A Brief History of the 302
When Ford introduced the 302 ci small-block V8 in 1968, the era of the muscle car was gaining full steam. Dodge had the Charger, Chevrolet had its Camaro, and Pontiac had the Barracuda and GTO. Ford needed something to compete with the bigger V8s that its competitors were producing or it would soon find itself left in a cloud of exhaust dust.
FMC answered the muscle car call by developing the 302 ci V8, commonly known as the Windsor. (It was named for the factory’s location where it was made - Windsor, Ontario). Ford had tested the engine out at Le Mans and liked its performance so well that it decided to incorporate its use into its domestic lineup.
The engine had a beastly output for its size. The most common version of the 302 had a two bbl carb (the 4bb was optional). Most early versions produced the 210 - 230 hp range, with 310 lb/ft of torque. The engine was so simple to work on and it shared many parts with its younger sibling, the 289, and many owners found themselves tinkering in their garages to try to enhancing the engine’s performance and power considerably). The original 302 has a compression of 9.5:1 with hydraulic lifters, which was nothing to sneeze at for the day. The Mustang Coupe set a 0-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds, which put it on par with the Chevy Camaro. Although slower than the ‘68 Charger’s time of 4.8, this Mustang was still fast.
Little did Ford know at the time that their little 302 would become the primary engine used in almost every car in its production line. For the next 27 years, Ford would use the Windsor engine in car models like Mustang, Galaxie, Fairlane, and even the Crown Victoria. In addition, FMC used the engine in its F-Series trucks and even the Explorer. Mercury used the 302 in its Cougar, Capri, Zephyr, and Grand Marquis. Lincoln had the engine in the Town Car and Continental, among others.
Unfortunately, Ford would begin to feel the pressure to change the power of its mighty V8. it began to modify the 302 V8 as an oil embargo, rising prices for gasoline, and federal emissions standards took their toll. Every automaker that had been so energetic about building more and more powerful engines suddenly found themselves in the crosshairs of a perfect storm and began to scale back production of their V8 engines.
Americans tightened their wallets, deciding that speed wasn’t nearly as important as having enough money to pay the bills or not worth trying to protect the environment. As imports began to make their presence felt in the American market, Ford lowered the compression to 9.0:1 in 1972, dropping the horsepower by about 20 horses. By the mid-70s, another tweak lowered the power to a piddly 134 HP.
The 302 V8 would continue to be produced, and essentially reemerged in the 80s as the 5.0L V8 Ford used in its large sedans and F-series pickup trucks. In 2001, the last 302 ci 5.0L engine rolled off the assembly line in a Ford Explorer.
What is the Firing Pin Order for the 302 Engine?
The standard firing order for the 302 engine is 1-5-4-2-6-3-7-8. Since a distributor sends the electric signals that an ICE engine needs to fire correctly, this is vital information to have. The banks of a V8 engine are designed to fire in such a way as to minimize the engine’s vibration, and provide a smoother, more comfortable idle.
It should be noted that the 302 Boss engine was considered a high-performance engine, with 351 ci, so it is important to know whether the engine you are restoring is an HO (High Output) or a non-HO. The firing order for a High Output engine is slightly different (1-3-7-2-6-5-4-8), so make sure your engine isn’t a 351 ci small block V8.
What are the Best Distributors for the 302 V8?
There are several quality distributors for the 302 engine.
(Our Best Pick) - MSD Performance FORD 289/302 READY-TO-RUN DISTRIBUTOR
This MSD Performance unit is a drop-in distributor offered for the 289/302 Ford motors. The distributor has brass HEI-style terminals, a mico-polished surface for reliable contact, and a heavy duty rotor. The unit will handle 65kV and has high rpm stability. It does not require msd ignition control. It is easy to install with a hardened steel shaft, and small diameter cap. (Just remove the factory distributor and bolt this replacement down with a couple of easy screws, connect three wires, and fire it up.
The billet aluminum housings of these small cap distributor are 5/8" smaller than stock Ford distributors to accommodate tight engine compartments. The housing is fashioned to prevent cracking and the maintenance-free magnetic pickup creates steady trigger signals for optimal performance.
MSD is part of the Holley family and specializes in stock and racing ignition systems. They have been in business for over 40 years. The company is based out of El Paso. They have a limited one-year warranty policy.
What We Liked
- Great detail on website
- US Company
- Great History of Ignition parts
- Easy To Install
What We Disliked
- Absolutely nothing
MAS Premium HEI Ignition Distributor
The MAS Premium Distributor Kit is a compatible OEM part that is functional on the Ford SBF small block V8s (260, 289, and 302). It has 65 volts, and comes with spark plug style terminals, wires, sealed ball bearing assembly and brass connectors. It has a 90-degree boot for the sparkplug and a coil-in-cap HEI distributor.
The kit has a limited one-year warranty and is the top-rated Ford small block distributor, coming in at #34 for automotive replacement distributors on Amazon.
The red cap looks great under the hood, and the bright yellow spark plug wires make a statement about the quality of the restoration. The distributor is made from aluminum housing, has hardened steel gear with dual bushings, and the fully adjustable mechanical advance assembly will deliver accurate trigger signals as the speed increases. The magnetic pickup is excellent. The kit comes with a free pigtail battery harness for easier connection. In addition, the components are factory tested before assembly.
The distributor kits fit Ford parts numbers 1030213, PE330U, and KA-1030213.
What We Liked
- Solid Kit With Everything Included
- 90-degree boots.
- Easy to Install
What We Disliked
- Company is hard to find
- One review suggests instructions should come with the package.
TSP Ford SB 289/302 V8 HEI Distributor
This TSP - Top Street Performance distributor is not a kit, but only the actual distributor, but it is built well and priced right. The distributor has a chrome moly steel shaft and has everything you need, including a 65V coil output which comes in red, black, blue, or a clear color cap. The aluminum housing covers machined steel components (dual bushings), and mechanical and vacuum advances, so tuning to an exact precision is simple and easy.
The distributor will replace OEM for the small-block V8, but the special compact housing is incompatible with the HO 302 (351). TSP offers a one-year limited warranty.
Top Street Performance is a company based out of Southern California, and offers free shipping for orders of $99 or more. There is a 90-day return policy.
What We Liked
- Distributor fits various 302 Ford, Mercs, and Lincolns
- Hardened steel bushings
- Choice of color caps
What We Disliked:
- Needs to offer a kit - for the small block was out of stock
A-Team - HEI Distributor 65K Volt Blue Cap
This great distributor kit is produced by A-Team Performance has a good review from Amazon, and is designed to fit Ford part numbers HEI002BL SPW013BL 170072. The company has various colors of caps that can be purchased, so if you’d rather have black, or red instead of blue, it’s available (you might have to pay more for a different color).
A-Team Performance is owned by Southwest Performance Parts, and based out of Arizona. The company has been a leading purveyor of parts for over 20 years. They have a 30-day return policy (for unopened packages). A-Team does offer free shipping anywhere in the continental US.
What We Like
- Free Shipping
- Well-priced unit
- Variety of colors
What We Disliked
- Return Service Fee
MOSTPLUS Complete HEI Ignition Ford 302 Distributor
This MostPlus Complete Distributor is an excellent unit for replacing stock Ford distributors. It is incompatible with the 351W, so restorers must be careful about checking parts numbers. The housing is polished billet aluminum with steel-sealed ball components.
The unit has a 65k V ignition coil and module up to 7,500 RPM with an easy single-wire hookup. The hardened steel shaft is easy to insert, and the unit will deliver accurate trigger signals.
While less complete than other wiring kits, the MostPlus comes with the cap, rotor, and coil with mechanical and vacuum advance. This unit is capable and a good value for the money. (The company does offer the spark plug wires separately).
MostPlus is based in China and they provide a little bit of everything for the do-it-yourself restorer and ship directly from their factory to your home or business. The company price matches any other online order. Despite the reputation of overseas parts, this distributor has a good rating on Amazon.
What We Liked
- Inexpensive part
- Price match guarantee
What We Don’t Like
- Non-US company
- The warranty makes you pay to ship it back
THEBIGDEALS HEI Distributor
The BIGDEALS distributor works for small block Ford engines (260 289 302 5.0L). The distributor cap is red and impact resistant with brass wire connections. The unit is programed for 7500 rpm and 65k Volt with mechanical advance and vacuum advance. This billet distributor offers sealed ball bearing components and can be adapted for racing applications, not just as a stock distributor.
THEBIGDEALS unit sends stable trigger signals for a smooth operation. The package comes with a cap, rotor, ignition module coil, and all necessary sensors, and it can be installed directly into the car. The polished steel shaft helps offer a high-performance distributor experience. The replacement part number is T3107ID.
The company offers a 30-day warranty and complete replacement for an entire year (if the part doesn’t work or fails, just send it back). Amazon also offers 30-day returns.
What We Liked
- Good, solid distributor
- Full-year replacement
What We Disliked
- No mfg website that we could find
- Some negative reviews about fit.