Building a 312 Y Block for the Fairlane! (Part 1)
Updated: Jan 13, 2022
The 292 Ford C2AE Block was bored to .030 over 312 standard cylinder size several years back.
It is hard to believe that almost a month has passed since my last blog entry. Personal work and church ministry have been quite busy for all of November, but I did want to alert you to an engine build that I have begun. Some of our faithful subscribers to the site may be wondering why I would initiate a Ford Y Block engine build at this time in the life of the 55 Ford Fairlane Club Sedan. After all, the 292 currently installed was rebuilt to specifications very well, is a very strong and reliable engine, and has less than 5,000 miles on it. The engine even made a couple of passes at a 1/4 mile drag strip this summer at full throttle and stood up to the abuse with no problem. Let me give you a few reasons that will help everyone understand.
Y Blocks in the Bloodstream
Drivers of mid-50s Fords often discuss their motivation for purchasing that automobile, truck, or even the boat they own. Surely there are many who would say that it was the styling, the tutone color combinations, the brightwork, or even the driving experience that led them to park that vehicle in the garage and take it out every once in a while. For me, it had to be the Y Block V8, the heart of the car that makes the torque and horsepower and delivers the deep, mellow tone of the exhaust. Over the years I have owned quite a few Y Blocks and have just grown to appreciate the engine series.
It ought to be very apparent that most of this blog concerns the do-it-yourself aspect of automobiles and their sub-assemblies. Getting in the garage and turning wrenches is most probably the main reason that you visit this website from time to time. I have rebuilt the transmission in the 1955 Ford, done much work to the third member, and of course most of the mechanicals I have either rebuilt or adjusted in some form or fashion when I got the car back on the road. The heart of the car, the 292 Ford Y Block, was purchased from a company that remanufactures engines. Although I put the long block together and have certainly done much work to the engine at different times, I did not rebuild the engine that is in the car. Building an engine from a bare block to turnkey will be a good learning experience for me, and I believe that I will appreciate the Y Block even more once the job is complete and the engine operational in the car.
Horsepower and Torque
The 312 Y Block was Ford's best engine of the family, and in 1957 Ford offered engines with 2x4 carburetors and even the coveted F code supercharged version. The record in NASCAR and other racing venues of the 1956 and 1957 seasons clearly shows that this engine dominated the tracks - even the early hemi's and GM's fuel injection could not hold up to what Ford was doing with the 312 Y Block. Of course, the 292 currently in the 55 Ford makes good power but I would like to see what can be accomplished in horsepower and torque improvements. Maybe I can run a little faster at the drag strip next year?
A brief surf of the Internet and social media platforms will yield horrible misinformation concerning the Y Block Ford engine. With so much in the way of books, FoMoCo manuals, and even publications such as the Y Block Magazine, it is apalling to find that old wives tales and downright untruths about the engine continue to be circulated. From well-known engine builders who add needless octopus tentacles to re-route oil passages, to novice, upstart YouTube channels that disagree with such veteran Y Block machinists (and world record holders) as Tim McMaster, many a person who is new to this engine can be led astray quickly. I certainly do not know it all and tend to be very transparent concerning my mistakes, but I do believe that walking through a Y Block engine build (with mostly stock parts) should give us all an education.
Engine for a New Project?
Not much has been said on the blog because I have not yet taken delivery, but let me whet the appetite with this photo:
One subscriber of the blog contacted me back in 2020 concerning this car, believing it to be a good candidate for restoration to get it back on the road. Sight unseen (and because I had purchased parts from the owner several years prior) I sent the seller a check for both the car and delivery to my dad's home in North Carolina. I will let my dad decide what he would like to do with it, but I have offered to swap out my good 292 from the Club Sedan so that he could run it in this Town Sedan if dad wants to put the car back on the road. Hopefully after Thanksgiving I can give an update on all of this since I plan to visit my family in North Carolina that week and the car was just delivered this past weekend.
Let's Get Up to Speed
During various blog posts there have been a few small references or maybe a photo or two concerning this 312 V8 that I have had a desire to build. Therefore, let's bring everyone up to speed on how all of this began and where we are at now.
About a decade ago I responded to an advertisement in a printed circular. An industrial Y Block was up for sale, from carburetor to oil pan, but it was seized and would not turn over. For only $100 I thought to myself, "What can I lose?" and made arrangements to purchase the engine and bring it to my small shop out in Capon Bridge, West Virginia. It was certainly locked up; all because water had creeped into a few of the cylinder bores. The engine had been sitting outside with no air cleaner or cover, so of course the rain had brought water through the carburetor, intake, and past the open intake valves. It was a mess to say the least, but it was indeed a C2AE block - one of Ford's "meatiest" production Y Blocks concerning the cylinder walls. If you know anything about Ford's part numbering sequence, "B" stands for the 1950s, "C" stands for the 1960s, etc. The second number would indicate the year of production, so 1962 it is. (Although I am told that Ford continued casting this block up until the final 1964 model year for Y Blocks in trucks in the US.) The rest of the numbers on the block, 6015, is Ford's designation for all engine blocks.
Unfortunately, I do not have much in the way of pictures or videos of the disassembly and preparation in order to ready the block for the machine shop that did the bulk of the work (Felts Machine in Suffolk, Virginia). Suffice to say, there was much in the way of PB Blaster, rounds of Diet Coke, and other elixirs in the cylinder bores that had stuck pistons. After much work the rotating assembly was removed from the block and I dropped it off to the good hands of the veteran engine builders at Felt's to have things checked out and the bare block prepped for a rebuild. From the outset I had decided that the block would be used for an eventual 312 c.i. rebuild. Along with the main caps and rear main seal cap, I gave them a brand new set of camshaft bearings (regardless of the wear on the existing bearings I had decided to go this route). The bearings were specially made for Verne Schumann by Durabond - they were given an oil channel on both the ID and the OD of the bearing itself. If you know the Y Block oiling system then you are aware that the center camshaft journal feeds oil to the top end so that the rocker arm shafts can receive an oil supply to lubricate the rocker arms and other parts of the valve train. I decided on a bore of 3.830. The standard bore of a 292 is 3.750, and the standard bore of a 312 is 3.800. Since I did not have to pay more to increase the bore size (the cylinder bores had enough corrosion that they needed to go out .030 more anyway) I decided to go .030 over the standard 312 size because I had located a new set of Sealed Power pistons at this size for a great price, and the bonus would be getting a few more cubes out of the engine. According to this handy chart from John Mummert, this means that with a standard 312 stroke of 3.44" that would bring the final cubic inches of this build to 317 c.i. In addition to cleaning, removing/replacing all of the plugs, magna fluxing, sonic testing, and checking the deck, mains, and cylinder bores, a final hone was given to the bores that matched a stock set of Sealed Power flat top pistons and rings.
After all of the work I picked up the block on the next trip I had to the Tidewater area (roughly 4 and a half hours one way), brought it back to the shop, cleaned the exterior surfaces, and painted the exterior with Duplicolor engine primer. Very soon after that life threw me a curve ball when I moved everything out to Milford, Ohio to take a position as the national director of a rather large children's church ministry. Most of my off hours were given over to putting the 1955 Ford on the road as soon as possible, and projects such as the 312 build (and a few other items!) were put on hold. The block was shrink-wrapped and put into storage after oiling down all of the surfaces so that no further corrosion could take place.
Over the past several years since the move I have always kept the C2AE block in mind. Every once in a while I searched for parts that I knew I would need when the day finally arrived to put a 312 together. If I noticed a good deal on a quality item I tried to pull a trigger. (More on specific parts in the build coming in Part 2!) The first item on my list was a 312 ECZ crankshaft (knowing the main journals would have to be turned down to 292 size). Early on in the process I recognized what many Y Block builders had told me - "If you are building a small block Chevrolet, your cost will be cheap. If you are building a Ford, parts will be more expensive. If you build a Y Block, be prepared to empty your wallet!" The law of supply and demand is very well proven as fact when it comes to acquiring parts for the Y Block, especially if you are purchasing quality parts and even more so if you want high performance.
Searching for parts, I have made a lot of visits to swap meets and online classifieds!
Along the way I would also visit local machine shops or speak with Y Block enthusiasts who lived in the area. All of the conversations I had with Y Block enthusiasts here ended up with the same results: very few, if any, machinists exist in the Cincinnati area with whom an ECZ crankshaft could be trusted. I chuckle when I remember my first visit to a very reputable shop. Both of the machinists were much older than I, and when I entered the shop I noticed a complete Flathead sitting on a stand, from carburetor to oil pan all ready to be installed it seemed.
"This must be the place," I thought to myself. The assistant, who was older than the owner, came over and asked me how they could help. I told him, "I have an old Y Block Ford crankshaft that I need to have ground, can you guys help me out?"
The man literally said, "What's a Y Block? I don't think I've ever heard of that Ford engine."
At first I thought it was just an issue where he knew the engine but had never heard the term "Y Block" but no, he did not know anything about mid-50s Ford engines, the 239, 272, etc. I shook this off and told myself that with the Flathead sitting there surely the owner had serviced a block or two in his lifetime. So the assistant summoned the owner. When the owner came over to me I mentioned the Y Block and what I needed. He had heard of the engine, thankfully, but admitted he had never performed any machine work for any Y Block. They both seemed to be friendly gentlemen, but I really did not want to take the risk so I thanked them both and walked out. A visit to another machine shop across town several months confirmed again what I had been told by those in the know. I was going to have to travel a great distance to find a shop familiar enough with these engines to grind and balance a crankshaft well. If you want to read up on such topics as balancing crankshafts and rotating assemblies, and if you want to find out some of the nuances that are particular to the Y Block, then I highly suggest you visit my friend Ted Eaton's website at EatonBalancing.com. Ted has quite a bit of technical advice and articles archived on the website and these will prove to be very helpful to you if you are building a vintage Ford engine.
Building a wooden box to ship the ECZ crankshaft to California!
Fast forward to the fall of 2021 and I am getting pretty antsy on this C2AE block, wanting to get things put together if at the very least to put it on display on a portable run stand. One of my friends, Tim McMaster, aka "The Y Block Guy" runs a very nice machine shop out in California that specializes in Y Block builds. Tim knows his stuff. After all, the man holds the record for the fastest Y Block powered vehicle at almost 200 mph on the Bonneville salt flats. Yep, I would say that having him grind my crank and balance my rotating assembly would be just the ticket. I know what readers may be thinking. "You're shipping a crankshaft across the country like that? Yowza!"
I have had some questions on "how to ship a crankshaft" from some of our subscriber, so I put together a brief video on what I prepared. Tim McMaster from Hanford Auto Supply in California has already received the crank, and the method we used was purported to work very well.
How to Ship a Crankshaft
Most of the other parts of the rotating assembly did fit into USPS flat rate boxes; I highly recommend the cost savings since those boxes are one price regardless of weight and US zip code. The only item that did not fit into one of those boxes was my flywheel, but the UPS cost was not too bad to ship that weight that distance. The plan is for the Y Block Guy to machine the main journals of the 312 ECZ crankshaft to 292 standard size so that it will ride in my C2AE block with no problems. In addition to that work, Tim is also going to check the rod journals, balance the crankshaft, all of the rotating parts that I sent him, and help me with some recommendations on a few other parts. In Part 2 of this special blog series I will give more details on plans, parts, and the preparations in store for this 312 c.i. Y Block Ford. You can also expect a detailed video series to boot. As far as I know, I could not find anything online in video form that covers a Y Block engine rebuild from beginning to end. Stay tuned.
Thanksgiving is almost here! One of my favorite times of year as we give thanks, celebrate, and join with family and friends. Stay safe on the roads, and if you have not done so already please subscribe to the blog to receive email updates at this page:
The Hot Rod Reverend
aka Daniel Jessup