‘58 Ford “Sleeper” Surprises Many With Its Coyote Power

Engine Swaps Are Still Rodding’s “Hot Ticket”

Engine swaps have been an integral part of hot rodding since day one. This became even more evident with Ford’s introduction of the ubiquitous flathead V8 in 1932. The flathead engine proved to be the perfect launching pad for the burgeoning postwar speed equipment industry, and there was a impetus to continually hop it up. The same was true with the Chevy six-cylinder “Stovebolt” (1929-54).


Fairlane owner Steve Sanett has a surprise for anyone that thinks his ’58 Ford four-door is a slug. A modern Ford Coyote engine hides in the engine bay. Engine swaps are the essence of hot rodding.

That said, the game changed mid-century with the introduction of “modern” overhead valve V8 engines like the 331ci Cadillac, 303ci Oldsmobile “Rocket” (both in 1949), and the potent 331 first-generation Chrysler Hemi (1951) finding their way into many an early Ford an Chevy rods. There were even some then-exotic sports cars fitted with Detroit OHV V8s, such as the Cad/Allard and Cunningham/Chrysler.

All V8 Hell Breaks Loose

It was in the mid-’50s when all hell broke loose in in regards to hot rodding, when the small-block Chevy hit the streets. For the next 50-plus years, the SBC was unquestionably the mainstay engine of hot rodding. Factor in the second-generation small-block, the LS series, and GM has churned out in excess of 100 million of these powerplants (GM officially notes that the 100M milestone was reached in 2011). To be sure, massive quantities of 265, 283, 327, 350, and 400 cubic-inch small-blocks have found their way into literally, hundreds of thousands of street rods, classic trucks, musclecars, and rock ‘n roll-era cruisers since 1955.

Here’s a ’57-’59 Ford engine bay with an FE engine in place. The Coyote is several inches wider on both sides, but still fits nicely.

That said, Ford’s own small-block, first introduced in 1962, with a 221 cubic inch displacement —soon expanded to 260, 289, 302, and 351 c.i.d. variants— first made an impact on the market in the ‘60s. The compact “Windsor” V8 was shoehorned into a number of underpowered British sports cars (AC, TVR, and Sunbeam), with Carroll Shelby’s influence resulting in the Cobra, TVR Griffith, and Sunbeam Tiger. The Windsor, and its more potent Cleveland cousin, became a popular swap for rodders who wanted to stay true to the Blue Oval.

Modern Day Modular Swaps

Fast forward to 2017, and the landscape has taken an interesting new look. The ubiquitous Chevy small-block/LS/LT is facing challenges from the latest third-generation Hemi, and especially Ford Motor Company’s “Modular” program — the latest iteration Coyote and Aluminator crate engines. A key reason for this is the Coyote’s highly efficient four-valve, DOHC configuration. Factor in deep breathing heads, a stout short-block that features a forged steel crank and six-bolt mains, and EFI, and you can see how serious power and reliability can be obtained in one package. In fact, through Ford Performance’s engine program, it’s easy to get a 5.0-liter crate engine that puts out an excess of 500 ponies. The 5.2-liter Aluminator delivers nearly 600 horsepower!

This is the bone-stock appearing 1958 Ford Fairlane four-door that now has Coyote power. About 1-1/2 inches was cut from the front coils to make the car ride level, as the Coyote is some 200 pounds lighter than the Iron FE it replaced.

Long-time Ford aficionado Steve Sanett (his stable includes an immaculate E-code 1957 T-Bird, a 1966 Shelby GT350H “rent-a-racer”, and a 2005 GT) has for many years, commuted to and from work with a clean, nondescript 1958 Ford Fairlane four-door Town Sedan. However, the miles added up, and the Fairlane’s trusty 332 c.i.d. FE engine was starting to lay down on the job. What now… rebuild or swap?

Rebuild Or Swap?

The stock engine produced 265 horsepower, weighed about 650 lbs., and measured approximately 27 inches wide at the exhaust manifold. A quick glance at the spec sheet showed the Coyote (p/n M-6007-M50A) to produce 435+ horsepower, weigh some 200 lbs. less than the FE, and measure about 29 inches at its widest point, the valve covers. Hmmm…

A couple more incentives for the Coyote swap included the ability to easily change from a Ford-O-Matic transmission to a decidedly more modern 4R70W transmission with gas-saving overdrive, and the availability of many components (including the critical electronics) to facilitate the swap.

The Ford Performance 5.0-liter Control Pack harness transmits all the necessary data to the ECU.

Fortunately, highly credentialed fabricator John Schiess of Custom Built Machines in Chatsworth, CA — conveniently located near Sanett’s place of business — had previously swapped a Coyote into a 1962 Ford T-Bird, and was totally familiar with the task at hand.

This accelerator pedal is part of the Ford Control Pack. The “drive by wire” setup replaces the original linkage.

“From a physical standpoint there’s ample room in the engine compartment of ’57-’59 Fords to accommodate the Coyote engine. It will also fit nicely in many 1960s Fords” said Schiess. He went on to say, “The most important aspect of the swap is fitting the exhaust system. For the ’58 Ford, we had to design and fabricate a set of headers that had the necessary clearance. We followed that back with 2 1/2-inch exhaust tubing and a pair of 20-inch long OEM style DynaMax mufflers.

John Schiess built the custom headers and exhaust system for the Coyote/Fairlane install.

It was also necessary to make provisions for the oxygen sensors that send data to the ECU. We terminated the tail pipes a few inches behind the rear bumper so the casual observer can’t really see what’s going on. It’s a real ‘sleeper’ setup.” Given that the Coyote is a couple hundred pounds lighter than the FE engine it replaced, about 1 1/2 inches had to be removed from the front coil springs so the Fairlane would ride level.

The Real Challenge

The biggest challenge facing Schiess was adapting a new computer-controlled drivetrain to the nearly 60-year-old vehicle. Fortunately, there are a number of nicely engineered electronic components that make things easier. For example, Ford Performance’s p/n M-6017-504V Control Pack takes care of most functions. However, due to the choice of the 4R70W transmission (many others are supported by Ford), it dictated integrating an aftermarket transmission controller. Schiess opted for an MSD Atomic TCM p/n 2760, which has a nifty hand-held programming device.

Three-quarter rear view of the pan shows how the sump is designed to provide crossmember and steering clearance.

On the physical side of the swap, John fabricated engine mounts, as well as a transmission crossmember that mounts to the factory location. Fortunately, a front-sump Canton oil pan designed for a Coyote swap into an early Mustang works well in the ’58, with engine mounting position mindful of the pan clearing the Fairlane’s crossmember and steering arms.

Here’s a peek at the front part of the Canton oil pan, which is designed for an early Mustang swap. It works splendidly in the Fairlane.

A small notch in the frame was made for alternator clearance, and the added breadth of the Coyote crowded the battery, so that’s been moved to the trunk. This brings us to a part of the swap that Schiess and other experts agree on; properly grounding everything is of critical importance in electronically controlled vehicles. John takes great pains to make sure grounds are secure.

Proper wiring — especially grounding — is essential on an EFI swap into an older vehicle.

Fuel And Coolant, Fire And Ice

As you can well imagine, the ‘58s original fuel system was not designed to provide the high-pressure requirements of the Coyote’s EFI. Since in-tank fuel pumps are the norm, the Fairlane’s stock tank was modified by Schiess. Inside the tank lurks a Walbro #255 that provides the required 55 psi, with an Aeromotive regulator and fuel filter added to the system. Throttle control is done via Ford’s p/n 7R3Z-9F836-A accelerator pedal assembly, which provides the correct electrical interface with the PCM. This dedicated throttle pedal is included with the Ford Performance Control Pack.

The EFI required a high pressure fuel system. The OEM Fairlane tank was modified to accommodate this in-tank pump setup.

Cooling the Coyote was accomplished largely through the use of stock-type Ford components. Schiess said, “The most logical thing to do was make the engine ‘think’ it was in a factory environment, so we used a radiator that fits a 2008-2011 Mustang GT with a heavy-duty Ford electric fan. I modified the core support so it was essential a bolt-in deal. A Moroso expansion tank was used, and I made an inline adapter to keep tabs of the temperature.”

The radiator was designed to fit a late Mustang, with Schiess fabricating the appropriate core support. A Moroso fill tank is used.

The End Result

Schiess has gone to great lengths to maintain the factory controls, which include fabricating a shift linkage that uses the OEM column-mount shift lever.  The only thing that couldn’t transfer was the speedometer, which required use of a Speedbox (6-SNDR-SB-22) unit to convert the 4R70’s signals to a mechanical cable. It can be calibrated via GPS.

The underside from the engine back to the transmission. All mounts and the crossmember were engineered to for easy removal.

The net result is a totally stock-looking ’58 Ford that has the heart of a new Mustang GT. There’s obviously more power here than the original 7.50 x 14 whitewalls can handle, but in the mean time, owner Sanett can hone his drifting techniques. After he gets a set of new white-wall DOT “cheater slicks” the deception will be complete.

About the author

Bill Holland

Bill Holland has been involved in racing and the performance aftermarket since the 1960s in the capacities of racer, speed shop proprietor, journalist, street rodder, designer and advertising/PR/marketing professional. Along the way he’s raced Top Fuel and Funny Car, been editor of NHRA’s publication, National Dragster, was involved in off-roading as publisher of SCORE News, built a variety of Featured Vehicles for the SEMA Show, as well as a Track “T” that was a Contender for the AMBR award. He currently races vintage sports cars. Bill was inducted into NHRA’s California Hot Rod Reunion Hall of Fame in 2017.
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