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This engine family first appeared in 1969, as a replacement for the FE Series of engines. Since 1976 this design has been the basis for all of Ford's large displacement V8s. The engines most familiar to the performance enthusiast are the 429 and the 460. The former was available in a number of high output versions, including the "Cobra Jet", and "Super Cobra Jet", while the latter is best known as the power plant for full size luxury cars and pickup trucks. Recent years have seen increasing numbers of enthusiasts combining the two, using the high performance components developed for the 429 on the larger displacement engine to make a potent street performance package. This trend has been accelerated through the support of both the factory and the aftermarket. as a steady flow of new high performance heads and blocks have been released. A good cylinder head design, along with a block configuration which permits creation of very large displacement engines, allows this design to deliver excellent power potential for either street or track use.


When building one of these engines, the target application will dictate the components to use. The "bigger is better" philosophy applies here, and few people will build a 429 if their situation allows them to go with a 460. Both engine share the same cylinder bore, thus a 429 can be converted to a 460 by changing the crankshaft and pistons. Some 429 engines used forged cranks, but the trading of some high RPM strength for an additional thirty cubic inches is a good move in many applications.


Cylinder heads interchange between engines in this family. Vehicles expected to operate at low RPM, such as trucks used for towing, should avoid the 429CJ or SCJ heads which have ports too large for such applications. Most pre-'72 heads will have provisions for an adjustable valvetrain. Later model heads with fulcrum mounted rockers can be converted to the earlier adjustable stud type with fairly basic machine work. If you choose to do this, the studs, rockers, and push rods used in the earlier engines will be required. These changes are required if you are intending to use a solid or a roller lifter cam.


Engine block deck heights within this group changed from year to year, with three different ones being common. This height will affect piston deck clearance, and will have a significant impact on the resulting compression ratio. If unsure of the vintage of the block being used, or if there has been machine work done in the past, check this height carefully before selecting pistons. It has been a common machine shop practice to mill these blocks to a single height. thus many late model engines end up having higher compression than was anticipated.


Domed pistons may require modification if they are to be used with certain cylinder heads. The assortment of heads available, along with the variations between castings, make it necessary to "clay check" the clearance between heads and pistons during a trial assembly. You cannot simply assume that a given piston will work with any given head. Flat top pistons are usually compatible with all heads, providing that the combined gasket thickness and deck clearance are equal to or greater than .040". Valve to piston clearance may be a problem with some performance cams, and should always be checked. The recommended minimum is .100. Valve to piston clearance will be affected if the block or heads are milled, or if cam timing is advanced or retarded after engine assembly. Careful inspection is the ONLY way to be sure that your components will work together.


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