Project 350/351 engine: Part 2 351 Cleveland build
Unique Cars is building not just one, but two iconic V8s to giveaway. Here, we get started on a 351 Cleveland
Win a 351 Cleveland engine!
We celebrated publishing Issue number 350 by beginning the build of one of the great all-time engines, the small-block 350 Chev, with parts supplied by Precision International and assembled by Top Torque in Melbourne (read more here). Then some bright spark got the idea we should give it away. Good for you, not so great for us as we’re pretty sure the staff could have found a use for it. Never mind.
In any case, the response has been phenomenal. And since this is Issue 351, guess what? Yep, we’re building a 351 Cleveland for you Ford diehards and giving that away too!
The Cleveland should need little introduction. "It is an Aussie icon," says Sean Griffioen of Top Torque, the man building it for us. "We saw them in a lot of our early muscle cars and even some commercial vehicles." For years, if your Falcon was fortunate enough to GT-HO badging, there was a fair chance that there was a Cleveland in the snout, but it also saw a lot of service as the workhorse of choice in the front of a lot of F100s. Though the production numbers are nothing like the stratospheric figures reached by the 350 Chev, they remain a firm favourite among restorers. "They’re our equal number two on the parts sales charts, about the same as the 308 Holden," reveals Matt Clarke of Precision, who is supplying the engines. "You don’t seem to see many Ford vehicles out there that should have a Cleveland in them, but they’re out there."
He reckons there is a whole new generation of people out there who are latching on to them: "A lot of younger guys fixing up XD through to XEs." Whereas the 350 we’re doing is a completely new powerplant, the Cleveland is probably going to be a little closer to the reality for your average shed-dweller, as we’ll be starting with a used block, crankshaft and rods.
Sean points out the Cleveland and 350 are very close on internal dimensions, with similar stroke and the same bore. "On the outside [Clevelands are] physically a much larger engine with a more ‘industrial’ look to them," he says.
"The Clevelands are a much more heavy-duty looking engine – they were in just about every F100 ever made and many of them are still working hard today, lugging around big weights for their whole life. You can’t buy new blocks any more, so you have to start with a used engine.
"Look for one that’s as close to standard bore size and as close to untouched as possible. It depends on the application. They come in two types, the 2V or 4V. The 4Vs were fitted to the GT-HOs and were designed to be a higher performance engine.
They’re getting harder and harder to come by. Many have been reconditioned and bored to their maximum oversize over the years. It’s quite a common problem in Clevelands that they can get thin in the bore. Anything over a mil or 40-thou oversize and you can have problems with overheating and splitting bores.
"You can buy crankshafts, cylinder heads, main caps, camshafts, all the engine hardware, including conrods and stroker kits. It’s an almost endless list. The hard parts for guys looking to restore their vehicle back to original are cylinder heads and blocks. The prices for good ones are constantly going up and up.
"The one we’re doing is a used block with used crank and conrods," adds Sean. "So this will be a reconditioned engine, not a new product. Everything will be starting from scratch. The block will be acid-cleaned back to its bare shell. We’ll start from there, measuring things up to see what we can and can’t use. We’ll sonic-test the block and measure the thicknesses to ensure we can fit the
What if the engine you’re starting with has a stuffed crank? "You can get a standard stroke aftermarket crankshaft but they’re made with a Chevy conrod journal," advises Matt, "Which means you have to run a Chev rod with a Chev-sized gudgeon pin, then you have to start running different forged pistons."
If it turns out that there’s an issue with the conrods in the engine you’re building, the best option is to switch to a new, slightly longer, set out of a 302 Ford. This is a common modification and can have some benefits, says Matt, though it requires different
The oversize pistons going into our engine are by Hypatec, and they’re a high-silicon heat-treated design. Matt reckons they’re perfect for a street engine like this, robust and capable of handling 450-500hp.
Overall, we’re aiming for a good healthy road tune, much like that in the Chev we’re doing at the same time, with a target horsepower in the 350-400 range. "You’re not going to be setting Moffat lap records with it," says Sean, "But it’ll be enough to keep a smile on your face."
As for the camshaft, the folk at Precision have got a bit creative and opted for a Lunati unit. "Clevelands like a bit of valve lift," says Matt, "Which was kept in mind with the choice of cam. It’ll make power from 1200 to 5500rpm – a good street cam. That should still idle quite nicely, so if it ends up with an auto behind it, you should get away with the standard stall converter.
"We’re putting some Edelbrock aluminium heads on it – a big weight saving, and mainly more efficient. An aluminium head has better heat dissipation than a cast head. They make more power and you can run a little more compression – an extra point as a general rule. They’re not a mega racing head," he adds, "But they’re definitely a lot more efficient than a standard one."
When it comes to the ‘fruit’ on the outside of the engine, we’re opting for a similar package to that on the Chev, with Mallory electronic ignition for reliability, plus a Holley 750cfm carburettor. That’s bigger than the one we’re fitting to the 350, but everyone agrees they seem to suit the Ford, and its bigger ports, better. So far we’ve unwrapped all the bits and pieces, gone "ooh, ahh" at the shiny ones, and now we stand back and watch Sean turn it into an engine. Watch this space… (Turn the page for your chance to win the Precision Cleveland.)
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