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Drew Johnson’s 2000 Mustang GT Gets A Refurbished Two-Valve Engine
Two-Valve nation is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to their cars. Of course, we're talking about 1996-2004 Mustang GTs. The cars are very affordable right now, but the engines are still out of the mechanical knowledge of many Mustang enthusiasts. It's not that they're hard to work on, it's just that many people are intimidated by the Two-Valve engine and its timing chain and guide arrangement.
More people are still comfortable with the pushrod engine, and many have been slow to accept the modular engine, and more importantly, learn about how to work on them. However, truly the bad thing about the Two-Valve is that, comparatively speaking, it's more difficult to make power with them. Plus, even with a Two-Valve, it's less expensive to put together a pushrod combination on the cheap compared to a Two-Valve.
Case in point is this author's son and his 2000 Mustang GT. When we bought it for his 17th birthday, it had an automatic in it, which we quickly swapped out with a lot of help from MV Performance, MPS Auto Salvage, Centerforce, Steeda Autosports, DiabloSport, and David Piercey's Mustang Performance. Unfortunately, recently it had started to make a bit more noise than usual. We jumped on the phone with Shrader Performance's Steve Shrader to get his expertise on it, and to him it sounded like timing chain and guide noise. To rule out any front accessory bearings or tensioners, we took the belt off and started the engine, but of course, the noise was still there. It was at that point we knew we were about to get our hands dirty.
Hurriedly, we got on the phone to Ford Performance for a Two-Valve Camshaft Drive Kit. Unfortunately, before we were able to install the Camshaft Drive Kit, the engine lost oil pressure, which meant we had to find a replacement engine. It wasn't that difficult to find a replacement engine since we aren't too far from Mustang Parts Reaper, located in Mascotte, Florida. He had a Two-Valve engine that had just been rebuilt with new timing chains and guides, new head gaskets, new oil pump, and head bolts. The engine was exactly what Drew's car needed; we just had to find the time and place to perform the swap.
David Piercey's Mustang Performance rescued us again for the engine swap. David doesn't like to work on modular engines since he's a pushrod Fox guy, but he was willing to help us with the engine swap. So we had the place, we just needed the time. We blocked off a couple days once Drew was out of school for the summer and got to work.
For the engine, we had to get new valve cover and intake gaskets, and various other little odds and ends to complete the swap. One weird thing about the engine is that it was a Romeo bottom end with a 6-bolt crank, but with Windsor 13/14 bolt heads. That was fine with us for two reasons. First, we already had a Romeo 6-bolt flywheel from Centerforce, and the engine in the car was a Windsor so we could reuse the car's existing valve covers, which were in great shape.
If you're looking at buying a Two-Valve, and they're plentiful at the moment, they're great cars. However, if the timing chains and guides haven't been swapped out for new components, pay extra attention to the car's mileage. Drew's car had roughly 200,000 miles on it, so we'd say we got every mile possible out of the factory timing components. If you find one with high-mileage, the first thing you may want to do is address the timing chains and guides.
Also, if you're looking for a budget Mustang, a Two-Valve with a bad engine might be a good place to start. We routinely see 1999-2004 Mustang GTs with blown engines for around $1,500-$2,000. If that's the route you take, here are some numbers you need to know. First, we paid $900 for the engine. Yes, it was mostly redone and like new so a good used engine could be cheaper, but if you have to buy an engine, budget anywhere from $500-$1,700 depending on who and where you get the engine. If you have to add the Ford Performance Camshaft Drive Kit, that will be another $380 mail-order. For miscellaneous gaskets, fluids, spark plugs, and other things you will need, budget another $300-$400 for that stuff. On Drew's car the swap ended up costing us roughly $1,300, but that doesn't even cover labor.
The labor brings us to another point in this equation. If you're not going to do the swap yourself, paying an hourly labor rate is going to be steep. An engine swap can easily take even the most seasoned Mustang shop a couple days to accomplish from start to finish. The cost of labor can easily reach $2,000 or more so make sure to budget and plan accordingly.
All this brings us to the point where Two-Valve Nation is between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, Two-Valve cars, especially the 1999-2004 New Edge examples make for great daily drivers. They can also be had for little more than a song, but fixing them still remains somewhat of an expensive venture. The 1996-1998 Mustang GTs can be had for cheap, but even if you are able to get a roller, or one with a bad engine, by the time you add an engine into the mix, even a used one, your investment can exceed what the car is worth. The same goes for the 1999-2004 New Edge cars.
A Two-Valve car, in our opinions, is still the least expensive way to get into a Mustang these days. However, the costs can add up fast, even if you start near the bottom. Hopefully our little exercise with Drew's car helps out those in the market for a Two-Valve Mustang GT. They do make great cars, but like every Mustang, they need love, too.