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All the great cars powered by the Ford Windsor V8 – US edition

© Ford Motor Company

By David Finlay, Autocar

The nickname refers to the Windsor Engine Plant in Ontario which, though in Canada, is just 20 miles from Ford's world headquarters in Dearborn, just west of Detroit. Many examples were built there, but others were manufactured in Cleveland, Ohio. This can lead to confusion, since another, unrelated Ford small-block V8 is often referred to as the Cleveland.

Be that as it may, the Windsor was fitted to an extraordinary range of vehicles over very nearly four decades, and although none of them are in production any more you can still buy a brand new engine if you have the right car for it.

Please note: accurately quoted horsepower figures have been supplied by Ford's very helpful archive department, and are expressed in the units commonly used when the cars were on sale.


The 221

© Ford Motor Company

A successor to the older Y-Block V8, the Windsor made its debut in 1962’s fourth-generation Ford Fairlane (pictured) and second-generation Mercury Meteor as a more powerful alternative to a 2.8-liter six-cylinder engine.

The Windsor would never again be as small as it was when it first appeared, though a later version would be less powerful. At this stage it measured 221 cubic inches (3.6 liters) and was rated at 145 horsepower.


The 260

© Ford Motor Company

The first of many size increases took place in 1963. A larger bore of 3.8 inches rather than the previous 3.5 took the capacity to 260ci (4.3 liters) and power rose to 164 horsepower.

Perhaps because car customers tend to be impressed by big numbers, the 260 soon took over from the 221 in the Fairlane and Meteor ranges. It was also fitted to the Ford Falcon (pictured) and Mercury Comet, and made a brief appearance in the early days of the first-generation Mustang.


The 289

© Ford Motor Company

The third iteration of the Windsor arrived within two years of the first, and although it was produced for only five years after that it was extremely popular in both road and competition cars. Thicker block castings were used to permit another increase in cylinder bore to 4.0 inches, bringing the capacity to 289ci (4.7 liters). Power outputs varied considerably depending on application but were never below 200 horsepower.

The 289 became the entry-level V8 for large Ford models and was also used for the high-performance version of the 1964 Mercury Comet, known as the Cyclone (pictured).


AC Cobra

© Newspress

The Cobra resulted from Carroll Shelby’s discussions with British company AC to supply its sports car and Ford to provide a powerful V8 engine for it. Ford suggested the Windsor back in the 221 days but in fact provided the 260 for the prototype and early production models built in 1962. This was subsequently replaced by the 289.

Mark III versions had 427ci (7.0-liter) engines. Although the Windsor would be stretched this far for the Saleen S7 introduced in 2000, Cobras of this period were instead fitted with Ford’s big-block FE V8.


Sunbeam Tiger

© Ford Motor Company

The Sunbeam Tiger story is very similar to that of the AC Cobra. Launched in 1964, it was a derivative of the British Sunbeam Alpine roadster with a Windsor 260 taking up almost all the space in the engine compartment.

The Mark II used the more powerful 289 engine, but that was as far as the Tiger went. Chrysler acquired a controlling stake in the Rootes Group, which owned Sunbeam, and brought production to an end when the stock of 289s ran out in 1967.


289 HiPo

© Ford Motor Company

Also known as the K-code, the 289 HiPo was a substantially modified, high-compression 289 producing 271 horsepower, approximately a 35% increase over the standard engine’s output.

A further development of the HiPo produced a reputed 306 horsepower in street versions of the specialised, Mustang-based Shelby GT350 (pictured). A total of 360 horsepower was available for competition use.


Ford F-Series

© Ford Motor Company

Ford has been selling F-Series trucks with enormous success since 1948. The 289 first appeared in the fourth generation in the mid 1960s (1968 fifth-generation F-100 pictured), and later versions were still being used in the ninth, as the 20th century drew to a close.

By that time the F-Series range included both gasoline and diesel engines of over 7.0 liters. Even in its largest 351ci (5.8-liter) form, the Windsor was therefore no more than a medium-power engine in this application.


The 302

© Ford Motor Company

The Windsor’s stroke was increased for the first time in 1967. The difference was marginal at 0.13 inches, but it was enough to raise the capacity to 302ci. This is the equivalent of 4942cc, and the engine is often described as a 4.9, though when Ford began to use metric units in the US in the late 1970s it referred to it as a 5.0.

The 302 was the smallest of no fewer than five V8 options in the 1969-1974 Galaxie range (1972 model pictured).


The Boss 302

© Ford Motor Company

This was a high-revving 302 which used a cylinder head design intended for the Cleveland engine, not yet in production, and was fitted only to the Boss Mustang of 1969 and 1970. Offered to the public to make it eligible for use in motor racing, it was officially rated at 290 horsepower, though this is widely believed to be an underestimate.

Car and engine were named Boss after a reference by designer Larry Shinoda to his own boss Semon ‘Bunkie’ Knudsen, who was briefly President of Ford from February 1968 to September 1969 and was strongly in favor of the car’s development.


De Tomaso Mangusta

© Ford Motor Company

One of the more exotic non-Fords fitted with the Windsor engine was the second road car produced from 1967 to 1971 by the Italian company De Tomaso. Rather than the little four-cylinder Kent engine of the preceding Vallelunga, the Mangusta was offered with both 289 and 302 cubic inch versions of the V8.

The Mangusta was quick in a straight line, with a reported top speed of 155mph, but nobody ever suggested it had the handling to match. The fact that the rear tires had to deal with 68% of the car’s weight may have had something to do with this.


Ford GT40

© Ford Motor Company

Among many other successes, the GT40 won the Le Mans 24 Hour race every year from 1966 to 1969. The first two victories were achieved with 7.0-liter big-block FE V8s, which replaced the Windsor 255 and 289 units fitted to prototypes and early production cars.

A 5.0-liter capacity limit was introduced in 1968, obliging Ford to return to the Windsor from that season. The engine used has been described as a bored-out 289 but is more likely to have been a regular 302, whose bore and stroke sizes would have been significantly different.


The 351

© Ford Motor Company

For the 1969 model year, Ford increased the Windsor’s stroke by half an inch to bring the capacity to 351ci (5.8 liters). A taller engine block was required to make this possible, and there were many other changes which contributed to a new output of 250 horsepower.

The proper designation for this engine – fitted to, among many other things, the Country Squire (pictured) - is 351W, to distinguish it from the 351C, a Cleveland unit of the same size. It was the only time the Windsor name was even hinted at officially. Even today, if you ask some Ford people about the Windsor engine, this is the one they think you’re talking about.


The 255

© Ford Motor Company

Today it seems obvious that if you want to improve fuel economy you should design a smaller and more efficient engine. In late 1970s America the policy was to smother an existing large one. Ford did reduce the Windsor’s capacity, but only to 255ci (4.2 liters), and suppressed any tendency to make big power.

The 255 produced only around 120 horsepower, which wasn’t much for any V8 Ford of the period and particularly disappointing in the Mustang. Discontinued soon after it was launched, the 255 is regarded as the least appealing engine in the whole series.


Fuel injection

© Ford Motor Company

For more than two decades, all engines in the family had used carburetors of one kind or another. In the 1980s, the 5.0 became the first to feature fuel injection, as fitted to the 1987 Mustang GT Convertible (pictured).

Today, it is almost unthinkable for any engine not to be fuel-injected. Back in 1962, when the 221 was introduced, it would have been nearly as difficult to believe that a Windsor would have anything other than a carburetor.


Ford Explorer

© Ford Motor Company

The last American model fitted with the Windsor V8 was the second-generation Ford Explorer SUV. The engine was discontinued in the F-Series in 1996 but survived in the Explorer until 2001, when it gave way to the Cologne V6, which produced similar power despite being nearly a liter smaller and very nearly as old a design as the Windsor.


End of the line

© Ford Motor Company

Ford of Australia kept the Windsor going for slightly longer, using it in the Falcon (including the Tickford Ford Falcon GT, pictured) and Fairlane until 2002. It was replaced by both the Modular engine, introduced in 1991, and the Australia-specific Barra V8.

However, although Windsors have not been used in production cars for nearly two decades, Ford still sells new ‘crate’ examples of the Boss engine in various sizes (and with appropriate strengthening) for competition use, and to revive older cars. The Windsor V8 lives on.

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