Ford has brought dozens of V8 engine designs to the table in its long history, but in the world of high performance there are a few that stand out as significant achievements both in terms of engineering and their importance to the brand.
Which Ford V8 engine is the best? We delved into the company’s past to determine which bikes had the biggest impact on Ford’s performance reputation, which bikes made a difference on the race track, and which engines made their brand famous among American muscle car enthusiasts for decades.
The Ford Flathead wasn’t the first V8 engine to come out of Detroit (it would be a 1915 Cadillac effort), but when it came to 1932 it was definitely the most affordable, sparking the power revolution under the hood of America’s automakers that continues. to this day. Unlike other V layouts, the eight-cylinder engine of its time, the flathead was designed specifically for mass production, which gave it a huge cost advantage over the boutique V8s available from other automakers.
Henry Ford’s fingerprints are all over the flathead’s design, which is streamlined for increased reliability and ease of assembly. Featuring a one-piece cast block (as opposed to the bolt unit found on rival V8s), the engine evolved over the years to address issues such as piston wear and oil consumption. It also installed positive crankcase ventilation and better water cooling.
Power from the engine grew from its initial 65 hp to 85 hp in just a few years, and by the end of World War II many flathead versions were available for applications ranging from passenger cars to commercial trucks. The Flathead became the drivetrain of choice for soldiers returning from overseas wanting to explore the burgeoning hot rod culture that was coming out of California at the time, and it wasn’t long before roadsters and land speed racers alike were incorporating designs into their own projects. .
It’s no exaggeration to say that Ford’s flatheads were the basis of hot rodding, and the world of craftsmanship and aftermarket performance parts that sprung up around it set the tone for the next few generations of enthusiasts.
Ford’s 427 cubic inch big block V8 was meant to dominate motorsports in the early 1960s, and in many ways that was the mission accomplished for the Blue Oval. A bored version of the 390 cubic inch FE V8, the 427 is reinforced with a forged crankshaft, features solid lift, and offers a high nickel iron alloy block. The engine also includes a side lubrication system meant to counter the g-force pull of a circular race track and keep the 427 lubricated at all times.
It’s possible to order a 427 in a road car—full-size models like the Galaxie, mid-size like the Fairlane—and benefit from 425 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque, but the real prize is Ford’s roadblocks and circular track racing machines. Featuring a variety of high- and mid-level heads, and even an ultra-advanced single overhead cam version of the motor (nicknamed the ‘Cammer’), the Ford motorsports 427 is good for between 500 hp and 2,500 hp and was even targeted by rule-changing NASCAR officials worried it would upset the balance. his on-track show.
Rare on the road because of its significant cost (for Ford in production and customers on window stickers), perhaps the engine’s biggest claim to fame is its dominant performance at Le Mans, where it motivated the iconic GT40 to victory in 1966, as well as its presence in between the front fenders of the big block Shelby Cobra roadster.
Despite sharing displacement with the more common Ford V8 at the time, the Boss 302 incorporating a Cleveland head with a completely different block was equipped with the same 4 main bolts and high nickel iron found in the 427. The goal was made to go Trance During the race, the Boss made use of high deck, high-performance connecting rods, cross-drilled forged crankshaft, sodium-filled exhaust valves, forged pop-up pistons and aggressive camshaft to feed the large head ports.
Ford installed a unique 302 in the Mercury Cougar and Ford Mustang, leading them to race in 1969 and 1970 in the Trans Am series. With 290 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque at press, the engine isn’t a world killer in the muscle car wars on the road, but on the race track it can do 8,000 rpm all day, providing a very different high performance experience and earning Ford the manufacturers championship. in 1970 with Parnelli Jones behind the wheel.
The middle child of the three 5.0L V8 engines on this list, in the late 1970s Ford undertook a modernization program aimed at turning the Windsor V8 back into a viable performance option. The first fruit arrived in 1982 with 5.0 HO or ‘high output,’ a term that originally referred to a modest 157 hp but eventually rose to 225 hp in the early 1990s.
It was the engine that put the Dearborn back on the map when it came to road performance, and like a flathead it finally benefits from one of the biggest aftermarket V8 history.
Although originally a carburetor, it was the introduction of electronic fuel injection as standard equipment for the 1986 model year that turned the 5.0 into legend. Found under the hood of the Fox-body Mustang (as well as many other Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles), the HO by then had gotten better hydraulic roller lifters and breathing heads, putting 285 lb-ft of torque at the Can’t. The engine would continue to be refined throughout the decade (getting a mass airflow system to replace its speed density setting, along with a set of hypereutectic pistons), which lasted until the late ’90s when the Mustang, and then the Ford Explorer switched to Ford’s modular V8.
After nearly 15 years, Ford is back at the 5.0 well—only this time, the engine is descended from the brand’s modular overhead camshaft family rather than its original pushrod namesake. Designed specifically for the Mustang (and later adapted to platforms like the F-150), this engine incorporates more high-tech features than the previous Ford V8.
The Coyote 5.0 is Ford’s first eight-cylinder engine to feature dual variable camshaft timing on the exhaust and intake, and the aluminum block is webbed rather than reinforced to provide additional power. It also featured an entirely new DOHC head that shared a bit with the single three-valve overhead camshaft design of the older modular engine that had filled the Mustang’s engine bay.
Initially, the engine was good at producing 420 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque, eventually going up to 435 hp in the Mustang thanks to the upgraded cylinder heads and camshafts that debuted in 2015, and then 460 hp after the introduction of direct fuel injection in the 2018 system. The Ti-VCT made the Coyote easy to tune for upgrades, and early versions of this engine received considerable attention from hot rodders and performance parts manufacturers.
The 5.0 Coyote also gets its own special edition Boss 302 variant, a designer 444 hp known internally as the ‘Roadrunner’ featuring a unique camera, ported head and forged connecting ramp to deliver a similar high RPM powerband compared to the gold. namesake of the era. The Coyote also became the basis for the replacement of the Boss 302, 5.2 liter, flat-plane V8 crankshaft mounted under the hood of the Shelby GT350 which increased its red line from 7,500 rpm on the Boss to 8,240 rpm. The ‘Voodoo’ engine offers 526 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque, and sets the stage for the supercharged variant dubbed the ‘Predator,’ which makes 760 hp in the Mustang Shelby GT500.