Boosted Coyote: Bringing the Short-Block To Life With Livernois

In the last installment of the Boosted Coyote project, we showed you the sickening devastation incurred in the engine’s mostly stock incarnation. The team at Livernois Motorsports tore the engine apart and put on their detective hats as they performed a thorough autopsy and recovered any parts which may have been salvageable.

Unfortunately for Ivan, most of the short-block’s major components were beyond repair. The ATI Performance balancer and the engine block itself were able to be saved and reused in the rebuild process. However, both components would need to undergo modification to be suitable pieces in the quest for big power numbers.

Since the ultimate goal is in the 1,000-horsepower range (at the wheels), the team at Livernois decided that the best way to move forward was to rebuild the short-block using their Race Series Coyote as a template.

The first step in rebuilding Ivan’s short-block was to get a good align hone on it. While the block itself was the only OEM part salvageable from the short-block, because there will be extensive machining happening, the base has to be spot-on.

“With a stock short-block, at elevated power levels, you can only go full-send if your calibration is 100-percent perfect,” says Fonzie Novelo, Livernois Engine Builder extraordinaire. “Even then, you’re on borrowed time. We’re aiming for longevity, in addition to power capacity. We don’t want to just be able to make the power once, but to actually live at that power level.”

Luckily for us, the combination to get Ivan where he wants to be has been scienced-out by Dan Millen and the Livernois team. They know what works and ultimately, what doesn’t work. While we could have just ordered the Race Series short-block off the shelf and called it a day, we originally didn’t know how bad off Ivan’s engine was, and were planning on reusing as many parts as possible for the build. We ended up using two.

A Solid Foundation On Which To Build

It can be said that the foundation of any engine build is the engine block. If it’s not up to the task, it doesn’t matter how many trick, badass parts you stuff inside of it, you’re doomed to failure. Fortunately, Ford’s OEM Coyote block is a trooper from the factory. While it’s good, it’s not perfect, but thanks to Darton Sleeves, the OEM block can be turned into a powerhouse.

“Sleeving” a block is common in the high-power Coyote world, and requires machining the OEM iron cylinder liner out of the block, and then being replaced with an aftermarket liner. For this, we tapped Darton Sleeves, as they have been proven to work time and time again.

The first step in sleeving a block is machining out the old liners. As you can see here, all the cylinders have had the liners removed. Not pictured is the step that needs to be machined at the top of the cylinder for the flanged Darton sleeves.

Since 1978 Darton has been in the performance sleeve game, and a large part of its success in the market is due to the use of ductile iron, as opposed to traditional gray iron. By altering the composition of the iron alloy, the material’s characteristics makes not only for a substantially stronger material, but one that is harder and more abrasion-resistant as well.

While the ductile iron’s much-increased tensile strength is arguably its largest benefit, it also offers improved oil retention on the cylinder wall and increased ring seal for less blow-by and more power. An additional benefit of Darton’s ductile iron material is its ability to resist cracking, should the cylinder bore distort under extreme cylinder pressures, where a cast iron liner would fail.

“The sleeves play an integral role in the strength of the short-block. Because of the way they are installed, they are more than just a cylinder liner, actually adding strength to the whole engine block,” Novelo explains. “When you are adding boost and cylinder pressure and heat, those sleeves increase the dimensional stability significantly over the factory liners as well, so it’s more than just a brute strength issue.”

Here you can see the flanges on the Darton sleeves, and if you look at the base, you can see the corresponding relief cut in the deck for them. Darton sleeves are made from ductile iron for much-increased strength over the OEM cast iron sleeves, along with much higher ductility, to prevent cracking under stress.

Installing new sleeves is no bolt-on task, and we’d even go so far as to say the process is an advanced one, even for an automotive machine shop. While Darton includes instructions for a machinist to follow, we sleep better at night knowing that the extremely experienced team at Livernois – specifically Fonzie Novelo – was the one to machine our block.

“We have a systematic process for installing the sleeves which is tested and proven,” says Novelo. “Our builders are experienced and familiar with the ins and outs of all the different generations of Coyote engines. After all, they’ve been working on them since the engine’s release in 2011.”

In the Coyote application, the Darton sleeves feature a .150-inch wall-thickness, out of the box, making for a dry installation (the OEM cylinder wall isn’t breached, so no coolant directly contacts the cylinders) and allows a maximum bore of 94mm, or 3.700 inches. The .200-inch-thick flanges at the top of the sleeves serves as both a depth locator and support, so that there is no chance of the liners moving vertically under extreme use. As you can see in the photos, the radial width of the flanges requires the liners to make contact with one another, which adds another layer of “buddy support” to the overall design.

Once all of the heavy machining is done, and the sleeves are completely installed in the block, a final deck surfacing is performed to make sure the deck of the block is absolutely even with the face of the sleeves, and the block is at zero deck height. Then, a torque plate is bolted down for the boring and honing of each cylinder. When all is said and done, Ivan’s engine has a final bore size only slightly larger than factory, at 3.650 inches.

Once the sleeves are installed and a final deck surfacing is completed, a torque plate is bolted on to bore and hone the sleeves to the desired final dimension (left). On the right is what the finished sleeved block looks like. Notice the thickness of the sleeve flanges, and how they support each other.

Cranking It Up

When it comes to this project – just like the off-the-shelf Race Series short-block – there is a single critical component which bears a Blue Oval part number and remains in almost-untouched factory form – the crankshaft. “The crankshaft is up to the task as-is,” Novelo says. “It’ll take 1,000-plus horsepower all day long.”

Ivan’s original crank was smoked in the meltdown, so step one was to purchase a “new” factory crank, which Livernois happened to have on hand. Forged steel from the factory, the Gen 2 Coyote’s crank features a 92.7mm (just under 3.65 inches) stroke. The Coyote’s main journals measure out to 2.657 inches (which is significantly larger than the Windsor 5.0’s 2.249-inch main journal diameter), and the rod journals come in slightly smaller at 2.086 inches.

The one area that is modified in this application is the crank snout, with a second keyway 180-degrees out from, but otherwise identical to, the OEM keyway. “Whenever someone is adding stress from a blower, or even just a significant amount of power from a power adder, we recommend upgrading the crank to a double keyway design,” Novelo says. “A single keyway could shear off under heavy load. Adding a second keyway doubles the durability, and at the very least a double-keyed crankshaft is insurance.”

However, in our conversations, Novelo brought up that what we considered to generally be a power-adder-specific modification, is treated simply as a high-performance modification at Livernois. “If you were to do a naturally aspirated application, and wanted high-RPM performance – especially in a road racing or autocross application with an 8,000-plus-rpm redline – we’d double key the crankshaft as well,” says Novelo. “The short-blocks would actually be pretty similar, just with a different compression ratio.”

Whether we had been able to reuse Ivan’s original crank or not, because we are changing the rods and pistons to beefier pieces, we had to rebalance the crankshaft. Unless you are somehow able to match your previous rotating assembly’s weight exactly, you are always going to need to rebalance when swapping a rotating or reciprocating component.

A Balancing Act

That brings us to the other part that was salvaged from Ivan’s previous disaster: the ATI Super Damper. Designed to eliminate torsional crankshaft vibrations, the Super Damper is built to exceed SFI 18.1 specs, making it widely used in motorsports competition.

The fact that the ATI Super Damper is completely rebuildable meant that not only could we replace the damaged hub and retain the otherwise undamaged damper, but that we could replace it with a hub that is double-keyed from the ATI factory. The double-keyed hub (P/N 916124K) comes with 3/16-inch keyways machined in it, and actually comes from Ford on the supercharged Cobra Jet factory drag car.

However, even if there wasn’t an off-the-shelf factory race part available, that would be no problem for the team at Livernois. “While we were able to just order an existing part number on this application, we are capable of machining a second keyway into the hub of any balancer you might be using,” Novelo explains.

Once everything was machined and balanced, our engine builder, Fonzie Novelo, put the Clevite H-series main bearings — coated with Clevite’s TriArmor coating — in the block, and dropped the crankshaft in.

Walk Softly and Carry a Big Rod

When it comes to connecting rods for this power level, Livernois isn’t messing around. They have their line of Powerstorm connecting rods available in both H-beam and I-beam configurations, the latter of which has been specifically designed for extreme performance applications. For Ivan’s engine, there was no question that I-beams would be used.

“We used our I-beam rod design for this, and all of our boosted Race Series applications,” says Novelo. “The Powerstorm I-beam rods offer a better design to withstand the increased cylinder pressures, and they also allow for a higher RPM in this application as well – you can spin to 8,000 rpm all day long with this setup.”

Livernois Powerstorm connecting rods have been optimized for severe-duty applications, while minimizing weight. They are the stock Coyote length of 5.933 inches but can hold massive amounts of horsepower.

Made from forged 4340 steel, the rod body geometry has been optimized for high cylinder pressures while minimizing weight. The rods are stress-relieved after they are machined and then undergo magnetic particle inspection to ensure there are no flaws in the finished rod.

Livernois says it holds tolerances on the rods to .0001-inch (that’s a ten-thousandth of an inch). The rods are the factory length of 5.933 inches center-to-center, with a 22mm .200-inch heavy-wall tool-steel wrist pin. Upgraded ARP2000 rod bolts are standard, for severe-duty performance. “We have yet to see a rod failure with these connecting rods. No cracks, no throwing one through the block. They hold up to the abuse,” Novelo relates.

Clevite H-series, TriArmor-coated bearings were used in the rods as well. Livernois has found that not only do they perform really well in high-stress applications, but they are extremely consistent out of the box, requiring very little mixing and matching to get the proper clearances.

Slugging It Out

When it comes to pistons, there are a lot of theories on everything from top of the crown down to the base of the skirt. The ring pack location and thicknesses, dome shape, piston material, skirt size and shape, along with critical structural thicknesses are all subject to change based on the manufacturers’ thoughts and the intended application. With so much experience with Ford engines, Livernois has an opinion or two on piston design.

For the custom-design piston, also branded under the Powerstorm name, Livernois starts with a 2618 forging with a final bore size of 3.650 inches. Since the specs call for a relatively tight piston to wall clearance of .003 inch, the actual diameter of the pistons come in at 3.647 inches in diameter. They then incorporate a 1.5mm top ring groove, 1.5mm second ring groove, and 3.0mm oil ring groove, along with a 7cc dome at the top of the piston, to bring compression up to about 11.5:1

The Livernois Powerstorm pistons are machined to Livernois specifications, and then coated in-house by Fonzie himself. The pistons for our project feature a 1.5mm top ring, 1.5mm second ring, and a 3.0mm oil ring, for the perfect balance of toughness under heavy boost, and minimizing friction in the bore.

“The design architecture of the Coyote is such that we’ve found through our extensive development, that the Coyote responds very well to boost with factory or slightly higher compression,” explains Novelo. “We designed the piston, and do all of our piston coating in-house. It’s a very lengthy process, but when they come out, they are gorgeous.” There are two separate coatings used on these pistons. Both are ceramic based, but perform two very different functions. The top coating is designed as a heat barrier, to reduce the amount of heat absorbed by the piston itself, while the skirt coating is designed to reduce the friction of the piston in the bore.

For piston rings, the team at Livernois trusts one of the most recognized and successful names in piston rings – Total Seal. For this application, the name of the game is strength under boost, while still minimizing friction in the bore. “We chose to run Total Seal stainless AP rings, with a C33 face coating,” Novelo explains. “We’ve found that they not only hold up in high horsepower engines, but the design and coating are easier on the cylinder walls, and reduces cylinder wall wear.”

The Total Seal Advanced Profiling rings are manufactured from 440B stainless steel to exacting tolerances for overall thickness, flatness, surface finish, and concentricity. The C33 coating is a Particle Vapor Deposed (PVD) chromium nitride (CrN) finish, which provides all the benefits of chrome-faced rings, without the inherent sealing issues. The ring gaps for this heavy boost application were chosen with much thought, and are .026 inches for the top ring, .028 inches for the second ring, and .015 inches for the oil ring.

The Total Seal Advanced Profiling piston rings spec’d by Livernois are a traditional ring, and were gapped for the heavy boost that will be crammed into the cylinders by the Ivan’s 2.9-liter Whipple blower. The stainless steel rings feature Total Seal’s C33 face coating, which provides all the benefits of a chrome-coated ring with none of the drawbacks.

Smooth Sailing

In a caliber of build such as this, bearings play an extremely critical part in not only the performance of the engine, but the longevity as well. Livernois uses Clevite bearings in this application both for their performance under severe conditions and for their consistency in manufacturing.

“We use Clevite bearings because they hold a higher tolerance than anyone else when it comes to being a matched set out of the box,” says Novelo. “The journal-to-journal consistency makes it easy to set clearances without having to do a ton of mixing and matching.” While for the home builder that is a minor convenience issue, for a company such as Livernois that is doing a high-volume of builds, that translates to less time on each assembly, and less inventory that has to be kept on hand.

For Ivan’s short-block, the top of the line Clevite bearings were spec’d out for both the mains and rods. Clevite’s H-series bearings are designed for high-performance engine builds. Further increasing performance, Livernois specified a coated bearing for this application. Clevite’s TriArmor coating adds a .0003-inch-thick dry-film coating, which not only improves the wear characteristics of the bearing, but also increases their lubricity, reducing drag and improving the efficiency of the engine.

Keeping the Lifeblood Flowing

On the Coyotes, one of the known shortcomings of the OEM design is the powdered-metal oil pump gears installed at the factory. When supercharging a Coyote, or really, pushing one significantly over the OEM performance envelope at all, billet oil pump gears are a necessity.

Livernois also provided the Powerstorm billet oil pump gears in a new Ford oil pump housing. The OEM powdered-metal gears are a known weak spot on factory Coyotes, especially when used with a supercharger. An additional upgrade is the billet lower crank gear on the left.

While Livernois does offer the billet steel gears by themselves, we opted for an entirely new oil-pump unit, after the previous meltdown. Livernois offers this as a complete unit, using a brand new high-quality oil pump housing and the Powerstorm billet oil pump gears already installed, in a ready-to-bolt-on assembly.

With Ivan’s short-block wrapped-up, if you took a step back and looked at it, you’d notice two things. One, it’s almost indiscernible from one of Livernois Race Series short-blocks sitting on a pallet, waiting to be shipped to a customer. Two, the short-block is almost unrecognizable from the mess that we shipped them, originally.

“We have yet to find a limit on power on these short-blocks in the real world, so we’re comfortable with saying 1,200 horsepower [at the crank],” says Novelo of Ivan’s engine. “Ivan should have no problem going all-out with this. [Ivan’s goal of] making 1,000 to the tire, you can have fun all day long on that short-block and not worry about it. You can throw the kitchen sink at this, and thrash it all day long, and be just fine. ”

Conservative estimates put the short-block’s capabilities at 1,200 horsepower, at which point the cast aluminum block itself becomes the weak point, according to Novelo. With the short-block buttoned up, it’s time to move on to the top end of the engine and focusing on the cylinder heads in the next article.

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About the author

Greg Acosta

Greg has spent fifteen years and counting in automotive publishing, with most of his work having a very technical focus. Always interested in how things work, he enjoys sharing his passion for automotive technology with the reader.
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