When the design engineers have an end view of the new long-skirted block as it sits on an engine stand, it looks like a capitol letter “Y” and so the name sticks.
Ford maintains the overhead valve “Y” engine is a big improvement over the less refined flathead, but this replacement is only the second step on the road to a perfected V8. The new engine can fail particularly when run at high RPM for a sustained period. The fault is in the one inch offset oil passage through the block that restricts the oil flow because it is too small. The insufficiently large passage is easily clogged by sediment, which reduces the flow even further. The top end of the engine is the last vital system to get lubricated which exacerbates the problem. The poor oil circulation in the top end of the engine can cause valves to burn and other rocker assembly components to over heat which leads to premature engine failure. This can be easily remedied with the after-market external oilier kit which had been originally used in Ford racing cars of that time. The kit includes a new copper oil supply line to install which will not only increase the oil flow, but brings the cooling lubricant directly to the camshaft from the pan. The main reason Ford abandoned the “Y” design is the engine block cannot be worked to safely increase the size of the firing chamber beyond about 340 cubic inches. This engine remains another success for Ford Motors because the statistics then, now and forever, will show Ford had the upper hand over Chevy in both power and torque from ’55 through ’57.
The 1954 Mercury is the first Ford product to have a “Y” block 256 cu in (4.2 L) V8 under the hood and is advertised as the new “V-161”. The engine has a Holly #2140 (V4) carburetor mounted on the intake and will produce 161 hp at 4400 rpm while the peak torque of 238 ft-lb is delivered to the wheels at 2200 rpm. This engine has a 3-5/8 inch (92.075 mm) bore with 3-3/4 inch (95.25 mm) stroke and has a 7.5:1 compression ratio. The 292 is in show rooms for the 1955 model year for the Thunderbird, Mercury plus the uptown full sized and intermediate Ford vehicles, including the truck line up. There is also a 292 that has been bored to 312 and in the newly introduced F-100 pick-up though 1964. The 312 is called the “Thunderbird Special V8” and has always been a favorite Ford engine to hot rod, although nowadays hot rod nostalgia would be the attraction. The 292 has a forged steel crankshaft making it a popular item for high performance street and racing upgrades. A little machine work and custom made pistons the 312 engine would be upstroked to 340 cu in (5.57 L). Depending on the model and the year the 312 could have fuel supplied by a two-barrel, a four barrel or for the 1957 model year only could have been equipped with a McCulloch (Paxton) supercharger.
The 1956 Mercury line-up and high end Ford models are equipped with the 312 and would have a four barrel carburetor. This combination with a 8.0:1 compression produces initially 210 hp (156.59 kW) in the standard transmission equipped models and the automatic has a higher 8.4:1 compression ratio producing 225 hp (167.78 kW). Part way through the ’56 model year a new version of the 312 will develop 235 hp and has a still higher 9.0:1 compression ratio. The ’56 Mercury engine has the head and block painted gold as a standard factory color. The 210 hp version sports red valve cover/air filter, while the valve cover/air cleaner are blue in the 225 hp units, but the high powered 235 hp has the valve cover and air cleaner painted silver when they leave the factory. January ’56 Ford introduces a dealer installed “M-260” engine upgrade kit which would give the customer a hopped up camshaft and a new intake manifold with two four barrel carburetors which kicks the hp rating up to 260 (193.88 kW). The 312 was used in Mercury models until 1960 and although it is touted as high performance for ’56-’57. By 1960 the 312 is a low compression, economy V8 equipped with a two barrel carburetor for the remainder of its production time. There is still aftermarket demand for the 312 now from the hot rod hobbyists and history buffs. With a slight modification of the bell housing the engine can be coupled to a modern Tremec T-5 transmission with overdrive using the original factory clutch assembly. The 1957 heads are still sought after because they are known for high performance, with large valves and the unusual stacked intake runner design. The ported ECZ-G castings can have a flow rate up to 235 cfm at the top port.
The “Y” engine family filled in very nicely for the Ford Motor Company, at least for a few years, before it becomes obsolete in the N. American market. The demand for higher performance, plus power sapping options such as air conditioning, power steering and power brakes are what dictated the need for bigger blocks very soon after the new engine families introduction. A version of the “Y” engine is in every Ford passenger vehicle powered by a V8 from 1954. The “Y” families are superseded at the end of 1957 by the MEL and FT/FE engine line up for intermediate/full sized passenger vehicles plus the Super Duty family is also introduced for larger trucks. The Lincoln Division independently developed a new “Y” block for the luxurious full sized line in ’54, but it is larger and not related to the Ford produced unit. The ad campaigns were aimed at celebrating fifty years of Ford during the 1964 model year and this is the last year a “Y” block engine is installed in a vehicle manufactured in the USA. By licence, both Argentina and Brazil produced their own version of the 292 from 1958 until 1975. Some sources say the 272 and the 292 displacement engine parts are still available from wholesalers there.