Ford Modular vs Chevy LS: Which is the Better Engine?

I love Chevy LS engines, my first ever “technician” job, was to rebuild a C5 Corvette from the ground up. I was 17 and had no idea what I was doing, but I was working side-by-side with a former Lopers (Chevy performance shop) employee.

We built the motor using a custom ground cam and cnc ported factory heads. We picked up nearly 100whp over stock just from those changes, and ever since then I’ve loved LS motors.

But, I’ve completely forgotten about Ford modular motors, are mod motors better? Lets dive in and compare Chevy LS vs. Ford Modular. Before we start this comparison let’s briefly cover each engine individually.

Ford Modular

Ford began using their modular design back in 1991. The Modular engine is a replacement for the 302ci engine that was well-known and loved. Its lower displacement to gives it better fuel efficiency, just as much torque, and more horsepower. However, it failed at pretty much all of those.

There are various reasons why it didn’t make much power, but the main one is that it didn’t rev high enough. The SOHC design brought higher red lines, and more horsepower. But, the 4.6L modular’s redline was hardly any higher than the 302’s redline.

Fast forwards to 2011 and Ford is producing the 5.0L Coyote. They had to develop an engine that could compete with Chevy’s 6.2L and Chrysler’s 6.4L. Ford was able to push out a very impressive 412 horsepower of their 5.0L V8. Today the Coyote makes 435 horsepower, and it made 444 in the Boss 302 model.

Chevrolet LS

Chevrolet introduced their new V8 design in 1999. This new small-block design replaced the LT series of engines, which was basically a small-block Chevy with some EFI components attached to it. They called their new small-block the LS1, and it led to a massive engine family.

The LS is larger is displacement than the Ford Modular, which gave it more horsepower and torque. The LS, just like every other small-block (excluding the LT5) before it was an OHV design. This makes the LS engine family very compact and very lightweight.

What’s the Major Difference?

The biggest difference between LS and Mod motors is in the valve train. The LS engine uses a pushrod design, with one cam in the center of the block, and pushrods to move the rocker arms. Modular motors use overhead cams, depending on which engine you’re talking about it may have 1 cam per head or 2 per head.

RELATED: 6 Reasons Chevy LS Engines are so Good

There are loads of smaller differences between the two, but the valve train is definitely the biggest difference between the two.

Newer mod motors (Coyote and Voodoo) use variable valve time. That’s right, you can hit VTEC in a Mustang (note: sarcasm). Mod motors are also smaller displacement than LS motors, Coyote engines are 5.0L compared to the LS3’s 6.2L.

The F150’s modular engine is as large as 5.4L, whilst the Silverado’s LS based engine is as large as 6.2L. The difference in displacement makes the LS engines much less efficient, but they make more power and torque.

Additional LS information on Wikipedia

Ford Modular vs Chevy LS: Stock

For comparisons sake, were going to show numbers from LS3 (Camaro) vs. Coyote (Mustang), both of which came in 2012 pony cars. This will help keep the playing fields as level as possible.

LSVSCoyote

While the LS3 makes more power and torque than the Coyote, it takes an extra 1.2 liters to do so. If the Coyote was a 6.2L it’d make 510 horsepower, which is quite impressive.

How does the Coyote make more hp/liter? The Coyote has dual over head cams, and variable valve timing, which is the same reason Honda’s can make well over 100hp/liter.

Those things alone aren’t the reason it can make so much power per liter. Overhead cams can withstand really high RPMs, which allows the Coyote to rev higher than an LS. As I’m sure you know, HP = Revs x Torque, that’s why the Coyote makes so much power per liter.

RELATED: F-150 Goes All Aluminum, Should Chevy Follow?

So, if you’re comparing the stock numbers, the Coyote would be the better motor, it makes nearly the same horsepower as the LS3 while being much smaller in displacement.

But, what about modified? After all, the reason you’re reading this is because you’re a car guy (or car girl). This is where the LS motor shines.

Ford Modular vs Chevy LS: Modified

Chevy built the LS family with low hp/liter, giving it superb reliability, but leaving a huge amount of performance on the table. The low horsepower per liter means the LS isn’t being pushed near its limited. A simple head/cam swap on an LS motor can gain over 100hp.

The LS3 has been proven able to make 1,000 horsepower reliably, but it requires a perfect tune. The Coyote 5.0L can only make 700-800 horsepower reliable without extensive changes.

There are a ton of very reputable engine parts manufacturers that make Chevy LS parts that are very cheap (heads, cams, etc). A head/cam swap can cost around $2k for pretty nice parts.
On the other hand, the Coyote doesn’t have cheap engine parts on the market. This is mostly because the Coyote’s complexity.

To put it simply; the Chevy LS loves the typical head/cam swap and will make a ton of power when modified like this, the Ford Modular loves bolt-ons (intake, exhaust, throttle body, etc).

Additional Modular Motor information on Wikipedia

Which One is Better?

Stock vs. stock the Coyote is the better engine, it makes crazy hp/liter. But this is at the cost of less reliability since DOHC and variable valve timing is more moving parts that can break. But, the extra displacement of the LS engines allows huge gains when modified, and more reliability with such a simple valve train.

RELATED: 1JZ vs 2JZ: Which One is Better and Why?

Also note, older mod motors sucked really bad, they didn’t make good power and have almost no aftermarket engine parts available.

Also, LS motors are dirt cheap second-hand because Chevrolet produced so many and put into so many different types of vehicles. So, if you ask me, the LS engine is better, it simply responds better to modifications and is more reliable.

That said though, the new VooDoo 5.2L equipped in the GT350 makes over 100hp/liter and is one hell of a motor, and I wish Chevy would make DOHC engines.

Author: Bryce Cleveland

Bryce is a die hard car fanatic. When he's not working on his Jeep Cherokee, he's beating it up in the desert. He started Dust Runners Automotive Journal in 2014 and continues to write content for it as much as possible.

37 thoughts on “Ford Modular vs Chevy LS: Which is the Better Engine?”

  1. How is the LS more reliable? Do tell, because the Mod motor if nothing else is very durable and reliable. The LS responds to a head change, well if you want a faster 4V mod motor, you don’t need to change the heads. In the 2012 Engine Master competition, the top 3 finishers were 4V mod motors, the 1st and only year they were allowed. They used factory heads, crank and block. The valvetrain on the 4V is lighter, more direct (per valve) and less likely to break, and the bottom is every good as any LS motor (6-bolt mains). The LS is a great pushrod motor, and i can easier relate as I build SBF’s, however the Mod motors can make incredible power.

    1. How does an engine building competition prove that the Mod motor is better? Like I said in other comments, the ultimate test is at the circuit, where the LS is banned from many different racing series for having an advantage. In an engine building competition, your engine won’t have to withstand hours of harsh abuse, like it will at the track.

      1. The DOHC engines make their power in the higher RPM range where the 2v pushrod engines make it in the lower RPM ranges..This is why exotic race cars such as Lemans and F1 and IRL cars all use DOHC engines..The LS engines are easy to build cheap and are fun but they don’t have the sophistication of the more exotic DOHC engines…This is why most of the world’s car industry went to OHC…

    2. There is also another issue that is a big plus for the mod motors in that they respond much better to boost then the LS engines. Being able to spin a mod motor to the moon,tossing a set of twin turbos on will give you HP,torque,and RPM that will pull a 747. They are that strong.

  2. Why is an engine superior for making more HP- per-liter? That is an arbitrary measure picked out of the air to support OHC’s. Why not declare a pushrod engine superior because it makes a given HP figure with more low-end torque, much less complexity, smaller size, and lighter weight? These are real practical benefits.

    The only thing that small OHC motors do better is fuel efficiency. And it could be argued that this OHC advantage only appears to exist because of the mileage testing methods. In the real world a larger pushrod motor frequently does just as well.

    1. HP/Liter isn’t at all arbitrary, its a measure of how efficient an engine is at making horsepower. Realistically i’d say that OHC is indeed superior, but with the high cost of the Coyote, I would prefer to have an LS. Plus OHC V8 engines are massive and are difficult to fit into anything.

    2. cubic inches being equal the double overhead cam 4v engine will make more power more efficiently.just like when motorcycles went the same route 2v motors were thru

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    3. not true my e46 m3 is 3.2 liters but makes 109hp per liter.if it was 6.4 liters it would make 600 plus hp easily without forced induction.i love the ls motors and will probably replace inline six if I have problems.

  3. Correction. Variable valve timing doesn’t always equal to Honda’s Vtec. Vtec, on top of its variable valve timinng also has cam phasing which makes all the difference in power. It’s like having a tall cam that automatically kicks in at a higher RPM.

    1. i-VTEC has variable camshaft phasing, all other forms of VTEC are strictly variable valve timing.

      1. read a bit more on the DOHC VTEC, such as on the F20C. The VTEC system provides the engine with valve timing optimized for both low and high RPM operations. In basic form, the single barring shaft-lock of a conventional engine is replaced with two profiles: one optimized for low-RPM stability and fuel efficiency, and the other designed to maximize high-RPM power output. The switching operation between the two cam lobes is controlled by the ECU which takes account of engine oil pressure, engine temperature, vehicle speed, engine speed and throttle position. Using these inputs, the ECU is programmed to switch from the low lift to the high lift cam lobes when the conditions mean that engine output will be improved. At the switch point a solenoid is actuated which allows oil pressure from a spool valve to operate a locking pin which binds the high RPM cam follower to the low RPM ones. From this point on, the valves open and close according to the high-lift profile, which opens the valve further and for a longer time

        1. Thats literally all VTEC is, and thats how nearly all variable valve timing systems work. So, I’m not sure what you’re point is, because you’ve successfully all told us what we all already knew about the VTEC system.

  4. Well you can argue any way you like, but truth be known the ultimate test is at the drag strip. The fastest LS powered cars are around 6.40s with a lot of aftermarket parts, when the smaller mod motors (stock block and heads) are already in th 5.80s. There just gettin started with the coyote, and there already in the 6.80s and going down quickly. It looks like the superior engine by far is the ford. The two biggest downfalls in the fords are size, which so far doesnt seem to matter, and the physical size of the ovc motors which doesnt matter in a racecar but in a street swap or hot rod is a concideration. So evidence at the track shows theres no comparrison!

    1. Unfortunately the drag strip is not the ultimate test for anything. Why? Because less than 10 seconds of full throttle doesn’t prove which engine is better. The true test is at the circuit, where LS’s are banned from numerous racing series because they’re viewed as an unfair advantage. Why are they banned from multiple racing series? Because they’re able to fit into nearly any car, something an OHC V8 cannot do. Further more, the LS can take hours of harsh abuse without breaking, over heating, losing power, or having any sort of issue at all. If OHC engines are so superior, than why do racing teams with OHC V8’s always complain to officials about the OHV V8’s that Chevy uses are unfair?

      1. So if ohc engines are so terrible at circuit racing that’s why the ford 427 ohc v8 was banned from NASCAR?? It must have been so unreliable right?

  5. You state that ohc motors have more parts to break, one thing you probably didn’t know is that ohc motors have 1/3 less moving parts than an ohv motor and have the ability to rev higher easier, part the reason a supra motor can rev to 9k while your jeeps i6 loses power past 4500 rpm, yes a modified valvetrain can change the characteristics of the jeeps motor and allow it to rev higher and still produce power but it will never rev to 9k without valve float no matter what you do to it, fully forged and all, I could maybe see 7k but thats really pushing it, ohc motors are newer technology and better design, they tend to have broader power bands and can rev higher

  6. I think you missed a major point… cost per hp. Full disclaimer here: I’m a Ford fan. With that said I have to admit the LS family is easier, smaller dimensionally and cheaper to build than a Modular\Coyote. With cost and ease of fitment out of the equation, the Ford has a greater maximum power potential due to having fewer moving parts and newer technology. Six in one a half dozen in the other… both are amazing engines!

  7. Article was written by someone who knows chevy engines, and doesn’t know ford engines. End of story. He admits he loves the the LS platform and knows it well. And is just going off of what he read online about a ford engine.
    Simple facts. Chevy is cheaper to buy and build, because chevy fears change.
    Pushrods been around forever.
    Throttle body = computer controlled carb.
    Baro sensor? Seriously? Mass airflow is the way to go for better economy and power.
    Once the coyote (never been a fan of the timing and head issues the 4.6 had for most of its life run) has been out for more than 5 years, the prices will drop dramatically.
    LS has been around for decades, so of course there is more out there for it at this point.
    Ford is now stuffing the coyote into damn near everything. Which makes a coyote swap for a fox or sn95 or new edge that much more affordable.
    Study both sides of a coin, before you guess what is on the tail side.

    1. I have studied both sides of the coin tons. Chevy isn’t “afraid of change”, their racing team even says, unless somebody invents an OHC system thats significantly better than OHV, they’re going to stay with OHV. Throttle body does not at all equal computer controlled carb. Both the LS and the Coyote use mass airflow sensors. Prices for the Coyote will never dip as low as the price for LS engines. Why? The demand isn’t there for Coyote’s. Why isn’t there a demand? Because the engine is very complex and hard to fit into anything. The LS engine has a much smaller foot print, and can fit in damn near anything you want. Plus the LS is really simple when it comes to wiring. The factory wiring harness for the engine is entirely separate from the body wiring harness.
      It sounds like you need to study both sides of the coin Steve.

      1. The new Ecoboost V6 engines are beating all the big V8s such as the 6.2liter that is almost twice its size..The multi-cam OHC engines have major advantage in the rev range,

        1. Where is the ecoboost beating v8s, last i checked the c7.r corvette racing team is still leading in the race series. It has beat the ford gt on a few occasions, moreso than the gt winning over the C7.

  8. The older 4.6/5.4 90(4.6)-99(4.6/5.4) would benefit greatly from PI heads. You don’t need heads or cams on ohc engines, you just swap springs to slightly stronger ones, degree the cams properly and spin it a lil higher. Only real mod one would need is flat top pistons, for higher CR of course.

  9. It’s safe to say that both Coyote and LSX engines are fantastic in man aspects, so naturally chevy guys are going to claim LS engines are the best, and Ford guys are still going to like the Coyotes. For me, being a Ford guy, I love the power and rev ability of the new 5.0 motors, especially considering it’s rather small displacement.

    On the other hand, I cannot argue against how good the LS engine can be and be physically small package compared to any OHC V8. At an 1/8th mile track I live at in the summer months, a little 96 mustang that has a 5.3 Ls engine out of a wrecked van with nothing more than a cam upgrade, nice converter, and an ebay turbo system hurts the feelings of nearly everything that shows up under it’s own power, including hell-cats, Vipers, Vettes, GT500s. So me being a Ford guy, can’t sit here and tell you that one is more superior than the other. In my opinion, if you’re swapping an engine into something that it didn’t come out of, LSX will be very nice, but on the other hand, if you have a 2011 or newer Coyote powered mustang, or truck, you already got the killer motor sitting under your hood, so be proud.

    Look back a decade or 2 ago and just realize how far EVERYTHING has came. 1987 Mustang 225 hp Mustang enters the scene, and literally is king of the road for nearly a decade, then the first ls’s enter the scene in new camaros and vettes making like 285 hp, and then suddenly they’re the force to be reconed with, now we have average 6 cylinder engines in trucks making more power!!!!

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