How and Where To Score a Cheap Junkyard Engine

Budget builds can be just as fun when you hunt down the right parts on the cheap...


Ford Junkyard Engine Options

If you are a Ford guy looking to score a good starter motor for your current project don’t worry, there are plenty of places to get Ford V-8 engines besides Gran Torino’s, Galaxies and classic Mustangs – you just have to know where to look!

289 and 302 Engines

Junkyard Ford 302
Junkyard Ford 302

The junkyards are chock full of Ford 289 and 302s that would make for a great starter engine build.

The 289 is known for being one of the early Ford Windsor engines and the first power plant of the Mustang. The 289, despite its smaller displacement, is still highly capable of making enough power to run with the big-block engines. Performance parts are super affordable and easy to find for the 289. To find a used 289 check your junkyard for any 1962 Fords or later – Ford Falcons, Fairlanes, the early Mustangs, along with the occassional score out of a Bronco.

The 302 is the more common Ford motor available in droves. Ask anyone who has ever owned a classic F-150 or a classic Mustang 5.0. The owners will swear that these engines are the most reliable and the best engines to make power with. A 302 should be easy to find – look for any classic Ford F-150, Ford Bronco, Ford Mustang (the Fox Bodies should be the easiest place to find one), Mercury Capris, Mercury Cougar, and many others. Just about any mid 60s to early 90s Ford, Lincoln, or Mercury that you can think of had the 302 Windsor as an option.

351 Windsor Engine

The 351 Windsor (not to be confused with the Cleveland) is the largest of the Windsor engines. The 351 has a large aftermarket following similar to the Chevy 350, so making power with this engine is easy and affordable. The 351s are some of the most popular engines that are run by many of the Ford guys at the local drag strips for this reason. The 351s will be a bit tougher to find then the 302, but not impossible as they were available in Mustangs, Torinos and several different Mercurys.

390 FE Engine

Junkyard Ford 390
Junkyard Ford 390

We’ve noticed a slight decline in the popularity of the 390 FE over the last few years – but this could be great news for the Ford guys out there looking to do something a bit different, while still working with a small budget.

If you are looking for a 390 Ford FE engine, check your local Junkyard for the early 60s Ford Sedans and late 60s Mercurys like the Cougar and Commet. Ford Fairlanes are another great place to find these motors ready and waiting for the chance at a new life.

351 Cleveland Engine

The 351 Cleveland is arguably the most powerful small-block motor ever produced by Ford. If you are a Ford guy you have probably heard several different legends and stories that have probably even become myths by now about this engine. This is because the 351 Cleveland is truly a legendary motor, capable of making large amounts of torque and horsepower despite having a smaller displacement (compared to a big-block).

The only drawback to the 351c is that they are pretty hard to find in the junkyards. Your best bet is to find 1978 to 1982 Ford trucks and Broncos or the occasional Ford police cars that you might happen across.

Ford/Lincoln Y-Block Engines

Junkyard Ford Y-Block Engine
Junkyard Ford Y-Block Engine

For those out there interested in building a traditional style hot rod, the Y-Block is probably the engine of choice (aside from the Flathead). Since the Lincoln Y-Block was made from 1952 to 1963 and the Ford from 1954 to 1964 they are fairly hard to find and most likely will require a lot of work if you do find one. On eBay or other auction sites, sometime you can find a decent starter Y-Block for cheap. Lincoln and Ford Y-Blocks were found in the 1950s Mercurys or Old T-Birds.

When it comes to Ford there are a lot more engine options out there, but we listed the engines would be the easiest and cheapest to find for those on a small budget. Along with considering which platforms offer the widest range of performance parts selection. There are several more engine options to choose from, including: Ford Flathead V-8s, Ford 390 and 428 FEs, Ford 427s, 429s, 460s and many more if the price is right.

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