Many enthusiasts have different opinions on the best engine for Fox Body Mustangs. When it comes to the classifications of Mustang motors, they can be divided up into two basic configurations: pushrod and modular. Pushrod engines are utilized in Mustangs from 1964-1995 while every Mustang from 1996 to current is outfitted with a modular engine. In this article, we will discuss why Ford ditched the pushrod platform and what the pros and cons are of both engine types.
A pushrod engine has been the poster child of V8 engine production for quite a while! Many of the old school enthusiasts believe this to be the best engine for Fox Body Mustangs due to it using a pushrod to actuate the valves. This is known as an overhead valve engine where the block houses the crank as well as one camshaft. This camshaft sits above the crank. The chain connects both the crank and camshaft and it rotates at half the rate of the crank. As the cam rotates, the lobe presses up on the lifter and this with the pushrod activates the rocker arm to open and close the valve. Pushrod production for the Mustang stopped in 1995.
1979 was the 1st year of the Fox Body Mustang which resulted in the 5.0L engine release. This quickly changed out for a 4.2L engine from 1980-82’. But starting in 1986, the swap toward EFI (electronic fuel injection) took place! This resulted in making the carburetor engine now a thing in the past putting the new fuel injected 302 engine rating at 200hp. The unique parts of the 86’ engine were the flat top pistons and swirl chamber heads that shrouded the valves and limited power and the ability for camshaft upgrades. It was also different from the 87-93 models because it has a smaller throttle body and throttle opening.
Beginning in 1987-93’, pushing the 5.0 motor to 225hp and 300 lb-ft of torque is extremely easy due to the addition of E7TW heads sourced from Ford’s truck line. The previously flat-topped pistons are replaced with forged aluminum pistons with valve reliefs which makes the new 302 internally much stronger. The forged aluminum pistons dropped in 1993 for a hypereutectic piston which made the GT put down 205 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. This reduction in power was smart marketing on for Ford because when the cam out with the new-body in 94’ it could be marketed with more power at 215 hp. In 1989, the speed density setup discontinued and is replaced with a easier modified mass air flow setup. This MAF system makes mods to the engine, intake, and exhaust system that is easier to recognize and is compensated by the ECU which allowed for correct air to fuel ratios to make optimal power.
Finally, with the 1993 Cobra and Cobra R, this was possibly the most popular Fox Body edition for the 93’.This is due to the Cobra featuring a 302 5.0 that put down 235hp and 280 lb-ft of torque which was due to the new GT-40 heads that were more of a free-flowing cylinder head. This outperformed the factory E7 heads found on most 5.0 Fox Body Mustangs. As included in the engine boost was a larger 65mm throttle body, 1.7:1 roller rockers, unique gt40-style “Cobra” intake, and larger 24lb injectors, as well as a larger 70mm mass air meter.
Manufactured and beginning in 1996 by Ford Motor Company, this OHC engine comes in a V8. Pertaining to the 5.0 L Coyote, it is the latest evolution of the modular engine. This engine change occurred due to Ford needing to compete with the GM 6.2L LS3 that was being used in the new Camaro. Also, a competitor was the new Chrysler 6.4L Hemi ESF that came in the Charger, Challenger, and Grand Cherokee. The Coyote had to stay relatively close to the physical size of the 4.6 as well as sharing other specs such as deck height, bore spacing, bell housing patterns, and much more. This was so that the engine could utilize existing Modular production line tooling. The result is the 5.0 Coyote that we know and love today! Check out an earlier article of ours that explores more about the Coyote.
With 2011 being the first year of the coyote, it made a huge statement! This was by producing 412 hp at 6,500 rpm and 390 lb-ft of torque at 4250 rpm while making 11:1 compression. It made this power by utilizing a string aluminum block with deep-skirting, high flow head, variable cam timing, composite intake, and tuned headers. For the 2013-14’ year models, the Coyote increased its hp by 8 and kept the torque the same. This Coyote block had smaller head bolts and no oil cooling jets. It also benefits from a phosphorous coating on the pistons as well as the piston rings from the Boss 302’s V8, and powertrain calibration improvements which contributed to the increase in power as well.
With the new redesigned exterior, Ford had to upgrade the engine! This 2nd Gen Coyote took some ideas from the 2012-13’ Boss, giving it 435 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. Here are some notable specs on this engine:
This new motor features a dual-fuel, high pressure direct injection with low pressure port fuel injections. This combination resulted in 460 hp with 420 ft-lb of torque.
This build came available on the 2012-13’ Boss 302 models. This resulted in Daytona prototypes having to find something new to associate with the Boss. This resulted in an intake method being used from Daytona race cars that eliminated lag when there was an open throttle. This allowed the engine to breathe better at higher RPMs. With this intake method it allowed the Boss to exceed the GT’s 7000RPM redline as well as gaining power at a higher RPM.
This is the most unique version of all the Coyote variants with its 5.2L displacement and uses a flat-plane crank! This means it has a 180-degree angle between throws. This makes engines rev more quickly which makes this a popular choice in racing engines. These come available in the GT350 and GT350R.
Adding to the Ford Performance lineup, a variant of the Coyote engine called “The Aluminator” is developed. This has a forged-steel crankshaft which made it capable of reaching 580 hp and 445 ft-lbs. of torque. Topping this engine off it has an 11.0:1 compression ratio with forged pistons that are hard anodized with low friction coating.
This variant is a Voodoo is coming equipped on the new 2020 GT500. It will come with 760 hp and 625 lb-ft of torque which makes this the most powerful production Mustang ever. The core architecture was beefed up to handle the 1,813 psi of firing pressure that the supercharged engine delivered. This supercharger brings out 12 psi of boost which sends up through the intercooler and then back down toward the intake valves.
While this is a question that so many enthusiasts ask about, there is no clear answer. Just like many things there are fans of both and each side has an argument why one is better than the other.Pushrod
At the end of the day it is all about personal preference and what qualities you find most important for the best engine for Fox Body Mustangs. Regardless of your decision you are sure to find good qualities in both options. As always for all thing 79’-present Mustang and Ford Lightning shop with us at LMR.com!