep block surrounding the mains to save weight, they needed a short stroke to keep the deck height low, so the engine would not be wide, and to ensure no hot spots in the head, they went to the IEIEIEIE valve placement. To reduce costs they utilized a similar rocker arm design to Chevrolet and Pontiac, which was also lighter in weight.

Assuming the engine would grow in size right from the outset, they placed the bore centers far enough apart to allow a 4.0” bore. The stroke was short, due to the engine’s height, also lowering piston speed. The result was a compact, lightweight engine that had great HP potential. As mentioned it took advantage of “thinwall-casting” (pioneered in the Ford Falcon I-6). It was 24” wide, 29” long, and 27.5” tall. And weighed only 470 lb. dry in spite its cast iron construction, making it the lightest and most compact V8 engines of its time.

The engine debuted in the 1962 Ford Fairlane and Mercury Meteor at 221 cubic inches (the same size as original Flathead V8) making a modest 143 HP, and it gave the cars peppy performance. Ford realized, however, that were the engine to replace the 292-312 Y-Block across the board, more cubes would be needed. A 260 cubic inch version was released mid-year 1962; followed with a Hi-Po 260 in early 1963. In late 1963 the 289 cubic inch version was released for 1964 model Ford cars. At the same time the famous “K-Code” Hi-Po 289 was offered, carrying over most of the components in the 260 Hi-Po.

The 289 carried the standard of the small block until 1968. When the 302 cu. in version was released. The 302’s architecture remained basically the same until the pushrod V8 was replaced with the “Modular” OHC V8 in the mid 90’s.

The 221-302 was and is still called the “Windsor” V8 because the original engines were produced in Windsor Ontario, Canada. After 1968, most were produced in the Cleveland engine plant, but because the special canted valve small block originated from there, they continued to be called Windsors until they were no longer produced. The 302 remained in production in Ford products through 2001, and is still available to this day as a crate engine.

Here is breakdown of the various Small Block Fords through 1968:

The 221
The 221 was introduced for the 1962 model year as an option on the Ford Fairlane and Mercury Meteor. It had a displacement of 221 cu in, via a 3.5” bore and 2.87” stroke. All of the 1962 through 1964 221-289 engines used a five-bolt bell housing, however the block mount pads varied in length between the 221 and the 260-289 motors which required different motor mounts to be used when fitted in these earlier cars.

In stock form the 221 used a two-barrel carburetor and a compression ratio of 8.7:1, allowing the use of regular grade gasoline. Valve diameters were 1.59” for the intake and 1.388” for the exhaust. It was rated 143-145 HP at 4,400 rpm and 216 ft. lbs. at 2,200 rpm. The 221 was dropped after the 1963 model year.

The 260
The second version of the Windsor, introduced during the middle of the 1962 model year, had a larger bore of 3.80", increasing displacement to 260 cu in. Compression ratio was raised fractionally to 8.8:1. The engine was slightly heavier than the 221, at 482 lb. Rated power rose to 164 HP @ 4400 rpm, with a peak torque of 258 ft. lbs. of torque @ 2200 rpm. In 1962 and 1963, valve diameters remained the same as the 221. Starting in 1964 they were enlarged to 1.67" (intake) and 1.45" (exhaust). Rated power was not changed.

In 1963 the 260 became the base engine on full-size Ford sedans. Later in the model year its availability was expanded to the Ford Falcon and Mercury Comet. The early "1964½" Ford Mustang also offered the 260, although it was dropped by mid-year, It was also the 1964-1966 Sunbeam Tiger Mk I's engine.

This engine was also the basis of the Indy "stock block" V8 raced at Indianapolis in May of 1963.

The special rally version of the Falcon and Comet and the early Shelby Cobra used a high-performance version of the 260 with higher compression, hotter camshaft timing, and a four-barrel carburetor. This engine was rated at 260 HP @ 5800 rpm and 269 ft. lbs. of torque @ 4800 rpm. Ford dropped the 260 in favor of the 289 after the 1964 model year.

The 289
The 289 cu in version was also introduced in 1963. Bore was expanded to 4.0". The 289 weighed 506 lb. (230 kg). In 1963, the 289 was available in two forms; the base version with a two-barrel carburetor and 8.7:1 compression was rated at 195 HP @ 4,400 rpm and 258 ft. lbs. of torque @ 2,200 rpm. The two-barrel 289 replaced the 260 as the base V8 for full-sized Fords.

In 1964, an intermediate performance version of the engine was introduced with a four-barrel carburetor (480 CFM) and 9.0:1 compression, and rated at 210 HP @ 4,400 rpm and 300 ft. lbs. of torque @ 2,800 rpm. The engine was an option on both the initial 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang and the Mercury Comet. The engine was known as the "D-code" from the letter code used to identify the engine in the VIN.

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