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.
World Products has iron heads and, as we said, they offers the engines as complete crate engine packages with matched heads and carb-it's up to you, then, to swap out the obvious "new" parts, such as the valve covers, oil pan, etc. A large, production-style air cleaner would help conceal the intake manifold and big carburetor, too-and if you're really going to nail the old-school look, you'll weather the intake or sacrifice a few ponies and drop on an older, more restrictive swap meet iron intake. Sure, you'll lose some power, but these engines have plenty of ponies to spare.
The possibilities are endless and that's the point here. Whether you prefer the shiny newness that comes with a crate engine or want the power of it, but hidden in a more traditional-looking package, enthusiasts who want to keep a Ford in their Ford have much to choose from with the new Man O' War lineup.
Pass the spray can!
Choose Your Weapon: A Guide To World Products' Crate Engine HeirarchyEven World Products' own head honcho, Bill Mitchell, admits the range of crate engines offered by the company can be a little confusing to the uninitiated.
In a nutshell, there are five classes of crate engines-Daily Driver, Cruiser, World Class, Hardcore, and Limited Edition-and there are several displacement and horsepower/torque choices within the classes.
What separates the classes is the type of equipment used. For example, you can order a World Class 427ci Ford engine and Hardcore 427 engine, but the World Class engine has a hydraulic roller cam and 870-cfm carb, while the Hardcore class receives a solid-lifter cam and a 1,050-cfm Dominator-type carburetor. There's a horsepower gain of 25 with the Hardcore version.
The differences may seem subtle, but there's a logical progression through the various classes, with enough overlap between displacements and aluminum head and block options to cover a spectrum of prices from about $6,995 to approximately $16,995.
Regardless of class, however, Mitchell insists every engine is designed and tuned for pump gas and street driving. All engines have forged reciprocating parts and every assembly is tuned and dyno-tested prior to shipping. They're warranted, too.
Here's A Look At How To Separate The Cruisers From The Hardcores:Daily Driver Series: Generally the lowest-price, entry-level engines that are characterized by stock-type displacement, hydraulic camshaft, approximately 9:1 compression, dual-plane intake, and a 750-cfm carb. They usually are rated at 1 hp per cubic inch, i.e. 302 hp for a Daily Driver 302-inch Ford engine, or a 454 hp for 454-cube big-block Chevy. These engines start at $6,995.
Cruiser Series: Larger in displacement and with more horsepower than Daily Driver engines, the Cruiser engines have hydraulic cams, dual-plane intake, 750-cfm carbs, iron heads, and around 9:1 compression. A 415-inch/435-horse small-block Chevy starts at $7,495, and a 427-inch/450-horse 427 small-block Ford lists for $8,495.
World Class Series: We're talking serious power now, with displacements equal to, or larger than, the Cruiser engines. Iron and aluminum heads are available and compression generally jumps to about 9.5:1.The intake manifold changes to a single-plane design. Some examples include a 427-cube/495-horse small-block Chevy, a 540-inch/580-horsepower big-block Chevy and a 375-inch/455-horse small-block Ford. Prices with this engine range from $7,995 to $10,195-and tack on $2,000 more for an aluminum block.
Hardcore Series: Big displacement, big carburetor, big everything. The Hardcore series engines come with solid-lifter cams, iron or aluminum heads, a single-plane intake, and a 4500-series Dominator-type carburetor. Hardcore engines include a 427ci small-block Chevy worth 550 horses, a 572-inch, 675-horse big-block Chevy, and a 525hp/427-cube small-block Ford. Prices range from $9,295 to $11,495, plus a couple grand more for an alloy block.
Limited Edition Series: Kings of the crate engine hill, the Limited Edition series engines come one way: aluminum heads, solid roller camshaft, high-rise single-plane intake, 1,050-cfm Dominator-style carb, and 10.5:1 compression. The 454ci small-block Chevy is rated at 600 hp ($10,995); the monstrous 632-inch big-block Chevy is worth at least 800 hp ($16,995), and the 460-inch small-block Ford is rated at 575 hp ($10,995).