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Mustang 5.0 Performance Projects

Mustang 5.0 Performance Projects by Huw Evans
Published 2004 by Motorbooks International
112 pp. paperback

ISBN: 0-7603-1545-0

Mustang 5.0 Performance Projects

Acquired new from a book retailer.

I’ve mentioned before that I was very lucky as a young man to have a 1988 Ford Mustang LX 5.0, 5 speed notchback as my daily driver. It was a lot of fun, and I put over 408,000 kms (250,000 miles) on it before I finally retired it with the intention of restoring it.

Among the resources I’d gathered for the job was Mustang 5.0 Performance Projects, by Huw Evans from the Motorbooks Workshop. It turned out to be a valuable resource, providing a great deal of information on various upgrades for 1979 through 1995 Mustangs equipped with the 5.0L Windsor V8.

The Fox-body Mustang (so called as it was built on Ford’s Fox platform) has come to be seen by some as a new Deuce coupe or 55 Chevy, due to its high production numbers, relative low cost, and willingness to accept easy modification to build power. Evans observed in his ‘Introduction’…

“So popular did this humble pony become for modification… that it led to the creation of
one of the largest performance aftermarket industries tailored to a single car.”

Evans goes on to say that, while he couldn’t possibly showcase every project that could be, he’d collected those he felt were useful, especially for cars that would probably see mostly street duty with the occasional trip down the drag strip.

There are 37 projects in 9 sections, each section represents a major component group (ie engine, brakes, interior etc). Some of the projects are very simple — the first is jacking the car up, the second is performing an oil change. Those with limited skill can tackle these and begin to get comfortable working on the car. Some may seem a bigger deal but are fairly easy, such as swapping out the front seats. Other projects, such as pulling the engine to replace the cylinder heads, are much more involved. And others, like strengthening the AOD transmission, do not actually discuss doing the mechanical work, but provide education on what should be done and why, and steer the reader to choosing a transmission shop to actually do the job.

The layout is great, making each project easy to understand. An introductory box breaks it down, listing Time, Tools, Talent (a relative rating of the skill and experience needed), Applicable years (based on a stock car, from 1979-95), Parts, Tab (a rough figure in 2004 $USD), Tip (information to make the job easier), Performance Improvement (expected) and finally Complementary Project. Projects stall out when things happen and frustration sets in – budget concerns, lack of the correct tool, or the job is beyond the ability of the owner. Setting it out in realistic terms helps one know what to expect before tearing into the car.

Evans provides info that even seasoned pros may overlook. The underdrive pulleys project instructs to inspect related wear items such as the plastic clutch fan and serpentine belt, and highlights that the project can affect the cooling and charging systems. The nitrous oxide project cautions to pay attention to older engines which could easily grenade themselves due to the added stresses of a large nitrous shot. That’s insight that may not be available when excitedly ordering parts from the internet.

If there’s a criticism, this book is light on pictures. When I had my Mustang I read magazines like Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords and Mustang 5.0 and Super Fords. The tech articles in magazines tended to be filled with photos, illustrating many steps. This book relies much more on descriptive text. Someone who finds following text, or would feel more comfortable with visual cues, may have more difficulty following this book.

The newest of the 5.0 litre pushrod Mustangs is now 25 years old. But today, retailers still stock many parts for the projects found in this book. And there are still many of these cars floating around, some even remain relatively stock. That’s not to mention the many Mustangs that began life with 4- or 6-cylinder engines that have had or are available for V8 transplants. This book therefore remains a relevant source for enthusiasts new and old.

Pros: well organized; good range of projects from easy to more involved; lots of great tips to ensure projects are done well.
Cons: could have more illustration/pictures.
Where to find it: Amazon, eBay, private sellers.

Featured post

1975-77 Chevrolet Corvette

Mark Ascione motorgraphics

Even the nicest of cars wind up in the junk yard sometimes.

The Chevrolet Corvette is one of the best known cars ever, and in the 1970s it still represented the best of what was left of the sporty American car. From 1978 movie Corvette Summer to set-in-the-70s Boogie Nights, the Vette was the car young men aspired to own (with apologies to Burt Reynolds’ Trans Am).

In 2014, a u-pick junk yard I used had a couple of old cars in the lot. After obtaining permission, I brought my camera in and started looking for my subjects. Among them was this decaying Corvette. It was marked as a 1974, though that was likely incorrect as it lacked the split rear bumper unique to that year. I place the car as a 1975-77, which have the tunnel back rear window. The years of rain runoff from the luggage rack, as well as a good amount of sun exposure, created what I thought were some visually interesting affects on the painted fibreglass.

The original photo is at bottom, shot handheld with my Nikon D3200 and 18-55mm lens. It was shot at midday, ƒ/8, 1/125 second shutter speed and ISO 100. The post-production manipulation was done in Photoshop. The final file is a multi-layered tif, and the black-and-white effect was created using Photoshop’s Black and White adjustment layer which was then masked to allow the tail lights to shine through.

This image is available as a 20″x16″ poster. Contact shootyourcarmister@gmail.com.

rear detail of a Corvette in a junk yard

1932 Buick Series 57S Special Sedan

Today’s photo feature is less about the photos and more the car. Particularly, a 1932 Buick Series 57S Special Sedan.

This car is owned by a good friend of mine, and I’ve seen it many times at various cruise nights and show n’ shines, including many that I’ve had a hand in organizing. The car was subject to a painstaking 16 year restoration, which the owner himself performed much of. Many items, such as the wooden frame parts, had to be created from various pictures in books, as the originals were fairly rotted, and restoration parts do not exist. Personally, I admire the craftsmanship my friend put into this car, and in fact he also created the wooden replica tommy gun that sits in the back seat.

The car itself is powered by Buick’s well known Fireball straight 8 engine, 230.4 cubic inches, and runs through a 3 speed manual transmission with automatic clutch operation.

In addition to the many local cruise nights and show n shines, this Buick was featured at the 2014 Cruise Nationals exhibit during the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto.

The images below were shot by me, over a period of a couple of years, using either my Nikon D3200 or Fuji FinePix S1500.

The Story of Pierce-Arrow: A Photographic Trip Through the Pierce-Arrow Factory Showing the Uncommon Methods which Distinguish the Building of America’s Finest Motor Car

The Story of Pierce-Arrow: A Photographic Trip Through the Pierce-Arrow Factory Showing the Uncommon Methods which Distinguish the Building of America’s Finest Motor Car
first published 1930 by Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company, reprinted 1977 by the Pierce-Arrow Society
70pp., leather-like paperboard cover

Acquired from a private seller on kijiji.ca

An ad on kijiji.ca caught my attention – a number of old automobile books for sale. I ended up buying 6 books, among them, The Story of Pierce-Arrow: A Photographic Trip Through the Pierce-Arrow Factory Showing the Uncommon Methods which Distinguish the Building of America’s Finest Motor Car.

I knew of Pierce-Arrow by reputation. Among the finest American motor cars of the pre-war era, Pierce-Arrow was often referred to as one of ‘The 3 P’s of Motordom’ (along with Peerless and Packard). Built in Buffalo, NY, Pierce-Arrows were recognizable by the placement of the headlights in the front fenders, and were known as well-engineered luxury cars. But, I was unfamiliar with this book, and it was difficult to find any further information on exactly what this book is.

My best guess, this is a sales brochure, and an expensive one. It’s large at 13.5” by almost 10.5”, the cover is a leather-grained finish over heavy paperboard, the title is foil embossed. The heavyweight gloss paper stock (at least 100lb text) is bound with 3 metal screws. The only concession to cost is that the book is printed in 2 colours, black and orange (2-colour being significantly less expensive than 4-colour process).

In this case, the ‘story of Pierce-Arrow’ is not a history, but, as the subtitle reads ‘uncommon methods which distinguish the building of America’s finest motor car’. Page 1, ‘How to Buy a Motor Car’ introduces the 7 elements — Character, Distinction, Safety, Comfort, Performance, Economy and Value — and concludes “The IDEAL CAR to own is the one which most completely satisfies every one of these seven essential elements”.

Each element is like a chapter of this book. Each is addressed as to what it means at Pierce-Arrow, how the manufacturing process is used to achieve the highest level, and how the element is manifested in the car. The text is very much written as ad copy…

Pierce-Arrow character has been built up through thirty years of high purpose
and high endeavours.
No car has a higher reputation for genuine quality and fineness.
The perfection of Pierce-Arrow quality present in every detail insures safety

… and so forth. The central message of the sales pitch is that the care and skill that goes in to building this luxury car, and the high cost of purchase, ends up paying the owner back in years of satisfying use. This is bolstered by a wealth of technical information about how the car is created. Text and illustrations provide insight into the car’s white ash and steel construction. There are pictures of many components – the frame, brakes, suspension, the torque arm, even engine parts being machined and inspected in the factory. There’s even a table illuminating the 55 steps followed in finishing a Pierce-Arrow body.

As a graphic designer, I find it very interesting to read a book as old as this.It was produced at a time when offset print and graphic art were still fairly new. There’s quite a variation in font sizes, some being really large, some being somewhat small, and a number of other sizes in between. There’s many photos, but some have been used multiple times. These design choices likely wouldn’t be seen today, yet here they are in a high-end sales tool for a luxury car. Different times I suppose.

Overall, I found The Story of Pierce-Arrow to be very interesting. It wasn’t what I expected, as I thought it would be more of a corporate history. Instead it’s a high-end sales brochure, not dissimilar to what you used to be able to pick up at your dealership until recent times. It is more grand (certainly at 70 pages it’s much larger), which would befit one of the most luxurious American cars ever made. It is a great look at the manufacture of exclusive, partially hand-made automobiles of the pre-war era.

Of course, hindsight shows that at the height of the Great Depression, no amount of flowery language or detailed photos could save a car few could afford. A mere 8 years after this publication, Pierce-Arrow closed its doors and faded from the American automotive landscape. The Story of Pierce-Arrow opens those doors again for a glimpse of what once was.

Pros: a rare contemporary piece of literature with a lot of very good information about a long defunct car and company; great insight into auto manufacturing in the pre-war era.

Cons: minor quibbles with some of the design; content is perhaps a little heavy on the ‘sales pitch’ side.

Where to find it: perhaps Amazon or eBay, private collections.

1960 Cadillac Sixty Special

Walter M. P. McCall, in his book 80 Years of Cadillac and LaSalle, wrote “The stunning (1938) Sixty Special strongly influenced the look of GM and other American cars for years.” The first car completely designed by legendary William Mitchell, it was an immediate style leader and sales success. As McCall wrote, from there on “(the) Sixty Special name was reserved for Cadillac’s most distinctive four-door sedan.” It was the top of the line when it came to owner-driver automobiles, just below the Seventy-Five Series limousines.

By 1960, the Sixty Special was still serving as a style leader. Following the glitzy, outrageously finned cars of the 1950s, Cadillac began to pull back, and the Sixty Special hardtop emerged with a much cleaner design. A fabric covered roof set the car apart. A wide chrome moulding adorned lower sill, rising up at the taillight to circle up and run where the (lower than 1959) tail fin met the body. No other decoration appeared on the sides, leaving a very clean, sleek look.

On all 1960 Cadillacs, the front grille lost the previous year’s horizontal bar and gained metallic projectiles, a treatment that was repeated between the taillights on the rear panel under the trunk lid. The design was created to give off a sparkling, jewelled effect to the front and carry that cohesively to the rear.

This particular black 1960 Sixty Special was shot during the 2016 Taste of the Kingsway street festival in Toronto (I am part of the team that ran the car show component). The car is owned by a local collector who brought 4 cars to the event (this, a 1959 Cadillac Sedan De Ville, a 1966 Chrysler 300 convertible and a 1980 MGB).

I was drawn by those grille ornaments, though on this day, the sky wouldn’t clear. Still, those grille elements managed to shine and give texture to the car’s front end.

I shot this with my Nikon D3200, using my 18-55 lens at 30mm, on auto settings. It was shot on an overcast afternoon, at ƒ4.5, 1/250s shutter speed and ISO 100. The image was brought in to Photoshop for resizing, cropping, and levels adjustment, then in to Topaz Adjust to modify the levels and contrast more radically as well as sharpening the image to create more of a pencil drawing effect, though without making it a black and white image.

The above image is available as a 20”x16” print, contact shootyourcarmister@gmail.com. Below of course is the original shot for comparison.

American Motors Corporation: The Rise and Fall of America’s Last Independent Automaker

American Motors Corporation: The Rise and Fall of America’s Last Independent Automaker by Patrick R. Foster
published 2013 by MBI Publishing Company Motorbooks
208 pages, hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0-7603-4425-5

Purchased new from a retail bookstore.

It’s now more than 30 years since America’s 4th largest automaker was purchased and absorbed into the Chrysler Corporation. Today, if you were to say AMC, most people would think of a cable TV channel or movie theatre chain. Except for a few brand names, such as Jeep, AM General and Kelvinator, it seems not much remains of what was once American Motors Corporation, better known as AMC.

Patrick Foster’s American Motors Corporation: The Rise and Fall of America’s Last Independent Automaker presents a detailed and well-illustrated history of the successes and failures of a company determined to carve out a place alongside the Big 3 – GM, Ford and Chrysler. Foster is perhaps the foremost authority on AMC, and an expert on many independent automotive brands, and this book certainly confirms that.

Admittedly, my book collection is heavy on Big 3 books. When I saw this book on the shelf, I was happy to find a modern history of the AMC marque. Growing up during the 1970s and 1980s, I was familiar with the Pacer, Gremlin and Matador in real time. And the hot rod and muscle car magazines I’d read had exposed me to such beasts as the AMX, Rebel Machine and SC/Rambler. But I didn’t really know the story of how the company came to be, or why it had been in such dire straits.

Those answers are found here. The first short chapter, ‘1986: The Crucial Year‘ lays out a quick backdrop to the early roots of Rambler and Hudson, then fast-forwarding to the predicament of 1986, the partnership with Renault and AMC’s precarious financial position.

The history of AMC from formation in 1954 to buyout in 1987 is broken into chapters which cover 2 to 6 year periods, generally coinciding with significant events in the company. From the death of George Mason, the leadership of George Romney and success of the Rambler lines, to Romney’s departure and the foray into competing with the big companies in the late 1960s. The acquisition of Jeep and refocus on core business, to struggles with unions and diminished market share, to the reliance on Renault and eventual sale to Chrysler, Foster opens the door into the year-to-year ups and downs of AMC.

It’s clear Foster is a fan of AMC. He counts many who held executive positions at the company as friends, and some praise of AMC’s models may seem a little too glowing. But he pulls no punches when it comes to relating the various issues that kept American Motors from achieving sustained success and ultimately led to its disappearance from the automotive landscape. He calls out the poor decisions, bad moves and yes, even rotten luck, that seemed to erase any gains AMC made towards stability. The text is filled with other pertinent information, such as production numbers and engineering notes, and behind-the-scenes corporate information that illustrates how and why things turned as they did for AMC.

Like most of the more recent publications on cars, this edition is filled with many very good pictures. It’s becoming more rare to find AMCs at car shows and in magazines, and I was delighted to be able to scan through so many great examples of the marque. Additionally, there are some concept cars and styling mockups included in these pages, which I’ve rarely seen anywhere else.

Well-written and filled with real insight into the decisions at the highest levels, American Motors Corporation: The Rise and Fall of America’s Last Independent Automaker is an important book if one wishes to understand how the number 4 automaker lost its way.

Pros: A detailed history of a historic marque; lots of great photographs.
Cons: None really.
Where to find it: Amazon, and retail bookstores may likely still stock it on shelves.

1956 Continental Mark II

Don’t call it a Lincoln.

The Continental Mark II was an ambitious project of the Ford Motor Company to create an exclusive luxury coupe that would rival any in the world. Designed as a successor to the 1939-48 Lincoln Continental, the Mark II was given it’s own new division within Ford, ‘Continental’, and was hand-assembled. It was powered by the same 368 cubic inch V8 used by Ford in its Lincoln cars, and the car was equipped with many features. The only option was air conditioning. It’s said that Ford lost $1000 on each Mark II, and 3005 cars (including prototypes) were produced in 1956 and 1957. After the run, the Continental Division was folded into Lincoln, and the Mark II was succeeded by the 1958 Mark III, which was aligned with other regular production Lincolns.

Now, in the past when I have taken pictures, I have not been diligent enough to really record the details of my shooting. I will do my best to include what information I can.

This picture of a 1956 Continental Mark II was shot during the 2017 Kars on King event in Oshawa, Ontario. I used my Fuji FinePix S1500 in Auto mode, which gave a setting of ƒ/2.8, shutter speed 1/160, ISO64. I brought the image into Adobe Photoshop for adjustments and cropping, and then finally used Topaz Adjust to make more dramatic adjustments to the final image.

The above image is available as a 20″x16″ poster. For information please email shootyourcarmister@gmail.com. The original picture can be seen below.

Cadillac Style, Volume 1

Cadillac Style, Volume One by Richard Lentinello
published 2018 by Lentinello Publishing
128 pages, perfect bound softcover

ISBN-13: 978-1-5323-6588-1

purchased online direct from the publisher

My grandmother’s youngest sister and her family moved to Arizona before I was born. Every so often, Auntie Jean and Uncle Joe would drive up to Toronto for a visit of a month or so. Once in the mid-1970s, I remember being excited not only to see them, but to see my Uncle’s car – a Mandarin Orange Cadillac Eldorado. Funny enough I don’t recall the exact year of the car – probably a 1974 or 1975. But I do remember it being orange, and it had their names inscribed on little metal plates affixed to the dashboard.

I think Uncle Joe was the first person I knew who drove a Cadillac. My dad always talked about having a Caddy someday. In fact, Mr. Lentinello’s introduction to this book addresses that very idea… the dream, the mystique of owning a Cadillac. Owning a Cadillac meant you’d reached a level of success. You were driving ‘The Standard of the World‘, the best. True, as the latter decades of the 20th Century wore on, Cadillac’s reputation (and GM’s as a whole) took a well-deserved beating. Still for many, there was something to owning a Cadillac.

Some time ago, I saw a link to Lentinello Publishing’s website and their first book, Cadillac Style, Volume 1. I was pretty much immediately taken with what I saw on the website – a high quality, photo-heavy, numbered edition, created by Richard Lentinello, whose work I’d enjoyed for many years in Hemmings and other publications. I decided to buy Cadillac Style (and Corvair Style) as a birthday gift to myself and I’m very happy I did.

The book has a great feel, physically. It’s got some weight to it – the pages are large at 9.5″x11″, and on premium 100-lb gloss stock. The layout, by Zach Higgins, is very nice with plenty of white space, and filled with lots of great photography. Content-wise, I was very pleased. Think of this book as a high-end magazine. Each chapter is like a feature story, 2 to 6 pages focused on a single vehicle. There are no intrusive advertisements, just great content.

Lentinello features 27 models, starting with a 1909 Model 30 Demi-Tonneau and ending with a 1993 Allanté. There is a bias towards the tailfin cars (10 cars from 1949 though 1960 are featured), though I expected that, as it’s the era most people think of for classic Cadillacs. That’s not to say other eras are not well-served, including the appearance of 2 mid-1930s LaSalles as well as a V-12.

Each feature is very much about the car shown. There is information about the model year and the specific model, and that gives a great foundation to understanding the car. But, like a magazine feature, it’s Mr. Lentinello’s inclusion of specifics of the particular car – the current owner’s words, highlights of the car’s history – that I found really interesting.

What do these owners say? “…an amazing automobile…”, “more than a dream come true…”, “… a classic in every respect…”, “… I feel like a king in his chariot…”. There is most certainly a feeling to owning and driving these cars.

It was great to read about the 1965 convertible, bought new by the current owner’s father, and twice shipped to Italy to be used during the family vacations. Even better was to see the pictures, which show the worn, unrestored red leather seats, and read how the car is enjoyed as a survivor. I also enjoyed reading about the 1985 Eldorado Biarritz, bought used as a retirement gift, then sold and re-purchased, still with low miles and a colour change from black to red.

As I said, I was really very happy to add this book to my collection. The quality of the publication is superb. Interviews with the owners of the cars give a real sense of what it means to enjoy Cadillac ownership. And the imagery is simply beautiful. If you’re a fan of Cadillac or would just like to add a wonderful book to your collection, I suggest ordering your numbered edition before they run out.

Pros: high-quality publication, great photos, well-written, signed and numbered editions
Cons: none I could find
Where to get it: Lentinello Publishing

Cadillac: The Tailfin Years

Cadillac: The Tailfin Years by Robert J. Headrick Jr.
published 2008 by Iconografix, Inc.
126 pages, softcover

ISBN-13: 978-1-58388-212-2
ISBN: 1-58388-212-X

purchased from a retailer specializing in auto literature, at their booth, during a classic car auction

I used to regularly attend a classic car auction in Toronto. While I was in the market to buy a car, I never ended up even registering to bid. But every time I went, I felt I needed to buy something.

One particular time, Cadillac: The Tailfin Years caught my eye. I didn’t have many books featuring Cadillac, and that the tailfin years were the focus was enough to seal the deal. When I got it 7 or so years back, I must have expected more because I recall being somewhat unimpressed. Upon recent rereading, I find it’s really not a bad book – a few flaws, but overall an enjoyable read.

It’s a fairly simple layout – each chapter features the Cadillac line for a model year, beginning with 1948 and ending with 1964. The text borrows heavily from the official, GM-produced Cadillac sales material. The images are all from a collection of original Cadillac sales literature and advertising.

I do like the layout and concept. As I’ve said, I enjoy seeing the original sales materials as I feel it gives great perspective of what the public was presented and a sense of the environment the car existed in. And there is no lack of prose or imagery here – full pages of sales brochures can be found throughout this book.

I do have some criticisms. I think the font is a little large, which always gives me the impression the author is trying to fill space, but that’s a personal pet peeve. I take some issue with the form. The author has quoted from the sales material, but gone ahead and made changes to the verb tense using square brackets, and many ellipses. While it may be technically correct, I find it somewhat distracting when reading. I think it’s understood the material quoted is from the past, so there’s no need to correct the tense. Further it may be fair to say any of these Cadillacs featured and still on the road today would continue providing all the luxury, power and dignity the brochures describe, so why not refer to these in the present tense?

The images from the brochures and ads have been scanned, and some could use more photoshop work. Some pages, when scanned, allow the image on the reverse page to show through because the paper is so thin (for example on one page I can clearly see the reverse of the GTE logo). Other times, wrinkled or wavy paper can show as shadows when scanned. I’m sure the images have been retouched, but perhaps a little more could have be done to really clean them up so they look as good as possible.

There are some typos to be found, and a somewhat bizarre situation involving the Golden Anniversary. In 1952, Cadillac did celebrate its 50th or Golden Anniversary. All 1952 Cadillacs were deemed Golden Anniversary models, and featured gold crest and ‘V’. However, the chapter about the 1958 Cadillacs also mentions ‘Golden Anniversary’. This must be an error by the author who may have pasted text inadvertently to the 1958 chapter. There wouldn’t seem to be any other explanation.

As said though, on rereading I find this is a pretty good book. In addition to the ad copy, there is a lot of good information to be found. Headrick includes an easy to understand description of each Series available and the models found. He describes the changes to the line over the previous year, as well as significant additions to powertrain and options. Each model has its sales totals and list price.

The more I read this book, the more I realize what a good book it is. As a reference, it’s actually wonderful. The information coming directly from the sales materials turns out to be a good resource, often revealing an option as being new that model year, or naming the available seating surface materials and colours. The more technical information, as well as the pricing and production numbers are great to fill in the picture of Cadillac’s year. The illustrations are clear enough you can certainly see the progression of Cadillac design over this period, and can serve as something of a field guide for identifying years and models in the wild.

This is where I found I warmed to Cadillac: The Tailfin Years. Factoids that come out such as when Cadillac dropped the Series Sixty-One, or the fact that the Eldorado was always given a slightly higher horsepower rating, those interest me. I appreciate the cars themselves, but I am the kind of car guy who enjoys knowing what distinguishes the Eldorado convertible over the Series Sixty Convertible, or being reminded the Seville nameplate was used on the Eldorado coupe.

As I said, initially I had some disappointment. Perhaps I expected the book about Cadillac to be ‘the Standard of the World‘, a book equal to the legendary precision engineering Cadillac was known for. This book is not that. But, it is an interesting, easy-to-read book that does a great job showcasing the tailfin Caddies in one place, using period imagery and language. It offers up some good useful information and will add to one’s appreciation of these iconic Cadillacs.

Pros: essentially presents a collection of 1948-1964 Cadillac sales literature, supported by other technical info
Cons: some design flaws, a few typos
Where to get it: Amazon, used bookstores

Professional Automotive Engine Application & Identification Guide 1930-2000 – Block, Crankshaft & Head Casting Numbers

Professional Automotive Engine Application & Identification Guide 1930-2000 – Block, Crankshaft & Head Casting Numbers by Dirty Gringo Journals
published 2020 independently
122 pages, soft cover

ISBN: 1661973310

purchased from Amazon.ca

Amazon has a decent little racket going on. I don’t begrudge their marketing, I mean they’re in business to sell and frankly I’m free to ignore the siren call of “spend a little more to get free shipping”. Sometimes I figure I may as well spend and get a couple items rather than spend it anyway as ‘dead money’ for shipping.

My throw-in is often a book, as it’s easy enough to find inexpensive books about cars. The most recent example was the Professional Automotive Engine Application & Identification Guide 1930-2000 – Block, Crankshaft & Head Casting Numbers, a Dirty Gringo Journal at a reasonable $12.

I am not a mechanic or real hot rodder. Yes, I’ve done some mechanical work on my vehicles, even to the point of cutting a hole in the perfectly good headliner of my Dodge Dakota to install an optional overhead console, or pulling the engine and transmission from a car I wanted to restore. I’m not an engine builder or anything like that.

I have mentioned my Pontiac Grand Prix, which I plan to upgrade. The thing I’ve come to know about Pontiac V8s is that, with some nuances, Pontiac V8s are basically the same across displacements. This means my mid-1970s Pontiac 350 2 barrel engine could potentially accept a 4 barrel set up or better heads from a much more potent Pontiac engine. Now, these parts don’t have plain-language ID – it’s not like it’s stamped “free-flow heads, 1968 GTO”. Or, is it? If you know about casting numbers, you can hunt down what you want, as these numbers tell you a lot about what parts where used where and for what. A book filled with casting numbers would be pretty handy I thought.

Well, what a disappointment this book was. I mean, it’s got a neat retro look and feel. It purports to cover the big-name American and Japanese makes. There’s room to make notes. It seems fairly organized in layout. Each manufacturer has engines sectioned by Passenger car 4 cylinder, 6 cylinder, V6, V8, and then Truck engines listed similarly. Lists are arranged in ascending order from smallest displacement and earliest year.

However, none of that makes up for the sheer amount of information that appears to be missing or incorrect. And I mean, glaring stuff. A summary of what I found, focused mostly on V8s (which I know the most about), but by no means exhaustive…

  • The Chrysler truck 3.9L V6 is listed as 238 cubic inches. Having owned one, I know that all sales and service literature refers to this as a 239 cubic inch engine. A minor detail, but truthfully, a single cubic inch can be a major difference when talking about engines.
  • The Chrysler Passenger car V8 section is missing any references to the FirePower/FireDome/RedRam and Polyspheric engines of the 1950s, as well as missing significant later engines including the 273, 413 and 426 Wedge and 426 Hemi (413s and a 426 are listed under the Truck section, however Wedge and Hemi engines appeared in numerous passenger cars). These were not ‘one-off’ or specialty engines. Chrysler sold thousands of these.
  • An 8.0L Chrysler V10 is listed under the Truck section. However the Dodge Viper also used this engine, but with significant differences. The truck’s iron-block V10 wouldn’t likely share casting numbers with the Viper’s aluminum block, and the engines differed in other respects also. There should be a separate listing for the Viper V10.
  • Many Ford Motor Company engines missing, including the extremely well-known Ford flathead (found in pretty much every Ford from 1939 to 1954), the MEL family, the 221 and 260 members of the Windsor family, and the 406 and 410 variants of the FE family. Additionally, there are discrepancies with other engines, such as the 352 and 390 FE engines, whose years of manufacture are grossly misstated here.
  • Missing from the Buick section are many notable engines such as the 340 and 430, and there appear to be no Nailhead engines.
  • Pontiac section is missing any references to the 326, 421 or 428 engines.
  • No references at all to any of the straight-8 engines from Chrysler, Buick, Pontiac etc., nor any listings for the Lincoln V12, or the Cadillac V12 and V16. These engines were all significant and produced after 1930.
Some entries have blank spaces. Does this mean no casting number exists? Or did they just not know what it was?

Then there are the blank spaces in the listings. As an example, the listings for the 1989-92 and 1993-95 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 5.7L engines show only a single casting number – a block number for the early engine. This may be correct, as perhaps the early block is the only cast part, while the rest may be forged parts (which then wouldn’t technically have a casting number). However, some other engines note forged crankshafts and still have casting numbers listed. Bottom line, it’s very difficult to trust the information in this book.

Undoubtedly, some, perhaps even much of the information here is correct. The 1987-93 5.0L V8 lists the head casting as “E7TE”. Having had a 1988 Mustang, I know the E7TE are known as pretty decent stock heads. But the reference is lacking information. Ford’s parts numbering system is fairly easy to follow, and E7TE breaks down to E for decade (1980s), 7 for the year (1987), T for car line (truck), and E for department (engine). E7TE is used commonly among people who know late-model Ford pushrod engines, but it is not the complete casting number. In fact, ‘E7TE’ will apply to many parts that were cast in 1987 for any Ford truck engine, be they inline or V design, or any number of cylinders. Without the rest of the number, you won’t know what you’re getting.

While I’m tearing this book apart, I will also note there is no copyright page included. This is the page in most books where the publishing information is found. It’s only because ‘thedirtygringo.com’ is found on the back cover, and Amazon lists the author as Dirty Gringo Journals that we know that’s who produced this book.

I have to give this little book a failing grade. There’s just far too many issues. As stated, I am not an expert, but I am enough of an enthusiast to catch the above listed errors. And frankly, this book is only going to appeal to people who have at least as much knowledge as I do. The concept is great – a book that would serve as a reference for numbers geeks, hot rodders, even the backyard mechanic who wants to do some custom work on his cruiser. But with so much information missing or incorrect, there just isn’t any way this book is useful to anyone.

I might have been better off just paying for shipping.

Pros: a good concept, a fairly organized idea for presentation
Cons: simply too much missing and incorrect information to be trusted
Where to find it: Amazon