4. 428 Cobra Jet
Ford presented the legendary Cobra Jet as a mid-year introduction in 1968 as a new muscle car engine from Ford. The pressure from Chevrolet’s 427 V8, Mopar 440 and 426 Hemi, as well as Pontiac’s 421 and 428 V8 made the 427 Medium Risers obsolete. Ford needed a new mass-produced muscle engine to battle their competitors, so they designed the Cobra Jet engine to be affordable, but still durable and powerful enough.
Ford rated the 428 Cobra Jet at 335 HP, but it was immediately obvious their new offering put out much more than that. In fact, it put out over 400 to 450 HP, which was enough to claim the title of Stock Car Champion and winner of many illegal street races. In 1969, Ford produced over 20,000 Cobra Jet engines and even rarer Super Cobra Jet engines. They featured tougher internals and a couple of performance upgrades but retained their factory power output of 335 HP.
The Cobra Jet was the top engine choice in the Ford Mustang, but they were also available for other Ford models like the Torino, for example. Today, the Cobra Jet is widely recognized as one of the most legendary muscle car engines, as well as the ultimate Mustang power plant.
5. Boss 429
The mythical Boss 429 engine is a proper muscle car legend. Conceived in 1969 as a pure racing engine intended for use in NASCAR championships, the Boss 429 featured a totally different engine architecture than the rest of Ford’s big blocks. The Boss 429 was much wider and had semi-Hemi combustion chambers that achieved higher revs. It also offered better flow inside the heads, which ultimately produced more power and torque. Rated at 375 HP by the factory, this unit actually put out over 500 HP and much more in race trim.
Ford decided to put this engine into the Mustang, creating a limited production Boss 429. But, NASCAR didn’t homologate it since they only accepted intermediate and full-size cars. The Mustang was a pony car model. So, Ford homologated the Torino Talladega as a body and the Boss 429 as an engine. They participated in the 1969 season, using the Torino and the Mercury Cyclone with a Boss 429 engine.
Those cars proved successful, winning 30 out of 54 races that year. The secret was the engine because Ford designed the Boss 429 to run at a high rpm for long periods of time. This way, it could achieve its peak power high in the rpm range. The Mustang Boss 429 never fulfilled its street racing potential since the mighty engine needed long super speedway tracks to show its true power, rather than short quarter-mile stretches.
Available only in 1969 and 1970 as an engine option on a Mustang Sportsroof, Ford only made approximately 1,300 units of the Boss 429, making it a highly-desirable engine today.
6. Boss 302
If the Boss 429 was a beast designed for NASCAR, the Boss 302 was a totally different kind of animal. Ford made this engine with Trans Am racing in mind. Thanks to the Mustang, Ford was a popular choice on SCCA races. When the SCCA started turning into a popular Trans Am series, Ford wanted another championship title. Since Shelby American stopped working with Ford in late 1967, Carroll Shelby was not there to help prepare the newly introduced 1969 Mustang for the Trans Am.
So, Ford made a new engine and put it in a new model. The Boss 302 engine was small compared to Cobra Jet or Boss 429, but it was a high-revving, powerful motor. The displacement was 5.0-liters at 302 CID, and the factory rated it at 290 HP. However, the real output was closer to the 350 HP mark. They offered the Boss 302 at a relatively affordable price as a basic package. It proved to be popular, with Ford producing over 8,500 units in 1969 and 1970. Many Mercury Cougars also received Boss 302 engines with the same specifications.
Boss-powered Mustangs were competitive in 1969 at the race tracks, going on to win the championship title in 1970, despite facing tough competition from Chevrolet, Dodge and Chrysler.
7. Boss 351
The Boss 351 is a somewhat forgotten Ford engine they produced for one year only, in 1971. Despite its relative obscurity, this is one fantastic small block with unique construction and specific output. In 1971, they redesigned the Mustang with a new, bigger and heavier body. The legendary performance versions like the Boss 302 and Boss 429 were gone and only the Mach I remained from the previous years.
Ford felt the Mustang needed one specific, high-revving model that would deliver great performance despite the tightening emission standards that were killing horsepower numbers. So, Ford`s engineers prepared a 351 CID, 5.7-liter small block motor. They used Cleveland heads, a four-bolt block and a higher, almost racing compression at 11:1. Basically, the Boss 351 had the best of everything packed in a compact but powerful package.
The factory rating of the 330 HP was conservative and the Boss 351 produced close to 400 HP, all thanks to innovative engineering and the high-performance components they put into creating it. Ford decided to offer it in a Boss 351 model, but not to promote it through racing, which affected the sales and popularity. The production was low at 1,806 units, which are highly collectible today and can demand high prices.
The automotive press recognized the greatness and the potential of the Boss 351 engine when it came out, but Ford failed to translate it to higher sales numbers. Today, historians agree that the Boss 351 was the best of the best of Ford’s small-block muscle engines because it featured all the finest components in a compact package.
8. 5.0 EFI HO
After the original muscle car era passed in the early 1970s, all car manufacturers, including Ford turned to produce low compression engines that were shadows of the former glorious V8. The power levels were embarrassingly low and all through the 70s and early 80s, serious performance was just a mirage.
However, Ford offered its venerable 5.0 V8 in Mustangs and other models, constantly upgrading the specification and power output from diminutive 140 HP in 1979. From 1978 to 1985, Ford offered the 5.0 in the Mustang GT with 170 HP output. However, the biggest change appeared in 1986 when Ford introduced its electronic fuel injection intake system to the 5.0. This transformed it from the old, weak unit into a modern muscle car engine.
This combination proved successful since the 5.0 EFI had 225 HP rating, more than adequate for the standards of the day. The 5.0 EFI was a reliable engine with great balance, proven technology, good fuel efficiency and big tuning potential. Installed in the lightweight Fox-body Mustang, the 5.0 was the engine to have in the late 80s. It provided great performance at an affordable price. Even today, 5.0 Mustangs are legendary for their performance. There is a whole industry dedicated to restoring, upgrading and racing those cool machines.
Along with Chevrolet`s small block from the Corvette and the Camaro, Ford`s 5.0 EFI engine, which they produced from 1986 to 1993, is credited as the engine that saved American performance and muscle cars in the 1980s.
9. Ford GT 5.4-Liter Supercharged V8
The 21st century brought American performance back in the best way with powerful engines, great-looking muscle cars and crazy power outputs. Since Ford is a company proud of its tradition and racing success, the idea of a modern-day GT 40 started to take shape in 2004. They offered the first production models in 2005. Ford knew such an iconic vehicle needed a proper motor – perhaps something crazy, reliable and beyond powerful – so the engineers prepared a true mechanical gem.
It was the most powerful engine Ford produced at the time at 550 HP, which is still, more than 10 years later, a significant number. But the specification of the engines is the best part. It was an aluminum block with forged pistons and 32-valve heads, with a dry sump and a massive supercharger on top of it. Not only did the engine perform fantastically, it also looked great. The production of the Ford GT was ample at almost 4,000 units. After they discontinued the Ford GT, an almost identical version appeared in the Shelby GT500, which Ford produced from 2007 to 2009.
For use in the Shelby GT500, they gave this engine an iron block and detuned it to 500 HP. Even with more weight and less power, the Shelby GT500 was a performance sensation beating similar Porsches and BMWs in various magazine tests.
10. Voodoo V8
The renaissance of American performance in 2010 brought many fantastic engines from all domestic car brands. Chevrolet had its line of fantastic LS and ZL-1 small block V8 and Dodge has its mighty Hemi. Ford presented a modern and powerful 5.0 V8 called the Coyote in 2010. It featured all the modern components, variable valve timing systems, 32-valve heads and much more.
But, despite the Coyote being powerful, the Voodoo V8 takes the crown as one of the best modern Ford engines and one of the best production units in America. With 5.2-liters of displacement, they based the Voodoo on the Coyote V8 architecture, but just barely. Ford`s SVT team gave it different components and characteristics.
First, the Voodoo features a flat plain crankshaft, which is an exotic solution for a muscle car engine. Second, it has newly designed high-flow heads and forged pistons. And third, it has heavy-duty internals and an exhaust system. The Voodoo puts out 526 HP, more than 100 HP per liter of displacement. The red line is at 8,250 rpm, which is unbelievable for a V8 engine.
The Voodoo V8 is the most advanced muscle car engine with technology more appropriate for European exotic cars than American muscle cars. Right now, the Voodoo is only available in the Shelby GT350, as well as its more powerful and lighter GT350 R variant.
11. Eco Boost engines
All the engines on this list so far were V8 engines with big displacements and high power. Although this helped them make their mark on the muscle car scene, it is not the whole story of Ford engines. Besides the V8 monsters, Ford produced small, dependable and affordable engines for economy models and sold millions of them over the years.
In 2009, Ford introduced its Eco Boost family of turbocharged engines. It is a continuation of their economic engines, but with a modern twist. They come in a wide spectrum of sizes, cylinder configurations, power outputs and applications.
When the economic recession hit the global economy, Ford was one of the first companies to accept that downsizing was the way to go. The Eco Boost line of engines offered smaller units with better fuel economy due to turbo technology. Ford invested heavily in this concept, not only for domestic models but for its worldwide models, too. Today, several years after they produced the first Eco Boost engines, Ford continues to offer numerous variants.
There are small 1.0-liter three-cylinder engines and four-cylinder units. Also, Ford is producing bigger 2.7 and 3.5-liter V8 Eco Boost units. They make all shapes and sizes, from a miniature one-liter 105 HP engine to a 3.5-liter V6 with 450 HP in the crazy F-150 Raptor.
Even modern Mustangs feature 2.3-liter four cylinders with 315 HP. The radical turn to smaller turbo engines and the success in building them shows that the Ford Motor Company is ready to adapt to the changes and challenges of modern industries. Similar to the classic Flathead V8, which caused a sensation in 1932 and influenced many, today`s Eco Boost engines are blueprints for modern passenger car engines that are both economical and powerful at the same time.
12. Model T Engine
Any list of the best Ford engines wouldn’t be complete without the unit that started it all: the Model T engine. Despite the fact it wasn’t the first Ford engine, it was the most important. This engine launched Ford as a company and the Model T as the definitive car of the 20th century. But it had far more uses than just an automobile engine.
The Model T engine was a simple but efficient four-cylinder unit with a 2.9-liter displacement. It produced 20 HP and could propel the Model T to a top speed of almost 45 MPH. The transmission also used engine oil, which was a practical solution. The basic construction was like other engines of its day, but the Model T had a cast iron block. It also had heads Ford made of highly-durable materials, which helped the longevity of the engine.
Along with installing the engine in the Model T, Ford produced millions of motors for agricultural and industrial machines. They also made them for marine and military purposes. People praised the model T engine for its simplicity and toughness under hard working conditions. It remained in production until 1941, long after they discontinued the Model T.
13. Ford 300 CID I6 Engine
Even though the 300 CID I6 engine isn’t as popular or well-known as other units on this list, it deserves a place here. This was Ford’s base truck engine for over 30 years, from 1965 to 1996. You could find this engine in millions of Blue Oval trucks and SUVs. Introduced in the mid-60s, the 300 was an evolution of the regular line of Ford’s inline six cylinders.
With around 150 HP and 250 lb-ft of torque, it had more than enough power for F150 trucks. Ford even used this engine in bigger trucks. But, they equipped it with a better intake system to produce more torque for towing more weight. The secret of this engine was its simplicity and high-quality engineering, making it durable and tough. This is something that truck owners appreciate.
Interestingly, Ford discontinued the 300 CID more than 20 years after its production. However, they still use this engine in some UPS trucks. This only proves the quality of the original concept.
14. 6.7-Liter Power Stroke V8
The only diesel engine on this list is the relatively new Power Stroke V8, which Ford produced from 2011 to 2015 to install in their trucks. International Harvester produced the previous generation of Ford diesel engines. This resulted in Ford getting many complaints about the engine and its quality. So, the company decided to design the next generation in-house to iron out all its flaws.
The result was the 2011 Power Stroke. It was better and tougher than any other V8 diesel engine on the market. The fuel and intake systems were fixed. The new powerplant delivered 390 HP and 738 lb-ft of torque. Besides its big power and great performance, the 6.7-Liter Power Stroke V8 delivered decent fuel economy, was quiet and provided power anywhere in its rev range. After the 2015 upgrade, which included a new turbo and engine management system, the fantastic V8 diesel delivered 440 HP and a massive 860 lb-ft of torque.
Any car fan will tell you that a car is only as good as its engine. The engines on this list can add value to any vehicle with their power and strength.