Best Carburetor For Ford 302 & 460: The Classics
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Codenames ‘Boss’ and ‘Lima’: the smaller Ford 302 and the big block 460 engine were a sign of their times. They still are, to some extent, as they’re darlings to modders around the globe.
If you want to get your classic Ford project up and running, here are some proper carb options.
➥➥ Best carburetor for Ford 302: If you want to run a stock one, the Edelbrock 1403 500 CFM is optimal. Smooth acceleration and throttle response, and a set-and-forget calibration. 500 CFM is the sweet spot for Ford 289 too.
➥ A mild or modded 302 will benefit from the Holley 4160 600 CFM. More oomph!, more customizable calibration options, and fantastic cold starts.
Optimal CFM range: 500-650.
➥➥ Best carb for Ford 460: For a stock cruiser, nothing better than the Holley Speed Demon 1901. 625 CFM of increased airflow capabilities and an aerospace-grade fuel bowl for no heating up. Crisp and clean.
➥ For strip/racing applications, you’ll need something like the Edelbrock 1407 Performer. At 750 CFM, it packs a punch, and its manual choke suits tinkering enthusiasts. A true race classic.
Optimal CFM range: 625-800. 800+ CFM if you plan on off-roading.
As you can see, there’s a significant difference in the CFM recommendations between the two engines. Considering their capabilities, it’s easy to see why the Boss 302’s upper end is where the Ford 460 carb options typically start.
Note: As I said, for off-road/extreme track 460 setups, consider something like the 870 CFM Street Avenger from Holley.
Let’s discuss each of the two engines separately. And just to elaborate further, all of these carbs are four-barrel carburetor options 🙂
Best carburetor for Ford 302:
OK, so several things of note here. First, some of the lower-end (500-550 CFM) options are applicable to the 302’s cousin – Ford 289.
Second: another classic option is Autolite’s 4100 carb. However, it’s tough to come by (mainly through auctions). The Holley and Edelbrock alternatives are always in stock.
In reality, you can also get an Edelbrock 1404 if it’s the same CFM. For more extreme racing applications, bump the 600 CFM of the Holley to 650.
A quick rundown on both options:
Why 500 CFM? Well, a stock 302 doesn’t really need more.
The Edelbrock 1903 is perfect at atomizing the fuel and if you have a 4-bbl intake manifold (square flange), it’s a direct fit too. The electric choke makes it very newbie-friendly too.
To be honest, this little guy is a staple for small-block engines. I’ve recommended it for unmodded Chevy 283 setups too. It’s that good at delivering smooth throttle response, ease of setting up, and cruise feel.
In contrast, the Holley 4160 Street Warrior is slightly more demanding. The manual choke isn’t as straightforward. However, it allows more precise cold control options and is a godsend for people who like customizing their carbs.
At 600 CFM, it delivers crisp power to any mild to moderately strip-ready Ford 302. At its 650 CFM option, you enter the racing endgame on the smaller block Boss engine.
No need to go higher than that, in my opinion. You’ll drown out the engine and mess up your fuel economy.
Best carb for Ford 460:
Picks for the ‘bigger’ brother
The crown jewel of Ford’s Lima family, the 460 packs a way bigger punch than its small family member. As such, we need to step things up a bit.
As far as I know, the true OE carb on earlier 460 engines stood at 605 CFM. Correct me if I’m wrong.
Thus, anything 600-650 CFM will be a great stock option. The most suitable carb is the Holley 1901 Speed Demon. Its updated design trumps alternative options in this CFM range.
The Edelbrock 1407 Performer is a staple for mild to moderate racing big blocks. Its balls-to-the-wall feel will be sufficient for most not-too-extreme 460 setups.
I really want to commend two features of the Speed Demon design:
- The throttle plate is a patented Goggle Valve Secondary (GVS) take on carb design. An updated rendition, it gives your engine significantly more airflow.
- The decision to ditch aluminum for aerospace composite materials. Aluminum is lightweight and cool, but this composite fuel bowl goes the extra mile in terms of keeping your fuel cool.
On top of that, the Speed Demon is priced very attractively and looks great with its slight blue lines around the edges. A fantastic 4-barrel Holley carb for lesser demanding Ford big blocks.
If you’re going beyond the usual race track, though, even a 750 CFM might be lackluster. For those of you who either want to go off the beaten path or create a track beast, 800+ CFM is where it’s at.
On tuning & some closing words
In my recommendations so far I’ve talked about fine-tuning your carb. Some models are a set-and-forget solution, as I put it. Others are more complicated to work with, but they give you a wider array of customization options.
To illustrate tuning your new carb, I’ve found this neat video. It’s short, concise, and a great perspective into the ins and outs of a Ford 302 small block’s tune-ability:
For further tuning tips and settings, don’t hesitate to check the manufacturers’ websites too. Edelbrock for example has this guide to carb tuning with comprehensive charts, images, and overall guides.
With this little piece of DIY trivia, my post on the Ford classics comes to its end. For more modern takes on Ford engines, you can check my guide to the 5.4 Triton firing order.
Alternatively, you can take a peek at my post on steering stabilizers for the F-250, a signature truck.
As always, I’m keen on learning what your setup is.
What do you run on your small block 302 or 289? What about those of you modding around the legendary Lima 460?
Let me know in the comments!
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