Ford Barra: Everything You Need to Know

While a lot of people are interested in the RB series, JZ series, N54/N55, and more recently the BMW B58, there is another awesome inline-six which has flown somewhat under the radar for a lot of enthusiasts, which is the Ford Barra engine.

It’s big, it’s strong, it has six-cylinder, and has the potential to make a massive amount of power when modified correctly.

Where The Barra Came From

Real quick I would like to clarify this video is talking about the inline-6 Barra engines, not the V8 Barra engines which are just a Ford mod motor.

Beginnings its life in 2002, the Barra was developed and built in Australia. Realistically its a development of a single overhead cam straight-six engine Ford used in the 1980s and 1990s, which can trace its roots back to the North American Ford Falcon Compact from 1959.

While the Barra doesn’t have a massive amount of similarities to those old inline sixes, they laid the foundation the Barra was built on.

Different Variations

The Barra, much like other legendary inline-six engines, was available in both naturally aspirated and turbocharged variants. The most popular application to receive the Barra engine is the Ford Falcon, where it was used in every body style the Falcon offered. It was also used in the Ford Territory, which is a small SUV thing.

Part of the reason a lot of enthusiasts don’t know about this engine is that it was only available in Australia and New Zealand. This is a lot different than something like the JZ series which was available all over the world in quite a few different application.

Basic Specs and Info

To give you a rundown on some basic information, the Barra is a 4.0L, inline-6 with dual over cams, variable valve timing, a cast-iron block, cast aluminum cylinder head, as stated earlier some variants are turbocharged, power output ranges from 209hp and 276lb-ft up to 436hp and 425lb-ft.

Throughout the years, there were a lot of additions and changes to the Barra, but for they’re all pretty similar to each other. One thing you might notice from the power figures I mentioned is the torque.

Compared to something like the JZ or RB series, the Barra makes a massive amount of power, which can be partially attributed to its large 4.0L displacement and long 99mm stroke.

Physically Large Size

Looking more closely at the cylinder head can reveal just how massive this engine is. The Barra head is almost six inches longer than a 2JZ head, which demonstrates how the larger displacement affects the physical size of the engine.

As we mentioned earlier, this engine features dual-overhead cams and four valves per cylinder, all of which is driven by a timing chain rather than a timing belt.

Weak Points in The Head

Unfortunately, two of the weakest points of the Barra engines live in the cylinder head and that’s the head bolts and valve springs. The head bolts are insanely strong and they’re prone to stretching from extreme cylinder pressure once you start to turn the boost up.

The valve springs are also too weak to hold up to increased boost pressure and have to be replaced if you want to make big power.

Dual Cam Timing

One nice feature you’ll find many, but not all Barra engines is a variable cam timing on both camshafts. The dual-cam timing system massively improves efficiency, low-end power, and top-end power.

For turbocharged Barras, the dual cam timing also greatly improve turbo-spool up, ultimately helping the Barra make more low-end power and have great throttle response.

Bottom End

Looking at the bottom end of the engine makes it pretty obvious why this engine has become so popular. The block is constructed from cast-iron and features a lot of material in all the right places. The pistons, rods, and crank are all very strong and massive overkill for the stock power output.

Other notable features on the bottom are the oil pump bolts with screw in horizontally to the crank caps with effectively makes the oil sump a stressed member of the bottom end. The windage tray helps tie all the main caps together and improves bottom-end rigidity.

On a stock bottom end, the Barra capable of producing 600whp or more. I know some people have pushed well past this number on a stock bottom end, but if you want something which can reliably make power, 600 to 700 horsepower is pretty much the limitation of the bottom end.

The block itself is capable of withstanding over 1500 horsepower without much fuss with some examples making over 2,000 horsepower on the stock built. With a built bottom end, making 1000 horsepower can be done fairly reliably.

Oil Pump Gears

One of the other weak points of the Barra is found in the bottom end, which is the oil pump gears. The gears are known for failing and need to be replaced if you want to make big power.

Availability in the USA

Unfortunately the Barra will probably never reach the level of popularity of other inline-six engines like the RB or JZ, mostly for the fact that it was only available in Australia. While this makes it readily available and cheap to buy in Australia, you’re unlikely to find one in the states unless you specifically import one yourself.

Because of its lack of use in the states, there isn’t nearly as much aftermarket support for the Barra compared to engines that are readily available in the states. On top of that, it’s a very large engine and can’t easily fit into as many applications as other inline-six engines or even V8s like the LS. It’s a pretty tall and long engine and it’s particularly lightweight either.

That being said, if you live in Australia or New Zealand, the Barra is a pretty awesome engine because there are a lot of them out there and they can be had for pretty cheap.

While the aftermarket might not be as big as other engines, it’s still large enough that you can find the parts you need relatively easily. It’s pretty easy to replace the head bolts, valve springs, oil pump gears, and stick on a big turbo and make 600 horsepower pretty easily.

RIP Barra

Unfortunately, Ford Australia killed the Barra in 2016. It died alongside the Falcon and Territory because of high labor costs and unprofitability with the engine and cars being constructed in Australia. Out of all the ways to go out, that has to be the most depressing way for an engine to die, but all good things eventually have to come to an end.

About Bryce Cleveland 375 Articles
Bryce founded Dust Runners Automotive Journal in 2014 as a way to write about the cars he found interesting. He currently owns a 2003 Honda CRF450R Supermoto, 2006 Nissan 350Z, and a 2018 Yamaha MT09. Follow him on Instagram for more @bryce.cleveland.

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