302 install davis

What could possibly go wrong the day of planning to install an engine outside your garage?

That question may stir your brain at 4 a.m. while you just had enough sleep but couldn’t get back to it. Bolts, torque specs etc. etc. Yeah, I told myself the rental yard opens at 7 a.m. I had a reservation to pick up the engine hoist at 9 and I would get a few gallons of gas at the corner gas station on the way. A few cups of coffee at 7, I clear some stuff out of the garage that would be in the way of the engine stand and such, I thought I was good to go. 8:30 strikes, I fire up the Ranchero. I’m on the move to get things ready for William due to be at my house at 10 a.m. I like a plan and time is valuable.

I fill up the gas tank to half way, I don’t need a full one to go 2 miles, easy huh? Then I attempt to crank the FE over. It barely rolls over with the “hump, hump” sound.

I try a few more times, same result. I text William, “Where are you?”. He replies back he’s on a bus heading up to my place.

Time to push the Ranchero over to the air fill station and lock it up. I start jogging the 4 blocks to my house and thinking of everything I need to get this car started.

“Battery, jumper cables, ½” wrench and a rag. “ Curse words and more words, I jump into the daily driver Lexus and shoot over to the gas station. Jumper cables in hand, the Ranchero fires right up. It’s official, it’s going to be a looooonnnnng day.

I park the Lexus, throw the Ranchero in drive and head to the rental yard. I text William, “see you in 20 minutes.”

I finally get home with hoist in the bed and we assemble the rig without much problem. We set up some cameras, take some pics, but honestly, we don’t have time to mess with that stuff. After some initial logistics of stuff that needs to happen, we set up the hoist, engine stand and the soon-to-be installed C4 transmission in front of the Mustang. We are set.


Jump ahead a few minutes, we have the engine resting just above the ground, trans on a dolly ready to be bolted to the block. Engine plate, torque converter and flexplate ready to get together for a long time relationship. Not so easy as we notice the engine will not turn over. After much time of observation and crank turning, we realize the counter weight on the flexplate is too thick and it rubs against the engine plate. This is probably the most important bit of information and a learning curve on our part, DO NOT PURCHASE OR USE AN IMPORT MANUFACTURED FLEXPLATE TO REPLACE YOUR FACTORY UNIT FOR A SMALL-BLOCK 302. This hurdle caused us to use up valuable time and of course, we needed to get the right angle grinder out to “massage” the oversized and ill-engineered counter weight to fit our application.

Once that was done, the engine turned over easily and without any rubbing. And quite honestly, I would have installed the engine and trans anyway and towed the Mustang over to the transmission shop to have them swap out that flexplate. I may still need to if there is considerable engine vibration.

Next up, installing the engine and transmission. Fun times, most of us have done it at least once. I can honestly say, this did go pretty well considering this was only a small-block 302. After some fussing around with the secondary floor jack under the transmission, we got her to drop in after the odd and unexpected “thunk”. Miracles do happen sometimes as one engine mount bolt hole aligned perfectly. After more time and fudging, we finally got the other side to thread through the bracket and we secured the transmission to the crossmember.

Despite the heat, lots of sweat and numerous breaks by Davis to cool down, we got the job done within 6 hours. And if you were wondering, no trips to the auto parts or hardware store for fasteners. That part of the planning paid off big time.

Geez, it’s only a small-block. Time to get on with the rest of the six to eight installation components.