What Is a Coyote Engine?

What Is a Coyote Engine?

Last Updated October 5, 2023 | Meghan Drummond

Ford's Coyote engine is a modular V8 with a 5.0L displacement. Despite its relatively small displacement, it's able to create 412-460 horsepower (depending on the Coyote engine generation) using Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT) and cam torque actuation.

The 4th-gen Coyote motor will debut in the 2024 Mustang, but the Coyote engine has been the beating heart of the Mustang GT since 2011. These engines have come to signify Ford's commitment to keeping the Mustang among the most powerful muscle cars on the road.

From its history to its name to the engineering that's gone into each engine, people have many questions about the Coyote engine, and the answers are remarkably satisfying.

How'd The Coyote Engine Get Its Name?

Ford's Coyote engine is named after one of the most successful race cars in history. Ford's first four-valve V8-powered racecar - The Coyote - was made for driver AJ Foyt, who went on to win 25 out of 141 races with it! Two of those races happened to be the 1967 and 1977 Indy 500s.

When Ford asked for ideas for its new V8 motor's name, one of the engineers remembered this piece of Ford's history and suggested the name. The response to the Coyote name was immediately positive, and it stuck.

Ford Coyote Engine History

Ford's first Coyote engine was built in 2010. With an increased push for engines with more power and more economy, it was clear that technology needed to improve dramatically, and that wasn't going to be possible if Ford chose to stay with a traditional small-block engine.

A red Mustang with the hood open.

Ford had been making modular engines since the early '90s. Modular engines allowed flexibility not possible with small blocks. Very quickly, Ford could change the tooling in mere hours to create variants of engines to serve different purposes.

The modular engine had improved dramatically since the first iteration was used in a Lincoln Town Car in 1990. Also, Ford had some exciting new technology that they couldn't wait to add to the modular designs. 2010 was the first year that Ford added Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing to some of its engines.

What Year Did the Coyote Engine Come Out?

2011 was the first year a Coyote engine was available in a production vehicle. Though eventually Coyote engines would be added to F-150s, initially, they were developed for the Mustang GT. The Coyote engine was designed to compete with the Charger's Hemi and the Camaro's LS3 engines.

Since 2011, a Coyote engine has been in all Mustang GTs and has been available as an option in upgraded F-150s. There are a fair number of differences between the Mustang and F-150 Coyotes. The Coyote was also used in the Ford Falcon, one of Ford’s Australian cars.

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Coyote Engine Technology

The first Coyote engine was incredibly powerful for its size based on some really neat engineering. The first-generation 5.0L Coyote engine was able to create as much power as a 6.4L Hemi with a significantly smaller displacement.

A yellow Mustang with the hood open and engine exposed.

Ti-VCT Technology

Variable Camshaft Timing (VCT) is a technology developed by Ford that allows for greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions. Variable, or changing, camshaft timing is achieved by electronically speeding it up or slowing it down based on engine load and RPM.

VCT typically is used on either the exhaust camshaft (allows for better emissions) or the intake camshaft (allows for greater power).

Naturally, most people want power and better emissions. So, the question became how to allow for variable timing on both the intake and the exhaust valves and allow them to function independently of one another.

The Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (TI-VCT) improved on VCT's technology by allowing camshafts to act independently. The result was more power and torque.

The first generation Coyote engine used this technology to produce 412 horsepower and 390 pounds of torque. It was so powerful they had to figure out how to improve the engine's walls.

Instead of increasing the thickness of the engine's walls, webbing was built into the walls to allow the block to handle the increased power output.

Cam Torque Actuation (CTA)

The Coyote differs from other Ti-VCT engines of the time in that it also uses Borg-Warner's Cam Torque Actuation. CTA uses torsional energy to rotate the camshaft instead of oil pressure-driven cam phasing like Hondas have.

Coyote Engine Modifications

In addition to being a powerful and unique engine, the Coyote is also modifiable. Coyote modifications are a popular way to improve on an already excellent engine. With even a few basic bolt-on components, it's easy to drive the Coyote engine even further. Even something as simple as adding a cold air intake can increase your horsepower.

What Is Coyote Swapping?

The Coyote engine has become a fan favorite, and "Coyote Swaps" are a popular modification for restoration fans. Coyote swaps simply involve slipping the high-powered crate engine into older Mustang body styles, like the Fox Body. In the lighter bodies, the engine can really fly.

Coyote Swaps are popular with a wide range of Mustang enthusiasts. Fox Body Coyote swaps are amazing, but SN95 Coyote swaps tend to be a little easier since you're swapping between similar engines.

The Coyote Engine Community

The car community has warmed to the Coyote engine's at-first controversial overhead cam design. Not only is the Coyote a desired engine swap option, but it has even spawned its own community events, like Coyote Stock.

In these drag races, participants drop an OEM-sealed Ford Coyote crate engine into their ride. It's a way of getting a ton of power and having fun while keeping the cost of drag racing under control.

The Coyote engine has become a popular option for car enthusiasts thanks to its power and efficiency. If you're looking for an upgrade for your own vehicle, check out our selection of Coyote crate engines. And if you want to have some fun with other like-minded enthusiasts, look into attending a Coyote Stock event near you.

This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.