How The Ford 360 Engine Works (A Comprehensive Guide)

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If you are thinking of restoring a classic Ford but are wondering which engine is best, the Ford 360 is about as durable as they get but has drawbacks.

The Ford 360 is a standard big block 5.9L V8 engine manufactured from 1968 - 1975 to power Ford trucks. The Ford (first version) was produced in ‘68 - 71 (215 hp - 375 lb/ft) and then tweaked in ‘72 - ‘75 (196 HP - 327 lb/ft). The engine is known for its dependability and longevity but was weak.

The introduction of the new Ford 360 FE engine was a calculated risk for Ford Motor Company in the late sixties. Desperate to maintain its role as America’s best truck, Ford needed a big block V8 to keep up with the growing pressure that the public was placing on manufacturers. More than ever, consumers wanted trucks capable of doing hard, demanding jobs, whether at the construction site or on the farm. Ford engineers needed a way to make their trucks capable of handling the workload, so they turned to the 360 cu in, 5.9L V8 and kept their fingers crossed. For the next eight years, the 360 FE engine would make its way into Ford trucks, and some of its components) were used in various Ford vehicles. What makes the 360 such a popular engine? Why is it one of the most sought-after engines for classic Ford F-series restorers? Well, let’s explore that issue together and see if we can find a few answers.

Table of Contents


The Basics Of An ICE Engine

First, let’s review the basics of an ICE engine. As the name suggests, these engines, like the FE, get their power from a controlled explosion that happens internally (inside the engine).

In the internal combustion engine V8, the eight combustion cylinders are situated in two banks of four on either side of a V-shaped motor. Inside the chambers are pistons with long shafts that are connected to a crankshaft located at the motor’s base. As the motor fires, the pistons move up and down, turning the crankshaft, transferring the energy to the drivetrain, and allowing the car to move.

Unfortunately, the crank does not move by itself. There must be a power source to move the pistons up and down, and it must be consistent enough to perform that movement constantly. The power of an ICE engine is produced when an air/fuel mixture is drawn into each chamber through the carburetor and intake manifold. The spark plug ignites at a specified time just as the piston reaches the top of the cylinder, and the resulting force from the combustion pushes the piston back down. The energy generated by the rotating crankshaft (pushed by pistons) is then coupled with the drivetrain (connected to the axle). As the axle turns, the wheel turns, and away you go.

For an excellent discussion and overview of the Internal Combustion Engine, see the Dept of Energy’s website

Two Terms You Need To Know

The engine's power is measured in horsepower, which is the measurement of work that an engine produces. It's the amount of power it takes to move 550 lbs per second for a distance of one foot. It was invented by a Scottish mathematician and has been the standard for measuring engine work since the 1700s. Car engines rely on horsepower, (so if you need to go faster (the engine to do more work), you need more horsepower.

Torque is the measurement of twisting or rotational force. Since ICEs rotate on an axis, they produce torque, and this calculation is based on moving 1 lb - 1 foot. Torque is significant for trucks because it affects towing capabilities and performance. It is used as a measure of engine strength.

How The Ford 360 Engine Works

There is a lot to love about the Ford FE engine, so let’s review some of the features of this truck engine. The 360 was produced in two separate versions - the first operated from 1968 - 71, while version two was made from 1972 - 75. Although the Ford 360 engine never made it into passenger cars, many heavy-duty internal components did.

Durability and Strength

The engine was produced in 1968 as a V8 made as part of the FE (Ford-Engine) line of engines. (Over the years, FE has been sometimes referred to as Ford-Edsel, but more often, it has been used to refer to the cast iron casing that contained the guts of the motor). Cast iron had been used as an engine block for years due to its strength to handle the pressures and stresses of all the moving parts. (Ford had plenty of experience with FE engines from its invention in 1958). Iron absorbed the heat from the combustion process, which made it quite durable. The resilience made it a perfect housing because it didn’t crack or break unless it overheated. So, the stock Ford 360 engine used much of what earlier Fe motors had used. (Ford first developed the V8 in the thirties).

The most significant advantage of the Ford 360 engine is that they were virtually indestructible. The engine had excellent pulling power, although they tended to be gas guzzlers (which is why Ford tweaked the engine midway through its run). The cast iron casing held up to a lot of punishment (which Ford owners tended to inflict off-roading with their trucks), and the heavy internal components simply did not break often.


The displacement of the Ford engine was 360 cu in (which refers to the volumetric displacement of a piston as it makes one complete turn). A lot of things can affect displacement.

(Bore size, piston shaft length, or even carburetor size, to name a few).

The first version of the Ford 360 engine was produced in 1968 and appeared in F-series trucks (F100, F250, F350, and 4x4 versions). The initial 360 has 275 HP and 375 lb/ft - with an identical bore to the 390 engine (4.05) and used the 352’s 3.5-inch rotating assembly (stroke). The compression was 8:4.1. Due to the fact that the 360 used almost identical parts to the 390, it is considered a short-stroke 390 engine.

The second version of the 360 produced 196 horsepower net at 4000 rpm and 327 lb/ft at 2400 rpm. (Ford was beginning to feel pressure to improve the fuel economy of its lineup, so the engineers tweaked the horsepower down a bit to squeeze out an extra mile per gallon or two)

The engine was offered with a Ford or Autolite 2 bbl carburetor only (it was never produced with a 4V carburetor (unlike the 390s). If you find a Ford 360 engine with a 4V, then it is probably one that someone swapped from a 390.

Common Parts Made Working On Them Easier

The Ford 360 engine shared almost all the same parts as the 390, which delighted mechanics and restorers worldwide. Due to the sheer number of these engines that appeared in Ford trucks, they are easy to find, restore and rebuild.

What Were Some Of The Problems Of the Ford 360

While the Ford 360 engine is considered one of the best engines Ford produced, it is not without drawbacks and criticisms.

The Engine Was Wimpy

Even though Ford wanted to develop an engine that would haul the kinds of loads most truck owners demanded, the 360 V8 wasn’t up to the task. Most reviewers believed that the engine was a “dog” compared to the 390 and didn’t have the low-end torque that had been evident in the 352. So, even though the engine motored Ford trucks for years, Ford eventually scrapped the FE engines in favor of the 385 series and, most notably, the 351 and 400 CID in their pickups. (For a discussion of the Ford 360 engine, see

The Fuel Economy Was Bad

Both the 360 and the 390 tended to have gas-guzzling issues, and Ford tried its best to respond to emission control laws that were beginning to pop up nationwide. Most truck owners have reported that these engines got around eight mpg.

Single Exhaust Was Hurtful

The engine was equipped with a single exhaust, which many restorers didn’t like. The lack of dual exhaust kept the high-end power limited. Several restorers have found that replacing the manifolds and exhaust have provided better power, which helps the 360 reach its full potential.

Heads Scraping Cylinder Wall

Some reports of oversized heads scraping the sides of the cylinder walls have been reported. While this wasn’t a common occurrence, it happened enough that many restorers took the heads from a 390 and used them instead. (This is one of the reasons that the 360 is so popular - it uses the exact parts as the 390, only the stroke is different).