“We’ve actually built quite a few of them over the last year and a half, there’s just been lots of prototypes. This one is not our first, but certainly not to be the last!” started Mark Lutton of Modular Motorsports Racing (MMR). That statement was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the research, development, and manufacturing of the first billet Coyote block.
MMR started out in humble beginnings in 1993, but has grown to develop some of the most accomplished and proven Ford racing engines— capturing drag racing titles for over a decade, and producing nasty street cars. Their dedication to all things Mustang power have lead them to develop this game-changing platform for the future drag racer. With Ford castings leaving some to be desired, billet aluminum shines on the horizon like a beacon.
On The Drawing Board
I think a big part of doing something like this is being mindful during the design process. -Alan Root, JMP Racing Products
“We started prototyping in the middle of 2013,” Lutton recalled. The process to take the original Ford modular architecture and revamp it for the ever-increasing demands of modern drag racing started with an OEM factory Coyote block. The joint effort between MMR and JMP Racing Products yielded a new foundation on which to build the massive power these high-revving and high-flowing powerplants are known for.
“I’m not just a machine house, I’m the guy that designed it, it’s my design. I think a big part of doing something like this is being mindful during the design process of how you are going to build this. I started with a factory Coyote block, it’s been 15 months in the making and to tell you the truth I think the factory block is a pretty nice piece. There are some things that I did do— I raised the main oil galley so you could swing a longer stroke in it, I eliminated the plenum normally cast into the block above the crankshaft and the ports through the main webs, I added cylinder wall and pan rail thickness, and then added an additional set of side bolts on the main caps,” explained Alan Root of JMP Racing Products.
“Allen is the machinist guru side of the block, he does a lot of finishing castings for many people including Ford Racing,” complimented Lutton.
As Root mentioned, and Lutton further explained cracking between the cylinders can be a catastrophic problem, one the Coyote is marred by. Should this kind of defect be allowed to propagate, the end result will surely be a sleeve becoming free from the webbing— not a good thing.
“The thicknesses in regards to the block skirts and valley mimic a modern day Brad Anderson block for example— the dimensions are all there to certainly handle over 3,000 horsepower. This block kicks the crap out of the existing block we’ve been using in our Pro-Mod, and that program has certainly proven to make over 3,000 horsepower,” Lutton assured.
Despite the obvious modifications that Root engineered into the block in the name of strength, weight savings, and potential, are familiar dimensions so as not to alienate the aftermarket support already existing for Coyote engines.“Other than the bores centers, the bell housing flange, and the timing cover flange— everything is different. Those are the only things that are really shared to be able to accept the Coyote components,” affirmed Lutton.
Holding It All Together
One of the other key design incorporations that will literally hold these billet blocks together with the predictably insane horsepower they will be used to produce, is the hardware. By over-building, and over-engineering the fastening solutions used to secure main caps and cylinder heads to this chunk of aluminum, users can push their platforms to the limit without fear of a hardware failure.
“We beefed up all of the hardware and switched over to a 1/2-inch inner main studs and 7/16-inch on the outer. On the side bolts we switched to a pair of 7/16 bolts, so we’ve not only gone larger but we’ve done it with two. On the main caps we switched to a 7075 aluminum material, by that we were able to save some weight that we added by going to the billet material. That weight savings was about 7 or 8 pounds, and they are hard anodized to prevent galling between the block and the main cap itself,” Lutton emphasized.
“The head studs in the block are 9/16, tapering to 1/2-inch, they don’t require any drilling— the factory Coyote head has a 1/2-inch hole going through it so they drop right on without any modifications,” he continued.
Next On Deck
The MMR billet Coyote block is going to be available in a few different permutations to account for the strength, displacement, and cooling needs of customers. Both short and tall-deck versions will be produced in wet and dry arrangements, so if all out power is the goal you’re set with a tall-deck dry block, but if a more compact practical engine is the goal, then maybe a short-deck water-jacketed block suits your fancy.
“As of right now the dry versions are coming first because that’s where we’ve had the largest amount of interest. The water block will follow shortly, it looks identical but it has some water fitting outside of it,” explained Lutton. “They start as a 600-pound chunk and they end up at 120 pounds after they’re all said and done— that’s for the tall-deck version, the short-deck version is actually quite a bit lighter than that it’s right at around 100 pounds.”
Both versions of the block incorporate the impressive design features that Root built into the platform but the tall-deck particularly capitalizes on the potential of the Coyote modular package.
“You could easily take this block up to about 400 cubic inches depending on the stroke. One of the nice things about this block is the ability to run a really long stroke like that, we’ve increased the deck-height almost another 1/2-inch over another 5.4-liter or 5.8 so we’ve basically taken a piston that was coming out of the bore almost 1/2-inch and completely enclosed it— which has allowed us to open-up piston-to-wall clearances for the really high horsepower engines, while still maintaining the ring seal nice and square,” Lutton detailed.
The short-deck version allows users to re-purpose OEM components like timing chains and covers, however the tall-deck requires custom pieces already engineered for the new billet block. Look for a follow-up as these parts become available.
“The tall-deck is a different deal, we developed a 100 percent CNC billet timing cover and valve covers for it which is a really cool package. We’ll be releasing more info on those in a few weeks. We’re also doing a timing cover in what we call a modified factory version for the guys that want to use the factory valve covers and save a little money,” Lutton foreshadowed.
Heads Up For The Future
With a shiny new billet block potentially looming in your racing future, the next natural question is what cylinder heads to use. Well, while OEM Coyote heads will drop right into place, and with some substantial porting can do justice to this block, we think the patient consumer will wait for MMR’s new billet heads to accompany this boutique engine package.
“On the horizon of course is a set of billet cylinder heads to go with this. There’s a lot of development that we’re putting into this cylinder head, in fact as we speak we’re digitizing and going through the factory GT350 port, and then doing a ported version that will then be moved over the to the billet cylinder heads. The port design will be somewhat similar but obviously greatly improved over the factory casting,” Lutton teased.
Already sitting on MMR’s shelves are custom spec’d piston sets, at least four billet steel crankshaft options, and their hybrid sheetmetal manifolds to compliment the billet motif you’re bound to be salivating over by now. While the current manifolds employ a billet runner and a sheetmetal plenum, plans are afoot to develop a full billet piece in the future.
Look Out On Track
It’s no secret that MMR has a serious posse of racers loyal to their Ford endeavors, and first to fly this flagship billet block will be John Urist, eight-time Super Street Outlaw Champion. Who better to put the new modular through it’s paces on the track.
“John Urist and the guys over at Helion have one on order, John is going to be one of the first people to get the first ones out there so we’re excited to be working with those guys. They’re going to be running the tall-deck version at around 351 cubic inches— which is basically a 4.165-inch stroke, with a 3.700-inch bore size. The bore size is still limited to 3.700-inch on this block and it’s really just a limitation of the bore-center,” Lutton conveyed excitedly.
The care and pride of craftsmanship that goes into one of these blocks is not for the faint of heart. The rough machine time to complete one block is one week on the same machine running one shift per day.“The hardest part of making this block was that it required a lot of small diameter end mills that are really long. You have to remove material real cautiously,” Root lamented.
The process of production is an ever-evolving battle plan, from tooling, and work holding issues to pure computational capacity, the problems that arise when starting an endeavor this ambitious are manifold.“One of the things that has taken us some time here is streamlining production. This thing had so many terabytes of information we had to actually buy new memory for the machine because we were having to feed it sections of data at a time, the new setup has enough memory to do the block from start to finish,” Lutton concluded.
We can’t wait to see one of these blocks in action, and find out their true horsepower potential. With the billet cylinder heads alluded to, we expect to be wowed.