Over more years than we care to count, our 460-powered ’73 Ford has served us well, but time and an odometer that has spun all the way around several times have taken their toll. Considering how long we’d been flogging the F-350 and the number of miles racked up with the bed full and an obscene amount of weight hooked to the rear bumper, we’ve got nothing to complain about. However, the time had come to replace the truck or rebuild it—we chose the latter.

To turn our tired truck into the Hot Rod Hauler we envisioned, some chassis and cosmetic enhancements were added and an E4OD overdrive automatic from Gearstar was installed—now we’re putting the finishing touches on a freshened 460. Bored .030-inch oversize and stuffed with a ½-inch stroker crank, the result is a bigger big-block—a 545-inch powerplant for our Hot Rod Hauler.

As we’ve done many times in the past, we turned to John Beck and Pro Machine for his engine-building expertise. A Bonneville legend, one of John’s engines propelled the Cummins-Beck-Davidson-Thornsberry/Pro Machine Blown Fuel Roadster to over 300 mph at Bonneville (setting a record of 301.150 mph), but he’s just adept at putting together an engine for a sprint car, drag racer, boat, or a utilitarian truck like ours.

Some time ago (in the July issue of CCT), we documented the machine work required to build a first-class engine like our big-block Ford. Unfortunately our scheduling conflicts (read editor Manson’s unreasonable demands about turning out a magazine more or less on time every month rather than spend time working in the shop) kept us from getting back to John’s digs until recently.

With the machine work done, John went about stuffing all the parts into our blueprinted block. For the rotating assembly we turned to our one-stop shopping center for performance parts—Summit Racing.

Crank, Rods, Pistons, Rings

For the parts we needed to build our big Ford’s short-block, we didn’t have to look farther than the Summit Racing catalog for a complete Eagle stroker kit that included a crank, rods, pistons, rings, and bearings.

Eagle offers a wide variety of cast and forged crankshafts for applications ranging from stock replacements to all-out racing. For our purposes, we selected a cast-steel crank with a 4.500-inch stroke. Although not as strong as Eagle’s forged version, the cast-steel crank is very affordable and capable of handling 700 horsepower. As the steel casting is stronger than a typical OEM cast crank (as well as many factory forgings) and our engine won’t see sustained high-rpm use, we decided to go with the more economical route.

Like the stock crank, the Eagle crankshaft has 2.200-inch rod journals and 3.00-inch mains, the journals are highly polished and the oil holes are blended. These cranks are internally balanced and custom balancing to specific bobweights is available.

Included in the Eagle stroker kit are H-beam rods forged from certified 4340-chromoly steel. Manufactured from a two-piece forging (one for the rod, the other for the cap) the result is a stronger part, as the “grain” of the metal can be oriented in the direction of stress (the stress exerted on the cap is perpendicular to the stress on the beam). These rods are stock length at 6.700 inches, weigh approximately 800 grams, and are bushed for full-floating piston pins. Holding on the caps are 7⁄16-inch ARP 12-point bolts.

Due to the bore size and increased stroke, custom pistons from Mahle are required. Forged from aluminum, these premium pistons come with Grafal anti-friction coating on the skirts and are phosphate coated to aid break-in. Lightweight, full floating piston pins are retained with round wire locks and low drag rings are included (1.5mm compression rings and 3.0mm oil rings).

While there is no substitute for checking clearances and individual components, much can be told by how the crankshaft in an assembled short-block rotates. Our 545 turned easily and smooth, indicating there was very little drag.