Editor’s note: The 1980s was a transition period for engine technology in America. The iconic carburetor gave way to fuel injection. Cubic inches were out, and liter designations marked a new era for engines — one when power and fuel economy were no longer mutually exclusive. This modern engine age has featured some of the best innovation, technology, and performance yet.
So what have been the best powerplants of these last 30 years? We asked you to help us answer that very question via Facebook and Instagram. Factoring in your votes and comments, we’ll unveil the rest of the Top 10 in the coming days.
#6 – Ford Modular Motor
It was 1991 when the Lincoln Town Car was outfitted with the first production 4.6L modular engine—a moniker designated because of Ford’s adaptive manufacturing process, and not because of anything related to its configuration.
Still, the Ford Mod Motor’s configuration was noteworthy.
The Ford Modular engine family features an overhead camshaft design which is reasonably rare in American vehicles. The overhead-cam engines “have an advantage of running a lighter valvetrain and, without pushrods, the intake ports can be made wide open for maximum airflow,” according to Modular Head Shop.
While Lincoln and Mercury vehicles, along with the Ford Thunderbird, featured modular V8s in the 1990s, it was the Ford Mustang and Ford F-150 pickups which elevated the modular engine from a novelty to an automotive performance legend.
The modular 4.6L was produced from 1991 through May 2014, powering no-nonsense machines like the Mustang SVT Cobra and Mustang Bullitt. In the 2004-06 Koenigsegg CCR, the Ford 4.6L spit out more than 800 horsepower and 680 ft.-lbs. of torque.
The modular 5.4L was first produced for the 1997 Ford F-Series trucks and is still being made for Ford cargo vans today. The engine proved its mettle under the hoods of Ford trucks, where it helped them maintain their status as America’s best-selling truck.
The 3-valve cylinder heads later introduced on the 5.4L helped the Ford F-Series trucks make 320 horsepower and 390 ft.-lbs. of torque. And the double overhead cam 4-valve designs put the giddy up in several Ford legends, including the Mustang SVT Cobra R and the supercharged Ford GT and Shelby GT500.
The 5.0L Coyote
In 2011, Ford engineers unleashed the latest evolution of the Ford Modular engine: the 5.0L Coyote V8. Designed to compete with the GM LS3 and Chrysler 6.4L HEMI, the 5.0L Coyote powers the latest generation of Ford Mustang GTs. The Coyote shares roughly the same physical size and other specifications as its 4.6L predecessor, but leans on cam-torque-activated Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing to make more power while improving fuel economy and reducing emissions.
Ford has since produced Coyote variants for the Boss 302 and F-150 truck.