Michael Galimi
October 1, 2008

Blowers, Turbos, compound boost, and nitrous are all thrown on top of the modular engine because it's easy. The overhead camshaft family of Ford engines respond so well to unnatural breathing, that it becomes common on the pages of your favorite automotive magazine. If you stop to consider the enormous amount of attention placed on the '03-'04 Cobras, Three-Valve modular power in the S197, and the hot Shelby GT500s, as well as the limitless combinations of pushrod Ford engines, the Two-Valve modular engine starts to get lost in the mix-especially naturally aspirated buildups. This month, we remedy the situation for naturally aspirated fans as we cover a stout little Two-Valve engine buildup.

The task to build a nasty little N/A engine rested on the shoulders of Livernois Motorsports. One way to describe the Dearborn Heights, Michigan-based facility is to call it a super shop. A huge building houses a full machine shop (including crank balancing and all aspects of machining), a CNC center, engine-building clean rooms, an engine dyno, a cylinder-head porting room and clean assembly room, two chassis dynos (Mustang dyno and Dynojet), a Detroit Speed Shop showroom, and a massive installation center. Essentially, Livernois is many shops rolled under one roof.

Modular crate engines are a common occurrence for the Livernois staff, and they told us to pop in whenever we were in town. We took them up on their offer, and since something is always going on, we followed along during a normal day's work. "We carry a lot of the short-blocks and cylinder heads in stock, on the shelf," says head engine builder Mike Schropp. "This allows the customer to call up and work with the tech representative and pick the short-block and head combination that works for both his application and budget. With the products on the shelf, we can usually take a short-block and head package and have an assembled engine available in less than a week. Custom engines usually average three to four weeks."

We arrived days before the NMRA event in nearby Milan Dragway, and Schropp was prepared to put together a potent little Two-Valve engine. Luckily for us, the customer was willing to let them put it on the shop's engine dyno to show it off for this story. The dyno is constantly used to R&D parts and evaluate changes to Livernois' engine programs. A part of the nickel tour was also checking out the CNC machine that works nearly nonstop, stamping out modular and LS1 cylinder heads.

The CNC machine had just completed a run of Two-Valve heads that featured Livernois' newly designed port job. The intake and exhaust ports are the same, but the combustion chamber featured a new shape that has provided as much as 22 hp more over the old combo. The Stage 3 port job and combustion-chamber work are available for both Romeo and Windsor heads. Schropp offered some insight to the new head design. "We've improved the efficiency of the combustion event," he says. "The stock Two-Valve engines suffer from a chamber design built around emissions and mixture motion. The stock head has always hindered performance at higher levels. With this new small chamber with increased quench, we've seen very good improvements in detonation resistance, timing requirements, combustion efficiency, and power output." He also says the new combustion chamber lowered brake-specific fuel consumption (BSFC), bettered EGT readings, and required less timing. The rest of the engine is fairly standard practice in terms of a Two-Valve buildup. A stock block was used and modified with Livernois oil drain backs.

"The drain backs' main purpose is to extend the oil returns from the heads farther into the oil pan and prevent oil from getting pulled into the rotating crankshaft," Schropp says. "This prevents power-robbing parasitic drag caused by the excess oil and windage." It's worth power and is a simple modification that anyone can add to his or her modular engine. The oil sloshing around doesn't effect low-rpm engine operations, but at high rpm the problem is quite prevalent. The stock block was honed to 3.552 inches for proper piston-to-wall clearance.

Kellogg built the steel crankshaft to Livernois' specs, and the stroke checks in at the stock 3.543 inches. Manley steel rods are also done to Livernois specs and are even laser-etched with the Livernois logo. When it came time for the pistons, Mahle was tapped, and Livernois uses a proprietary piston design. The standard Livernois/Mahle pistons have a Grafal skirt coating as well as a phosphate piston coating. Heat-barrier and oil-shedding coatings can be added as well. Compression ratio is set at 11:1, which works fine on pump gas when the engine's tuned properly.

The upper half consists of CNC-ported cylinders, custom camshafts, and a stock intake manifold. The stock PI intake isn't the only one that Livernois recommends; the shop has worked a lot with the Logan Motorsports intake. MM&FF tested that unit on a supercharged, stroked Two-Valve combo last year, with stellar results. Schropp reports they've run it on naturally aspirated and forced-induction combinations with great success as well. The camshaft on this engine is a custom piece spec'd out by Livernois. It checks in at 0.550/0.550 with 248 degrees of duration on the intake side and 250 degrees for the exhaust, at 0.050. Lobe separation is listed on the cam card as 111 degrees-an aggressive but not too lumpy of an idle.

It takes about a day or so to set up an engine on the dyno, but the guys in the shop were cool and stayed late so we could dyno the engine in the morning. The dyno cell sees a variety of engine combinations, so a FAST XFI engine-management system is employed for all fuel-injection testing. We utilized a set of Kooks headers for this test mostly because they cleared the dyno. Schropp did say that those headers produced better power numbers over some other ones on the market. Our freshly built engine was sucking down 93-octane pump-gas fuel, and Schropp made a few easy pulls to break in the engine and make sure it all checked out nicely.

The tiny 281ci engine pounded out 435 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. It's quite impressive and more than enough power to push a 3,500-pound Mustang into the 11-second zone-sans power adder. Adding a stroker crankshaft to this combination should be worth even more horsepower. We estimate anywhere from 40-50 more.

We say throw some nitrous on top of the fortified bottom end, then go out and stomp on some unsuspecting Cobras.

Step By Step

View Photo Gallery
Mmfp_0810_15_z Ford_mustang_two_valve Dyno
Thanks to Schropp and his guys for staying late to get to the engine built and mounted on the dyno.
Mmfp_0810_16_z Ford_mustang_two_valve Head_install
The heads drop onto the engine. Schropp then bolted on a set of custom Livernois camshafts.
Mmfp_0810_17_z Ford_mustang_two_valve Heads_bolt_down
Schropp torques down the heads using ARP studs, which replace the Ford torque-to-yield bolts. The ARP studs are far more effective in clamping the head to the deck surface. Plus, they're reusable, whereas the Ford TTY bolts are to be used once and thrown away.

Dyno Results
Livernois Motorsports Two-Valve Engine
Naturally Aspirated
Stage 3 heads
11:1 compression Livernois custom camshaft
PI Intake