Written By Steve Turner
Photography courtesy of Paul’s High Performance and Performance Racing Industry
If you’ve been starting to hear the term ‘Godzilla’ popping up in performance circles and you are wondering why, it’s because Ford’s latest pushrod engine is making moves from its intended home under the hoods of Super Duty trucks into the world of engine swaps and racing.
For those not up to speed, the new 7.3-liter engine uses old-fashioned push rods and burns good, old gasoline. Designed from scratch as an affordable, durable truck powerplant, Ford’s engineers also imbued Godzilla with power befitting a performance engine.
Its foundation is a rugged, cast-iron block that borrows technology and materials used in diesel engines and performance gas engines. In the block is a forged crank, riding on specially coated bearings, swinging rugged rods and pistons fitted with ring technology proven in Ford’s forced-induction engines. The big heads atop the block have tall ports and wedge-shaped combustion chambers ready to flow air, and they are even fitted with aluminum roller rockers.
Obviously, the intake and cam design are optimized for the torque needed in a truck environment, but the 445-cube engine is ripe with potential. It is also now available through Ford Performance as crate engine. Paul Svinicki of Paul’s High Performance in Jackson, Michigan, picked one up, but he needed a test bed to try it out. Fortunately, he procured a sedentary 2010 Cobra Jet, the 30th constructed, as a guinea pig.
Given carte blanche to mod the Cobra Jet for the new powerplant, Paul removed the extant 5.2-liter engine, which was fitted with a pair of turbos, and began squeezing the all-natural Godzilla under the hood.
“The geometry is already set. The car already does what it is supposed to do, so we left the midplate in it and started fitting the engine. We made our front-plate system to fit it in…” Svinicki explained. “I tried to get the engine as low as possible, but still keep the geometry close to what it was before.”
The oil pan presented the biggest challenge, as will for most swappers until the aftermarket delivers a pump and pan setup. Making the mechanicals work is Svinicki’s specialty, however, so that was the easy part. There was still the matter of an engine controller, however.
To get the Godzilla running in something other than a Super Duty truck, Svinicki turned to Danish company OBR Control Systems. Offering a number of powertrain control units, OBR’s units are utilized by Ford to run most of its dyno test engines. As such, the OBR unit was fully capable of reading all the factory sensors and actuating all the factory controls, like the cooling fan and oil pump. Yeah, even the factory oil pump gets marching orders from a computer.
“I didn’t know Paul when we started this, but the commitment and the technical level of the company is impressive…” Ole Buhl, of OBR Control Systems, told the PRI Road Show. “We have known this engine for some time now, and we have had time to develop our control strategies and electronics to handle the engine. We can run the engine with all existing sensors and actuators. We don’t have to change anything on the engine and that has been quite interesting for people who want to try and take a crate engine and see how it runs, in the example, in a drag-racing car.”
It turns out the first Godzilla-swapped machine to move under its own power runs quite well at the drag strip. Without time to create headers—Svinicki flipped the factory manifolds around and built downpipes using a Super Duty Y-pipe to retain the factory sensors—or really optimize the combination, the PHP team headed to the drag strip and broke into the 10-second zone twice. The best of the two passes was a 10.97 at 122.47, which was definitely respectable on three-year-old, flat-spotted slicks.
Of course, this is just the beginning. Svinicki pursuing even more performance from the combination.
“We do have a camshaft and we are working on a stereo-lithography intake manifold, and those two pieces are supposed to add 125 (flywheel) horsepower…” Svinicki added.
A three-digit gain from bolt-on parts would definitely be impressive, but before taking that step, the idea is to optimize the car as it sits with the stock engine.
“I think there is a 10.50 or a 10.70 in the car just as it sits by optimizing what we’ve got and going through some more suspension adjustments,” Svinicki said. “There’s more there, plus it is a truck engine so we were over-revving it a little too far and there are some gear ratio changes that could happen. With the cam and intake it would be a solid 9-second car and with a power adder it could go way beyond that.”
Once the aftermarket support revs up for these engines, it will definitely be interesting to see the output and performance they deliver. If the old adage that there is no replacement for displacement still rings true, Svinicki thinks that Godzilla might eventually overshadow its Coyote cousin. As such, PHP will offer some hard parts to make the engine swap easier.
“They are selling the engine as a crate program, so I think it will be as popular or more popular than the 5.0-liter, which I know a lot of people are going to raise their eyebrows about that, but cubic inches don’t lie. Torque doesn’t lie. It is going to be a really nice package,” Svinicki told the PRI Road Show.
It is certainly off to a strong start in this Cobra Jet, so stay tuned…
Ford Performance Parts
OBR Control Systems
Paul’s High Performance