‘69 351W Engine Rebuild

Can someone point me to a few good threads about rebuilding a 351W?
I’ve got a seasoned Ford mechanic who has done good work for me and more involved work like this for others, who speak highly of his abilities.
I’d like to know what questions to ask him and also if there is a way to determine if he’s the right person for the job.
I’m just north of NYC if you know of people in the area. I understand I’m looking at about 5K between parts and labor for someone working out of his garage.
It’s the base 351W 2 barrel. He tells me one of the valves has gone bad and is misfiring, hence a ticking sound and a gentle shake to the car. There is a small pond of oil just too small to swim in on top of the motor at all times and a magical blue puff of smoke that comes out every time I start the car.
I understand the cam design is not ideal and we will likely want a different one.
Perhaps I’ll get a 4 barrel in the process.
I’m not looking to race the thing, just have it drive smoothly and with a little pep. I’d like to get decent gas mileage and use premium gas without octane supplements.
It’s just over 100K miles now.

the 69 351 W were noted for having valve guide issues, if keeping the stock heads dont waste your time doing the heads without changing the valve guides, they are very likley why the valves went bad. new aftermarket heads may very well be cheaper and perform better.

5K is cheap for a rebuild, but the question really becomes what he is doing for that. Machine work is expensive, and that makes all the difference in the build.

Some things I would ask

  • Will he have the block square decked to the mains (actually they do it to the cam, but the align the mains to the cam too)
  • Does he shoot for zero deck?
  • What does he think about valve seals (He should say I like to cut the guides and use Viton positively located seals)
  • Will he be replacing all the valve springs, valves, etc, whats the thoughts about seats (hard seats are good, but you can cheat with bigger valves if it’s not a daily driver)
  • Is he pushing you to a hyd roller? If he isn’t, he’s got a lot of guts. Is he changing the cam and lifters?
  • Is he just quoting a rering? What exactly is he planning for parts? What is he planning to reuse?
  • What’s he think about oil control and a Ford? He should at least have an opinion

I will say that typically I am a more expensive engine builder, but I have very few surprises, and that is a very good thing for both me and the owners. A 5K engine here would likely eat 2K in machine work, 1.5K in assembly and planning, leaving 1.5K for parts. Certainly doable on a stock style rebuild, but easy to cheat too.

Are you pulling and putting the engine back in the car. 5 grand seems high to me especially if you have a long block to work on. Main thing is don’t go bore size over .040 over standard. A builder might try to tell you that you can go 60 over. You might be looking at overheating issues. Not worth the risk. With a mild cam and an overhaul kit with upgrades roller tip rockers 3 angle valve grind new springs and pushrods I feel you could put a engine together. 700.00 upgraded overhaul kit. 500.00 into fresh heads. 500.00 machine work. If wanted 800.00 into manifold and carb and maybe 500.00 to have it assembled. I assemble my own engines other than cam bearings for pride of doing it myself and the thrill of sealing the rings and breaking in the cam. I’m guessing about 3000.00 willl get you a good peppy street engine. Of course the sky is the limit if you wish to soak big bucks into it. Good luck…

It’s hard to put a price on a rebuild until it’s torn apart. Either by you or him. Get it torn apart so you both can look it what you have, then talk about what you want and how he plans AND YOU APPROVE, how he’s going to get there.
The reason I say this is because, he may say $5K now then run the bill up saying that he found more stuff wrong that’ll cost you money. What’s his warranty? What’s brand of parts does he use? I have my preferences and so will he. Who supplies them? When my machinist did the crank and boring, we disgusted clearances and what he recommended and I wanted.
Also put in that you want, “check points”. Once cam bearings in, you test the cam installed for ease of rotation, same with crank then all pistons installed. This way you both know what the status is if there’s a later problem.
He may get offended, but tell him it’s to protect you both.

$5K sounds about average if you pull the engine and drop it off at the builder’s shop. For that price you would not expect it to be run on a dyno or have anything but good stock internals. It’s a reasonable amount in my neck of the woods but not sure about that in a high tax place like New York, especially considering that you are in Westchester County area.

Have you thought about maybe a crate motor from ATK?

Let me endorse Royce on what he said. Sure, you might be able to do it cheaper if you had your own clean room work area and engine stand with drip pan. But you can get mild complete ATK engines with front sump pans for well under $5000, and their aluminum head hot-rod one for $5000 with freight. Assume you’ll be buying new water pump, etc.

Unless you’re a tinkerer like me, who likes to pick EVERYTHING for a build then build it, suggest you take a hard look at Royce’s advice and web-shop. And by the way, someone will want those 351 heads later on.

This would be a good way to go. www.summitracing.com/parts/edl-2092/make/ford

I agree with catlover. I would go with a 383/393 stroker kit. Just watch your comp and that can be worked around.
My reasoning, the kit Catlover recommended has a complete top end that your’s would have to be rebuilt, plus new cam, intake, timing set, and the head machine work required to rebuilt yours. Money you don’t have to spend rebuilding goes to the new stuff and you can sell the heads.
I recommend a stroker kit because once again, new pistons, turn the crank, Machine work $$$ can go to new stuff.
But keep and use your original 351W block, unless something is really messed up on it. align hone, bone/hone the cyl and have it decked to only make sure it’s straight. Because it fits all the acc mountings and trans you have right now. New kit engines “bolt ins” don’t bolt right in.
Just what I’d do if it was mine. You have a good block, so build on it.


You’re in Hastings… Danbury is maybe 45 minute ride up the Saw Mill /684/84. I wouldn’t bother with anyone else in our area. Joe Lapine is getting up there now (probably 70+ years old by now) and a Ford engine legend. If you don’t go the crate engine route, he’s your huckleberry.

Before jumping into an engine rebuild, make sure it is what is needed.

Generally for an engine of this era, 100-120,000 miles is about what is expected of an engine before a rebuild is needed. So it could be on the agenda.

Your mechanic really needs to do a diagnosis first. That is a compression test and vacuum gauge test to know what the problems are before any rebuild is started. That ticking noise could be a loose hydraulic lifter, or it could be that all the lifters have collapsed, which could be the case with this mileage. That gentle engine shake could be a burnt valve, but it could also be a misadjusted fuel mixture, or faulty ignition system, It could even be a worn distributor shaft, it is impossible to say by not listening to it myself or someone doing a proper engine diagnosis. To put this into prospective, what is the good of spending $5K and then find out the distributor shaft bush is worn. The early Ford engines suffered badly from lack of lubrication to the distributor shaft bush.

Generally with a burn valve there is a slight “pud” noise at the exhaust pipe, but not always???

If you have a puff of blue smoke when you start the car after it has been sitting a few hours, that is a sign of bad valve stem seals or valve guides. But if it does it every time it maybe a sign of something more serious. It could just need the cylinder heads overhauled?

That small pool of oil, where is it coming from? Is it a gasket leak or is the engine breathing heavy with smoke and oil from the breather? If it is a gasket leak easy fix, if the engine is breathing heavy it is time for a rebuild.

It is hard to say and recommend without us here on this forum seeing the engine in person, it is a bit like asking how long is a piece of string. All I can suggest is get a few different opinions from a few different mechanics in your area. If you don’t like the answers move on.

And as a bit of a warning here is an example I discovered two weeks ago.

My sister had her car in for a service, she came back with a quote for repairs for $4500. In that quote there where things like changing the camshaft cover and the timing cover due to oil leaks, But that engine was so clean that using white gloves it was impossible to get a stain. They quoted labour for changing the ignition coils and then quoted for changing the spark plugs, it is the same job. (the ignition coils sit on the spark plugs). The PCV was pulled out and hidden down below the inlet manifold so it could not be see, this may the engine run like shit. She even got told she needed to do the brakes, but they will not be due for at least another 6 months.

Your mechanic could be very good, or he could be very cunning, hard to say.

Yes do a 4 barrel carb, about 600 cfm on a standardish engine.

Do you need any more recommendations for a engine rebuild for mild use???

Always get at least a second and third opinion. Little trick my uncle, (old time Ford Mechanic) showed me to find the bad cyl., let it warm up for about 10 minutes then spray a little water on each exhaust manifold port. You’ll see the weak one by how fast the water evaporates off.
If you do decide to rebuild, do the trans, rearend and brakes all at the sametime.
Putting more power down the line will really put the test to all the other old parts.

As far as a top end kit, this is the same kit but in roller:

Ah well I figured there would be plenty of food for thought from you all. All sensible and helpful suggestions. I spoke to LaPine and hope to get up there soon.

Engine is rebuilt and back in car! Pics to come soon.

Data tag on engine has been painted over :unamused: and we need the specs to set up properly. 351W 2v

Any advice on what it looks like, what it says? Surely WCCC sells it.

Put a slightly torquier cam in and now it’s got a very rough idle and stalls when cold.

Do you have the specs of the cam that was installed as well as the other components used during the build? As far as a little bit bigger cam, that wouldn’t roughen the idle much. I would look towards carb and ignition tuning.

Are you going to Carlisle All Ford show in a couple weeks? The Mercury Cougar Club of New England is planning a travel group to the show. Our meeting point is at the Redline Diner in Fishkill, NY on Thursday June 3rd at 11 am. Whether you are going to Carlisle or not, if you can take some time, join us for lunch.

Oh wow thanks for the heads up. I might be able to make it to fishkill. I’ll look for the cam specs for now.

Please find cam specs below.

I you bought a cam for a 351, that is the wrong firing order, that is for a 0lder 289 or 302, unless that is what the cam co. wrote on the form.

The builder claimed that the cam was spec’ed to work for a 351 provided it used the 302 firing order. What do you think about that?