SCCA Autocross Champ Recalls Ford High-Performance Engines, Carburetors And More

Greg Zyla
Q: Greg I read and enjoy your column in our local paper on a weekly basis as there is always something interesting.
I was particularly interested in your column on the Ford 289 Hi-Po, (High-Performance) 271 HP engine because I had two of them.
My first was a new '67 Mustang GT I bought when I got out of the US Navy. It was a black fastback, four-speed with the Firestone “Wide-Oval” tires. What a wonderful car it was.
My second 289 Hi-Po was in a '66 Mustang GT350 that I kept for 17 years (see photo) and which started my autocross career which continues to this day.
Every stock 289 Hi-Po I ever looked at including mine had a Ford Autolite carburetor and not a Holley. Also, although the valves were similar to other 289s, the heads had screw-in studs and special head gaskets to raise compression.
As you noted they also had the solid lifter cam and also a dual-point distributor and streamlined exhaust manifolds. The GT 350 did have a Holley carburetor and a high-rise intake, but it was installed by the Shelby factory making 306-horsepower.
I began auto crossing a few times in '77, but then got real serious about it in ’83 still driving my ‘66 Shelby GT 350.
My list of cars that I've competed in, beginning with the Shelby, includes a total of 13 different cars. They are a few Dodge Colts, Firebird Formula, four Mustangs, three Mazda RX7s, one Mazda Miata, Toyota MR2 and my current car, a 2013 Mini Cooper.
I auto cross mostly with the Ozark Mountain Region, Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) based in Springfield, MO. It’s a great lifetime sport, not expensive unless you want it to be, safe, and a whole lot of fun.
Looking forward to more great columns. George "Bud" Weeks, Pittsburg, KS
A: Bud thanks very much for your comments and update on the Autolite carbs.
I checked the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) internet sites and found your name all over the place as you are still quite the accomplished competitor. Specifically, Bud has won many SCCA events and also been named “Best Autocrosser of the Year” six times over his four decades competing in the Ozark division. Congrats to you, Bud.
For my readers who don’t know, here’s a quick SCCA Solo Autocross definition:“’Solo’ is the brand name for SCCA Autocrossing and on paper it seems very simple – use traffic cones to make a mini-road course in a large parking lot or unused airport and see who can drive it the quickest without hitting any cones or going off course.” For more info, see
Now, let’s talk those Ford 289 Hi-Po engines and carbs. I agree the factory 289 Hi-Po engines did come with the Ford Autolite carb, which I inadvertently called a Holley in my article.
This statement comes because Holley and Autolite have always had a good working relationship as far back as 1957, when the Autolite debuted on the Ford Y-block V8. Holley carburetors were similar to the Ford Autolite carbs and to this day many enthusiasts feel the Autolite and Holley are pretty much twins, but they are not identical twins.
Notable through the years was part interchangeability as my very first Holley used in 1966 was given to me by a friend that worked at the local speed shop and it had some Autolite pieces in it!
Holley carbs, meanwhile, grew into the carb of choice for all the big Ford/Mercury 1967 to 1971 muscle cars like the Boss 302, 390 Hi-Po, 428 and 429 engines, to name a few. Surprisingly, the 351 Cleveland with its excellent canted-valve cylinder heads relied on an Autolite carb that most of the performance crowd immediately replaced with a Holley.
Overall, each manufacturer was closely aligned with the carburetor manufacturers, especially during the muscle car era 1965 to 1972.
If you had a Roadrunner 383, Super Bee Hemi or GTX 440 from MOPAR, it came with a Carter AFB setup (today marketed and owned by Edelbrock). However, if you had a MOPAR 440 Six Pack in 1969 1/2 to 1971, it was a Holley “three-two” setup.
Over at General Motors, they used the Holley carbs on the real big stuff (LS6, 396/375, L88, etc.), but GM also used many of the Rochester Quadrajet “spread-bore” carbs and Rochester tri-power setups on its muscle cars, but not the 427/435 Corvette tri-power which was Holley, as were Ford tri-powers as far back as 1961.
I could go on and on, but I’m already stretching my space allotment. Continued success to you, Bud, and thanks again for your letter.

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