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    302 Economy Build

    With the price of gas shooting up like an unabashed junkie, the cost of driving a Panther is on the rise. The 302 has had plenty of iterations over the years, both by Ford and third parties. Most changes seem to focus on making more power, either to go faster or to move more. But what about changes looking to improve the engine's fuel efficiency?

    I think the easiest way to boost MPGs is to change the rear gears. But I'm wondering more about the engine itself than whatever comes after it - trans, diff, wheels, driving style.

    Is there a more fuel efficient 302 than the EFI LoPo? Any heads or cams better than stock? Or a more modern ECU that can squeeze a little bit more out of a gallon?

    Of course, anything that isn't available in a junkyard is probably spendy, which would most likely outweigh any possible savings from the engine mods. Or perhaps there are some power mods that increase the powerband to the point where less spirited driving might be more efficient than stock.
    1987 Lincoln Town Car - Signature, "Prudence"

    #2
    Rear gears help fuel economy to a point.
    Manual trans, driving style. smog pump crap off, EGR is so-so. Just making the engine breathe easier and boost low-end torque, since low end is what youre using most of the time. Also reducing rotating mass, a well balanced engine, manual trans like I said, alu driveshaft, drum brakes are heavy too. Lightweight wheels and low rolling resistance tires. AC delete...

    OR

    Turbo for efficiency!



    I gotta say this fuel price insanity will very much affect my driving next summer. Though hopefully this has calmed down a bit by then. In Finland prices are rising by the day and premium reaches $10 per gallon in some areas already. Even though the Beemer is a bit boring, it's really nice to have currently.
    Last edited by Arquemann; 03-08-2022, 05:44 AM.
    1985 Mercury Grand Marquis LS, "Maisa"
    1995 Chevrolet Caprice Classic STW, "Sally"

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      #3
      Keep in mind that you're going to spend hundreds to make minimal gains, if any. Even if you do make improvements, I'd wager you will not recoup your investment. The SEFI LoPo is already pretty damn miserly on fuel. If anything, retune so that it supports lean cruise.

      Boxes are just that, lots of aerodynamic drag. I bet an '88-'91 T-Bird with the LoPo 302 does pretty well on gas at 55-60mph. When the A/C system isn't in use, it's just a free spinning pulley. For me, the reduction in weight by removing the system isn't worth breathing in all the vape & pot fumes while idling in traffic during the summer. Lets not even get started on the noise & heat.
      1985 LTD Crown Victoria - SOLD
      1988 Town Car Signature - Current Party Barge

      Comment


        #4
        What Derek said about cost of a build vs recouping costs.

        As far as making it more efficient... newer lighter pistons with thinner rings would help. Better flowing heads (aluminum would be best, 165/170cc runners) With a custom cam made for low end torque and fuel economy. Roller rockers, better flowing exhaust, maybe 2.25" dual for best low end torque, explorer intake or aftermarket, and of course a really nice tune to top it off.

        For reference I went from around 17/18mpg from a stock/lightly modded 351W to 20/21mpg with my current built 351W. Performance and fuel economy can go hand in hand
        -Phil

        sigpic

        +1982 Ford LTD-S Police Car. Built 351w, Trickflow 11R 190 Heads, Holley Sniper EFI, RPM Intake+ Hyperspark dizzy, WR-AOD, Full exhaust headers to tails. 3.27 Trac-Lok Rear. Aluminum Police Driveshaft. Speedway Springs+Bilstein Shocks, Intermediate Brakes, HPP Steering Box.

        +2003 Acura CL Type S 6-speed

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          #5
          My 88 Cougar 5.0 got 23 hwy with 3.73 gears, stock engine, stock mustang headers, offroad Hpipe, and running 70-75 mph. Would hit 25+ easily if I slowed down. I have a set of 3.27 gears I want to put in it.
          1987 CV LX 5.0

          Comment


            #6
            aero is the best bang for the buck for getting higher mpg. Though with a box... even an aerobox (88-91) it'll be hard to get decent coefficient of drag. Belly pan bumper to bumper could help the most... though leaving vents at the cats to help with heat dissipation will be required. 2.73 rear gears and keeping the speed below 65mph with a light foot will do the most towards fuel sipping.

            3.08 or 3.27 gears in hilly/mountain areas would probably do better.

            Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. -- Albert Einstein
            rides: 93 Crown Vic LX (The Red Velvet Cake), 2000 Crown Vic base model (Sandy), 2003 Expedition (the vacation beast)
            Originally posted by gadget73
            ... and it should all work like magic and unicorns and stuff.
            Originally posted by dmccaig
            Overhead, some poor bastards are flying in airplanes.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by mcb82gt View Post
              My 88 Cougar 5.0 got 23 hwy with 3.73 gears, stock engine, stock mustang headers, offroad Hpipe, and running 70-75 mph. Would hit 25+ easily if I slowed down. I have a set of 3.27 gears I want to put in it.
              So yep, sell the box, get a Fox.
              1985 LTD Crown Victoria - SOLD
              1988 Town Car Signature - Current Party Barge

              Comment


                #8
                When I had the HO wagon it got 23-24 highway when it was running right. Not driving slow but not erratically. kept the 3.08 gears for that.

                In the 70's gas crisis they two most popular things I remember being sold and that actually worked to reduce your gas cost were locking gas caps and heavier throttle springs. Of course in those days the first thing i added to every car was a hood chain and padlock.
                03 Marauder DBP, HS, 6disk, Organizer Mods> LED's in & Out, M&Z rear control arms, Oil deflector, U-Haul Trans Pan, Blue Fuzzy Dice
                02 SL500 Silver Arrow
                08 TC Signature Limited, HID's Mods>235/55-17 Z rated Cooper Zeon RS3-A, Addco 1" rear Sway, Posi, Compustar Remote Start, floor liners, trunk organizer, Two part Sun Visors, B&M Trans drain Plug, Winter=05 Mustang GT rims, Nokian Hakkapeliitta R-2 235/55-17
                08 Escape Limited V6 Auto, Beamtech LED headlight bulbs,

                Comment


                  #9
                  I added 100 hp to mine and gained about 4 mpg over the stock lopo. I got 14.5 with the stock motor, it does 18-19 now. Thats with 3.55 gears.

                  There was a guy on lincolnsolnline years ago that did a 351 conversion in a Mark VII, added some 150 hp, and gained 5+ mpg. Its somewhere there in the tech section exactly what he used on the engine.



                  Even without getting involved in a totally new build, I suspect there are some tweaks possible with the stock engine to help it. This is largely a theory, but I suspect if you ported the lower intake it would help. Goal wouldn't be to increase total airflow, the heads are compromised enough that there is not really any point, but simply to even out the flow from cylinder to cylinder. The stock intake has a fair bit of restriction at the corners, especially #5. If you iron out that flow problem so every cylinder can actually get the same amount of air, it will run more efficiently. I can tell you that improving the lower intake on my black Mark VII made a big difference in how it ran. I don't know if it did anything for the fuel mileage, wasn't honestly paying attention.

                  86 Lincoln Town Car (Galactica).
                  5.0 HO, CompCams XE258,Scorpion 1.72 roller rockers, 3.55 K code rear, tow package, BHPerformance ported E7 heads, Tmoss Explorer intake, 65mm throttle body, Hedman 1 5/8" headers, 2.5" dual exhaust, ASP underdrive pulley

                  91 Lincoln Mark VII LSC SE, triple black (Timewarp) - poly front bushings, KYB struts and shocks, Holley SystemMax1 lower intake, SilverFox AOD valve body,

                  1984 Lincoln Continental TurboDiesel - rolls coal

                  Originally posted by phayzer5
                  I drive a Lincoln. I can't be bothered to shift like the peasants and rabble rousers

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Adding horsepower in the conventional way to achieve greater fuel economy seems to fly in the face of the present trend - smaller engines with more turbos. But I can believe that a more powerful motor could do better by not having to run as fast to pull the same size car. Or maybe the stronger engine allows the trans to remain in a higher gear for longer.

                    The full belly pan sounds like the cheaper option, though.

                    Lean cruise also sounds interesting.
                    1987 Lincoln Town Car - Signature, "Prudence"

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I totally agree that more power also increases fuel mileage- if it makes more power with the same displacement, it's more efficient. GM LS engines are a great example of that. Dad's Camaro/Corvette with their 5.7's both easily pull 25+ mpg while one has 300HP and the other 350. Both are rocket ships compared to my 5.0 powered Fireturd and Town Car.

                      I don't understand why they thought low horsepower was the key to fuel economy back in the day. Maybe it was carb tuning and the lack thereof? Because even the higher powered, higher compression stuff from the mid 60's all the way up to '72 made much more power than the stuff from say '82, but was terrible on gas as well.

                      Lean cruise is pretty awesome. Apparently GM TBI equipped stuff had it within the ECM, just not enabled. Or they were mostly unenabled due to regional issues surrounding NOx emissions. I believe my '89 K1500 has this enabled. It was originally from New Mexico. Anyway, no one has reported anything better than 16 or 17 MPG on the highway with these and last year I was pulling 19+ during a road trip. I verified that using mile markers, as I originally suspected the trip odometer wasn't logging mileage correctly. But, those who have enabled lean cruise have reported about a 10% increase in mileage, so what I'm seeing is right on par with that. Truck is a 4x4 regular cab short box, 350, five speed manual trans with 3.73's.
                      1985 LTD Crown Victoria - SOLD
                      1988 Town Car Signature - Current Party Barge

                      Comment


                        #12
                        The 2.0L ecoboost makes more power than the lopo 302, so yeah... you could easily swap in a newer engine and get better mileage, but the issue is ROI. If it costs so much to do a swap that the better fuel mileage takes another 10+ years to recover the cost, I don't think it's worth it if the main goal is cost reduction. I think this is why HO and LS swaps are typically the way people go because they can be had for relatively cheap and ROI on just fuel mileage will typically be 5 years even on the not great improvement. That said, a light foot and some aero can make a pretty big difference as well.

                        Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. -- Albert Einstein
                        rides: 93 Crown Vic LX (The Red Velvet Cake), 2000 Crown Vic base model (Sandy), 2003 Expedition (the vacation beast)
                        Originally posted by gadget73
                        ... and it should all work like magic and unicorns and stuff.
                        Originally posted by dmccaig
                        Overhead, some poor bastards are flying in airplanes.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by DerekTheGreat View Post

                          I don't understand why they thought low horsepower was the key to fuel economy back in the day. Maybe it was carb tuning and the lack thereof? Because even the higher powered, higher compression stuff from the mid 60's all the way up to '72 made much more power than the stuff from say '82, but was terrible on gas as well.
                          .

                          Emissions equipement choking the late 70 early 80's didnt help power numbers either.
                          1987 CV LX 5.0

                          Comment


                            #14
                            People point that out, but it's essentially the same stuff we've got now- smog pumps, cats & EGR. Sure the cats didn't flow so well but the cat I replaced from my truck last year was mostly plugged. I had no idea until I realized I no longer had such strong engine braking. I always just thought I had good compression.
                            1985 LTD Crown Victoria - SOLD
                            1988 Town Car Signature - Current Party Barge

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by sly View Post
                              you could easily swap in a newer engine and get better mileage, but the issue is ROI.
                              Most times it is the case, but sometimes it actually comes around quick. A friend of mine blew the motor in his baby, a SWEEET W124 230E. The non-OD autobox plus a clapped out carbed 2.3 liter was never intended to stay in there.
                              In went an OM603 6-cyl, a stock turbo from a Volvo and a ZF 6-speed. All in all, the swap was under 3000. He drives it alot, like 40k+ km a year. Low boost and the stock injection pump gets beyond 40MPG on highway driving. Vs the 20MPG with the gas engine.

                              Obviously I wouldn't put a diesel in a box...
                              But I'm might buy one
                              1985 Mercury Grand Marquis LS, "Maisa"
                              1995 Chevrolet Caprice Classic STW, "Sally"

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