When it comes to traditional hot rodding, perhaps nothing is more iconic than the flathead Ford. For decades, everyone from legendary Kustom kings to power-hungry gearheads made the eponymous Ford V8 the center of their octane-fueled universe. That’s largely because, in addition to being incredibly well engineered, the flatty was extremely prevalent. After all, it was the first affordable, mass market V8 ever produced, with Ford, the creator of the moving assembly line, essentially perfecting the art of bringing automobiles to the masses. And that idea of durable, easily interchangeable components permeates the Ford Motor Company to this day.
The year is 1990, and Ford, finally climbing from the depths of the Malaise Era, has just debuted a new OHC V8 that’s the product of four million dollars and five years of planning. This new V8, referred to as the Modular Engine, is the beginning of a sweeping powertrain offensive that could, quite possibly, be the final internal combustion V8 the company ever creates. True to its name, the engine will spawn a whole family of V8s and V10s that, in addition to using interchangeable internal components, can be produced on the same Romeo Engine assembly line with very little downtime. Over the years, the ‘Mod Motor’ has featured a variety of displacements and powered everything from Lincolns and Ford trucks to Rovers and Shelby Mustangs. But the question is: was the Mod Motor an entirely new idea, or was it simply clever marketing spin on Ford’s innately broad manufacturing prowess?
In late 1950s America, bigger always seemed better and, accordingly, automakers began escalating the size and power of their offerings. It wasn’t long until Ford realized it needed something more scalable than its current Y-Block, so it started developing a new V8. Eventually named Windsor, this fresh powerplant debuted at 221 cubic inches and would eventually reach all the way to 427 cubic inches. Common in the displacements of 289, 302 and 351 cubic inches, the Windsor V8 took up residence in a roster of offerings, including Lincolns, various Mercury models, Sunbeams, Ford trucks, boats, high performance Shelby cars, the original GT40 and the Saleen S7 supercar. In addition to being a scalable engine that could be engineered in to a variety of different products, the Windsor shared specs commonality with Ford’s slightly newer Cleveland V8. And, as most of us probably know, the glorious marriage of Windsor and Cleveland could only be described as Boss! Boss 302, that is… See, in the late 1960s, Chevrolet decided it wanted to position its new Camaro as the hardcore antithesis to Ford’s stylish Mustang. Chevy did this by dominating SCCA Trans Am competition. Ford, having recently slayed Ferrari at Le Mans, bolted the better flowing heads of their Cleveland 302 on a fresh, GT40-spec Windsor block, strapped that set-up in the Mustang, and happily joined the fight. Of course, that casual interchangeability made perfect sense. Because these engines were designed to supplement each other, sometimes even in the same model line, it’s highly likely Ford wanted similar performance and reliability out of each family. Not to mention, it would seem a bit pointless to completely re-engineer the solution to a challenge they’d already successfully addressed. In reality, the company likely approved the Cleveland line with only updates they thought essential.
So, were Windsor and Cleveland technically Ford’s first modular engine program? I guess that depends on how well we want to define the word modular. Without getting too technical, the argument can certainly be leveled. The engines were scalable, they served many different purposes in a variety of applications and they were derived from a common set of specs.
SOURCE: RK Motors
AUTHOR: Josh Leatherwood