Ford Modular, better than no one remembers
Recently it seems that the Ford Modular V8 has been taking a lot of flak, and by recently, I mean the better part of 20 years. People always say things like, ”It was a dark time for Ford” and “Ford should have kept the original 5.0”. I’ve also noticed people say “Modular Power” -with quotation marks, as if to hint at some form of underlying sarcasm. I actually think Modular power is rather good. I should know, because I’ve been driving one for the past two years. Before taking my "Ford Guy" status into question, let's take a quick look at the Modular’s history.
First, its called the Modular because of the way Ford builds it. Its design allows for several motors (i.e. the v6, v8, and the v10 variant) to all be built on the same production line. The 4.6 Modular was first used in the 1991 Lincoln Town Car, and let's be honest, it made a dreadful 190 hp with 270 lb-ft of torque. The engine saw use in a smattering of Lincolns and Mercurys. It could often be seen transversely mounted because of its smaller displacement. The sort of people who drove these cars only cared about the new "Sunday Special" meal at Denny's, and as a result, nobody paid much attention to the Modular. That is, until 1996, when Ford slapped it into the SN-95 Mustang. This caused a huge uproar. Similar to the debut of the Fox Body 18 years prior, enthusiasts shouted and screamed that it was not a "true" Mustang. They claimed that it was the last nail in the coffin, and that the Mustang was finally dead. However, just as they were about to hang themselves in frustration, somebody figured out that the 4.6 Modular could in fact make power. These enthusiasts begrudgingly put their nooses away to be saved for later, and accepted the world of OBD II and overhead cams. Granted, the 96 Mustang made only 215 hp with 285 lb-ft of torque, not great by today’s standards, but then what is? The Modular saw a couple of revisions before 2005, most notably the 1999 change to better flowing heads which bumped it up to 260 hp. Following this, the modular underwent a myriad of changes: the departure from two-valves in favor of three valves, then four valves, and eventually more displacement. These changes resulted in more power, but what's important is the new Coyote 5.0 can trace its roots to the 4.6 Modular.
So, why is it that people scoff at the 4.6? Typically they feel it doesn't produce enough power. That just isn't true. I’ve managed to squeeze well over 300 hp to the wheels out of my 03 GT with simple bolt-ons. Will the 2017 Mustang blow the doors off of mine? Yes, however that's not the point. The point is, the power from a 4.6 Modular isn’t to be underestimated.
On that note, the internet would lead you to believe the Mustang’s favorite snack is crowds. Yet when was the last time you saw a 4.6 Modular Mustang nibble at a crowd of onlookers? Lets face it, the concept of a brake pedal is beyond the grasp of some drivers, but fortunately the 4.6 Modular just isn’t enough engine to get the average moron in trouble. On the flip side, it can be spectacular in the hands of someone who actually knows what they’re doing.
So that brings me to this: Why do people love to hate this engine? I think the answer is fairly simple. It has nothing to do with the power, rather it's because people don't want to admit they were wrong. They said it'd never be as good as the former 5.0. But near the end of its run, the two-valve 4.6 made more power than the 5.0 ever did. That aside, love it or hate it, there is one thing everybody can agree upon... boost. When in doubt, boost is always the answer.