nailhead in a shoebox swap
Updated: Apr 28, 2022
since i own two shoebox fords, and have received a handful of phone calls over people doing the same swap, i figured, why not do a blog article on it?
ideally you want to use a center sump nailhead, which limits your search for 57 to 66 engines with a center sump pan. you're probably wanting to look in that year range, anyway so you can run a good automatic without needing an adaptor. center sump pan came out in 62, but you can convert 57 to 61 engines to center sump by simply redrilling the block via instructions in an article i did a long time ago, far down the list on the main blog page, to mount the 62 to 66 oil pumps. with 59-61 engines/timing covers you will also have to run 57/58 water pump on it to get away from the long snout. 51 was the first year for fords automatic, and so the trans tunnel is taller than 49/50. frame and rest of the floor were also different for 51 and boxed as well.. with the 51 floor tunnel, no cutting to the floor is required to stab a 400 or 300 nailhead trans in there. if you have a 49 or 50, hollar at chris @ shoebox central, and he can get you set up for a trans tunnel patch panel which is plug and play. gennie or lokar dipstick flexable tube do work no problem, but for better ease and practicality of filling the trans, you can notch the firewall for the stock dipstick tube.
for engine mounts, you don't even have to make any! we sell reproduction hurst mounts that are designed for swaping nailheads into 50s and earlier fords/other cars. those are 95 dollars while supplies last, powdercoated black. pair those with speedway catalog frame brackets and you're good to go. no trimming necessary. just plug weld or bolt on the frame brackets to the original crossmember. the height spacing is perfect and they space the mounting point slightly forward so you can access the shouldered mounting bolt easy that goes through your rubber disk style mounts.
you will need to run a mini starter. for exhaust manifolds, guys tend to try to use the late riviera ones and they just don't work. you CAN use the late riviera pass side, but its tight, and may/will require trimming to the hold down flange for body clearance. otherwise the best option is 61 only single exhaust manifold set. the 61 driver side fits perfectly as if it was made for it and snakes between the front crossmember and the stock steering box. 59/60 manifolds look similar but the outlet is too far forward and would be in the way of that front crossmember. not to say you can't notch the crossmember for clearance, but why if you dont have to? on the 401/425, theres more than enough exhaust manifold clearance for the steering mast. if you use a different, bulkier mast, or 364 with its shorter deck height, you may have to heat and tap in a slight dimple to the mast for clearance, or simply do a little grinding to the exhaust manifold. another option is to rotate the steering mast downward a little, which you would be doing anyway if you chopped your top. at this time, there are no headers that will fit, but i have been working with sanderson and made them a pattern to release a header that will not only fit typical swaps like this, but should also fit 57 to 61 stock cars. we will see what the future holds. they may or may not ever come out.
the stock manual 10 inch drums on these cars and stock steering is more than acceptable after the engine swap. car still stops on a dime, despite the extra added power. i have written an article on flipping stock uprights when bagging the car, but i'm not going to post it on here as this article is already far enough off topic with the theme of my blog,
as for the trans mount, use the typical late application trans mount with a speedway generic crossmember for 45 bucks or whatever from speedway. incorporate your original parking brake linkage mounting bracket, and recycle that over to the new crossmember. on one of my shoeboxes i used a late 50s f100 automatic steering column mast, over the top of the stock steering box, with a 50 nash steering wheel. fit like it was factory. made my own trans shift lever at the bottom and played with multiple holes i randomly drilled until shifter throw and selector lined up and matched perfectly. on the bagged 51 with a 364 and 400 trans, i went with a gennie shifter floor shift on that perticular one. i HIGHLY suggest always using gennie shifter instead of lokar, which i have found to be flimsy pieces of junk in comparison.
as for the radiator, the easiest "done button" is to just get yourself a cheap champion 200 dollar small block ford radiator designed for the cookie cutter small block ford swap that most people do. the nailhead upper and lower hose ID is 1.50. the lower outlet on the ford radiator is 1.75, but you can stretch your 1.50 hose over the top of it with a heat gun and some elbow grease. i had written down the exact molded hose part numbers you will need, but have since then misplaced them. i will update this article with them, when i come across them again. otherwise you can simply take flexible duct hose used to connect exhaust to air cleaners on later vehicles. make a template with that and take it down to your napa and they can figure it out, based on the exact template you made.
as far as a shroud, i highly recommend that you make one, i just made a sheet metal box that mounts over the top. works perfect. 7 bladed flex fan with small AC pulleys i've found to work excellent. flex fans work well beause they dont have a drastic forward pitch. you can also use a 6 cylinder car radiator support and bumper apron to move the radiator forward significantly for more clearance. the 364 cools better than the 401. 425, i really wouldnt consider for a narrow engine compartment car like this, but it is duable. even with chunky aluminum valve covers, you should clear the stock blower motor on the firewall.
as for a gas pedal, those cheapy "generic hot rod" ones on ebay which mount the housing and lever on the gas pedal mounting bracket itself, hidden under the floor, work perfect. they can be purchased on ebay. they are clean as you don't have any visable or drilled holes in the middle of your firewall to mount the cable housing. the other benefit is you won't have a bound up short cable that can potentially get pulled on under engine load/lifting.
on mine, i went with 2 inch dual exhaust with stubby glass packs mounted right behind the driver seat with exhaust going out the back, through the bumper itself.