Closing the book on the Ford Y-block 272/292 and V8 430 T-Bird

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These two Fords are owned by Richard and Eileen of the Easton, Pa. area. Included are the blue and white 1955 Sunliner and the yellow and black 1955 Skyliner convertible. Both of these cars are exceptional examples of the beautiful cars that toured the boulevards in the mid-1950s.

This will be the last column dealing with the leaking 292 Thunderbird Y-block engine and the 430-inch V8 1958 Thunderbird that attracted more mail than any columns we did in the past.
The 292 1957 Ford Thunderbird of Jim Gardner had sprung what is considered a rear main seal leak, but a recent letter may also prove to be valuable to Mr. Gardner.
Q: Greg, I read your article in Saturday’s (Easton, Pa.) Express Times about the leaky rear main seal in the 1957 T-Bird of Jim Gardner.
I have two 1955 Fords with similar but smaller 272 cu. in. V8 engines and I have no rear main seal leakage in either one of them. (See photos).
However I have a dear friend who also has a 1955 Ford with a 272 cu in engine. Approximately three years ago, his Ford developed a rear main seal leak which was leaking heavily. He then replaced three rear main seals to no avail as it still leaked.
Ford 392
Finally, he pulled the automatic transmission away from the bell housing and what he found was that the leak was not the rear main seal. It came from the rear cam plug. The plug failed (and started to spin) and caused the leak. Since the leaking oil dripped to the rear of the engine, it was only natural to assume it was the rear main seal. After he replaced the plug, (which looks like a freeze plug where the cam sits in the block) there was no more leak.  Thanks much Greg. Respectfully, Rich and Eileen, Email from Pa.
A: Rich and Eileen, thanks very much for the great information. It is letters like this that can really save a reader some time and money. Your Fords are beautiful, and thanks again for sending the photos.
Our next letter came from Idaho and deals with the mysterious 430 V8 powered 1958 Thunderbird owned by Joe Swentek from Minnesota.
Q:  Greg, in response to the letter about a reader’s 1958 430 V8 Thunderbird authenticity, according the Ford Chronicle book, the 1959 Thunderbird had a 430 V8 as an available option on all Thunderbirds. However, the same book states that the 1958 T-Bird’s 430 V8 option was of “questionable production.” Thank you, Paul Huetter, Idaho.
A: Paul, thanks for the information. In 1958, Ford gave Holman Moody the OK to go ahead and build those NASCAR 430 V8 Thunderbirds for the 1959 season. Since the first Daytona 500 took place in February of 1959, all the Thunderbirds that competed in that first race were surely well under construction in 1958 before the “official” 1959 models arrived at dealer showrooms. I would think this resulted in the Ford Chronicles book listing this engine as “an option of questionable production” for the 1958 models.
My personal feeling is that  Mr. Swentek might be sitting on a 1958 Thunderbird that received a 430 V8 instead of the 358 that the vehicle identification number indicates. This leaves one of two opinions: First, his car was mislabeled at the factory as that 430 V8 was available and the 358 was never installed. Thus, Joe’s 1958 Thunderbird might have been a potential Ford race car that somehow never made it to Holman Moody after the 430 was installed and ended back at a Ford showroom and sold as a 1958 model…which it was. This is all speculation, but certainly worth the reader interest.
Again, I want to thank my many readers for helping out with these two Thunderbird owners and the many letters I received.
(Greg Zyla writes weekly for GateHouse Media, More Content Now and, and welcomes reader interaction on old cars and racing at 116 Main St., Towanda, Pa. 18848 or email at
Greg Zyla

Greg Zyla