Almost every Ford automobile brand beginning in 1958 and for the next 18 years has a model powered by the Ford FE engine. The FE was immediately popular on NASCAR circuits, but in order to qualify, according to 1960’s era rules, the engine must be in a minimum of 500 vehicles and sold at the retail level to average consumers. Furthermore, the engine can have modified components, but these must also be readily available to the general public, either through Ford or from an aftermarket supplier.
Ford sponsored teams have raced for years using the FE and because of this fact Ford has been actively engineering improvements using the race courses to test the newest innovations and products. The side oiler variation lubricates the lower end of the block first and is one race track refined technology that made it into Ford Showroom vehicles. The full range of mid-sized to large passenger vehicles including The Thunderbolt, AC Cobra, Mustang. Galaxie, Thunderbird and Fairlane plus pick-up trucks up to one ton in capacity or less, more often than not, are powered by one of the FE block in at least factory displacements. There is also a need for a reliable internal combustion engine power source and the FE fills the bill for other applications as well as the transportation industry. This long life FE V8 engine has been used in boats, buses and is still in use for a vast array of stationary low revving industrial pumps for water or to generate electricity, plus other manufacturers purchased the engine to install in their vehicles until factory production ended in 1976.
Now the FE after-market support is still a big business with modern engineering upgrades and power improvements it is an easy engine to service or modify. Ford has a history of trial upgrades and experimental designs, using race tracks as the test site. The common practice is to mark all vital parts with an engineering casting number or stamped code to identify parts and components. A Ford experimental component, a one of a kind or an unapproved design is marked with a number containing “SK” or “XE” for quick identification on racing vehicles. The FE has a long skirt and the same 4.63 inch (117.6 mm) bore hole spacing as the large “Y” block used in the Lincoln. The FE is very closely related to the FT engine, but the latter is equipped with heavy duty components suitable to the application of the engine in industry. One point to remember is the FT engines are in many cases, shown as a different displacement than the FE. The heavier duty is a FT 391 rather than a 390 to tell it apart from the lighter duty sedan counterpart, do not mistake the Edsel 361 with the 391 FT even if the bore and stroke are the same, the components are not identical.
There is a large aftermarket supply network out there for these engines and the quality can vary-do not pay too much for a low quality unacceptable cheap knock-off part. Price should not be an issue for a reliable engine component, but any replacement item should be just as high quality as the original equipment items were or better.