A complete, unmolested Ford 427ci SOHC crate engine is available on eBay, and the asking price of $65,000 is certainly credible — given the current collector-market climate and drive to preserve rare and exotic powerplants.
Bob Perkins, a well-known and highly respected Ford restoration expert, is listing the engine, and he says it’s one of the earliest engines ever offered.
“What’s neat about this engine,” says Perkins, who operates Perkins Restoration out of Juneau, Wisconsin. “Most of the Holman-Moody motors sold over the counter were the later version. This is a 1966 model. It’s a real A/FX-type motor for the early Mustangs and Comets. The other NOS motors I’ve seen floating around are all the later-dated ones when Holman-Moody was selling them on special.”
Perkins says some of the noticeable differences between the early and later crate engines are the valve-cover design, adjustable rockers, dates on the spark plug wires and the breather caps.
“The hang tags on the front of the engine are also pretty neat,” says Perkins. “I don’t know if the later engines had those.”
Perkins purchased the engine from a collector in Iowa, who had owned it for about 15 years. The engine’s original owner was also from Iowa.
“We had just finished up a ’69 Ford Drag Team Mustang that had a Ford cammer engine,” explains Perkins. “We haggled over it for a couple years. Finally, he was ready to buy a new Shelby Mustang and told me to come get the motor. That’s how I ended up with it.”
The engine is certainly prime hardware for anyone restoring an original A/FX car, but most likely it will end up as a display engine — a trend that is very hot among upscale collectors. Remember the date-code correct clone of a Chevy ZL1 engine that sold for $88,000 (includes $8,000 buyer’s commission) at Barrett-Jackson earlier this year? Reproduction 427 SOHC engines are selling for $35,000 to $40,000.
“The way I look at it, this one should be worth double,” says Perkins, noting that most expensive 427 SOHC crate engine he’s heard of sold for $85,000. “It’s in a glass display box in the guy’s office.”
Perkins has two other complete 427 SOHC engines, both fitted with aluminum heads that became available separately and additional “experimental” gear designed for racecars.
(Editor’s Note: In early 2005, the editor of Engine Technology International asked me to contribute to a series titled “The Greatest Engines of All Time.” I chose the 427 SOHC engine because of its notorious reputation and so many of my early heroes — such as Mickey Thompson, Don Nicholson and Pete Robinson — raced it. The following quotes and historical information are pulled from that June 2005 article in the magazine.)
The Ford 427 SOHC was one of the original “outlaw” engines. Designed to compete with the Chrysler 426 Hemi, which had dominated the 1964 Daytona 500 with a 1-2-3 finish and led Richard Petty to the driver’s championship that year, the engine was based on the FE side-oiler block. The stock cam tunnel supported an accessory or stub shaft to drive the oil pump and distributor. It also had the primary timing gear and was driven at half the crank speed. The main 7-foot-long timing chain was driven by the stub shaft and covered by a custom aluminum cover.
“We won the first race we took it to at Atlanta,” recalls Lee Holman, son of Holman-Moody founder John Holman. “And NASCAR said, ‘Okay, you proved your point, you won the race. Now don’t bring them back.'”
More About the Ford 427 SOHC
Hundreds of SOHC engines were built to meet homologation requirements, but the NASCAR ban forced Ford to find a new venue. Holman-Moody built 10 A/FX Mustangs to compete against the Hemi-powered A/FX Mopars. The engine was also adapted to Top Fuel dragsters. Racers had numerous problems adjusting the cam timing with such a long chain. It was not uncommon that the cams could be off by as much as 10 degrees, due to chain stretch. Another problem was the large connecting rod bearing. Racers later learned to cut down the crankshaft and install Hemi bearings to reduce the bearing surface.
Historians aren’t really sure how many SOHC engines were built. One Ford source suggests that 250 engines were manufactured and enough spare parts were made to assemble another 200. Holman said there were up to 200 engines in the shop at one time, and that Holman-Moody probably tested or raced at least 100 with customers. He also believes that at least 100 crate engines were sold for around $995 during clearance sales, and that those crate engines were good enough for at least 600 horsepower.