After double- and triple-checking all of my connections, fluids (including electrical), and making sure all was ready for the initial fire up, I hopped behind the wheel, pumped the gas pedal once or twice, and turned the key. I honestly expected the engine to come to life almost instantly but, par for the course, all I got was a few pops and coughs. Jeez, maybe I’ve got the distributor off by a tooth? I climbed out from behind the wheel, brought the engine back up to TDC, and pulled the distributor cap to take a look. It looked as though I had it installed on the money, so why the popping and stuttering? I then twisted the distributor, advancing it as far as I could and gave it another try. It turned over and caught for a moment but then backfired through the carb and stalled right out. Now what? I must have pulled and reinstalled the distributor five times with the same result—a few chugs followed by a rather large backfire. At this point I was fit to be tied. What in the world was going on? I went over the firing order and all looked to be fine. The wires were all in order for a 289/302, what could be the problem?

Close to losing it I grabbed the installation instructions one last time; there had to be a simple reason why this thing wouldn’t run and I was determined to find out what it was. Well, lo and behold, I found the answer. The X302 uses the 351 Windsor firing order! No wonder it wouldn’t run! I quickly redid the plug wires to the correct firing order (1-3-7-2-6-5-4-8), wiped my brow, and climbed back behind the wheel to try again. This time it fired up—but only for a moment. It backfired again and died just like it did before. At that point I left the garage and headed to the patio—more than just disappointed, I might add.

The following morning I wandered out to the garage and began to go over in my mind all the steps that led up to trying to fire up the X302. As I bent over the engine trying to figure out what I’d done wrong I just happened to notice what looked like small gaps at the junction of the intake manifold and the cylinder heads. Were those dark lines gaps between the intake gaskets and heads or was it my imagination? Using my remote starter switch, I put my finger tips on one of the dark lines and hit the starter. Wouldn’t you know it, I could feel both suction and blow back as the engine turned over. The intake gaskets weren’t sealing the junction of the intake and heads! I had a giant vacuum leak! No wonder it wouldn’t run!

Come to find out, the reason the Ford installation instructions suggest using specific Ford intake gaskets is so situations like this do not happen. As a matter of fact, upon rereading the instructions I noticed that it said intake gaskets PN M-9439-A50 were required, not suggested. Cursing myself I jumped in the car and headed back to the Ford dealer to pick up a set.

After picking up and installing the correct gaskets, my new engine fired right up and purred like a kitten. In fact, PN M6007-X302 is about the most powerful and best running small-block Ford I’ve ever owned. And let me tell you, all of these problems and heartaches could have and would have been avoided if I’d only taken the time to read through the paperwork that came along with the engine. Believe me, I’ll be reading any and all of the instruction sheets I get with any parts, components, and tools I purchase from now on. Hopefully, by exposing my stupidity I’ll have helped someone else avoid the aggravation and heartache I brought upon myself. Just take a couple of minutes and read the instructions, you’ll be glad you did, believe me.