It's no secret that V-8 engines installed by the factory in light-duty trucks have been, for the most part, detuned versions of passenger-car V-8s. Whether a particular V-8 configuration first appeared in an automobile or a truck can vary. A good example to illustrate this point is the 348 and 409ci Chevrolet V-8 that was initially utilized as a truck engine and then elevated to a higher state of tune for use in passenger cars. Sticking with Chevrolet as an example, the 327-inch small-block engine that was first introduced in '62 cars wasn't available for service in light-duty trucks until '66. So what is this all leading up to? I'm sure some of you have already recognized the subject vehicle of this tech feature is the '72 Ford F-100 shortbed Styleside I've entered against Classic Trucks' associate editor Grant Peterson's '68 F-100 in a build-off. The only ground rule presented to us at the start of the contest was that we should attempt to explore opposite directions. Right out of the gate, Grant had plans to modernize his '68 with a late-model overhead-cam mod-motor and lay his truck down on Fatman Fabrications' trick new setup to ditch the F-100's twin I-beam front suspension along with one of Fatman's four-links on the rear. With it clear that Grant was going the lowered road with no apparent limits on how much money it took to get there, my direction was obvious-I'd build a lifted Gasser for as little as possible.

When it comes to building a high-performance engine, there's no getting around it-a person has to spend the money it takes to get high-quality parts. But with a little planning and the right knowledge, the bucks can be kept to a minimum. The first stages include finding the right truck for the right price. This is where I really got lucky. When I spotted my '72 F-100 in Dunsmuir, California, for the asking price of $800, I didn't decide that I absolutely wanted to buy the truck until I lifted the hood and found out it had a V-8 engine. True, it was only a little 302, but that's a whole lot better than the 240-inch six-cylinder engine that most of these trucks left the factory with.

The next stroke of luck was that I bought my truck from an honest person. The previous owner told me he had overhauled the 302, and when I tore the engine down, I discovered it still had a standard cylinder bore, but there were a lot of new parts in it, including a pair of rebuilt cylinder heads. In addition to trust, before I decided to tear the 302 down and hop it up, I determined the motor had good compression and spark plug color, and it didn't seem to make any bad noises or burn oil. Once I had this out of the way, the next step was to research and then buy a camshaft, carburetor, and headers designed to be compatible and deliver the most gains in the rpm range I would be running at most of the time.

For those of you who like to read tech stories to learn what not to do as well as what to do, I have a few jewels that should save you from making the same mistakes I did. Right off the top, my first mistake was to start on the '72 without first gunking it down and hitting it with a pressure-washer. The mentality that I developed about being able to still drive the truck while I was working on it was dumb. In retrospect, I should have pulled the engine and trans out of the truck. In the long run, this is the best way to do it, because you can get engine work done a lot faster and easier while doing a better job-enough said.

The one mistake that I haven't made in a long time was to get in a hurry to throw the engine back together because I have a deadline. I'm not talking about the deadline to have the '72 done for Americruise, because I still have plenty of time to make that. The immediate deadline was to have the 302 back together and fired up for this issue's segment on the build. During the course of reassembly, it looked like everything was right on time until I shattered a valve lock (keeper) on the very last valve of the second cylinder head. It was on the eve of Good Friday, and Easter weekend turned out not to be a good time to chase around speed shops looking for one 11/32 seven-degree Lunati lock. The temptation was there to figure out some kind of makeshift alternative, but ultimately I decided to wait until the speed shop opened so I could finish the project with the right parts.

Holley Performance Distributors
4770 Lamar Ave.
TN  38181
Scott Drake
Earl's Stage 8 Locking Fasteners
15 Chestnut Ave.
San Rafael
CA  94901
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