Coyote Swapping a Classic BroncoLast Updated October 19, 2023 | Meghan Drummond
Broncos debuted in 1966 with a ton of potential and an inline-six engine. By the end of the Bronco’s first generation, it was only available with a V8. The nimble off-roader benefited from a little extra oomph. Equipped with a V8, the Bronco was worthy of off-road racing events. Its Baja victories were even commemorated with a special edition Baja Bronco.
Years after Ford stopped producing Broncos, owners are still finding new ways to restore their Broncos and improve their performance. When it comes to adding a lot of performance credentials at once, few modifications can outshine a Coyote swap.
Coyote swaps preserve a Bronco’s classic appearance while also allowing owners to enjoy greater horsepower. For Broncos already in need of an engine replacement, it makes a lot of sense. Finding a period-correct engine replacement is possible, but it’s likely it will also have many miles on it. On the other hand, brand new Coyotes are readily available. A classic Bronco with a new engine can make a stylish daily driver for years to come. If that new engine is a Coyote, it can also be a lot of fun to drive.
Downsides to a Coyote Swap
The Coyote engine has been a popular candidate for swaps since it was first introduced in 2011. Older Mustangs are some of the most common Coyote swap candidates. But vintage pickups and various classic vehicles have also been successfully Coyote-swapped. People have found a way to Coyote-swap almost any vehicle.
Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks to swapping in a Coyote. Especially for classic vehicles, these concerns require consideration.
Every engine Ford installed in a Bronco was an overhead valve engine. These are smaller than overhead cam engines, like the Coyote. Even for overhead cam engines, the Coyote is intimidatingly large.
The Coyote’s physical dimensions are going to be a significant obstacle to overcome. Some of the Bronco’s parts may need to be adapted or moved. Some pieces will likely need to be fabricated.
Horsepower and Torque
Added horsepower is the primary reason for most Coyote swaps, but with that added power comes added problems. The Bronco’s other parts will need to be upgraded to handle the added power.
An engine’s power has to go through the transmission, driveshaft, and differential before it can hit the pavement. You’ll need to make sure all these parts are up to snuff to get the most out of your Coyote swap.
Though there are ways to cut costs, Coyote swaps tend to be expensive. The engine itself is expensive of course. You can expect to spend at least as much as the engine cost on additional parts.
Despite all these factors, Coyote swaps continue to be popular. Mostly because people generally agree that it’s worth it.
Choosing a Coyote Engine
Since the Coyote first debuted in 2011 it’s gone through three generations, with several variants. There are a lot of Coyote engines to choose from.
The two major families are the F-150 Coyotes and the Mustang Coyotes.
The F-150 has been America’s favorite pickup for years now. That means there’s no shortage of them in salvage yards. Many of these may still have quality Coyote engines inside. People who select F-150 Coyotes often do so because they’re easy to find and relatively inexpensive.
One other major advantage is that the F-150 Coyote is physically smaller than the Mustang’s Coyote. This makes it a little easier to cram into the small engine bays of older vehicles.
The reason why people still love using the Mustang’s Coyote engine for a swap is the power. These Coyotes are the more powerful ones. This is especially true of the Coyote variants like the Roadrunner, Voodoo, or Predator.
There’s also generally more aftermarket support for the Mustang Coyotes. This will make it easier to buy some of the other parts you’ll need.
Parts Needed for an Early Bronco Coyote Swap
There are a lot of parts you’ll need to consider for a Coyote Swap. This list isn’t exhaustive but should give you a general overview of some of the biggest equipment items.
One of the major advantages of buying a new crate engine vs finding a used one is that it will come with some of these parts.
Parts Usually Included with Coyote Crate Engines
- Oil pan
- Throttle Body
- Fuel Injectors
- Spark Plugs
- Front Engine Accessory Drive
Some used engines may include some, or all, of these parts as well. Just double-check for them. If your engine doesn’t come with any of these parts, they should be high on your priority list. Though they’re relatively small, not being able to find them can hold up an engine swap.
Additionally, there are a lot of other parts you’ll need to change out at the same time. There are Coyote swap kits that come with some, or all, of these parts as well. They’re not easy to find though.
Parts Not Usually Included with Coyote Crate Engines
- Motor Mounts
- Flywheel and Clutch or Flexplate
- FRPP Control Pack
- Oil Filter Adapter/Relocator
- Starter or Way to Rotate Solenoid
- Exhaust Headers
- Transfer Case Adapter
- Lift Kit
You may need other parts, depending on your needs and the general specifications of your Bronco and Coyote. Coyote swaps tend to be custom jobs with a lot of variation.
Prepping the Engine
It’s easiest to think of your Coyote swap in two parts. The first part will be prepping the engine as much as possible. It’s not necessary to do this first, but it does allow you the comfort of working in a larger space without bending over.
You’ll be doing plenty of that later.
The early Bronco came with a three-speed transmission with no overdrive and a laughable torque capacity. While exceeding a transmission’s torque capacity won’t instantly kill it, it’s not good for it. It also means that without a new transmission you’ll have to hold back some of the Coyote’s power.
Most people agree it’s easier to just swap the transmission at the same time. To preserve your Bronco’s 4WD, you’ll need a 4WD-capable transmission. You’ll also need an adapter to mate it to your Dana 20 transfer case.
Most people select one of the transmissions that the 4WD-equipped F-150 uses. In particular, the 6R80 is a popular pick. A 4R70W will also work.
Modern transmissions have the advantage of typically coming with an overdrive gear. The overdrive gear makes it easier to cruise on the highway. Selecting a transmission with this option is recommended.
Clutch and Flywheel
Naturally, with a new transmission, you’ll also want a new clutch and flywheel. Or a flexplate if you’ve decided to install an automatic transmission.
Many mechanics advise swapping out your clutch and flywheel whenever you’re doing a major repair. Eventually, you’ll need to replace the clutch anyway, and doing it while it’s already exposed can save you time and money.
Motor mounts attach to your Bronco and to the Coyote itself. This point of connection acts as a stabilizer but also helps suppress the engine’s vibrations. The motor mounts should be specific to both the engine and the vehicle.
Many exhaust headers are designed to work with Coyote swaps. You’ll even find a good number of exhaust headers specifically designed for classic vehicle Coyote swaps.
Depending on your selected headers, you may still need to alter the headers significantly. Unless you have a lot of experience modifying exhaust, it’s best to get modifications to this area professionally done. No matter how great the rest of your engine swap is, an exhaust backup will ruin your day in a hurry.
Prepping Your Bronco
Once your engine and transmission are mated, you’ll know how much space you need. It’s going to be a lot. Through the process, it’s likely you’ll want to lift and lower the engine to check the fit. This is highly recommended, and most people do many fit checks.
To prepare your Bronco, you’ll need to remove lots of parts. You’ll also need to install a few modifications, like a lift kit, to get the clearance you’ll need.
The Bronco’s original radiator is bulky and doesn’t work well with the Coyote. You’ll need to replace it with one that’s thinner. This isn’t too challenging since the Coyote doesn’t require as much cooling as older engines. And be sure to add a radiator overflow tank too.
The Bronco’s fuel system is set up for a carbureted engine. To swap it over to an electric fuel injection system, you’ll need to change out your fuel lines. An electric fuel pump will be necessary for this swap. You can use an in-line or in-tank fuel pump, but it needs to be EFI compatible.
Your Bronco’s stock steering column may present a space problem. Because the Coyote is so wide, you may need a steering shaft that can more closely cling to the driver’s side.
Some Coyote swappers have had great success with the steering boxes of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
There isn’t enough clearance between the Bronco’s frame and hood to fit a Coyote engine. A lift kit will need to be installed to create enough space.
If you purchased motor mounts designed for this swap, they likely indicated how much of a lift you’ll need. The standard recommendation is between 2 and 3 inches. This should give you enough clearance. As an added bonus, a high-quality lift kit should also improve your ride.
In general, changing out the suspension is a good idea. The Coyote engine is significantly heavier, which is going to affect the stress placed on the suspension system. Changing your fifty-year-old stock springs out for some with a little more bounce is a great idea.
A new crossmember is another way to save space. In particular, tubular k-members are smaller but just as durable.
Making Your Coyote Swap Work
Once you have an engine and transmission paired and you’ve cleared space in your Bronco, it’s time to connect the two.
The Control Pack
The electronic parts in your Coyote engine need a way to communicate with your Bronco. The Ford Performance engine control pack addresses this need.
This control pack fixes a lot of the issues that make people hesitant about swapping an engine. The parts you’ll get vary depending on which control pack kit you select. Before you start hunting, you’ll need to know what transmission and Coyote you plan to use.
The control pack comes with a harness, an OBD diagnostic port, power distribution module, MAF sensor, and PCM.
Transfer Case Adaptation
If you plan on using your Bronco’s Dana 20 transfer case, then you’ll need an adapter. The transfer case wasn’t designed for modern transmissions. An adapter with multiple bolt holes will let the transfer case and transmission work at a larger number of relative angles. Some companies specialize in creating these adapters, but custom fabrications are another solution.
You’ll also need a shifter assembly for the transfer case. These typically have to be custom-fabricated. Without a shifter assembly, you’ll have no way to engage or disengage the 4WD.
Depending on the length of your transmission, you may need a new driveshaft. Even if the driveshaft lengths are the same, you may need to modify the area that connects to the transmission.
Technically you don’t need new brakes to make a Coyote swap work. We’re just recommending them. Improving your speed and power substantially is always great. It’s just a good idea to improve your stopping power in proportion.
For classic Broncos, simply making the swap from drum brakes to disc brakes can improve stopping power.
Cost Saving Measures
The price of performing a Coyote swap can add up quickly. It’s not uncommon to spend $20K on a Coyote swap. That doesn’t include the cost of the vehicle. But here are a few ways to cut costs without reducing your Bronco’s quality.
There are great F-150 Coyote engines sitting in scrapyards right now. Many of them can even be bought for a reasonable price. Just remember to check over the engine thoroughly and be familiar with the scrapyard’s return policy on broken engines.
You’ll also want to make sure you grab as many compatible parts as you can with a scrapyard Coyote. Inexpensive transmissions can usually be found in scrapyards, too.
You’ll probably want to buy some parts, like the control pack, new. Not only are these parts already affordably priced, but it’s crucial to have a setup that will work.
Selling Old Parts
Even if your Bronco’s original engine doesn’t work, it still has value. For collectors, Bronco-original parts are very desirable. This is true for all of the parts you replace, from the transmission to the shifter.
Make sure to carefully store the parts you remove. Clean them up, and you can most likely find someone interested in purchasing them. This is a great way to recoup some of your costs.
Look for Deals on Parts
Since a Coyote swap isn’t usually a rush job, you can also look for deals on the parts you need. Signing up for CJ’s newsletter will let you know when we have parts on sale as well.
Should You Swap Your Bronco’s Engine?
If your Bronco’s engine needs a swap, it makes sense to upgrade at the same time. If you’re looking for a way to add a lot of horsepower, then a Coyote is a good choice.
However, a Coyote swap can be a complicated process. This is partly due to the Coyote’s size, and partly because you’re adding a modern engine to a classic vehicle.
Coyote swaps have become very popular. This makes it easier to find swap-friendly components and get help. Seeing well-done Coyote swapped Broncos makes it enticing to attempt your own.
For Bronco enthusiasts who are focused on perfect restorations and period-correct parts, Coyote swaps hold little appeal. If you’ve always dreamed of showing your Bronco, Coyote swapping it may make that an impossibility.
On the other hand, it’s a very cool swap that can turn a great classic Bronco into a daily driver.
Ultimately, whether or not a Coyote swap is right for you comes down to your Bronco restoration goals.