Crate engines have been a boon to rodders who seek simple and mostly worry free engine performance. If you're looking to get your heap down the road in a hurry, they're the way to go. Heck, it's usually less expensive to order a mild crate engine than to build your own.
Of course, we're whole-hearted supporters of the build-it-yourself school of thought, but we're also realistic to the evolution of how rodders are getting their cars juiced. The growth of the crate engine business has been, primarily, in favor of those who prefer Bow Tie power. So, if you're a true-blue FoMoCo fan, the choices are limited.
World Products' Bill Mitchell has been one of the largest purveyors of Chevy-based crate engines. His company's Motown small-blocks and Merlin big-blocks offer a staggering array of horsepower and displacement combinations. Mitchell doesn't mess around with small stuff, either. Because World Products casts their own cylinder blocks, they offer items like 454-cube small-blocks and big-blocks punched out to 632 cubes.
Now, the company is taking its casting expertise and forging into Ford territory with the Man O' War lineup of blocks, short-block assemblies, and crate engines. They are all based on the new Man O' War block, which is a beefier and stronger version of the 302/351 Windsor small-block. Externally, World's block is almost identical to the original Ford design and every accessory or component that can be bolted to a stock Ford block with cinch up to the Man O' War. The secret lies in strategically enhanced sections, such as the front and rear bulkheads, which are each about an inch thicker than stock. Also, there's more meat around the cylinders, which supports stronger and larger displacement combinations. Finally, all Man O' War blocks feature splayed four-bolt main caps with billet steel caps.
World manufactures five versions of the Man O' War: two short-deck 302-style blocks, two tall-deck 351-style blocks, and a C-version short-deck block that mounts the oil pump and distributor drive in the 351 position, allowing for larger-inch 302 engines.
Along with the block choices, World has also created a menu of available short-block and crate engine assemblies. And while stock-displacement 302- and 351-inch engines are available, more enticing 375ci 302 combinations are available, as are 427ci and even 460ci 351 small-blocks. (See sidebar on page 60 for complete rundown.)
All these choices are beneficial to the Ford guy, but it got us thinking about the only real downside to a shiny, new crate engine: It's shiny and new-looking. For traditional hot rods, this could be bad feng shui for the engine compartment, especially if the rod isn't running hood sides. Nevertheless, the idea of a 427-inch Ford small-block sounds too intriguing to let go, so we came up with the perfect solution-hide it.
Here's the idea: Use the Man O' War 427ci engine as the foundation of a thumping street motor, but "dirty it up" with old valve covers, etc. With black rattle-can paint on the block, iron heads, and swap meet gold valve covers, this big small-block would appear, at first glance, like a cleaned-up, yet used, old 289.
But, as real rodders know, the devil definitely lies in the details, and when it comes to a big-inch small-block, the supporting materials must be proportionate to the engine's displacement. That means wide cylinder bores must be complemented by heads with big intake ports and valves. The same goes for a carb to feed such an air-hungry combination.