390FE opinions/experiences

Discussion in 'Classic Mustang Specific Tech' started by TireSmoknWindsr, Dec 7, 2003.


  1. TireSmoknWindsr

    TireSmoknWindsr Founding Member

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    Just some thoughts since I got a new 390 for a 4x4. What do you guys think of the FE bigblocks for daily driving and beating around on. I hear plenty about how tough they are and what abuse they can be subjected to but how long do they usually hold up mileage wise as long as they are cared for and kept up well. As good as our 289/302s or better...or worse?
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  2. bud4660

    bud4660 Founding Member

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    I think they are the best motors (FE) ford ever built. My dad bought a 1974 F250 new and it had a 390 2v in it. The first motor came out at over 140k miles. It had 3 burnt valves. This truck was used to pull a gooseneck cattle trailer from day one. That truck ended up going through 4 motors before I sold it in 1995. I had a 1967 Fastback in 1972 that came with a 390. I blew it up and dropped in a 428CJ that lasted until I sold that car in the 80's. I have had small blocks from 260CI all the way to the 460CI big blocks. My current daily driver F250 crewcab has a 460 in it. I have raced a 429CJ that I still have the engine from. My pick is still the FE motors. I just sold a 1998 GT to pick up a 1967 GT Fastback that I am going to restore as much as I can. It was tubbed and caged 20 years ago to make a racecar. Its a rust free texas car that was a factory 390 4 speed car. It still has a 390, but has a C6 in it now. Its going to be the best one yet. :nice:
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  3. 67GTFastback

    67GTFastback Founding Member

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    They are a very reliable motor with plenty of torque. The fuel consumption obviously isn't great, I get about 12-14 in the city and around 19-20 on the highway. If they are in a truck's engine compartment, they will be quite easy to work on too. I love my FE, I think it is a great motor. There are of course its known limitations though, such as the stock exhaust manifolds and small exhaust ports.
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  4. SuperDave

    SuperDave Early-Model Mentor Founding Member

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    Having owned several 390 FE's a can tell you that they are tough engines but absolute "pigs at the pump". In a 4X4 truck, 10 MPG is good. I can't say that I have ever "beat" them but then, being in 4x4's, they were worked hard. As always, the correct gearing is effenstial to good 4X4 performance.

    My preference would be an EFI and AOD combination however. The FE series is long gone from production and the engines are relics from the past. The cast-iron manifold on a 390 alone weighs in at about 100 pounds. The heads are restrictive, etc. By the time that you correct these "antiquities", you could upgrade to a modern 460/EFI for the same money.
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  5. TireSmoknWindsr

    TireSmoknWindsr Founding Member

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    Well I figure I'll get headers, small aftermarket camshaft, maybe 725 Demon, and I'll p&p the heads.
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  6. SuperDave

    SuperDave Early-Model Mentor Founding Member

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    The Reverend SD climbs to his pulpit once again and says:

    "TSW, tell me that you'll install a NEW timing gear set too! Amen."

    (This IS Sunday) :hail2: :hail2: :hail2:
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  7. bud4660

    bud4660 Founding Member

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    OK. I have one of these now. 10 MPG is it. Doesnt matter in the city on the highway 10 is it. I bought the truck new and it has 62k miles on it now. Its a 5 speed with 410 gears. :D
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  8. SuperDave

    SuperDave Early-Model Mentor Founding Member

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    bud460: My '97 4X4 460/AOD with 3.56 diffs will pull 10 MPG easily when pulling my travel trailer. I'd suggest that your 10 MPG is due to your 4.10 gears more than anything. 4.10's are built to pull, not get good mileage. They're great if you need to pull heavy loads or do a lot of off-road, low end driving.
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  9. bud4660

    bud4660 Founding Member

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    I am sure it is. The dealer tried to talk me out of those gears when I ordered the truck. I bought it to pull an enclosed racecar trailer. Its really cool to be able to pull a trailer and pass someone at 70 mph. :D But it still gets the same mileage. It has gotten 11 mpg going down hill. lol...
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  10. SuperDave

    SuperDave Early-Model Mentor Founding Member

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    Pulling a trailer and passing at 70 is exactly what 4.10's do best. As to mileage: "If you wanna play, you gotta PAY!"

    I towed my travel trailer to Arizona and back and got 11.6 MPG overall. 'Course I wasn't in a hurry. Why should I be; I'M RETIRED!

    (My truck is stock except for a K&N and a Flomaster cat-back.
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  11. D.Hearne

    D.Hearne Banned

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    My kid's been drivin my 68 Merc with the 390 in it for a while now, every day. That motor's more reliable than the 5.0 in my Ranger. Starts every time, runs on cheap gas with 10.5 to 1 compression too ( the cam swap helped) I had a 390 in the 67 Stang i had in the 80's before swapping in the 427. The 390 was easier on parts than the 427. Put it into a 70 F100 after the Stang, with a C-6 and 3.50's. It got the same 10-12 mpg the rest of y'all got with your's. Drove it for 4-5 years, all over the country too, never had any problems that I can remember. You'll be hooked on FE's after drivin it awhile.They may be "relics" as SD says, but there's still a lot of em around and parts are plentiful still. I've got 5 of em all told, 2 in Mercs and three more in my shop.
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  12. Edbert

    Edbert Founding Member

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    390s are GREAT motors, period! They are reliable and powerful, not economical. Who in their right mind wants a high mileage BBF? Keep the RPMs below 4,750 (stock motor) and they'll last for decades.
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