Evan J. Smith
July 8, 2015
Photos By: Manufacturers

In today’s fast-paced world, speed is everything. And we’re not only talking about racing. The superhighway we call the Internet gives us access to information in the blink of an eye. The result is we are far less patient as a society. We want instant gratification in all facets of our lives. This includes our search for horsepower. And one way to satisfy this craving is with a new crate engine.

Generally, if you need an engine in a hurry, want more power, or simply want to avoid dealing with a machine shop, then a crate engine is a great option. Fortunately there’s an endless list of crate engines from top manufacturers, including some of the more popular builders and race shops. You’ll find small-block 302 and 351 Windsor-based engines (including stroker versions) and Coyotes galore, as well as shops specializing in Two-, Three-, and Four-Valve modular powerplants.

The term crate engine stems from the shipping method, which is usually in a sealed crate or box that’s mounted to a pallet, and the fact that is it ready to run. Crate engines come configured in many ways, from long-blocks to engines that are virtually ready to fire. Some packages have carburetors or EFI, distributor and wires, front engine dress, and even a clutch and transmission hooked up. Short-blocks, meaning the assembled block with no heads or intake, are not really considered crate engines.

“We have noticed the trend towards complete crate engines, with installation packages being desired by pro shops and do-it-yourself customers over the past four-to-five years,” says longtime engine specialist Sean Hyland of Sean Hyland Motorsports. “The customers want single-source responsibility, so we supply many packages with everything required, including the alternator, A/C compressor, starter, engine mounts, and front drive system, plus automatic and manual transmission packages.”

Hyland adds, “This saves the customer time and money. They don’t have to track down specific items from other suppliers, and there are no parts compatibility issues with single sourcing. We get asked to complete Ford Performance crate engines too, creating complete packages, that are dyno tested and ready to install.”

Crate engines have also been a homerun with enthusiasts doing engine swaps or custom builds. When building a car from scratch, one of the biggest decisions you’ll make is the engine type. In some cases you may be starting with little to no parts, so you need to source more than just the actual engine. It can be hard determining the correct brackets and accessories. In other cases you may have all the existing components, plus the skill to install them, and all you need is the long-block to get going.

“We supply EFI crate engines with a simplified three-wire hookup wiring harness and the complete fuel pump and line system to make the installation as smooth as possible and as simple and straight forward as we can for our clients,” says Hyland. “Many of these engine packages are going in street rods or hot rods, so they are being installed in vehicles that did not originally come from the factory with the same type of engine as the new crate engine package.”

Most crate engines ship quickly, so you can benefit from less downtime. This gets you back on the road (or track) much quicker, and it takes the guesswork out of ordering parts.

It’s not uncommon for Ford owners to push the factory engine well beyond the design limits. We’ve seen owners double and nearly triple the output with copious levels of boost. But there are no free lunches—achieving big power comes at a cost. For instance, older 5.0L engines have a pretty weak block, whereas the Three-Valve has a rotating assembly that is limited to about 550 hp. Picking a realistic performance level can help you stay within your budget, and it lets you plan for future upgrades.

Increasing power in any engine leads to greater cylinder pressure and, at times, higher rpm, so more robust parts are needed to keep it all together. This is something to consider when selecting a crate engine. Remember the venerable 5.0L H.O. engine? It produced 225 hp in stock trim, but many owners doubled that with bolt-on parts. Unfortunately 450 hp is about the limit the Ford 5.0L block can safely handle before it fails. The problem lies in the thin-wall cast block, which is prone to cracking. High-rpm use and/or lots of cylinder pressure creates harmonics that lead to stress cracks. In addition, the small two-bolt-main caps can’t properly retain the crank, so the main caps walk.

Thankfully, Ford made vast improvements with the introduction of the modular engine. The modular blocks can withstand more power and more rpm. They have extra material throughout, and deep skirting around the crankshaft, which adds a ton of strength. We’ve seen the 4.6L, 5.4L, and 5.0L Coyote blocks make 1,000-plus hp with excellent durability.

Speaking of the Coyote, SHM offers supercharged, ready-to-go packages. Hyland says, “One area of growth is in providing Coyote power with and engine kit including our TVS supercharger. It includes the engine control kit flashed with the supercharger tuning, that’s ready to install. We also include the universal heat exchanger, hoses, reservoirs—you know, the works. Everyone wants an ‘easy button’ solution for their project car drivetrains, and we accommodate them.”

SHM also offers clutch and transmission kits designed to complement its engines and to fit the customer’s needs.

In addition to SHM, many top-name builders supplying crate engines. Ford Performance, Jon Kaase Racing Engines, and Roush Performance are just a few. When shopping, do your due diligence and remember that you generally get what you pay for. Some engines come with a warranty; others don’t. Some engines are designed for racing; some are not. We’ve installed many crate engines in MM&FF project cars and found it to be a great way to motivate your project.

Ford Performance

If you’re interested in big, naturally aspirated Coyote power, Ford Performance offers the M-6007-A50XS 5.0 Aluminator crate engine. This engine uses Cobra Jet technology and many of its internals to develop 500-plus hp without a power adder. It features Mahle pistons, Manley H-beam rods, ARP bolts, a forged steel crank, 11.0:1 compression, CNC-ported Boss heads, and 13mm lift cams. In addition, you’ll find the billet gerotor oil pump, CJ short-runner high-rpm intake manifold, a 1,517-cfm dual 65mm CJ throttle body, a competition high-rpm pulse ring, and a 12-quart competition oil pan. This is a great option for road racing or drag racing.

If you want big cubes (460, to be exact) from a small package, check out the Ford M-6007-Z460FFT engine, which produces 575 hp. It is based around the sturdy Boss 351 block with a 9.5-inch deck height, a forged steel crankshaft, forged steel H-beam rods attached, and forged pistons with floating wristpins. To keep it tame, Ford Performance engineers used a mild 0.594-inch lift hydraulic roller camshaft with 242/248 intake/exhaust duration. It sports a 4.150x4.250-inch bore and stroke, Ford Performance M-6049-Z304DA aluminum Z cylinder heads, a 10.0:1 compression ratio, Ford Racing 1.65:1 ratio aluminum roller rocker arms, a Ford Racing SFI-approved harmonic balancer, and a Ford Racing standard rotation water pump. The 575 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque were reached using an Edelbrock Super Victor intake, a Holley 850-cfm carburetor, and long-tube headers. In our opinion, this engine has much more potential with a simple cam swap and a ported intake.

Aside from the aforementioned Aluminator, Ford Performance also offers a variety of Coyote powerplants, including a stock 420hp production version, a sealed version for NMRA Coyote Stock, and high- and low-compression models.

Recently Ford Performance began offering the 2.0L I-4 and 3.5L V-6 EcoBoost engines. These are production-type engines that produce excellent power and offer OE-like drivability. They are perfect for engine swaps, hot rods, or as replacement engines. Pricing and additional details can be found at fordperformanceracingparts.com.

Jon Kaase Racing Engines

Famed engine builder and five-time Engine Masters champion Jon Kaase offers a handful of high-performance crate engines. Shown is the P-38 small-block with unique individual runner injection. We used a similar version of this Kaase 427 in our Fox-body Ford Mustang Hypersilver project. It developed over 600 hp on pump gas, had show-quality looks, and sounded and performed perfectly.

Late Model Restoration

Are you looking for the hands-on approach? If so, consider purchasing a built short-block like this one from Late Model Restoration (PN LRS 6009EA). Shown is the 5.0L Economy short-block, $1,499.99. Late-Model Restoration says, “These blocks are great candidates for naturally aspirated light street/strip applications or for restoring OE-style performance. Our remanufactured Mustang 5.0L short-blocks start as good Ford cores that are disassembled, then placed in state-of-the-art, environmentally safe burners, followed by steel shot blasting to clean. The blocks are Magnafluxed, inspected for cracks, bored 0.030 to 0.060 inch over, and precision-honed to manufacturer's specifications. They are then fitted with new, cast aluminum pistons and cast rings, the 50-ounce cranks are precision-ground to recommended specifications, and micro-polished. These Mustang 302 short-blocks include a double-roller timing chain but do not include a camshaft. They will, however, accept any roller cam.”

We fitted one of Late Model’s Economy short-blocks with RHS aluminum heads, a mild hydraulic roller cam, Edelbrock Performer II intake, and BBK headers, and were rewarded with over 320 rwhp and equal torque.

Roush Performance Products Inc.

Roush Performance offers a premium line of small-block and modular crate engines. This is the latest, a 600hp boosted Coyote that utilizes the new Roush/Ford Performance supercharger. Of course, Roush also offers the supercharger kit for current Coyote owners. All Roush engines are dynamometer tested, designed to be turn-key, and feature a two-year/24,000-mile limited warranty.

Dressed to impress, Roush Performance also offers this show-ready 410hp 347 that’s based on the 8.2-inch short-deck V-8. These engines use an iron four-bolt block, a steel crank, H-beam rods, forged pistons, and aluminum CNC-ported heads. This 347, which is shipped complete, features a roller cam, dual-plane intake, and a Holley four-barrel carb. This engine also features Roush’s limited two-year/24,000-mile warranty.

Sean Hyland Motorsport

There’s something for everyone in the crate engine market, and Sean Hyland Motorsports offers a wide range of Ford powerplants. This is the SHM 500hp 4.6L SOHC Two-Valve that’s perfect for 1999-2004 Mustangs. It comes with a forged-steel crankshaft, forged connecting rods, forged pistons, ported heads, stainless valves, heavy-duty valve springs, and a 12-psi twin-screw intercooled supercharger kit. This takes all the guesswork out of your build and gives you reliable power with good looks.

SHM also offers a selection of push-rod monsters, including this 392 stroker making a stout 475 hp. We like this engine because it comes with the front engine dress, fuel pump, distributor, plugs, and wires, so it’s literally ready to go. There’s no hunting for belts, brackets, or front-engine components. This carb’d model uses a Holley 750 double-pumper carburetor, Victor Jr. intake, an MSD billet distributor, Billet Specialties front dress with alternator and A/C, and a Holley fuel pump.

Getting a bit more exotic, SHM offers the Big-Bore Boss 302 DOHC crate engine, with individual-runner stack injection, billet valve covers, and billet front drive. This is a 4.6L-based engine

The Shelby GT500 800hp engine provides a great foundation for huge horsepower. SHM developed this turn-key crate package, producing 800 hp on pump gas. It’s designed for easy installation with no programming skills required. The package includes the SHM three-wire hookup, fuel pump, twin-screw supercharger, intercooler, A/C compressor, power steering pump, alternator, computer, wiring harness, and drive-by-wire throttle. Plus it is dyno-tested and SHM states that it retains emission compliance.