The small-block Ford’s lubrication system is consistent across four decades of continuous production with the exception of the 335-series 351C/351M/400 engine family, which is architecturally different than the 221/260/289/302 and 351W. Because lubrication is the lifeblood of any engine, it must be a foolproof system that keeps oil flowing under all conditions. Your main objective is to make modifications to the oiling system that improve lubrication while using off-the-shelf parts and proven techniques.
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Small-block Ford oil pumps are camshaft driven via the distributor gear. You should use a heavy-duty aftermarket pump shaft even if you’re building a stock engine, which minimizes the risk of engine failure. A good engine-life insurance policy is to use a high-volume oil pump along with the heavy-duty aftermarket shaft.
The best pumps are available from Melling and Federal-Mogul (Sealed Power). Weekend and commuter cruisers are happy with a stock 5-quart pan and pick-up. However, if you’re going racing, a stock pan doesn’t provide the lubrication capacity needed for high-RPM use.
Drag racing calls for a deep-sump 7- to 8-quart pan that ensures adequate oil supply around the pick-up during extreme acceleration. A baffled high-capacity road-race pan is designed to keep oil around the pick-up during hard cornering and acceleration.
Both elements call for a windage tray to keep oil from being pulled from the sump into the spinning and reciprocating mass underneath. Windage causes oil foaming and pump cavitation, which can cause serious engine damage. Options are a Milodon, Canton, or reproduction Boss 302 windage tray and pan. The aftermarket offers pans that are stock in appearance with baffling and hidden windage trays.
Vintage Fords employ front-sump oil pans, which tend to be universal across all Ford and Mercury car and truck lines from 1962 to 1995. Late-model 1979–1995 Fox-based car lines have a dual-sump pan designed to clear rack-and-pinion steering and the subframe. The forward sump accommodates the oil pump, which is tied to the pick-up in the rear sump. This is important to remember when you order a crate engine or an oil pan.
Another important consideration is the installation of screwin oil galley plugs as a substitute for pressed-in plugs, which can pop out and cause an immediate loss of oil pressure. Also consider cam plug retaining screws at the back of the block for added security.
Oil pumps should never be installed right out of the box. Marvin McAfee of MCE Engines in Los Angeles stresses the importance of blueprinting every oil pump because you should never assume a pump has integrity right out of the box. Blue-printing isn’t only an engine consideration, it’s vital to every part of an engine build. Oil pumps are mass produced and not foolproof. They may have flaws and machining errors that go unnoticed until you encounter oil pressure and volume issues.
Begin your blueprinting with G-rotor endplay and radial clearances checked for 360 degrees. Remove the pressure relief valve and spring and check for freedom of movement with the bore and valve piston lubricated.
Spring pressure should be 23.6 to 24.6 pounds at 1.37 inches. If you need more spring pressure, add shims to the spring.
When Ford conceived the 335- series small-block Ford for 1970, it created a completely new engine family. It wasn’t only about motor-sports, but also light-duty use in an all-encompassing engine family designed to ultimately replace the Windsor small-block Ford. Unfortunately, 351C production ended in North America after just four years. The raised-deck Cleveland (351M and 400) continued through 1982.
The 335-series oiling system is different from the 289/302/351W small-block: It has one fewer oil galley, resulting in two galleys along the lifter bores. Oil is drawn to the pump from a front- or mid-sump pan, then passed to a main horizontal oil galley across the front of the block where it leads to both cam bearings and main bearing journals, then up to lifter galleys. The problem with this approach is oil starvation to main and rod bearing journals at high RPM because they have to share oil with the lifter galleys.
Traditionally, mains and rods always had an exclusive oil galley. Because high-performance street Clevelands have adequate oil supply to all critical points throughout the engine, Ford engineers did their job well. However, when you spin a Cleveland to high RPM (above 6,000) oil starvation exists at main and rod journals. The 351C oiling system is typical of most mass-production V-8s of the era with the pressure relief valve in the pump where oil pressure is control-leaked back to the pan before reaching moving parts.
Aside from obvious block architectural differences, the 335’s cam bearings receive oil first, which means that number-4 and number-5 main and rod bearings are oil starved. In factory form, the Cleveland’s oiling system performs the job nicely.
In race form, main bearings and journals can become oil starved. To rectify this shortcoming, oil must be routed so main bearings get the oil they need during high-RPM conditions.
Seasoned engine builders use several approaches with Cleveland oiling systems. Two of these approaches are basically the same modification with only slight variations in the way they are performed. Another involves external plumbing, which routes oil from the front to the back of the block to improve bottom-end oiling, which really isn’t very effective. Yet another strategy involves lifter bore sleeves that restrict oil flow to the cam and top end, which is effective and easy to perform.
When the Cleveland was used in NASCAR competition, an internally plumbed oiling system was used to feed journals number-2, -3, and -4 through drilled passages in the lifter galleys. But honestly, this is an unnecessary modification for a street or even a weekend racing engine. And if you’re running hydraulic lifters, you don’t want to take too much oil away from the lifter galleys.
Easily the best oiling system approach is from Tim Meyer of TMeyer Precision Automotive Machining, one of the world’s fore-most Cleveland specialists and builders located in Minnesota. Tim uses one oil restrictor plug at the number-1 main journal, drills out the cam to main galley oil passage to 5/16 inch, and indexes the cam bearings to the 4 o’clock position at all five journals. You can call this approach lubrication traffic management, and it works well.
Written by George Reid and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks