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Best Engine For Fox Body Mustangs - Pushrod vs Coyote

Many compare both the Pushrod vs Coyote motor so we have broken down everything you need to know when choosing the best engines for Fox Body Mustangs.

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Differences Between A Pushrod And Coyote 5.0 - Differences Between A Pushrod And Coyote 5.0

Differences Between A Pushrod And Coyote 5.0 - Differences Between A Pushrod And Coyote 5.0


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 V8 engines were utilized in Mustangs from 1964-1995, while every V8 Mustang from 1996 to current is outfitted with a modular engine. In this article, we will discuss the differences in the modular/coyote and pushrod 5.0L. 

What Is A Mustang 5.0 Pushrod Engine?


A pushrod engine has been the poster child of V8 engine production for quite a while! Many old-school enthusiasts believe this to be the best engine for Fox Body Mustangs due to its ease and price of modifications. This is known as an overhead valve engine where the block houses the crank as well as the camshaft. This camshaft sits above the crankshaft, and the chain connects the crankshaft to the camshaft rotating it at half the rate of the crankshaft. 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 V8 stopped in 1995.

History of 5.0 Pushrod In A Fox Body

1979 was the 1st year of the Fox Body Mustang, resulting 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 made the carburetor engine a thing of 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 had 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, making the new 302 internally much stronger. The forged aluminum pistons dropped in 1993 for a hypereutectic piston, which put the GT down 205 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. This power reduction was smart marketing for Ford because when they came out with the new body in 94’ it could be marketed with more power at 215 hp. In 1989, the speed density setup was discontinued and replaced with an easier modified mass airflow setup. This MAF system makes modifications to the engine, intake, and exhaust system easily compensated by the ECU.


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 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.


What Is A Mustang 5.0 Modular Engine?

Manufactured and beginning in 1996 by Ford Motor Company, this OHC engine comes in a V8. On the 5.0L Coyote is the latest evolution of the modular engine. This engine change occurred because Ford needed to compete with the GM 6.2L LS3 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 and share 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.

History of 5.0 Modular Engine In A Mustang

Gen 1 Coyote (2011-14’)

With 2011 being the first year of the coyote, it made a huge statement! This engine produced 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 an aluminum block with deep-skirting, high flow head, variable cam timing, composite intake, and tuned header style exhaust manifolds. For the 2013-14’ year models, the Coyote increased its hp by eight 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, the piston rings from the Boss 302’s V8, and powertrain calibration improvements which contributed to the power increase.


Gen 2 Coyote (2015-17’)

With the newly 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:

  • Higher flowing cylinder heads over the Gen 1 coyote
  • Revised intake manifold 
  • Higher lift camshafts


Gen 3 Coyote (2018+)

This new motor started with the 2018 Mustang model with an increase in horsepower by 25 horsepower and 20 lb-ft of torque. This made the Gen 3 the most powerful 5.0L engine that Ford Motor Company has ever produced. Here are some notable improvements to the Gen 3 over the Gen 2.

  • Dual fuel injection
  • Increased camshaft lift 1mm over stock Gen 2 Coyote engine
  • Increase bore .8mm for overall displacement increase to 5.035L/307CI
  • Increased intake (+ .4mm) and exhaust (+ .2mm) valve size 
  • Viscous damper for increased RPM capabilities 


For more in-depth information on the differences between all Coyote-based engines, check out our differences between the coyote engines below!

Coyote Specialized Builds

The Roadrunner

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 from Daytona race cars that eliminated lag when there was an open throttle. This allowed the engine to breathe better at higher RPMs. This intake method allowed the Boss to exceed the GT’s 7000RPM redline and gain power at a higher RPM.


The Voodoo

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, making this a popular choice in racing engines. These come available in the GT350 and GT350R.


The Aluminator

Adding to the Ford Performance lineup, a variant of the Coyote engine called “The Aluminator” is developed. This has a forged-steel crankshaft, making it capable of reaching 550+ hp and 440+ ft-lbs. of torque. Topping this engine off, it has forged pistons that are hard anodized with low friction coating.


The Predator

This is another 5.2L variant of the Coyote equipped on the new 2020 GT500. It comes with 760 hp and 625 lb-ft of torque, making this the most powerful production Mustang ever as of 2020. The core architecture was beefed up to handle the 1,813 psi of firing pressure that the supercharged engine delivered. This supercharger pushes out 12 psi of boost, which goes through the intercooler and then back down toward the intake valves.

CONCLUSION: What Is The Best Engine For Fox Body Mustangs?

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.


  • Compact design, which offers more room in the engine bay.
  • Easy to add horsepower.
  • Cheaper to purchase and upgrade.


  • More expensive, but better power.
  • Fuel efficient
  • Much higher power potential with fewer modifications
  • Lower emissions


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 will surely find good qualities in both options. As always, for all things 79’-present, Mustang and Ford Lightning shop with us at!