Ford Y-Block V8 Engine

THE FORD Y-BLOCK V8 ENGINE FAMILY
Ford had dominated the low-priced V8 market for decades with their ground-breaking (at the time) flathead V8 in 1932. Typical for Henry Ford, once he landed on something (like the Model T), he never wanted to let it go. So Ford continued producing their ancient flathead V8 all the way until 1954 in their passenger cars. The rest of the industry had been switching over to high compression V8s since the late 1940s and Ford was now lagging behind. Ford's biggest competitor Chevrolet, had been keeping up with Ford and they didn't even have a V8. They'd done it all with their lowly OHV "Stovebolt Six". But now even Chevy was preparing to launch their own ground-breaking engine, the Small Block V8 in 1955. Ford got busy, focusing on strength and durability, but also light weight and compactness. They took the novel approach of extending the side skirts of the block down past the centerline of the crankshaft which made for a much stronger block, and a much quieter engine. New thin-wall casting techniques kept the weight down. Because the deep skirts gave the engine block a "Y-shape" when viewed from the front, they called it the "Y-Block", and the rest is history. While the Ford Y-Block Engine Family only lasted a few years in US passenger cars, derivatives of it continued on for many years and went on to great glory. But that's another story...

BELOW: The upper crust of the Ford Y-Block V8 engine family. The 312 was the largest-displacement Y-Block. This one is in a 1957 Thunderbird.

239 cid (3.9L), 1954
Coming out of a long, illustrious career with their ancient flathead V8, and responding to new OHV V8s from Oldsmobile and Cadillac, Ford
needed its own OHV V8, and true to form, they wanted to do it right. The first Y-block came out in 1954 for Ford’s truck line. I had 239 cubic inches of displacement. The deep skirts on the block, added for strength, gave it a “Y”-shape, hence the name. It made 130 hp, a nice bump over the 106 hp flathead.


Ford Y-Block V8 Engine Family, by Displacement:


256 cid (4.2L), 1954
With more displacement and a 7.5:1 compression ratio, the “V-161” as the 256 Y-block was called, made 161 hp and 238 lb/ft of torque, breathing through a single Holley 4-barrel. These engines were installed in Mercury passenger cars during this period.


256 cid (4.2L), 1954
With more displacement and a 7.5:1 compression ratio, the “V-161” as the 256 Y-block was called, made 161 hp and 238 lb/ft of torque, breathing through a single Holley 4-barrel. These engines were installed in Mercury passenger cars during this period.


292 cid (4.8L), 1955-1964
The 292 was introduced in 1955 as Ford’s
premium engine in its high-end cars. It was the standard engine in the new Thunderbird, wearing the name “Thunderbird V8”. It was also used in Mercury passenger cars, and as an option in lesser Ford models, along with doing truck duty in the F-series through the 1964 model year, its last use in the US-market. The 292 had a forged steel crank that hot rodders favored. Various versions continued in Argentina in Ford passenger cars and light trucks there into the 80s.


312 cid (5.1L), 1956-1960
The 312 was the largest member of the Ford Y-block V8 Engine Family, with a 3.80” bore and 3.44” stroke. Available as an option on the Thunderbird (in which is was called the “Thunderbird Special V8”), some other high-end Ford cars and some Mercury’s, it came in a wide range of configurations. It could come with a 2-barrel carburetor, or a 4-barrel, or two 4-barrels, you could even order it with a Paxton supercharger (1957 only). With a single 4-barrel and around 8.0:1 compression, the 292 made around 210 horsepower. But stronger versions were offered: A 225-horse version with 8.4:1 compression and a 235-horse variant with 9.0:1. 225-horse 292s came with Ford-blue valve covers and air cleaner, while 235-horse 292s had argent silver ones. The 210-horse base version came with red valve covers and air cleaner. In 1956, Mercury offered the “M 260” dealer-installed engine upgrade kit which included a hotter cam, revised heads and a new intake manifold with two 4-barrels on it. As the name implied, it was supposed to be good for 260 horsepower. The last use of the 312 V8 in a US-market passenger car was in the 1960 Mercurys, by which time it had become their economy V8, now choked down to a 2-barrel carb.


WHAT CAME AFTER THE FORD Y-BLOCK V8 ENGINE FAMILY?
The Y-block was Ford’s
first OHV V8, and the first new V8 it had built since ancient times (the flathead V8 was introduced in 1932), and all in all, they didn’t do too badly for a first effort. Certainly not as good a Chevrolet’s first V8 effort (the legendary Small Block), but still very respectable. However, the real limiting factor was it’s ability to grow in displacement. The original Y-block was designed as a lightweight, compact 239 cubic-inch V8, now grown to 312 cubes, with the competition heading north in a hurry. The practical limit of the Y-block is around 348 cubic inches, while small block Chevy V8s are now running all the way out to 427 cubes (7.0L)! And they were getting ready to launch their own family of big blocks. Mopar had their 383 big block with a new 440 on the way, not to mention a little Elephant Motor of 426 cubes. Something had to be done. So, the Ford Y-block V8 Engine Family was completely redesigned into a totally new engine family, the “FE Big Blocks”. These brutes ran all the way out to 428 cubic inches from the factory. Problem solved.


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