FAQs – Formula Ford Engines

Q. Are used race cars always sold complete with everything including the engine?
A. In most cases, used race cars are sold complete but cars are also often sold as a "roller", short for "rolling chassis", which means that the engine is not included. Going one step further, if there is no transmission included, the car may be referred to as a "slider". Separate used transmissions are not all that easy to come by so beware if you are looking at a "slider". On the other hand, used or "new" engines can be found without too much difficulty. The installation of an engine into a bare chassis is relatively straightforward but if one is not highly mechanically inclined, the work can be done by a local race prep shop. Since all Formula Ford cars are built to take only the Ford Kent engine (or the earlier "Cortina" engine) no modifications are required. All the mounts and related fittings are generally the same.

Q. What do engines cost?
A. The current cost for a complete “new" top level National engine from one of the FF1600 engine builders is in the range of $10,000 and perhaps $7,000 for what might be termed a "Regional" engine - not quite as powerful. Since there are no new blocks available for the Kent engine (new blocks will be produced by FORD in mid-2010), any such engine will be built up using a reconditioned block – one which has probably been sleeved and line honed, etc. Stock engine blocks from 1971-1973 Pintos will cost anywhere from $150 to $500. Since there are many new aftermarket parts being made for this engine, most of the remaining parts will be new. (see “Engine Parts” below) Professional engine builders will typically run the completed engine on a dynomometer to assure everything is as it should be and also to tune it for maximum power output. Complete running Kent engines can be found at prices ranging from $2,000 (tired and in need of a rebuild) up to, say, $5,000. If the engine is well used or if its internal condition is unknown, then it is wise to have the engine taken apart and "freshened" or rebuilt. The engines and their parts are by no means inexpensive but anyone seeking to join the Regional racing ranks need not spend a fortune to get on track and run respectably quickly.

Q. Where can I obtain Kent engine parts?
A. Parts for the Kent engine can be purchased from almost all of the well known engine builders – Ivey, Loyning, Quicksilver, Elite, Butler, Cricket Farm Motors, MWE, Farley and Williams among others. Parts suppliers such as Dave Bean Engineering, Pegasus Auto Racing Supplies and BAT also sell all the parts you will need.

Q. Which parts are the new, aftermarket parts?
A. Aftermarket parts include crankshafts, camshafts, aluminum cylinder heads, forged pistons, flywheels, distributors and valves – all of which are equal to or, in most cases, better than the OEM parts. Secondary parts which are new include rings, bearings, timing chains and rocker towers.

Q. How long does a fresh engine run before performance drops off?
A. Assuming most of the new parts listed above are used when the engine is assembled and also assuming first rate machinework, balancing and assembly, the bottom end of a Kent engine can now be considered to have a life of over fifty hours. Typically, the head would be rebuilt at about ten-fifteen hour intervals or when a leak down test shows leakage at the valve seats. For more information about engine performance and rebuilds, see Jake's book.

Q. How reliable is a FF engine?
A. In the past, several gremlins plagued the Kent engine. In particular the crankshaft was prone to breaking - particularly if the flywheel hit the curb or pavement. Stock rod bolts weakened over time and if one broke, the results were messy! But these issues have been entirely overcome. New rules lowered the flywheel weight and allowed stronger aftermarket parts to be used. The new crankshafts manufactured for the SCCA by SCAT as well as the new crankshafts made for Dave Bean Engineering are extremely strong and can be considered to have a useful life of over ten years. High strength 12 point ARP or SPS rod bolts should be used to avoid failure in that area. Standard rods are bullet proof if properly prepared, crack checked and balanced. The bottom line is that catastrophic failures are quite rare assuming the use of newer high quality parts, careful assembly and dis-assembly and freshening at appropriate intervals.

Q. What kind of engine modifications are permitted?
A. The FF engine preparation rules allow blueprinting, balancing and some tuning. For example, cam timing can be modified. In addition, distributors and carburetors can be modified within limits and heads can be “ported” within very strict limits. The rules specifically allow what you can do and if it doesn’t say you can do it then you can’t. This set of stable, very restrictive rules keep everything relatively equal. Read through the engine preparation rules in the SCCA’s GCR which can also be accessed on the SCCA’s website.

Q. Do club racers usually have more than one engine?
A. A Club racer running Regional events on a limited budget can certainly operate with only one engine. Obviously, if something goes wrong with it and it needs to be worked on, then you are out of commission. Regional racers with substantial budgets may have a spare short block available or perhaps a complete engine - but that it quite unusual. National racers may also survive quite well with only one engine but if they are going for Divisional or National Championship wins, then they will undoubtedly have two engines on hand and will swap out engines if performance falls off.

Q. What does an engine rebuild involve and what does it cost?
A. An engine rebuild involves complete dis-assembly, dimensional checks, possible sleeving of all four cylinder bores and the replacement of all worn or out-of-spec parts such as pistons, rings, bearings, timing chain, valves – and perhaps the crankshaft. After everything is reassembled, the better engine builders or machine shops will then dyno tune the engine to assure it is putting out maximum power. A rebuild which involves dis-assembly, crack checking and a minimum of parts will cost about $2,000 while a rebuild involving a large number of new parts can cost between $3,500 and $5,000.

Q. What is a Cortina? An Uprated? A Fiesta?
A. The original engine used in all FF1600 cars was the “Cortina” and it was sourced through Ford which used the engine in the English Cortina. This engine had flat top pistons, combustion chambers in the head and assorted other differences. It is now usually fitted only to vintage cars which would have used the Cortina engine when first run. The “Uprated” Kent engine which was used is Formula Ford from about 1971 onwards is known by its casting number starting with “711M” and is the predominant engine used in FF1600. This block has a stronger lower end and is distinguished by its dished pistons and flat head surface and was used in the US in the 1971-1973 Pinto 1.6. The same block was used in the Ford Fiesta which was also sold in great numbers in the US. The Fiesta block can also be used in a Formula Ford and has no deficiency relative to the 711M block. There are minor differences in the casting and side engine mount vary but the block is as strong or stronger than the 711M.

Q. What kind of maintenance does the engine require at or between events?
A. A well prepared engine is usually troublefree at an event. Typical at-track maintenance might include minor tuning such as valve adjustment, carburetor tuning and ignition timing but if this work is done carefully before the event, none of it will need to be done at the track. Between events, it is wise to do a leak-down or compression test to assure that the engine has good valve and ring seal. After several hours running time, simply lapping in the valves can help maintain maximum seal and thus, maximum power output.