About The Y-Block Ford

The Ford Y-Block V8
1954 – 1964 and beyond

By 1948 the famous Flathead Ford V8 had been developed about as far as it could go. So management at Ford Motor Co. instructed its engineers to develop a new engine for the future. By 1952 Ford had new OHV 6-cylinder engine (215ci I-6) and Lincoln had a 317ci OHV V8.* It wasn’t until 1954 that Ford introduced its new Ford Y-Block V8. It came in 239ci (256ci for Mercury), the same displacement as the old flathead V8 but with a bigger bore and a shorter stroke (3.5” X 3.1”). It produced 130hp as opposed to the flatheads final 110hp.

By 1955 Chevrolet introduced its “small block V8” with 265ci, not to be outdone Ford increased its displacement to 272ci and introduced the Thunderbird with a 292ci engine. (Mercury also got the 292ci as their standard engine.) In 1956 the Y-Block was increased again to 312ci for the Thunderbird and the Mercury. 1957 was a great year for the Y-Block with increased hp from bigger valves, single and dual 4 barrel carburetors, and McCulloch (Paxton) superchargers. This gave them many victories over the Chevrolet small block V-8. Then in 1958 Ford introduced the FE with 332ci and 352ci (which could also be considered a Y-Type block because of its deep side skirting). The Y-block was detuned and relegated to a secondary engine in cars and trucks. The 312ci was phased out in 1960. The 292ci carried on in cars until 1962 and in trucks until the end of its U.S. production in 1964. 

The Y-Block did live on being produced in South American countries such as Brazil and Argentina in the Phase I with the original cylinder head (E-I-I-E-E-I-I-E) until the late 1960’s and Phase II with a reconfigured cylinder head (E-I-E-I-E-I-E-I) until the early 1980’s.

Pros and Cons

One of the design qualities of the Y-Block V8 is its deep skirting which makes for a very rigid block for added strength in the bottom end. The drawback to this is it also makes for a heavy cylinder block. This being Ford’s first OHV engine, they had to feed oil to the rocker arm shafts through a passage from the center cam bearing. Because of the low detergents in oils of that era these passages would often become clogged giving the Y a reputation for bad oiling to the top end. Ford came up with a stop gap measure for this problem by feeding oil via an external tube directly to the rocker shafts from the main oil gallery. Because of better oils today and a grooved center cam journal, a clean freshly rebuilt Y-Block should no longer have this problem and thus, no need for the external oiling tube. 

Cylinder heads on the Y have always been a point for discussion. Because of their odd configuration (stacked horizontally instead of side by side vertically) and the fact they have to make sharp turns around head bolts, they have been called “bad breathers”. Truth is, although they do not flow as well as some others, they can be made to rev to 7,000+ rpm easily.

A Bright Future

With the advent of nostalgia racing and the "Traditional Hot-Rod” movement, the Y has made a resurgence in recent years. They are a powerful and torquie engine with a pleasant exhaust tone because of their unusual firing order (1-5-4-8-6-3-7-2). Performance parts, new and used, are becoming more and more available and can also be fabricated. Their relative rarity makes them fun to work with. 

Could there be a Y-Block in your future?

*The Lincoln engine from 1952 to 1957 is also sometimes considered a Y-Block with 317ci, 341ci, and 368ci. These Y engines were also used in HD trucks and industrial applications of the same era with 279ci, 302ci, and 332ci.

Engine Codes and Horsepower Ratings
Engine Type 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962
Code   HP Code   HP Code   HP Code   HP Code   HP Code   HP Code   HP Code   HP Code   HP

U      130


  P      161

272 2V Carb-Standard  

  U     162

  U     173

B     190          
272 2V Carb-Automatic  

  U     162

  U     176

B     190          
272 4V Carb-Automatic     M     182              
292 2V Carb-Standard       C     206          
292 2V Carb-Automatic       C     212          
292 4V Carb Standard     P      193 M     200            
292 4V Carb-Automatic     P      198 M     202            
312 4V Carb Standard     P     215 D     245          
312 4V Carb-Automatic     P    225 D     245          
312 4V Carb-Supercharger       F     300          
312 8V Carb Hi-Perf Special       E     270          
312 8V Carb (Racing)       E     285          
292 2V Carb-Stdrd or Auto         C     205 C     200 W     185 W     175 W     170

All artwork, text, design, and photos, are Copyright 2008 by Tim McMaster.
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