Jim Smart
May 5, 2014
Photos By: Courtesy Ford Racing

When Ford introduced the single overhead cam 5.4L 3V Modular V-8 in 2004 in the redesigned F-Series trucks and the 4.6L 3V in the all-new ’05 Mustang GT, it was viewed as an upscale compromise between the 2V Modular and the mighty DOHC-4V Cobra and Mach 1 engines. Three-valve technology bolstered the SOHC Modular’s reputation as did Variable Cam Timing (VCT), and the SOHC-3V has become a proven mill in the 10 years it has been in production in performance applications like the ’05-’10 Mustang GT. The 3V has shown it can take a lot of punishment, make power, and come back for more. It also makes significantly more power than the 2V, however, should you consider the 3V SOHC for your vintage Ford?

Because Ford has produced so many SOHC-3V engines since 2004, these mills are plentiful and reasonably priced. There are a lot of them available from crash and theft recoveries. Sometimes, you can snap up the entire vehicle, part it out, and make money on parts for your engine-building project. The SOHC-3V will operate happily on 87-octane fuel and parts are generally more affordable, which isn’t true of the premium-fueled, DOHC-4V. There are also two fewer cams and eight fewer valves and rocker arms to sweat out, which makes the 3V cheaper to build. It is cheaper to build a 3V than it is a 4V and yet you can get nearly the same amount of power available from the DOHC-4V. The 3V isn’t as large as the 4V, so there’s more room if you’re trying to shoehorn the Modular into a Torino or Mustang.

There are also aftermarket shops like Modular Motorsports Racing building 3V engines and short-blocks. And because the 3V has an extensive application in the ’05-’10 Mustang GT, there’s a lot available from the performance aftermarket for this engine. If you want to build a 3V from scratch, Summit Racing Equipment has a huge inventory of Ford Racing Performance Parts (FRPP) pieces, as does other aftermarket sources like Roush, Brothers, BBK, Comp Cams, Edelbrock, and more. You can begin with a new factory aluminum or cast-iron block or the heavy-duty Boss block with larger bores and plenty of material down under to support huge amounts of horsepower.

The beauty of a 4.6L or 5.4L SOHC-3V is lightweight aluminum casting technology, if you decide on an aluminum block. In all- aluminum form, this engine weighs considerably less than a 390, 428, or 460 big-block and will make whopping amounts of power with the added benefit of fuel efficiency. Imagine one of these in your classic F-Series truck or fullsize Galaxie.

What makes the 3V a better bargain than the 2V is breathing and power for the same amount of money as the 2V. It is that second intake valve and variable cam timing that infuse real power into this engine. We’re talking 300 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 320 lb-ft at 4,500 rpm of torque box stock in the ’05 Mustang GT. By today’s standards with the 5.0L Coyote, 300/320 is laughable, however, there’s more power available from the 4.6L/5.4L SOHC-3V with the right parts and technique.

Block Bottom Basics
All 4.6L and 5.4L SOHC Modular engines employ the same blocks, meaning you can bolt any SOHC head on any Romeo or Windsor block. This means you can mate any 3V head to any Romeo or Windsor iron or aluminum block, which gives you a lot to choose from. Romeo iron blocks are cast at the Cleveland Iron Foundry. Windsor iron blocks are cast at the Windsor Iron Foundry. Aluminum blocks are cast at the Windsor Aluminum Plant unless you’ve found a DOHC-4V Teksid block, which was cast in Italy.

Adding Displacement
The SOHC-3V engine has a bulletproof bottom end, meaning it can take a lot of punishment and serve you well for 250,000 miles with regular oil and filter changes with a stock bottom end. If you’re anticipating punishing performance, it’s a good idea to go with a steel crank, H-beam rods, and forged pistons with coated skirts.

A number of stock displacement and stroker kits available through the aftermarket for the 4.6L and 5.4L SOHC-3V Modular engines. Because these engines are very limited in terms of displacement growth, don’t expect a lot of displacement via bore and stroke, however.

Head Trip
The SOHC-3V cylinder head is completely different thanks to its innovative apex-shaped combustion chambers and one additional intake valve engineered to improve velocity and volume. This head makes significantly more power than the 2V head and is a close runner up to the 4V.

When you take this improved airflow port and valve design and marry it to variable cam timing (VCT), you have a great formula for power without additional cams and valves. VCT moves the cam on its longitudinal axis to advance or retard valve timing to improve both performance and reduce emissions. When you advance valve timing, you gain low-end torque, but usually at the cost of high-end horsepower. And when you retard valve timing, exactly the opposite happens with losses in low to mid-range torque and gains in horsepower. With VCT, you get the benefit of both without sacrificing power. Down low, you get more torque because VCT advances valve timing. And with the pedal to the metal, VCT retards valve timing to help you achieve more horsepower. This approach also improves emissions and fuel economy.

Another difference in the 3V is drive-by-wire technology. Instead of a throttle cable, throttle operation is electronic. The accelerator pedal is a variable resistor like a volume control on your stereo where resistance determines where the throttle is positioned. Step on the gas and the computer responds with an electrical signal to the throttle motor gear drive, which in turn moves the throttle—the days of goosing the throttle by hand are over.

The stock 3V head offers good flow right out of the box at 174cc intake runner volume and 62cc exhaust with 51cc chambers. Flow at 0.600-inch lift is 225 cfm and exhaust is 195.7 cfm box stock.

If you are seeking bang for your buck consider the CNC ported 3V head from Ford Racing Performance Parts (FRPP) available from any FRPP dealer. The M-6049/6050-N3VPA head is precision CNC ported to yield 202cc intake volume and 73cc exhaust with 53cc chambers. Intake flow at 0.600-inch lift is 272 cfm. Exhaust is 190 cfm. You will need the FRPP M-12029-3V coil packs with ’08-’10 12mm spark plugs for this head.

These heads have a suggested retail of $1,049 each, assembled and ready to install. To make the most of these heads you will want the FRPP M-6550-3V cam kit, M-9424-463V High Flow intake manifold and M-9926-3V twin 62mm throttle body. The M-9926-3V throttle body gives you 1,306 cfm with the butterflies pinned. You stand to gain 50-plus horsepower at the wheels with this combination of parts. You will need to purchase roller rockers and lash adjustors.

Though 3V engine production has come to a close, its plentiful numbers in Mustangs and F-150 trucks, as well as healthy aftermarket support, offers hotrodders a powerful, modern engine option in a lightweight package.

1 At first glance, the SOHC-3V isn’t much different than the 2V. It is built on the same block design, but its piston dish is different than the 2V and 4V due to valve configuration, and of course there’s an extra valve hiding under the camshaft at each cylinder . Cracked powdered metal connecting rods are the same. What makes the 3V distinctive are its three-valve heads with computer controlled/oil pressure modulated variable cam timing (VCT).

2 You can build a SOHC-3V on any Romeo or Windsor Modular V-8 block. There are plenty of block cores out there both new and used. This is a new 4.6L Romeo block with jackscrew fit cross bolted main caps, which is an excellent foundation for your 3V project. Later blocks are interference fit main caps instead of jack screws. You may also go with any of the Ford aluminum blocks.

3 This is the 4.6L Romeo iron block with jackscrew secured main caps. Side bolts are removed and jackscrews relaxed to remove main caps. Jackscrews on Romeo blocks are adjusted with an Allen wrench to where they are flush with the block pan rails once main caps are torqued. Side bolts are installed and torqued once jackscrews are set.

4 The #156-5901 stud kit is specifically for the 3V with a windage tray with longer studs.

5 Main studs have been installed finger snug and are not to be bottomed out. Note Number 5 main studs are the short ones because they do not secure the windage tray.

6 Modular Motorsports Racing (formerly Modular Mustang Racing) is building this SOHC-3V engine with a new cast-iron Romeo block as a foundation. Inside, this block will get a 4340 forged-steel stroker crank to achieve 4.75L or 5.0L. Reciprocating mass consists of MMR specification Manley forged steel H-beam rods and forged pistons dished for the 3V and fitted with Total Seal file fit rings and Clevite bearings.

7 This is the 4340 steel eight-bolt stroker crank that will bring displacement to 5.0L. The eight-bolt crank is what you want for any 3V build stock or modified.

8 Crankshaft endplay is checked and controlled by this shim on all Modular engines. Varying thicknesses are available depending upon how much endplay you need. Crank endplay needs to be between 0.006- and 0.014-inch depending on how hard you intend to work the engine. Crank rotation should take only your fingertips and there should be plenty of assembly lube on the journals.

9 MMR’s premium engine kits and short/long blocks get Manley forged pistons and Total Seal file fit rings. Ring end gaps should be 0.006- to 0.010-inch for the top rings and 0.010- to 0.016-inch for secondary rings. Gaps depend on how hard you intend to run your 3V. If you’re going to run it hard, go for close to maximum end gap. Ring end gaps need to be positioned 90 degrees apart.

10 We like this 3.552-inch billet ring compressor, which makes light work of piston and rod installation. Use SAE 30-weight engine oil on cylinder walls unless you expect the engine to sit for an extended period of time. Use engine assembly lube on pistons and cylinder walls if you expect to store the engine.

11 You can never use too much engine assembly lube on moving parts. Bearings and journals must have a generous oil wedge at start up. Modular engines use aluminum bearings instead of the more traditional tri-metal bearings we’ve been using for generations. Aluminum has proven very successful in these engines in all applications.

12 Connecting rod side clearances must always be checked, as well as crank rotation resistance, one cylinder at a time during piston installation. Side clearances should be 0.011-inch according to Sean Hyland, who builds a lot of Modular racing engines.

13 This is the 3V left-hand cylinder head with twin port induction into two intake valves. What makes this port configuration appealing is its long and narrow design, which increases velocity and torque. At first glance, these ports look more like the 4V twinport and they work basically the same way. These intake ports work in conjunction with Ford’s CMCV (Charge Motion Control Valve), which is a butterfly assembly ahead of the intake port like the older ’96-’98 Cobra twinport.

14 D-shaped exhaust ports and larger exhaust valves provide better scavenging thanks to a high ceiling and a low floor, which allows room for expansion and therefore velocity going out.

15 The front of each 3V cylinder head isn’t much different than you find with the 2V head except these heads are right and left specific. There are oil passages for the Variable Cam Timing, which you would not see with the 2V or 4V heads. Chain tensioner oil passages are the same as the 2V/4V.

16 The back of each 3V head looks like this, which is why these heads install only one way. That’s a cam journal oil galley plug flanked by two freeze plugs. The 3V cylinder head does not have a cam girdle like the Romeo 2V head. The 3V engine was originally conceived for trucks, which means you can expect to see Windsor nuances throughout.

17 The 3V chamber exhibits an unconventional apex/Hemi shape with good quench in the corners in a true crossflow design with the spark plug dead center for a consistent light-off and less chance of detonation.

18 Here’s what makes the 3V better. On the left is the oil-pressure-modulated VCT cam sprocket/phaser, which advances and retards valve timing depending upon engine rpm and throttle position. At high rpm, this sprocket retards valve timing to improve horsepower. At low rpm, it advances valve timing to improve low-end torque. The fingers are for the Hall Effect cam sensors. On the right is a conventional 2V cam sprocket.

19 Although this looks like a sensor it is the electronically-activated VCT valve, with one located on each cylinder head to activate the VCT cam phaser/sprocket.

20 When you first glance the 3V’s camshafts, you notice the abundance of lobes, in particular three per cylinder. Factory cams are a composite design with lobes positioned on a hollow shaft and swaged in place. These are aftermarket billet camshafts from Modular Motorsports Racing. Journals are typical of Windsor engines, void of girdles.

21 Although properly indexing timing chains and guides seems complex there’s nothing to it. The dark chain links, which look like master links, are aligned with cam sprocket timing marks before chain tensioners are installed.

22 Like 2V and 4V Modulars, chain tensioners are installed as shown on the 3V with temporary holding blocks in place. Once accurate chain and sprocket indexing is confirmed, blocks are removed and chain tensioners/guides apply pressure. When the engine’s oil system is primed, these tensioners apply full pressure to the guides.

23 Each type of Modular engine (2V, 3V, 4V) has its own type of factory oil pump. Of all the pumps, the 3V pump delivers the greatest volume and offers the best durability; It hasn’t been plagued with the durability issues 2V and 4V pumps have. MMR offers a variety of pumps for Modular applications including the red Hurricane pump (not shown) with steel billet gears and a CNC-machined housing. Shown here is the MMR/Econo Street Pump, which is adequate for nearly any street and weekend race application. Ask for the #400355 or #400355T.

Guide To Modular SOHC Blocks

Model Year Ford Casting Number Plant
1991 F1AE-6015 Romeo Engine Plant
1992 F2VE-6015 Romeo Engine Plant
1993 F2VR-6015 Romeo Engine Plant
1994-1995 F2VE-6015 Romeo Engine Plant
1994-1995 F4VE-6015 Romeo Engine Plant
1996 F6VE-6015 Romeo Engine Plant
1996 F65E-6015-CC Romeo Engine Plant
Casting revisions to make the block stronger
1996-1997 F6VE-6016 Windsor Engine Plant
Truck Block
1996-1997 F65E-6015-BB Windsor Engine Plant
Truck Block
1997-2000 F7AE-6015 Romeo Engine Plant
1997-2000 ZW7E-6015 Romeo Engine Plant
2001-2008 XW7E-6015 Romeo Engine Plant
2007-2010 7L2E-6015BA Romeo Engine Plant
Service Replacement Block
2002-2010 1L2E-6015 Romeo Engine Plant
Aluminum Block
2002-2010 3L2E-6015 Romeo Engine Plant
Aluminum Block
M-6010-T50 Ford Racing Block
Large Bore with cast iron liners
M-6010-A46NA Ford Racing Block
Chilled Bulkhead Casting process for stronger main webs
M-6010-A46SC Ford Racing Block
Most current 4.6L aluminum block
Machined for 2003-04 Cobra front dress
Will fit some SOHC applications but not all
(Information Courtesy George Reid’s How To Rebuild 4.6-/5.4-Liter Ford Engines, Cartech Books)