1961 Thunderbird EFI Swap

Article: 1961 Thunderbird EFI Swap

The engine I bought for my EFI swap, was out of an 88 van, I don’t know what type of van though.

It was loaded with accessories that I did not need. Like the smog system and smog pump, the a/c pulley and the old rusty manifolds, it did not look very appealing when I bought it, but the internals where good, so I took the chance on buying it.

Here is a couple of pictures of it right after I bought it.

I removed all of the crap I didn’t need, as I also was swapping out the upper and lower intake for an Explorer/Gt40 upper and lower, I unbolted and discarded those as well.

If you’re swapping the intakes too, make sure you seal any holes that leads into the engine after removing the intakes, like the distributor hole, with a piece of cloth or something to prevent debris and dirt making it into the engine.

I removed the lower intake as a whole, not removing the fuel rails or any other EFI related items. I did this because i wanted to wait until I received my explorer intake before transferring all the efi stuff over to the new intake. This way I was certain that I made no mistakes and put something where it should not be.

While removing all the brackets, except the water pump, I realized that the default pulley bracket system from the old engine looked awful, and some parts where broken of. That was when I made the decision to buy some aftermarket pulley brackets for the power steering pump and the alternator. This will certainly add to the looks a bit. I’m not shooting for “bling” here, but I do not want an ugly looking engine either.

After stripping the engine for the parts I did not need, I painted it Ford Dark Blue (I like that color).

Here is the engine painted and with the lower intake bolted in place.

Parts from the old engine

Since this is a low budget build, I’m trying to avoid buying new parts if not needed. So I was careful to pick usable parts from the old intake. The injectors where shot, so they went to the trashcan, as did all the old oil filler and cooling stuff. The engine had the smog setup, that went south too. The parts I kept was the IAC(Idle Air Control) valve, the coolant attachment thingy(mounts on the intake in front), and the fuel rails.

Modifications Needed

There are some small modifications need to adapt the newer engine to the old engine bay of the Thunderbird.

First, the newer 302 engines, have the oil pan sump in the rear. This interferes with the cross-member in the Thunderbird engine bay. You will need an oil-pan from an early 302, with a front sump, and we also need an oil-pickup from that same type of engine. The oil-pan and pickup will bolt right up into the newer engine. Here is the old style oil-pan freshly painted.

Relocate the oil dipstick

Second, since we are moving the sump from the rear to the front, we will also need to relocate the oil dipstick to the front of the engine. And the plug the old dipstick hole on the rear side of the engine.

To relocate the dipstick you will need to drill a hole on the timing cover of the 86-93 302 engine.
There is a boss on the lover left of the timing cover, which is the same spot where it is located on the older 302′s.

It is actually an easy job if you have it off the engine. I had it off because I wanted to replace the timing chain, so I drilled the hole while having the cover off.

Make sure that, if you drill the hole with the timing cover in place, that you cover the surrounding internals of the engine to avoid metal debris in the engine, you REALLY DON’T want that.

Engine Mounts

This was a tricky one, as there are, as far as I know, no available, direct fit, engine mounts for this application. There is a type of mount available that might have worked, the Extreme Duty Poly Motor Mounts from broncograveyard.com:

But I chose to use half of the Thunderbird’s 390 mounts, and then make an adapter plate to connect them to the engine. Worked pretty well, but haven’t driven it yet, so I’m not sure how they will hold up. I might go for the heavy duty ones at a later stage though.

Source: oldclassiccars.org

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