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1955 Ford Part 66: Y Block Adventures

Updated: Dec 27, 2019

"Y Block Adventures"


Throughout this month I plan to post a few articles that I have written for the Y Block Magazine. Over the past several years, helpful technical information I have submitted has been published by Bruce Young the editor. If you are interested in subscribing, you can find out more by visiting this link: Towards the bottom of that page there is a link with which you can contact the magazine.

Seller of the Y Block in question, preparing to load it into Jan's truck

(Note: the first part of this article was written by a friend of mine.) Several years ago, I bought a 1956 Ford Customline. I built a 318 motor (312 crank in 292 block), 312 rods, Mummert internals. I have had it apart three times in the past and cannot seem to isolate an oil leak. I finally pulled it and set it aside until I have the time to look at it again. I decided to try to find a running motor so at least I could drive the car this summer. I contacted Dan AKA “The Hot Rod Reverend” to see if he knew of any motors that might be available. It turned that a fellow who lives close to him had a “292” or a “312”. Now we all know where this is going, don’t we? We went to look at the motor which included transmission, bell housing, flywheel, new clutch and pressure plate, four barrel “Teapot” carburetor, starter, generator, etc.

1956 Holley 4000 Four Barrel Carburetor (Teapot)

I called the man and made arrangements to go see him. I also arranged for Dan to meet me there. We met and determined the cost would be $500.00 for all. We looked it over and determined that it was an ECZ-L block (272) and ECL-C heads (1955 four barrel).

I pulled the valve covers and found it very clean and new looking valve train and plenty of oil on top of the heads. I didn't argue on the price as a set of original T-Bird valve covers was included and I had already contracted with Dan to sell the bell housing, clutch, and transmission. So far a great deal as I have relatively little money in it.

I got it back home and prepped it to put in the car: painted it, installed the MSD ignition, alternator, “B” intake, and Holley street avenger carburetor. I then discovered that it had a pulley instead of a dampener on the crankshaft; fortunately, I had a couple of dampeners so it was not a problem. I got it in the car, everything hooked up, ran through the valves – all were dead on, and tried priming it. I got oil to only one side. Oops, I forgot that some cam bearings have to be in the right position for oil to flow. After the initial disappointment, I got good oil flow. I then timed it and it started immediately with 60 psi oil pressure at idle, no unusual noises, and ran like a charm.

The road draft tube leaked no matter what I did to it, so I sealed it off and ran a PCV valve to a set of no name cast valve covers. No more leaks and my wife thinks the garage smells better.

As I stated earlier, I initially had a Holley street avenger on it. With that carburetor I had a problem with acceleration as in that I could not get the accelerator pump to actuate (seems like that is a common problem with that carburetor). I switched to an Edelbrock 500 CFM and had no more problems. I put approximately 100 miles on it so far with no issues. Sometimes you run across a good deal. I guess having the assistance of the “Hot Rod Reverend” pays off.

(Note: after Jan submitted this article at my request, I wrote another one from my own perspective to fill in the gaps.)

My name is Daniel Jessup. Some of you know me by my alias - "The Hot Rod Reverend." I got the name from a fellow Y blocker when he found out I was an ordained Baptist preacher who "faYthfully" shares the message of Jesus Christ. I just happen to also preach the gospel of the Ford Y block. Say what you will but over the years I have been blessed to find Y block engines and Y block goodies that defy all logic and reason when it comes to price, quality, and performance. You may remember the articles entitled, "Miracle Y Block on eBay" or "Y Block Speed Parts and Craigslist." This article itself is all about the Y-Block Adventure from my friend Jan Urbanczyk. How is that possible? I don't profess to be an expert… my knowledge of all things Y block is limited. I don't share the years of experience many of our readers do, and my professional training never included any mechanical instruction. Truthfully I can't take any credit for any of that no matter how much I search, dicker, or check the want ads each week. You've heard of that movie, "God's not Dead"? Yep - He "ain't" dead and I truly believe I have received the blessing of the Lord when it comes to all things Y block. The most recent scenario I call "It's a Pig and a Poke" because that is exactly what I had said to my friend Jan, a fellow Y blocker and proud Vietnam Vet.

Here’s the story:

Late November a year ago my father-in-law and I were looking for a convertible project. We ran across a Craigslist post that listed a 1954 Ford convertible project for sale. The photos sure looked good - complete car, red paint, 239 c.i. under the hood, plenty of extra parts, several hundred dollars worth of new parts, etc. The car was located only 20 minutes from my house, and the price in the listing was…. $3500!!! What was that about? We arranged to talk to the owner and look at the car. You know how this goes I am sure - No title, sedan vin tag, rotted out (we figured that though), hack job on the front end (someone had tried to install a Nova sub-frame years ago and did a horrible welding job. After that someone tried to put a 239 back into the car but cut the engine mounts from the Nova sub-frame and welded angle iron to the frame to support the 239.) Yep - we were looking at Frankenford! I passed on that but saw some parts in there someone could use and thought the $3500 was a little steep for what it was.

As we were about to leave the owner said, "I've got a 312 over here in the shed - ya wanna look at that?" I glanced over at my father-in-law and nodded. We've all heard the old "I've gotta 312" stories. All y blocks are worthy y blocks in my opinion so we obliged and went to the shed. After all, who knows? The fella could have been storing an F code right under our noses! The shed was pretty clean and had a freshly poured gravel floor. Over in the corner was the Y block in question, resting on an old tire. It had a 3 speed overdrive (1956) attached to it and was sporting a teapot carburetor up top. The engine was leaning to the side and the bell housing inspection cover was missing exposing the flywheel and clutch assembly.

"Could be a 312," I mused to myself but I knew the odds were slim because Ford didn't put together too many 312's in 56.

"Yeh," the owner said. "The guy I got this from had it in his 56 Vickie but decided to pull it out to put in a 352. [first sign this ain't no 312] It was running great. It wasn't smokin', wasn't leakin', and ran smooth."

"Uh-huh," I said off-handedly not believing a word he had to say. As I looked over things initially the motor did seem very clean - almost too clean - the kind of clean when someone does some work to an engine while in the car and then removes it pretty soon after that. When I got closer the early heads with the casting plugs on either end was another X [second sign this ain't no 312]. "How much are you askin'?"

"500 dollars," he said dryly.

"You sure it's a 312?" I shot back at him.

Without hesitation he replied "You betcha, this is a solid motor!"

"Ok, ok," I chuckled with him for a moment. "Let me check it out." The most obvious and easiest thing to do was to check the stamped letters/numbers above the oil filter (or distributor boss/generator mount) on the block. "E - C - Z…L," I muttered under my breath [third sign this ain't no 312]. I did not have the ECZ-L memorized as far as application but was already aware this could not be a 312. After I moved to the open bell housing (remember the inspection cover was already missing) I looked up in there with a flashlight. The crank just happened to be at the spot showing the rectangular indent on the flange - no dot there. [fourth sign this ain't no 312] I thought to myself, "Well the price keeps getting cheaper the longer I look it over."

The owner noticed me checking things out and muttering numbers here and there - "I can load it up with the tractor if you like," he offered to me thinking I would buy it then and there.

"No, I don't think so. This isn't a 312," I stated. From there the owner started stuttering and stammering as if I was being accusatory. I was not trying to be, and most probably he did not even know what the differences are - most guys we run across don't know and they simply buy into the "I've gotta 312" story. Now mind you with my own friends or people I regularly deal with, my knowledge base and experience is not a problem. When this happens with someone who does not know me very well it becomes awkward - most of the time the owner is old enough to be my dad… or my grandpa! Heaven knows I try to deal with these people with respect. I told him that I would think about it some but that for me it was a pig and a poke, so spending $500 was out of the question. As I left that day I thought maybe I could purchase it, inspect it, and put it on the run stand to see what she does.

Fast forward several months later and my friend Jan Urbanczyk contacts me looking for a good, used Y block for his 56. At the time he inquired I did not have anything on my run stand and was in the process of building a hot street performance 312. However, my episode with the 54 convertible and the availability of the Y block the guy had for sale came to mind. I told Jan about the lead but warned him about the owner's mistaken opinion of what he had. I did tell him that if he did indeed purchase the engine/transmission combination that I would like to purchase the flywheel, clutch, and transmission from him once he had it in his possession. We agreed on a price and a day when Jan would drive out there (Jan lives about 2 hours east) and talk turkey. When the day arrived I got there just in time to see the owner loading up the Y block on the bed of Jan's truck, with the transmission and parts already unbolted on a garage floor.

Jan loading the 272 Y block into his truck for the trip back to Maryland

It looked like all parties were pretty happy with the transaction although Jan had not heard the engine fire up. When I turned the corner around the bed of the truck I noticed he had a set of original Thunderbird aluminum valve covers!

"Don’t tell me," I quipped. "They came with the Y block..."

"That's right," Jan said to me as he kept loading things up. He was grinning from ear to ear and told me he thought he had gotten a good deal. I paid him for the transmission, loaded up, and he left soon after that.

"Let me know how it goes," I told him. I had not looked over the engine myself and was concerned that he may have bought an engine that he would have to rebuild or overhaul.

If you read his article "Y Block Adventure" (above in this blog post) you would see that it ended up pretty well. The engine is a 272, it does not smoke, it does not leak, and although it does not have the power of a 312, Jan says he is pretty pleased with it.

There are plenty of helpful tips in the Y Block Magazine from issue to issue. Some are as simple as the procedure I just described, yet others dive deeper into such aspects as rocker arm geometry, connecting rod length, parts identification, etc. From to time I do list back issues on eBay or in a classified forum on one of the websites. Contact me at if you are interested.

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