The Ford Motor Company has been building engines for well over a century, and it’s hard to argue there are better examples than the 427 FE V8, 429 Boss, 5.0 Coyote, and 7.3 PowerStroke V8s. These engines span the 1960s all the way up through today, and they showcase some of Ford’s finest engineering. From ultra-fast muscle cars and high-powered sports cars, to reliable F-150 and Super Duty trucks, these engines span a wide range of uses and applications. Still, if one thing unites them, it’s that they are the four best Ford engines of all-time.
The 4 Best Ford Engines of All-Time
Over the years, Ford has produced an extremely wide range of engines. These range from massive 460 cid (7.4 liters) big-block V8s down to tiny 1.0 liter inline-three cylinders. Not all of them have been hits and there have been quite a few duds. Still, Ford has also produced some of the most powerful, reliable, and iconic engines ever built, too.
Today, I’m going to walk you through my take on the five best Ford engines in history. We’ll start by going back in time to the era of the muscle car. When Ford’s big-block 427 FE and 429 Boss V8s were some of the most powerful ever fitted inside production cars. Then we’ll fast forward to the 1990s to look at the first Ford turbo-diesel, the 7.3 PowerStroke V8. Finally, we’ll look at their current workhorse power plant, one of the finest modern V8s around: the 5.0 Coyote. Our journey will span through 60 years of history, so let’s get started in 1963 with the 427 FE.
The 427 FE V8: Ford’s Most Legendary Engine
Even though Ford only built the 427 cid V8 engine from 1963–1967, enthusiasts still remember it today as maybe the most legendary Ford engine of all-time. The 427 is actually 425.98 liters, but Ford rounded it up to 427 for marketing purposes, and it worked. They designed the engine from the Ford-Edsel (FE) engine family and they built it exclusively for NASCAR. However, NASCAR rules dictated they had to have a homologated version, so the 427 started to creep into cars.
Over the years, Ford put the 427 into many cars, including the 1964–1967 Ford Fairlane, 1963–1965 Ford Thunderbird (rumored), 1963–1967 Ford Galaxie, 1965 A/FX Ford Mustang, 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake, 1968 Mercury Cougar GT-E, 1966–1967 GT40 MK II, and 1964–1965 Mercury Cyclone.
Ford built several different versions of the 427, including some ultra-powerful variants. These included some with low-riser, mid-riser, high-riser, and tunnel port style cylinder heads, single or double-quad barrel carburetor setups, and either top-feed (1963–1965) or side-feed (1965–1967) oiling setups. The 427 used an iron block with a very high nickel content to decrease weight and add stiffness.
Ford also gave it cross-bolted main caps, and a forged steel crankshaft (1965+). Depending on the model and year, Ford rated the production 427 at 390-425 horsepower and 460-480 lb-ft of torque. However, most people estimate it really made north of 500 horsepower (SAE Gross).
The 427 SOHC “Cammer”
Yet, these standard 427s pale in comparison to the all-powerful variant: the single-overhead camshaft (SOHC) 427 “Cammer.” Ford developed the 427 Cammer to compete against the 426 Hemi “Elephant” motor in NASCAR for 1964, and it is the stuff of legend. Compared with the standard overhead-valve (OHV) 427 heads, Ford used a new design using hemispherical combustion chambers with a SOHC. It also had sodium filled exhaust valves for heat reduction, a dual-point distributor and high-output ignition coils, and either one or two quad-barrel carburetors.
With the single quad-barrel, the 427 Cammer pumped out 616 horsepower and 515 lb-ft of torque. When Ford fitted it with two quad-barrel carburetors that jumped to an unreal 657 horsepower and 575 lb-ft of torque. Granted, this is at the crankshaft with SAE Gross ratings, but it’s still mind-blowing for the time period.
Unfortunately for NASCAR enthusiasts, the 427 Cammer never made it into competition. NASCAR banned the engine before it could be used because Ford never offered it in a factory production vehicle. It eventually found its way into a few A/FX experimental class drag racing Ford Mustangs and has had a huge life in hot-rod and Top Fuel dragsters. It is still in heavy use today in the aftermarket, and for some is the most legendary American V8 ever built.
The Boss 429 V8: Ford’s Best Muscle Car Engine
Ford certainly made a lot of big-block V8 powered Mustangs in the 1960s and early-1970s. Of them all, many enthusiasts consider the 429 Boss to be the top dog. Ford built the engine for two years from 1969–1970, and only put it inside the Ford Mustang Boss 429. They built the Boss 429 from the standard 429 of the Ford 385 big-block engine family.
Ford designed the 429 Boss exclusively to compete at NASCAR, and put it into the Mustang for homologation purposes. The production version wasn’t the same as the NASCAR version, but it was closely inspired and produced outstanding performance. Ford rated the Boss 429 at 375 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. This made it even more powerful than the 428 inside the Shelby GT500.
Compared with the standard 429 inside the Ford Thunderbird and Ford Galaxie, the 429 Boss variant had aluminum heads with a staggered valve arrangement, NASCAR-strength connecting rods (first 279 built only), 429 Cobra Jet connecting rods (all version from 280 on), 429 Cobra Jet camshaft (1969 – hydraulic, 1970 – solid-lifter), high-rise dual-plane, and a quad-barrel 735-cfm Holley carburetor.
It was extremely successful in NASCAR, and is one of the rarest and most valuable Mustang engines ever. In all, Ford produced 859 Boss 429 Mustangs in 1969 and 499 in 1970, making just 1,358 examples total.
Interestingly, Ford did not manufacture the engines themselves. Rather, the Ford Special Vehicle division contracted it out to Kar Kraft Engineering located just down the road from Dearborn in Brighton, Michigan (according to John Albert Craft in his book “Boss & Cobra Jet Mustangs”). Kar Kraft built the engines and installed them inside the Mustangs, first ripping out the 428 Cobra Jets Ford delivered them with. For many, the Boss 429 is the peak Mustang muscle car.
The 7.3 PowerStroke: The Ford’s Revolutionary Turbo-Diesel
Looking back, it’s hard to really fathom how much of an impact the original 7.3 PowerStroke turbo-diesel V8 had. When Ford released the first version of the Navistar-built PowerStroke in 1994, the only comparable turbo-diesel on the market with direct injection was the 12-valve 5.9 Cummins inside the Dodge Rams. When Ford brought the 7.3 out in 1994, it delivered more horsepower and torque. And perhaps more importantly, it brought V8 power to the turbo-diesel market for the first time.
Ford built the 7.3 from 1994–2003, and it produced 210-275 horsepower and a gargantuan 425-525 lb-ft of torque. They used various Garrett GTP38 turbos (with intercoolers after 1998), gave it a high 17.5:1 compression ratio, and a traditional OHV cylinder head. The engine was dead reliable and can easily push past 350,000-400,000 miles even with heavy use. Even today, many of them are still in service nearly 30 years later.
Many Ford enthusiasts still consider the original 7.3 to be the best in the PowerStroke family. It can haul exceptionally well, and can even be modded to produce more than 450 wheel-horsepower. Additionally, the 7.3 PowerStroke helped restore America’s faith in diesel-V8s. In the 1980s, Oldsmobile’s disastrous flirtation with diesel-V8s soured Americans on them for several years until the original inline-six 5.9 Cummins came out. When Ford added their V8 PowerStroke to the table the diesel-V8 was back, and this time it was here to stay.
The 5.0 Coyote: Ford’s Most Reliable Engine Today
Since Ford released the 5.0 Coyote in 2011, it’s firmly secured its place among the best modern American V8s. The Gen 3 Coyote, on the market since the 2018 model years, features 12.0:1 compression, direct injection and port injection together, an aluminum engine block and cylinder heads, natural aspiration, variable valve timing, and a solid 395-500 horsepower and 400-420 lb-ft of torque. It is a solid continuation of Ford’s race bred V8 history, and it shows no signs of slowing as of 2024.
While the engine is extremely potent and reliable, it’s also very versatile.Primarily, Ford uses it to power their modern Ford Mustang GT pony car. Yet, they also strap it inside their F150 trucks as one of its best towing options, too. Additionally, the Coyote has spawned some incredible engines, including the Boss 302 Coyote Variant — one of the most popular Boss variants ever. The brand new 5.0 Coyote equipped 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse is capable of a crazy 500 horsepower, and a zero to 60 mph time of just 4.1 seconds with a 12.5 second ¼ mile @ 115 mph.
Yet, what truly makes the 5.0 Coyote one of the true best modern V8s and most reliable Ford engines is its ability to handle some serious horsepower and torque. There is an absolutely massive aftermarket community for the 5.0 Coyote. With a supercharger upgrade you can crack more than 1,200 wheel-horsepower on a built engine. It’s a massively powerful and reliable Ford engine, and one that easily makes their list of all-time best motors.
Best Ford Engines Summary
In the century-plus since their founding, Ford has produced a ton of different varieties and types of engines. At the top of the list are the 427 FE V8, 429 Boss V8, 7.3 PowerStroke turbo-diesel V8, and the 5.0 Coyote V8. All of these engines combine extreme reliability and performance together into an astonishingly stout package. The 427 and 429 date back to Ford’s NASCAR race history in the mid-to-late 1960s, and show what put them on the map for gearheads around the world.
A few decades later, Ford reinvented the turbo-diesel game bringing the 7.3 PowerStroke to the market. One of the first large-displacement direct injected turbocharged diesels, and the first V8, the 7.3 PowerStroke is still one of the best diesel V8s ever produced stateside. Finally, they have been using the 5.0 Coyote V8 since 2011, and it has developed into an absurdly efficient and reliable power plant. Boasting as much as 500 horsepower naturally aspirated from the factory and powering the Mustang GT and F150, it’s as solid as solid gets.
Best Ford Engines FAQ
The four best Ford engines of all-time are the 427 FE, Boss 429, 7.3 PowerStroke, and 5.0 Coyote. All of these engines combine outstanding performance with solid reliability, and are truly the best of Ford’s best.
Ford’s best racing engine is the 427 Cammer from 1964–1965. Though they never released it inside a production car and NASCAR banned it before it could race, the engine is the stuff of legends. It produced a maximum of 657 horsepower and 575 lb-ft of torque with dual quad-barrel Holley carburetors and has powered funny cars and Top Fuel dragsters for decades.
Ford’s most reliable engine is probably the 5.0 Coyote or the 7.3 PowerStroke turbo-diesel. Both of these engines have minor flaws, but nothing catastrophic and they are capable of extreme performance. The 5.0 Coyote can easily surpass 200,000-250,000 miles even with heavy use. The 7.3 PowerStroke can do much more, surpassing 300,000 miles with relative ease.
The best Ford muscle car engine of all-time is the Boss 429. Ford only built the engine for the Mustang Boss 429 from 1969–1970, and it produced an incredible 375 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. It’s extremely rare, less than 1,500 examples exist, and it might be the most sought out Mustang motor ever.