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The Speed Corner: The Coyote King

by Matthew Calvino

The 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500. (Bob Chapman/Ford Motor Company/TNS)

As it currently stands, the modern drag racing scene has moved beyond NHRA. The most popular drag racing cars are not Super Stocks or Top Fuel, but open-class cars built by local tuning shops. The cars they build usually put out a competitive horsepower output of anything between 1000-1500 horsepower, primarily from three-engine platforms. The first is the Coyote 5.0, the engine you would see in any Mustang GT from 2011 forward. The second is the LS and LT series of crate motors from Chevrolet. The final is the slowest engine, the factory high horsepower Dodge Hellcat HEMI Eight-cylinder.

Each engine has its advantages, but as of now, there are some important things to note. The LS factory motors are spectacular naturally aspirated drag racing motors, being able to withstand long track days and extremely powerful when paired with a Turbo 400 four-speed manual transmission. Cars using this engine, most commonly Camaros and single-cab Silverados, can potentially run sub-ten-second quarter miles without nitrous and a little bit of tuning. The Hellcat 376 cubic-inch motor is easily one of the most powerful engines out of the factory.

However, the only model they are used for drag racing is the car they were mated with from the Detroit factory, the Challenger or Charger chassis. This makes the motor extremely weighed down and slower to pick up power against an LS or Coyote-based build. Among the street and track community of drag racing, they are commonly known by the more comedic name “Hello Kitty” for their all-show-no-go trademark that has blemished the modern MOPAR community.

Finally, the most important thing to understand about open-class drag racing right now is the fact that the Coyote is king. As a die-hard Chevrolet fan its hard to admit it, but when it comes to handling 25 pounds of turbocharger boost or more, the Coyote motor will not break. In fact, it thrives under high boost levels and stress. If you look at the rising F-150 scene, the Coyote is putting 1300 horsepower to the wheel and annihilating the racing scene in places like Houston and Los Angeles with a stock 10-speed automatic. They now run 9.2 quarter miles and are even more competitive in ⅛ mile racing. In the Mustang, the numbers get even faster due to aerodynamics and lightweight.

Why is the Coyote running faster ¼ mile times? The Coyote block is extremely reliable and almost indestructible. Bumbera Performance builder Boyd Bumbera is a consistent advocate of the block under heavy amounts of boost, as well as the builders from Midnight Performance and a multitude of others. The argument is that the only thing the Coyote needs to run high levels of boost consistently is replacement block sleeves and O-rings. It seems true as well, considering one of the most successful engine builders of the Coyote 5.0, Midnight Performance, has notably become famous as the shop working on sleeving and replacing O-rings for the rest of the Coyote performance community.

The reliability of these engines for high boost and heavy mileage without blowing makes these engines high horsepower machines for drag racing, thus making them the current king of drag racing engines.

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