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A bit of info for those looking to build 300+hp 5.0L/302s

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A bit of info for those looking to build 300+hp 5.0L/302s

Old 10-16-2014, 10:53 PM
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Default A bit of info for those looking to build 300+hp 5.0L/302s

The goal of this thread is to serve as a guide for those individuals looking to make upgrades. Some of this is fact, some of this is from experience and some of this is purely my opinion.

This is in no way, the end all, be all of engine building that you’ll ever need and I strongly encourage you to research as much as you can prior to investing a single dime into your engine.

My idea of a great truck engine build is an engine that has superb low end torque and pulls through the power band without breaking a sweat.

So, with that being said, max HP numbers at 5000+ RPMs are out of the window. I am concerned with what happens from idle to about 5000 RPMs.

As far as HP rating, what I’m describing below should get you in the 300hp range depending on how far you go with your upgrades.

With this being said, let's get started.

From 1987 to 1991, these engines came with flat tappet camshafts that had the 1-5-4-2-6-3-7-8 firing order.

From 1992 to 1993, these engines came with roller camshafts that had the 1-5-4-2-6-3-7-8 firing order.

From 1994 to 1996, these engines came with roller camshafts that had the 1-3-7-2-6-5-4-8 firing order.

Regarding the 1987 to 1993 engines, the weak point in these engines from a HP/TQ perspective was clearly the camshaft. The camshaft specs were abysmal at best.

Regarding the 1994-1996 engines, the camshaft was upgraded and is the same camshaft that is used in the 1996-2001 5.0 HO Explorer engines. It isn’t the greatest camshaft, but it was a significant upgrade from the 1987-1993 camshafts.

With regards to what will give these engines better HP/TQ, I will focus mainly on three areas: Heads, Intake and Camshaft.

Camshaft: This is the first piece of the puzzle that you should consider upgrading. The factory camshaft as I’ve mentioned before is abysmal at best.

’93 Earlier Trucks: If your truck is ’93 or earlier, your engine runs on a setup called Speed Density. Basically, what this means in the simplest of terms for this discussion is that your MAP sensor needs to see a certain amount of vacuum in order for your engine to run properly. There are three off the shelf camshafts that should work in your truck without having to upgrade your engine setup to Mass Air (which I’ll cover shortly).

Three camshafts that should work with Speed Density are:

Comp Cams: 35-512-8 | Has the 1-3-7-2-6-5-4-8 firing order, but you can get Comp Cams to custom ground it to the 1-5-4-2-6-3-7-8 firing order if you want to keep the stock firing order. I will cover changing the firing order below.

Comp Cams: 35-349-8 | Has the 1-3-7-2-6-5-4-8 firing order, but you can get Comp Cams to custom ground it to the 1-5-4-2-6-3-7-8 firing order if you want to keep the stock firing order.

Crane Cams: 364211 | Has the 1-5-4-2-6-3-7-8 firing order.

I want to note that these three camshafts are roller camshafts. I strongly recommend upgrading your camshaft to a roller camshaft since your truck came with a roller block (even though pre-92 trucks came with a flat tappet camshaft).

If all you want to do with your truck is upgrade the stock engine a little bit and have a broader powerband, in my opinion, a simple camshaft swap with one of the 3 aforementioned cams will get you where you want to be.

Regarding the firing order and injector order, the 302/5.0L Speed Density setup will work with either firing order. The only thing that is required is changing the order of the spark plug wires if you go with the “1-3” firing order. Changing the injector wires is NOT required if you go with the “1-3” firing order.

’94 and later trucks: If your truck is a ’94 or later truck, your engine setup is called Mass Air. Basically, what this means for this conversation is that you have the flexibility to run a more aggressive camshaft that has less vacuum without drivability issues. Your engine is also able to be tuned to work perfectly with your camshaft. Regarding the speed density camshafts above, they will work just fine with your setup, but it is my opinion that if you are running Mass Air, you should install a custom ground camshaft in your truck that was made specifically for YOUR setup. Usually, they are about $50 more than an off the shelf cam. What I’m saying is that you have all the potential in the world, so maximize it!!!

Mustang Camshaft Note: I do not care how hard a B303, E303, Z303 or any other Mustang camshaft pulls in a Mustang. It is not a TRUCK camshaft and has no place in a truck. A Mustang camshaft in a truck causes you to lose low end torque, which is what a truck needs. This is because F-150s are much heavier than Mustangs and therefore, require a different powerband than a Mustang, which means your engine setup needs to be totally different.

This is not a set in stone, but a rule of thumb is that a camshaft with an intake duration higher than 215 is not a good fit for a truck. Usually, Mustang camshafts are much higher than this.

Heads:

Our trucks came with what are known as “E7” heads. These are another weak spot on our engines. You have a few options here. The main goal is to keep the intake runner size at about 170cc’s or less and you’ll have something that pulls pretty good.

Heads to consider for our truck are:

Cast Iron GT40 Heads | Note: ‘95-earlier GT40 heads have smog ports. ’96-later GT40 heads DO NOT have smog ports. If your build requires you to consider emissions, this is something you need to take into consideration. If your heads came off a Lightning, you’ll need reducer washers for proper fitment.

GT40p Heads | Note: These heads have a different spark plug angle, which will require headers that clear the spark plugs. Also, GT40p heads DO NOT have smog ports. Once again, something to consider if your build requires you to take emissions into consideration.

For both the GT40 and GT40p heads, I STRONGLY suggest upgrading the valve springs. Using the manufacturer recommended springs for your camshaft are a safe bet.

AFR 165 Heads | Have options for pedestal mounted rocker arms or stud mounted rocker arms. They also have emissions legal heads as well.

Trick Flow 170cc Heads – Will require stud mounted rocker arms. They have an emissions legal head available.

Brodix ST 5.0 Heads or Brodix ST 5.0R Heads | These have the smog ports as well. The ST 5.0 are the pedestal mounted heads and the ST 5.0R are the stud mounted heads.

There are other heads that I didn’t list, but I feel like these are either the most economical heads or the best quality or the most “powerful” heads or a combination of all of the above.

With regards to stud mounted heads, you will need to make changes to your valve covers or get taller valve covers. Taller valve covers may require you to purchase an intake spacer as well. These are things to consider. If you keep your stock pedestal mounted rocker arms, you can reuse the stock valve covers. Aftermarket pedestal mounted roller rockers may require valve cover changes as mentioned above for stud mounted rocker arms.

Intake Manifold: The 302/5.0L stock intake manifold is actually a great piece. It is the best flowing fuel injected factory 302/5.0 intake Ford ever made. The only thing you’ll need to do to your intake is port the lower to match the port size of the cylinder heads if you are upgrading your heads. This will save you a ton of money.

What this means is that the truck intake is better than a 5.0 HO Intake, a 5.0 Cobra/GT40/Explorer Intake or any other 5.0 intake that Ford built.
Edelbrock makes an aftermarket intake for our trucks and if you feel the need to upgrade your intake, this is the way to go. However, it is my opinion that your money would be best spent elsewhere because the stock truck intake is just that good when ported. If you want the absolute maximum amount of power and cost is not an issue, the Edelbrock truck intake is the way to go.

Other Factors to Consider:

Distributor: If your truck did not come with a roller camshaft, you will need to either install a steel gear on your distributor or buy a new distributor that has a steel gear. A distributor for a car that came with a 302/5.0L will work. Look for ’91-earlier car distributors.

Transmission: If you upgrade your engine, your transmission will require an upgrade as well or you will likely blow something to pieces. Reason being is that your transmission was not built to handle the amount of HP/TQ you will be making. So, what I’m saying is budget for a new transmission because I haven’t seen a case yet in which this didn’t happen.

Throttle Body: BBK makes a 56mm and 61mm throttle body. If you feel the need to upgrade the throttle body, go with the 56mm and make sure you polish (or Dremel) the area that the IAC valve goes to eliminate any whistling noises due to uneven surfaces. It needs to have a smooth surface.

IAC Bypass Plate: A larger camshaft means more airflow might be required at idle. You may need to order this to prevent your truck from either surging at idle or shutting off at idle. This should be part of your initial parts list in my opinion.

Crate Engines: Crate engines that advertise 350-400+ HP are more than likely not built for trucks. They are built for lightweight cars, such as Mustangs. You should look at the HP/TQ band with a very critical eye. However, there are crate engines that are built for trucks and reputable builders that can build a crate engine for a truck.

Stroker Engines: If you are looking to build a 331, 347, 363 or any other 302 based stroker engine, you should consider upgrading to Mass Air if you aren’t already running Mass Air. Also, if you are looking to be in the 400+hp territory with a stroker engine, you should consider an aftermarket engine block.

There is more I will cover later on in this thread, but I've been wanting to do this for awhile and this is my start.
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Old 10-16-2014, 11:59 PM
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Solid info, good write-up brother.

Pay special attention to the transmission section people. Mine let go on the dyno lol.
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Old 10-17-2014, 03:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Benboi95 View Post
Solid info, good write-up brother.

Pay special attention to the transmission section people. Mine let go on the dyno lol.
Yep. Also check or upgrade your rear end, the last thing you need a to break a c-clip.
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Old 10-17-2014, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by LOCO LAPTOP View Post
Yep. Also check or upgrade your rear end, the last thing you need a to break a c-clip.
These 8.8's are actually very strong rear ends. As long as everything is in good shape it'll hold up to a major beating before anything goes wrong.
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Old 10-17-2014, 07:49 PM
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Today, I will get into gaskets and proper engine sealing. This is a continuation of what I started above. This will not cover every single gasket, but it will cover what I feel like you need to know when planning a build.

Intake Manifold Gasket:

If you are using your stock head, a stock replacement intake manifold gasket set will work just fine and is more than sufficient.

If you are using a GT40, GT40p or an aluminum aftermarket head that I listed earlier, the gasket you will want to use is Ford Racing M-9439-G50.

Yes, for aluminum heads, they tell you to use Fel-Pro 1250, but I’m here to tell you that you are looking for trouble if you use it. It is (in my opinion) a race only gasket that will deteriorate over time. The aforementioned Ford Racing intake manifold gasket is a durable graphite gasket with a steel core and the port sizes should be large enough to work for your setup and you won’t have to worry about leaks and other issues down the road if you use it. Make sure you put a thin layer of RTV around the coolant ports on both sides of the gasket, which will be at the very front and very rear of the gaskets.

Another intake gasket that will work is Victor Reinz 95187SP.

I have also heard of people taking a new stock intake gasket and opening up the port size with a Dremel to work with aftermarket heads, so there are options. But avoid the Fel Pro 1250 at all costs is what I’m getting at.

Head Gaskets:

There are many, many options, but I will cover 3 gaskets that you should consider.

Fel-Pro 8548PT2 – Good stock type replacement head gasket with a thickness of .047. Honestly, this gasket is cheap and it works very well. Unless you’re going to be doing extreme stuff, this is probably all you need.

Fel-Pro 9333PT1 – Heavy duty head gasket with a thickness of .047. If you want the best sealing gasket at the best price, this is it. It is built to take pretty much whatever you can dish out. Out of the 3 head gaskets I’m discussing here, this is the best value by far and should probably be the first one you consider.

Mr. Gasket 5807G: If you are looking to bump up your compression ratio, this is the gasket for you. It has a .038 thickness and it made out of graphite with a steel core, so it is a durable gasket. One thing I want to note is to be careful about how much you bump up your compression because it could put you into premium fuel territory if you don’t watch it.

Timing Cover Gasket:
This is one that I don’t think many people know about. Cometic has a timing cover gasket that is rubber with a steel core. The part number is C5660-020. Buy this and you won’t have to worry about that paper timing cover gasket deteriorating. It is a very solid investment.

Rear Main Seal:
There are tons of rear main seals available, but the main thing I want to bring to your attention is that if you are using a crankshaft repair sleeve on your crankshaft, DO NOT USE A TEFLON SEAL. You must use a rubber seal or you will eventually have a leak, if you don’t have a leak right off gate. Plain and simple. Fel-Pro BS40620 is the rear main seal part number you’ll need for this scenario.

If you are not using a repair sleeve and your crankshaft journal is smooth, use any decent quality seal and you should be ok.

Head Bolts/Timing Cover Bolts:
For the short head bolts and the timing cover bolts that screw into the engine block, make sure you put a thread sealant on them to prevent coolant from coming out. I’m a fan of Permatex High Temperature Thread Sealant Part Number: 59235. It’s a big bottle and should cover everything.

To take it one step further, make sure you have a means of cleaning the threads on the block prior to installing the bolts. Personally, I use a tap and penetrating oil and that cleans out the threads very well. ARP has taps specifically made to clean out threads, but I'm just too cheap to buy it, so I use a regular 'ol tap. Cleaning the threads ensures that you have accurate torque values when torquing it down.

Valve Cover Gaskets:
I won’t get into specific part numbers, but use a rubber gasket with a steel core. These are reusable. There are many to choose from.

Oil Pan Gasket:
Once again, I won’t get into specific part numbers, but use a one piece gasket and place RTV at the corners to prevent leaks.

Harmonic Balancer Sleeve:
Now this is one I’m sure I’ll get a few strange looks for saying. Even if I own a brand new balancer, I use a repair sleeve on it. This way I know that there will be a perfect seal and if the timing cover seal were to wear a groove into it, it would be that sleeve that gets the majority of the damage, not the harmonic balancer. Once again, this is something quirky that I do and it’s cheap enough to not be a big deal. I've heard of quite a few people using this same philosophy with using a crankshaft repair sleeve for the rear main seal.

At any rate, hopefully this gives you more to think about and consider. I'm not sure what I'll cover next, but I'll keep posting as things come to mind.

Last edited by qdeezie; 10-18-2014 at 12:11 PM.
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Old 10-17-2014, 10:44 PM
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Good stuff man.
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Old 10-18-2014, 12:10 AM
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I already built my 302, but reading this anyway just because.

Turns out qbeezie pretty much has the same opinions as I do. I will add one thing though. It may not be necessary but I would replace the head bolts with a new set of ARP bolts or studs just to be safe.
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Old 10-18-2014, 02:15 AM
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Good Info.

Valve Cover Gasket. This is just to clarify, the Ford gasket for later 302, 94 on up, is a steel gasket with an imbedded o ring. Pricey but can be reused many times and will not leak. If you're careful removing the original ones they are fine to re use even at twenty years old.
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Old 10-18-2014, 12:12 PM
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Originally Posted by LOCO LAPTOP View Post
I already built my 302, but reading this anyway just because.

Turns out qbeezie pretty much has the same opinions as I do. I will add one thing though. It may not be necessary but I would replace the head bolts with a new set of ARP bolts or studs just to be safe.
Yep, I agree. I'll be covering bolts/studs in my next installment.
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Old 10-18-2014, 01:32 PM
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I think you should have reserved the first few posts for the later additions, great write up. Maybe a Mod can rearrange the posts so that they can run consecutive?
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