Tom Wilson
June 1, 2013

Dare to be Different

There are many Ford swaps that make for great bench-racing conversation but aren’t practical for the average guy. Chief of these are putting an ’03-’04 Cobra; ’07-’13 Shelby GT500; or similar hot, heavy, and wide crate engines in anything. We’ve done it in Foxes, and can verify the finished product is a real hoot, but the job is huge and expensive (as in $50,000-plus when done right with some pro help, suspension, paint, electronics, plumbing, and all that).

You can also read about Jerome Shumate’s Fox coupe, which has most of an ’03 Cobra stuffed inside it, at If you have Jerome’s skills and a donor Cobra, then you can get the Terminator in a Fox, but it’s a big job and the Coyote option doesn’t look radically different these days yet is far easier and cheaper to accomplish. You can also take a cue from one of the best pro shops that’s done at least two of these swaps and says they won’t do anymore because they are just too involved.

With their canted valves, Cleveland heads are especially good high-rpm breathers, and thanks to the 5.0-style intake manifold, no one will immediately spot this combination. Those flat-top valve covers are a dead giveaway that something isn’t Windsor in here, though.

It’s also popular today to consider a 3.5 EcoBoost V-6 swap into a Mustang—we’ve considered it ourselves—and it is sure to be a great all-around performer and a techno wonder. The trouble is the electronics and other support systems, especially a manual transmission, are not enthusiast friendly and those in the know say to wait for the factory to provide something similar in the future.

To date there are some 3.5 EcoBoost engines running in off-road race trucks, but these needed pro-racing aftermarket standalone electronics to function, and that’s far too expensive for any vehicle not making money racing.

Earlier we touched on the 460 big-block. This is one for the displacement fiend (they build nicely to 590 cubes), but today its all-iron construction is too long and heavy even when fitted with aluminum heads. It’s fine for earlier F-Series, but it’s been eclipsed by modern modular’s with power adders.

Decades ago we drove a Ford Ranger with a 5.0 pushrod engine and it was a muscular ride. If you’re a truck guy will get you started on this one. We also drove a square Ranger back in the day with a Taurus SHO 3.0-liter V-6 that Ford built as a concept vehicle. Also great fun in an unexpected way, but you’re on your own with everything here, so the pushrod 5.0 is far more practical. There is some buzz and old articles on the SHO Ranger on the web if you’re feeling adventurous.

You might run across a 6.8-liter V-10 modular for cheap and think it’s good swap fodder, but you’ll be happier and faster with a Three-Valve or Coyote, and while it would be a great conversation starter, the physically large 6.2 Raptor engine isn’t factory supported, and again, you’ll go just as fast or faster with a hot Three-Valve or Coyote for a lot less hassle. 5.0

Horse Sense: Because of the automotive doldrums from the mid-’70s to at least the mid-’80s a generation ago the hot swaps were to put old engines in new cars. Thanks to much better engines today the opposite is true. A generation from now will the swaps be pistons for electrons?