5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
Ford Racing Performance Parts Aluminator Engine Swap - Alchemy In Action
Converting cast-iron to aluminum is a drag-and-drop affair thanks to FRPP
When introduced, enthusiasts greeted the '03 Cobra with excitement. After all, it included what many had on their wish list: a supercharged engine, a six-speed transmission, and an independent rear suspension. But instead of specifying an aluminum block, as it had from 1996, SVT engineers chose an iron-block. Whether the decision was made out of concern for durability or cost, many believed the iron-block was a step backward--adding weight to an already nose-heavy car.
Believe it or not, the first '03 Mustang Cobras are almost 10 years old. After nearly a decade of supercharged service, it's understandable that many of those first Terminator mills are ready for retirement. Of course, that's if they've survived the usual regimen of over-boosted Eatons, twin-screw replacements, and the occasional nitrous hit. So when Ford Racing Performance Parts introduced its lineup of Aluminator crate engines a few years ago, it released two part numbers aimed squarely at these '03-'04 Cobras: M-6007-A46SC for the long-block and A-6009-A46SC for the short-block. With a little help from FRPP, Terminator Cobras can get the aluminum block they deserve.
Both the short- and long-blocks use the M-6010-A46SC Aluminator block. Utilizing a chilled-bulkhead casting process; round main-web windows; and ball-burnished, 17mm-thick main caps, the Aluminator block is all about strength and durability--important when considering that many owners will throw nearly 1,000 hp at this thing. For Terminator duty, FRPP removes the knock sensor bosses for intercooler clearance. The block is machined to accept the '03-'04 Cobra's front cover and engine dress to make the swap a direct, bolt-in affair.
The top offering from FRPP is the Aluminator long-block, which is complete from valve covers to the oil pan. It is by far the easiest way to complete an Aluminator swap and is the subject of this story. FRPP even includes multi-layer exhaust gaskets, exhaust hardware, intake gaskets, and a new coolant thermostat.
To handle the installation, we relied upon Rehagen Racing in Livonia, Michigan. A stone's throw from Ford Racing's warehouse, Rehagen Racing's shop is well-equipped and packed to the gills with Mustangs in various stages of preparation. With a staff that shares decades of experience engineering, building, and racing Mustangs, we knew this Terminator was in good hands.
Even though the bulk of the swap is a straightforward remove and replace exercise, there were a few deviations we wanted to make: an Even Flow Cooling kit (see sidebar) and a set of JBA mid-length headers that Rehagen Racing had left over from their Grand-Am series race cars. Anyone who's installed a set of headers on a mod-motored SN-95 will tell you that the easiest way to install headers is with the engine out! We picked up a set of nifty Split-Lock header fasteners from Percy's High Performance (www.percyshp.com) to bolt them up.
There are two ways to remove a modular engine from a New Edge Mustang--top or bottom. Many prefer to unbolt the K-member and raise the car away from the engine. However, that method requires a chassis lift, and the air conditioning system must be evacuated and disconnected.
Removing the engine from the top is a bit more time-consuming, but it can be done with an engine hoist, and the air conditioning and power steering systems can be left intact. Since most people who attempt this swap themselves don't have a lift, Rehagen Racing elected to show how to pull the engine from the top. However, the crew did use a chassis lift to save some time and allow for better photographs.
The '03-'04 Cobra cylinder heads developed a hot spot from poor coolant flow at the rear of the left head. The hot spot could overheat exhaust valve guides, loosen up their tolerance, and cause a valvetrain "tick." While coolant from the rear of the right head flows through the heater core and then to the water pump, there isn't such a path for the left side. This issue set Internet forums ablaze for several years, and after a series of attempts to fix the tick issue, Ford released a revised cylinder head with improved coolant flow in January 2005.
To help the early heads' cooling efficiency, Even Flow Cooling offers a cooling modification kit that draws coolant from a special fitting that is installed in the rear of the left side head and feeds it to a T-fitting in the upper radiator hose. Even though Aluminator long-blocks such as ours had the updated heads, we installed an Even Flow Cooling kit as added insurance.