Modified Mustangs & FordsFeatured Vehicles
1969 Ford Mustang - Coyote Cruiser
Tom Izzo’s ’69 Mustang Sportsroof blends vintage style and the latest 5.0 engine to create a thoroughly contemporary street machine
Ford's modern 5.0L engine, known commonly by the "Coyote" code name bestowed on it during development, is creating a revolution of sorts in the hot rodding world and giving GM's ubiquitous "LS" engine family a run for its crate-engine money. It's the synergistic result of a number of factors, including affordability, accessibility and, most importantly, performance.
Sure, Ford Racing has offered Modular-based crate engines for years, but the Coyote engine (the powerplant from today's Mustang GT) is rated at 412 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque for a street price of less than $7,000. In fact, we've seen them offered online for about $6,300. You'd be hard-pressed to scare up a quality Windsor-based 302ci crate engine that makes comparable power for the same investment, and frankly, it just won't have the high-tech, contemporary cache of the Coyote.
Of course, the engine's relative affordability is only one part of the equation. Installing it is another, and that's where things get more involved. Conversion kits are popping up all the time, but most are for Fox bodies and SN-95s. Kits for classic Mustangs are fewer and farther between, but the tight confines of early Mustang engine compartments—including those pesky, space-robbing shock towers—makes the conversion challenging. Think of it as the modern-day version of shoehorning in a Boss 429, except for the fact that the all-aluminum, high-rpm Coyote engine weighs only a scant 444 pounds versus the Boss's roughly 635 pounds.
At a tick more than 29 inches wide, the Coyote is within an inch of the width of the big, bad semi-hemi Boss '9, while a 302 Windsor is only about 24 inches wide. That nearly half-foot of additional girth makes the swap all but impossible in 1966-and-earlier cars, and a tower-notching headache in later cars. Eliminating the shock towers with a more modern front suspension frees up much-needed elbow room for the heads and valve covers, but that involves serious surgery to the chassis.
Tom Izzo is no stranger to the fabrication and sheet-metal bending required to stuff a modern engine into an old car. His Chicago-area shop, Speed Inc., has a well-earned reputation for doing just that—ironically, it's known more for those LS conversions, however. That's OK, because Izzo has a strong penchant for the Blue Oval and his past projects include a '67 G.T. 500 clone powered by the supercharged powertrain from an '03 Mustang Cobra. And, hey, if Kar Kraft could shove Boss 429s into '69 Mustangs nearly 45 years ago, Izzo could do it with the Coyote today in his own '69 Mustang.
"The Coyote 5.0L is a landmark crate engine that gives Ford enthusiasts something they've been chasing for years," said Izzo. "We wanted to build this car to feel out the ins and outs of the installation, demonstrate our capabilities to our customers, and stay on the leading edge of a trend we expect will continue for years to come. The LS engines are everywhere in GM vehicles and other hot rods. This [engine] gives Ford builders the opportunity to build a high-tech, Ford-powered car with a powerful, cost-effective engine."
With the intent for a Coyote swap as the driving force for his project, Izzo began searching for the appropriate vehicle and scared up someone else's incomplete project vehicle on pro-touring.com. It already had some chassis work and other modifications performed; it was also touted as having virgin, rust-free sheetmetal.
"Surprisingly, that was the case," says Izzo. "The car had a couple coats of primer and signs of a couple of previous paintjobs beneath that, but other than a dinged-up lower valance, nothing was really damaged or rusted."
One of the reasons Izzo bought the car was the Heidt's Mustang II-type independent front suspension that was already installed, giving the car a modern suspension and prepping it for the Modular-based powertrain. The design, which features upper and lower control arms, not only provides contemporary responsiveness and control, but more importantly it enables the elimination of the intrusive shock towers inside the engine compartment.
"The suspension change and corresponding elimination of the shock towers frees up about 10 inches at the top of the engine compartment of 1967-1970 Mustangs," says Izzo. "It's space that makes the engine swap so much easier. Besides that, if you're running a modern engine like the Coyote, you really want to experience it in a car with a more modern suspension system that's direct and responsive."
At the rear suspension, the fabricated 9-inch axle housing that was one of the car's selling points turned out to be an unexpected source of additional cost and time.
"We discovered the previous owner had welded all of the suspension brackets incorrectly, which left the rearend offset," says Izzo. "That had to be changed, of course, so we ordered a new, stock-width housing from Heidts and added a new 9-inch center section and axles from Strange."
When it came to installing the Coyote engine, the engine compartment's newfound space was a welcome enabler, but engine mounts were still required and fabricated in-house at Speed Inc. The same went for the transmission mount to install a Tremec TKO600 five-speed manual transmission. Also, the oil pan and tubular headers that were part of the crate engine package had to be tweaked, too, to fit the contours of the vintage Mustang's engine compartment and chassis. The headers proved the most difficult aspect of the swap, as a couple of the tubes had to be cut out and rerouted to clear the chassis and steering system. They flow into a scratch-built, 3-inch stainless steel exhaust system quieted somewhat by a pair of Flowmaster mufflers.
On the cooling side of things, there was plenty of room for a radiator and electric fans to fit the original location, but hoses to and from the engine had to be custom-made. A Strange small-bore, manual brake master cylinder was used as well, leaving plenty of space at the rear of the engine compartment.
And while dropping in the 412-horsepower 5.0L engine would be plenty for most people, Izzo already had a well-established proclivity for forced induction, as evidenced by his Terminator-powered Shelby clone. So, it was no surprise he couldn't leave well enough alone with the Coyote.
"Before we even sent the car out for tuning with the stock engine, our fabricator Dan Marks talked me into adding a blower to it," says Izzo. "I have always loved the instant throttle response and reliability of Roots-type superchargers, so it was a no-brainer."
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With a custom induction system fabbed, of course, at the shop, Izzo bolted on a Roush R2300 intercooled supercharger system. The "2300" in the name comes from the blower's displacement. It also uses Eaton's TVS four-lobe rotors, which deliver a more efficient and broader range of power than conventional three-lobe rotors. In a nutshell, the design enables the power to build quicker at lower rpm and sustains it farther at the high end of the tach, where superchargers traditionally fall off.
Even with the Coyote engine's high 11.0:1 compression ratio and hypereutectic (cast) pistons, the blower system pushes 12 pounds of boost into it. A custom-fabricated, high-capacity heat exchanger reduces the charge air temperature by about 100 degrees F before the force-fed air enters the engine, which gives the charge a denser kick and reduces the chance for piston-killing detonation.
"The supercharger was a tremendous addition to the project and really transformed the performance and capability of the car," Izzo says. "It made 567 horsepower at the tires on a Mustang chassis dyno. That's about 680 horsepower at the flywheel. It's a helluva package."
It's a relatively unassuming package, too, at first glance. Izzo intentionally gave the car a generally stock appearance, with old-school Grabber Blue paint and oh-so-appropriate Boss 302 graphics. The Boss 429-style hoodscoop and 18-inch Magnum 500-style wheels evoke classic muscle car aesthetics, too, but with a contemporary twist. It is a similar story inside the Mustang, where the basic black cabin is trimmed as it was in 1969, but with a few subtle enhancements like a Billet Specialties steering wheel and LED-lit instruments from Auto Meter mounted in a gauge insert from Year One.
"The basic design of the '69 Mustang SportsRoof is great as is, so we didn't want to stray too far from the vintage style," says Izzo. "We restored the car and enhanced it without losing its identity. There are a lot of unseen improvements, too, from the extensive insulation under the original-style carpet to an all-new wiring system from American Autowire that supports the more modern equipment on the car."
The car's relatively sedate appearance leaves few clues to its performance capability, although it's impossible to hide the output of nearly 700 supercharged horsepower when the blown Coyote begins to howl.
"It's an incredible feeling of power on demand," says Izzo. "The power comes on instantly and pulls strong through an rpm range you wouldn't dream of taking, say, an FE motor to. And with the overdrive transmission, you can cruise comfortably all day on the freeway."
Izzo says the Coyote's relatively low weight pays additional dividends. "Even though the blower adds a few pounds to the engine, it's still a lightweight powertrain that gives the car better balance. You can feel it in the turns and in the way the car responds. The IFS front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering contribute to the driving experience, too, but with the Coyote engine at the heart of it all, this is a classic-looking Mustang with all the reflexes of a new one."
With swap kits and readily available suspension upgrades to support similar transformations, you can count on finding more late-model 5.0L engines under the hoods of classic Mustangs and other Fords. Tom Izzo's gorgeous '69 Mustang is not only a great example of a burgeoning trend, it can be viewed as a blueprint for enthusiasts who want to build a similar modern classic from their Cougar, Torino or Ranchero.
"The engine offers great bang for the buck," says Izzo. "It's a great value and will sure to be a popular swap engine for a long time." Take it from us—and Tom Izzo—Coyotes are going to flourish in America for years to come.
"The Coyote 5.0L is a landmark crate engine that gives Ford enthusiasts something they've been chasing for years"
Tom Izzo's '69 Mustang SportsRoof
Ford Racing 5.0L Ti-VCT "Coyote" crate engine
Aluminum cylinder block and heads
Forged steel, induction-hardened crankshaft
Forged steel connecting rods
Hypereutectic aluminum pistons (with piston-cooling oil jets)
11.0:1 compression ratio
Aluminum cylinder heads with dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder
1.45-inch intake valves and 1.22-inch exhaust valves
Hydraulic camshafts with 0.472-inch (intake) and 0.433-inch (exhaust) lift
Variable intake/variable camshaft timing
Roller rocker arms
Roush R2300 2.3L Roots supercharger with Eaton TVS four-lobe rotors producing 12 pounds of boost
Roush 80mm supercharger pulley
Roush high-flow fuel rails with 47-lb/hr fuel injectors; fuel pump voltage regulator
Custom air intake system and intercooler by Speed Inc.
Roush twin-bore 60mm throttle body
High-energy coil-on-plug ignition system
567 rwhp at 6,500 rpm
537 lb-ft of torque 4,800 rpm at the rear wheels
Tremec TKO600 five-speed manual (2.87 first gear) with 26-spline input shaft
Ram PowerGrip heavy-duty clutch
Custom transmission crossmember
Hurst short-throw shifter
Strange locking differential and 31-spline axles
Strange 3.90:1 ring-and-pinion
Crate engine exhaust headers modified by Speed Inc.
Flowmaster 40-Series mufflers
Custom stainless steel 3-inch exhaust system by Speed Inc.
Front: Heidts Mustang II-type independent front suspension, tubular upper and lower control arms, 2-inch dropped spindles, billet shocks and springs
Rear: Heidts bolt-in four-link suspension, including Panhard bar; billet coilover shocks; subframe connectors
Heidts power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Flaming River steering column
Front: Heidts 11-inch disc, PBR calipers
Rear: Ford Mustang (SN-95) 11.5-inch disc, Ford Mustang (SN-95) calipers
Front: Circle Racing Wheels Magnum, billet aluminum, 18x9.5-inch
Rear: Circle Racing Wheels Magnum, billet aluminum, 18x11.5-inch
Front: Nitto NT05 P265/35/ZR18
Rear: Nitto NT05 P295/35/ZR18
Restored by Tom Izzo at Speed Inc., original-style bucket seats with black vinyl upholstery, ACC original-style black carpet, Billet Specialties steering wheel, Auto Meter LED gauges set in a Year One dashboard insert
Original-appearing Boss 302-style, body restored and painted '70 Grabber Blue by All Autobody (Elk Grove, Ill), fiberglass hoodscoop, and Boss 302 graphics applied by Stickerdude Designs