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Early Bird engine swap


oldguy668
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Five hundred years ago, I could have gotten stoned or hung or worse for asking a question like this, but I'm willing to take the chance. I really want to install a late 302 small block into my '56, but I have run into a little snag. Apparently, Tbirds have the engine mounted in a totally different configuration than Fords and Mercurys. The engine is front mounted where Fords and Mercs are side mounted. So, none of the shops that fab engine swap parts for Fords can help me with the Bird. I'd appreciate any help if someone can point me in the right direction to find the parts I need.

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Hi Oldguy, it can be done, but I think you are making a mistake. An engine swap reduces the value of the car, plain and simple. Because the engine weighs less the front end will be higher, necessitating cutting down the coil springs to make up the difference. What is your concern with the Y-Block engine? I have no trouble with power on my 312 and it gets acceptable gas mileage. A transmission swap would be a better option in my opinion, if you feel you have to do something. I just wouldn't do the engine swap.

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As the owner of a 320 CID yblock, with fuel injection, I really have to agree with Birdman, but its your car. Try going over to the ford barn site you'll probably get more responses. I saw this combination at Goodguys Puyallup last month in a 55, so a nice neat install is possible. Another local guy has a 56, mild custom, that should easily be worth 30k, and he's getting little action at 25, since its got a sbc. Food for thought.

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  • 9 months later...

Oldguy668,

I bought a 56 w/ a 302 & C4 tranny. The original motor mounts were removed and kept (if wanting to go back). Fabrication of new motor mounts appear quick simple and are removable. There are some cons I ran into but mostly I am pleased with having the 302. Yes the 302 mounts are further forward than the originals. In putting a 302 in you would have to change tranny as well or pay heavily for an adapter plate to bolt up to stock bells. I had a pre-92 AOD (non electronic shifting) installed as my car had 3.73 gears and reved quite high at highway speeds. The AOD bolts right up to the 302. The Yblock needs an expensive adapter $1100-$1500 depending on supplier, The way the 302 & tranny were put in kept the original tranny mount location.

The only con I felt was trying to get my power steering hooked up, previous owner had installed air conditioning.. So the compressor was mounted on driver's side and alternator on passenger's. Since the 302 sits further forward, the engines front sits sort of in line with the suspensions upper A frame. As such it is difficult in find the room to mount two belt driven devices on either side of the engine. Fortunately for me a semi-retired Ford mechanic improvises repairs quite well. He found that a Jeep power steering pump fit exactly between the front & rear AC compressor brackets.

Doing installation this way also require modification to the exhausts H-pipe.

As Miker98038 states, it is your money and your car. I could only afford a driver quality 56 and got mine for $20K. But I do not plan on ever getting rid of it, as I had to wait 43 years from the date I fell in love with its style to obtain one.

Good luck on your decision and Happy Birding

Al Herman

Columbia, MD

'56 Peacock w/ both tops white

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I have a 55 that had already been set up with a 289 - 3 speed out of a Mustang. I have since changed it to a 302 W/AT. The person who did mine left the original mounts for the steady rests on the sides. What he did though was fabricate a couple mount plates from 1/2 inch plate and welded them in. I used original Mustang (late 60's) motor mounts and there is a small plate on the trans mount to match up to the auto trans. As for the power steering and A/C compressor. (I got the drivetrain out of a mid 80's Thunderbird) I had to move the alternator lower and move the A/C compressor down to clear the hood. If I remember correctly I ended up fabricating a whole new compressor bracket to move down 1.5 inches and out 1.5 inches so I could re-use original fan belt. I was able to repositon the alternator so it cleared the hood by drilling a new hole in the bracket to rotate it downwards. The other problem was the power steering pump hitting the frame. I cut approximately 1 inch out of the original bracket and welded it back together to move the pump inward so it clears the frame, Of course I had to purchase a different fan belt for this mod.

Another place that might have information for you is Classic Thunderbird Club International (CTCI). I remember years ago (early 70's) there was someone who had written an article about how to swap in a 390 in a little bird.

Edited by fordrodsteven (see edit history)
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