A History Of The Ford 460, The Blue Oval's Longest-Lasting Truck Big Block V8
Ford's most popular, longest-lasting big block V8 engine lived an incredibly varied life. The 460 cubic inch eight-cylinder motor debuted all the way back in 1968 but found itself powering cars, trucks, and commercial equipment all the way to the end of the 1990s during its three decade run.
Sibling to the 429, which was the last true muscle car big block built by the Blue Oval, the secret to the 460's success was its ability to churn out mountains of torque even when hobbled by '70s-era emissions equipment. By the time the age of electronic fuel injection had rolled around, the 460 had found a comfortable niche in Ford's family of pickups, alongside a healthy interest from the aftermarket as a crate motor.
Today, the 460 V8 sits as one of Ford's best kept secrets. While the 5.0 small block might get most of the attention, followed by its modern Coyote cousin, this big block has a lot to offer project builders seeking something different.
385 Changes The Game
Both the 429 cubic inch and 460 cubic inch V8 came from the 385 series of engines that hit the scene in the late 1960s. The new engines shared the same bore but featured a different stroke (the 3.85 inch measure that gave the family its name. Other differences included stouter construction in the 460, which was intended primarily to be used in luxury sedans where overall weight wasn't as much of a concern (with the engine checking in at a whopping 720 lbs). You can thank the overbuilt motor's cast iron heads and three-inch main bearings for much of its mass, but it's worth nothing that in general the 385 family of engines was lighter than both the FE and the MEL big blocks that had come before them at Ford.
Also known as a 'Lima' engine due to its production at Ford's Lima, Ohio factory, the 460 kept posh company during the first few years of its life. Available exclusively in Lincoln products, it provided 365hp and 485 lb-ft of torque for the Lincoln Continental Mark III coupe and the Continental sedan.
Although those were both gross power ratings, in keeping with the standards of the day, the 7.5L engine delivered exceptionally smooth power and acceleration in these heaviest of Lincoln land barges.
Joining The Family
In the early '70s Ford made a number of changes to the 460's design and its availability. Mercury would be the first to receive the motor in its full-size and mid-size vehicles in 1972, followed by Ford the following year (which would offer it in both passenger vehicles and trucks).
At the same time, from '72-onwards Ford tinkered with the motor and choke output considerably. Fitted with a new camshaft and a lower compression ratio, Ford's biggest mistake was a head design for that year that would virtually eliminate the quench area, which lead to numerous problems with reliability and detonation and forced a complete redesign for 1973.
Using the new 'SAE net' horsepower rating the 460 coasted along around the 200 pony mark for much of the rest of the decade, with torque measured at just under 350 lb-ft.
In 1978 Ford pulled the 460 from all of its passenger vehicles, Mercury and Lincoln included. Trucks and vans, on the other hand, continued to benefit from the motor for the next two decades, with power climbing to 225 ponies in 1983 and then 245 a couple of years later (with torque growing to 385 lb-ft). In 1988, the 7.5L mill took a major step forward in terms of performance thanks to the introduction of fuel injection, which saw both horsepower (245) and torque (400 lb-ft) peak in the modern era by the 1990s. These numbers remained healthy all the way until 1997, when the engine left the pickup and van portfolio.
An Underrated Hot Rod Option
From a modern perspective the Ford 460 big block is cheap and plentiful, making it a tempting target for Blue Oval builders. With so many trucks and large cars having made use of the engine, it's easy to find, and there are a host of performance parts now available that more than make up for its post-smog design flaws. Although the engines are dimensionally quite large, they are relatively low and flat, which makes them easier to fit under the hood of a wide range of vehicles, including Fox platform models like the Mustang and the Thunderbird.
Key to building any 460 V8 is proper flowing heads. The earliest stock heads (C9VE or DOVE castings) provide the best factory flow, but there are plenty of aftermarket options out there, including aluminum units that are significantly lighter than the original Ford monsters. Properly-sized exhaust ports are necessary when installing a hotter cam in the 460, as '70s-era designs (which offer excellent intake area but poor exhaust restrictions) simply can't breathe deep enough to match the demands. Trick Flow, Ford Racing, and Edelbrock all make high performance heads that fit the big block.
Some builders also opt to go the stroker route with the 460, which can lead to displacements of up to 545 cubic inches for those seeking low-rpm torque that will rattle the windows of everything within a two block radius. With the right carb setup, or a stand-alone electronic fuel injection system, it's easy to punch out 500hp from the 7.5L motor—more than enough grunt to have some serious fun in a cruiser or a drag car on a reasonable budget.
More From Driving Line
- Want to learn more about the 460's big block 385-series sibling? Check out the very different life of 429 V8 muscle car motor.