6 Blue Oval engine-swaps from Holley’s 2023 Ford Fest

Brandan Gillogly

Holley’s Intergalactic Ford Fest brought in Blue Oval fans from all over North America to Beech Bend Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, for autocross, off-road, drift, and drag-racing fun. Any vehicle was allowed, as long as it was powered by a Ford engine. That meant that there were Mustangs and F150s of all generations in attendance, with drag-race Fox-bodies and drift-ready S550s galore.

We spoke to several of the 2023 attendees who had some of our favorite engine swaps and assembled this list for those who couldn’t be there. Let us know if one of these six Ford-powered vehicles inspires you to do a swap of your own.

Godzilla, King of the Mustangs

Texas Speed & Performance brought out an SN95 Mustang to show off the shop’s latest foray into Ford performance: the 7.3-liter Godzilla crate V-8. The monster tunnel ram makes the engine tall, but the V-8 isn’t really that big.

Its 4.22-inch bores just about max out the real estate on the block’s 4.5-inch bore spacing. Those big bores and intake help the CNC-ported heads produce around 660 hp at the flywheel. Texas Speed was making some shakedown runs with the car and Luke Haley, product manager at Texas Speed, told us that the Mustang just made a 6.84-second pass in the 1/8-mile @ 104 mph, proving the pushrod V-8 is putting in some solid work.


At LS Fest in 2022 Michael Hunt and Lee Clayton, the guys at TredWear, had just completed a body swap with a 1977 Trans Am and a C5 Corvette Z06. This time they accomplished the same feat using a 1979 Bronco body placed over the running gear and interior of a 2003 Navigator.

They chose a Navigator of that particular vintage because 2003 was the last year that Ford offered the 5.4-liter four-valve engine after the second-gen Navigator adopted independent rear suspension. A factory joint on the frame was carefully opened up by removing the welds, and 15 inches of length were removed to hit 104 inches, the same as that of the discarded Bronco chassis.

The retro livery is what the TredWear crew imagined Ford might have campaigned if the Blue Oval had tried its luck in the East African Safari, with James Garner behind the wheel. We like the artificially aged red, yellow, and orange graphics, which were also carried into the interior. Hunt told us that the 5.4-liter and four-wheel independent suspension transformed the Bronco, and we imagine it would: The Navigator’s 5.4-liter has a lot less weight to haul with two fewer doors and an entire row of seats missing.

Boss Fox

Every good-looking Fox-body Mustang within a 300-mile radius was at Ford Fest, or so it seemed. We couldn’t count the restomodded 5.0-liter hatchbacks and notchbacks in attendance at the show and also on the drag strip, but this one may have been our favorite.

This 1992 Mustang was Josh Miller’s first car. He spent the last eight years giving it a full-bore restoration and pulling out all the stops. The vivid red paint is from DeBeer, and the Gen 1 Coyote engine is topped by a Boss 302 intake that’s also wearing DeBeer paint. There’s a Tremec TKO behind the Coyote, which runs on Holley Terminator Max ECU. We kept coming back to this thing to see it glow. It’s just so red.

Godzilla vs. Trans Am

Mike Bozzelli dropped a 7.3-liter Godzilla into his 1969 Pontiac Trans Am clone and trailered it all the way from Toronto. He joked that he was trying to balance out all of the GM-swapped Fords, but his decision to engine-swap this Pontiac came down to his excitement about a big, new pushrod V-8 from Ford. Holley’s new intake manifold helped the swap thanks to its compact size; it saved about two inches in height compared to the factory intake. It did take some fine adjustments to get the engine to sit exactly where it needed to go. “She fits in there pretty good, I can’t complain,” Bozzelli said, adding, “It looks right at home.” We’ve got to agree.

Questionable decisions

Jared Pink from Gainsville, Georgia, runs the Questionable Garage YouTube channel where he makes doubtful automotive choices so you don’t have to. His latest questionable decision was to compete at LS Fest, MoParty, and Ford Fest … with the same car. That’s three separate engines in less than a month. At this year’s LS Fest, Pink ran an LS3 in his Duster. In two and a half days he installed a Gen III Hemi and got it back on the road. Nine days later the Duster was powered by this Ford Coyote V-8 and tearing up the autocross at Beech Bend with its third V-8 powerplant in as many weeks.

The pushrod V-8s had enough power to cause axle wrap, leading to unpredictable power delivery. As if he wasn’t busy enough, while the Coyote swap took place, Pink also installed a four-link rear suspension. When we asked him how the engines differ, he said: “I’m learning, because it has such a high-rpm powerband, that my gearing doesn’t work well.” He found that he wanted a gear in between first and second on his TKX transmission when he was hitting the autocross.

“It’s the wrong choice, it’s way too big,” Pink said of the Coyote V-8. He’s going to go back to the appropriate Mopar powertrain, the 426 Gen III Hemi stroker that he scored when buying what he thought was a 6.1-liter Hemi from a junkyard. “That was a junkyard lottery find,” Pink admits, “It blows the tires off. That’s the long-term engine.” He also loves the way the 426 Gen III sounds.

His conclusions: The Hemi is the proper choice for the Mopar, the Coyote was fun and revved nicely, while also shedding more than 100 pounds off the nose compared to the iron-block Hemi, but he also appreciated the LS3. “It was so easy to install,” Pink said of the LS3, “when it comes to engine swaps, that’s the winner.”

Turbo Oddball

It’s not too often you find a second-generation Ford Courier, and it’s even less common to see one sporting a turbocharged 2.3-liter engine. Jon Hagan, from Owensborough, Kentucky, put his turbo-swapped Courier to the test and smoked the tires in the burnout contest. We asked how the project came to be and Hagan, whose first car was a Mustang SVO, made it sound like the logical thing to do. “I had a bunch of 2.3-liter turbo stuff around … it somehow made its way in there.”

He plumbed up a VS Racing turbo himself, building just about all of the fabricated parts in the engine bay except for the valve cover and the intercooler. He even tunes the truck himself. It puts out about 500 hp, which was enough to break the drivetrain until he upgraded to a larger bell housing that uses parts designed to stand up behind a 5.0 liter.

Let us know in the comments: Which engine swap is your favorite?




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    I love that Courier!! There were so many of those running around in the 70’s and 80’s along with LUVs and now they are all gone. Great bit of nostalgia,

    I vote for the turbo 2.3L in the Ford Courier pickup. While none of these swaps are a “bolt-in”, that is probably the one swap that demanded the most custom work.

    Well i guess we have moved way beyond swapping the 3.8 and 4.2 liter Jag motor for a Ford 302 in the XKE or the XJL. i had one of each back in the 90’s and i thought that was the answer for both cars. Now Ford blocks in everything…

    I’d like to throw a vote in there just for Jared Pink. 3 engine swaps across 3 events and the car runs and drives to and from each…that’s an accomplishment!
    Picking a vehicle, I’m in on the Courier as well. I love Godzilla swaps (have parts coming together for my own) but that Courier just seems so well balanced.

    8-10 years ago my son & I swapped a Banks- blown 7.3-L Powerstroke diesel into a customized longbed Chev 4-door dually pickup. Gave him better mountain driving and better mileage pulling a trailer than the 455 big-block it came with. Fit right in. Not so much at Chevy car shows….

    It would have been nice to at least have one photo of as many cars as possible in it to give an idea of the whole event.

    I’d love to see an 03-04 Cobra Terminator engine and transmission swapped into a 02-05 Thunderbird. That would be the ultimate sleeper.

    All of them would be countless hours of work but look at the craftsmanship on the courier! Custom made valve-cover and cam housing, LS coils (I think) with mounting bosses, etc. well done!

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