Throughout Ford’s long history, they’ve introduced dozens of different engines and most notably they introduced tons of different V8 engines, which have historically powered their most popular vehicles such as the Mustang, the Ford GT, the Broncos, the Raptor, the F150, and so on.
Really, the V8 is very much part of their heritage, as it is with many US auto manufacturers. With that in mind, that got me thinking of all the V8 engines that Ford has ever produced and which one is the best. So sit back, relax, and get comfy, because today we’re going to look at the best Ford V8s of all time and compare them to find out which one is the best.
#1 Flathead V8
To start this off, we have to rewind the clock way back long ago, close to the first-ever V8 coming out of Detroit. Although Ford wasn’t the first company to bring a V8 engine to the American market, they are largely responsible for making it such a popular option and they did this with the Ford flathead V8 engine.
Unlike many of the other V8 engines available at this time, the flathead was special in the fact that it was specifically designed to be easy to produce and much more affordable than the other options. Ford did this by continually simplifying the design until they had something that was so simple and so reliable that Henry Ford was happy with it.
The flathead engine features a one-piece cast iron block as opposed to some of the other V8 engines of the time which actually feature a multipiece block. Many of the simplifications that Ford made to the flathead were in order to improve things such as piston wear and oil consumption, to simply improve the longevity of the engine.
By today’s standards, the flathead is a pretty pathetic motor in terms of power output with power initially coming in at 65 hp but eventually being increased to 85 hp. And by the time World War II finally ended, there were multiple versions of the flathead available for different sorts of applications ranging from passenger cars to commercial trucks.
The flat head’s involvement in the world war is part of the reason that it became so popular in the hot rod world. Because as these guys were coming back from overseas, as the servicemen were returning, they needed wanted to tinker with something and what better than to tinker with something that you had experience with in the war. Ultimately, the flathead became one of the more preferred powertrains of hot rod culture in California and all over the US.
Really it’s not even an exaggeration to say that the flat head V8 was basically the foundation of hod rodding as we know it today. Without this engine, it really would not be the same. And with that also spawned the first-ever real aftermarket for a car. The flathead was one of, if not the first engine that saw mass support with companies making parts for it and making it easy to modify without custom making your own parts.
While the flathead is great, very cool, and very important to the history of the V8 engine and Ford, it’s a little underwhelming in terms of performance. So, let’s take a look at the next engine on the list, which offers quite a bit more performance.
#2 Ford 427
More specifically, let’s take a look at the 427 Big Block, which is by far Ford’s most famous and well-known big block engine. When you boil it down, the 427 is effectively a bored-out version of the 390 cubic inch FE V8 engine, but is also features loads of improvements for more power output. And although the 427 was really designed to dominate motorsports and more specifically Nascar, it was something that you could order in select Ford cars when new.
The rare street cars that received this giant engine when new were treated with tons of power, to the tune of 425hp and 480lb-ft of torque. But, on the track, things were even better, as Ford upped the power even further with improvements such as high-rise and mid-rise heads.
There’s also the famed 427 Cammer, which ditched the overhead valve design in favor of a single overhead cam design. Unfortunately, this never really caught on, as Nascar wouldn’t let the engine in any car unless the car also had a 430lb ballast, which ultimately no one ever took up.
Of course, outside of Nascar the 427 also had massive success in sports car racing, most notably winning Le Mans in the Ford GT40 in 1966. Unfortunately, very few streetcars ended up with this engine when new because the crazy price of the engine made many of the cars unaffordable. Besides that, the 427 was really only available for big cars like the Galaxie or Mercury Marauder.
Overall though, the 427 really put Ford on the map in terms of motorsports and let the world know that Ford meant business. This leads me to the next engine on our list, which is another engine specifically designed for racing, and that’s the Boss 302 engine.
#3 Boss 302
Because 302 is the name of the Boss 302, a lot of people assume that it’s not anything particularly special, because every other 5.0L V8 from Ford is also a 302. Despite that, the Boss 302 is very interesting and very special because it was also designed with motorsports in mind like the 427 was. This time around though, the focus was on Trans-Am racing.
The Boss 302 engine uses a tall deck block, high-performance rotating assembly with forged connecting rods, sodium-filled exhaust valves, forged pistons, and a pretty big camshaft. The result is actually surprisingly underpowered considering those aforementioned modifications at just 290hp and 290lb-ft of torque. But, Ford didn’t build the Boss 302 for making big power, rather it was built for sustained high RPM usage.
On the track, the Boss 302 could hold 8000RPM all day long without any issues and this engine found its way unto both the Mercury Cougar and Ford Mustang in the 1969 and 1970 Trans-Am series. Really, the performance of this engine is so good that it helped take home the manufacturer’s series in 1970.
Unfortunately, the Boss 302 Mustang was only around for two years: 1969 and 1970. I think it’s also worth noting that the actual casting for this engine is much different than the standard 302, so don’t think of it as just a hopped-up old 302. It genuinely was and is a special engine in Ford’s history.
That takes us forward in time to the late 1970s, when the Windsor engine was struggling a bit in terms of power output, so Ford introduced a newer, more modern, and more powerful version of the 5.0L and dubbed it the 5.0L H.O.
#4 5.0 H.O.
The first versions of the new high output 5.0L engine came out in 1982 and offered a whopping 157hp but that was eventually bumped up to 225hp throughout the years. On initial release, it was still carbureted, but in 1986 Ford introduced electronic fuel injection and that’s partially what made this engine so legendary.
For the first time ever, Ford was offering their well-known and loved Windsor engine with electronic fuel injection. Gone was the need for swapping to a larger carb when you built your engine. Gone was the need for messing with your carb when you changed elevations. Gone was all the annoying stuff with carb motors and now everything was smoothly and reliably controlled by a computer.
And similarly to the flathead V8, the 5.0 high output was quickly adopted by the aftermarket and now is one of the largest aftermarkets out there for any V8 ever. Personally, I think part of that is how loved the Fox Body was and is, but regardless, this engine marked Ford’s journey into electronic fuel injection and the modern age.
Last, but certainly not least, we have the Coyote, which is what I consider to be Ford’s greatest V8 ever. Sure, it doesn’t have the racing heritage of the Boss 302 or the 427. However, hear me out: It’s most powerful engine ever in terms of power per liter. It’s their most advanced V8 engine ever. It’s their most reliable V8 engine ever. And most importantly, it’s an incredible platform with very strong aftermarket support.
The Coyote came after the death 5.0L high output, which is when Ford introduced the mod motor family but kept the Mustang as a 4.6L rather than a 5.0L. The Coyote is derived from the modular family and brought back the 5.0L displacement we all know and love in the Mustang.
The Coyote 5.0 was the first Ford eight-cylinder engine to feature twin variable camshaft timing on both the exhaust and the intake, and the aluminum block was webbed rather than reinforced in order to give it additional strength. It also featured entirely new DOHC heads that shared little with the three-valve single overhead camshaft design of the older modular engines that had populated the Mustang’s engine bay.
Upon initial release, the Coyote output 420 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque, which was a massive increase as compared to the 5.0L high output and even the 4.6L 3v modular motor that was used in the Mustang up until then. Throughout the years though, Ford has continued to innovate with the Coyote, bumping power output to 435HP, then 460HP, and finally 480HP in the newest high-performance Mustang variants such as the BULLITT and the Mach 1.
In terms of special variants, there’s the Boss 302 Roadrunner engine, the Voodoo 5.2L flat-plane crank engine, and the supercharged Predator engine. Simply put, the Coyote is an incredible base engine that Ford did an amazing job squeezing performance out of. Sure, you can definitely get more power out of a Coyote with the right parts and tuning, but for the most part, Ford did a great job cranking the Coyote close to its limits in naturally aspirated form.