January 28, 2015
The Stephen Cox Blog is Presented by McGunegill Engine Performance
After a Mexican 302-equipped Ford Torino crossed the block at Mecum Auctions recently, I've received a boatload of questions about these unique engines, their collector value, and how to identify them. Mexican 302's are a bit of an oddity, so I thought I'd pass along the answers in this week's blog.
What is a Mexican 302?
When Ford's domestic plants were transitioning to the 351 engine in the late 1960's, it became necessary to obtain V8 engines from other plants to augment supply. For a time, Ford relied a bit more heavily on their Cuautitlán Stamping and Assembly plant in Cuautitlán Izcalli, located in south central Mexico, about an hour north of Mexico City. A number of these engines were installed in vehicles destined for car dealerships in the United States primarily between 1969 and 1975.
Hence, a “Mexican 302” is an American term for a Ford 302 engine originating from the Cuautitlán facility during this period.
How can a Mexican 302 be identified?
Mexican blocks are distinguished by two iron knob-like protrusions just below each head on the front of the engine casting. The tips are circular and slightly larger than a half dollar. The left knob is not entirely circular, but usually has a flat bottom. Also, if the engine is disassembled, the designation “HECHO-EN MEXICO” will be visible and stamped into the block.
Is a Mexican 302 more desirable, and if so, why?
From a performance standpoint, the Mexican 302's are perhaps a bit more desirable. They are said to have a higher nickel content in the iron used to cast the blocks, although some debate this claim. What is known is that the main bearing caps are wider and the block is thicker, forming a stronger base. The Mexican blocks weigh a bit more than their northern counterparts, although the difference is negligible (about 10 lbs).
The Mexican blocks offer no advantage over modern aftermarket short blocks, but they are a low-cost alternative for purists who want original Ford factory parts with a bit more overall strength.
How likely am I to find a car with a Mexican 302 engine?
Not very. Many of the Mexican 302's were installed in non-collectible vehicles and saw their eventual demise in a junkyard. Most of the junkyard Mexican 302's have long ago been salvaged by backyard mechanics looking for a bit more performance and strength from an engine that was available at second-hand prices.
If you do find a Mexican 302-equipped car, it is likely to be a late 60's or early 70's Torino or Ranchero, both of which were occasionally outfitted with such engines and have some collector value. Most of the vans and trucks so equipped are long gone.
Does a car's value increase it if it was originally equipped with a Mexican 302?
Not significantly. The few Mexican-equipped cars that crossed the block at Mecum Auctions recently carried the same collector's premium as any other similar vehicle.
Budget-minded performance enthusiasts may find some advantages with the Mexican block, but it won't bring any additional attention from collectors. The Mexican 302's biggest value is simply as a fun, obscure curiosity that brings back the waning days of the muscle car wars.
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