Boosted Coyote Pt. 3 – Livernois Race Series Top End Comes Together

Boosted Coyote Pt. 3 – Livernois Race Series Top End Comes Together

In the last installment of the Boosted Coyote engine build, we saw Livernois Motorsports and Engineering’s ace engine builder Fonzie Novelo take our OEM block – which was the only salvageable part of the original short-block – and create an amazing Race Series short-block capable of handling serious boost and 1,000-plus horsepower.

Now, Novelo is moving to the top end of the engine to perform the same level of upgrades in preparation for the intended boost from the 2.9-liter Whipple supercharger. However, as you might remember from the first article – where we performed an autopsy on Ivan’s original engine – the carnage was thorough, and none of Ivan’s original top end components survived unscathed.

While some of the components were “repairable” – like boring out the scored cam journals and repairing them with a bearing, the team at Livernois determined that wasn’t the right path to go down. “Unfortunately in the performance world, there really is only one way to address these damaged areas, and that is to replace them,” says Andy Ricketts, Livernois Shop Supervisor and Vehicle Ops Manager.

“Now, had this been a car with no power upgrades, and the only goal was to have a running engine again, maybe we would consider repairing rather than replacing and starting fresh, but we would never go that route [in a performance application] as it would eventually fail due to the nature of those lower-cost options.”

That left Ivan with one suitable option – purchase a new set of OEM Gen-2 Coyote heads and camshafts. Luckily, Livernois was able to source a set on the second-hand market and were not only able to keep the costs down (have you priced OEM Coyote cylinder heads lately?!), but also ensure that the components were in solid condition.

Here you can see the condition of Ivan's original heads as they were taken off of the old engine. Fixing that scoring in the cam journals is possible by installing a bearing, but is not suitable for any performance applications, according to Livernois — especially not an application that will be seeing 1000-plus horsepower. The fix was just to locate a new pair of OE cylinder head castings.

Cylinder Head Options

Right off the bat, Livernois offers three levels of Coyote cylinder head modification for its customers, simply named Stage 1, Stage 2, and Stage 3. The basic level – Stage 1 – is Livernois “entry level” CNC-ported head program. “The Stage 1 heads incorporate our proven CNC porting program with a CNC multi-angle valve job and blend work,” explains Livernois’ Dominic Gabriel. “The Stage 1 heads retain stock hardware, such as springs, seals, and valves, and is all professionally assembled in our shop.”

The Stage 2 offering adds extra engine RPM capability to the package. “Stage 2 includes our exclusive upgraded valvesprings, and valve seals, which not only adds high-RPM capability, but also the ability to use just about any camshafts in the marketplace,” Gabriel says.

Livernois has put a lot of research and development time into perfecting the port various port contours and sizes. Luckily, its 5-axis CNC machine can perfectly replicate the port design, so that every cylinder and port will flow exactly the same.

From there, are the Stage 3 upgrades — which are known as the “Race Series” cylinder heads. “The Stage 3 package turns an OEM head into a fully race-capable head with upgraded valves to further increase flow, and add durability for those customers looking for the best performance results possible,” says Gabriel.

Since Ivan’s engine will not only be seeing significant boost pressures (and the associated cylinder pressures and temperatures) there was no hesitation that the full Race Series head package was the right choice for this project.

Inside the Head of a Coyote

When it comes to the heart of cylinder head performance, the real heros are the intake and exhaust ports. Improving port flow is so much more involved than just making a bigger port. There are scores of advanced physics principles in fluid flow dynamics at play which have to be taken into consideration and optimized in order to create truly solid performance.

Add to that, the fact that Gen 2 Coyote heads are pretty highly developed from the factory. Widely considered to be one of the best flowing OEM heads to ever roll off an assembly line, making additional gains on the design is no small task, with a ton of R&D time being focused on the minute details to pick up performance.

Here you can see detail shots of the Intake (left) and exhaust ports (right) after Livernois worked their porting magic, opening up the intake port to 215cc and the exhaust port to 102cc.

When designing the porting program, Livernois took the route of a universal optimization. “We wanted to ensure increased performance on all upgrade paths, whether turbo, nitrous, supercharged, or naturally aspirated,” Gabriel relays. “With the increased volume on the intake port and substantially better flow on both intake and exhaust, the program shows a huge improvement on boosted applications.”

Valve Lift (inches) Intake Flow (CFM) Exhaust Flow (CFM)
.100 100 86
.200 192 152
.300 266 198
.400 316 222
.450 330 228
.500 341 234
.550 352 238
.600 362 240

Flow numbers as tested on a SuperFlow SF-600 flow bench

In addition to enlarging and optimizing the intake and exhaust ports via CNC machining, the combustion chamber and valve areas also get serious attention from the 5-axis CNC. “Many hours of testing have gone into the development process, ensuring that we were able to perfect the valve job on these heads,” says Gabriel. “The valve seats are cut on our Newen Contour-BB machine, which allows for exacting tolerances and concentricity. The valve seats are then hand-blended with the CNC program, to ensure each individual valve seat is perfect.”

Once the porting processes are complete, we have a set of heads with a 215cc intake runner, 102cc exhaust runner, and a 58cc combustion chamber volume. According to the SuperFlow SF-600 flowbench, the new Race Series head flows 362 cubic feet per minute at .600-inch lift on the intake side, and 240 cfm on the exhaust side.

Once the Livernois CNC program puts the multi-angle valve job on the valve seats, and runs the chamber cleanup program, the final touches are put on by hand for the perfect 58cc combustion chamber.

Valvetrain Variables

With the impressive multi-angle valve job set into the valve seats by the 5-axis CNC machine, a quality set of valves needs to be added as well. Of course, when it comes to valves, one of the most well-known and respected names in the game is Ferrea Racing Components. Since this engine would be making serious boost, Livernois chose a set of valves that would withstand the pressure.

On the intake side, dual 1.500-inch Ferrea stainless valves were spec’d, while on the exhaust, Ferrea’s Super Alloy material was chosen, with a 1.262-inch valve diameter. Both intake and exhaust valves use the triple locking groove and the factory valve stem diameter.

For the valvetrain of this engine, we stuck with Livernois house recipe of Ferrea valves, Livernois-spec beehive valvesprings, and steel locks and retainers. With the larger 1.500-inch intake and 1.262-inch exhaust valves, coupled with the multi-angle valve job, these heads flow like there's no tomorrow.


To control those valves at 8,000-plus RPM Livernois specified a set of beehive single valvesprings produced for them to exactly their specifications. With 105 pounds of pressure on the seat, and 258 pounds of pressure open, these valvesprings are a solid upgrade from stock. With steel retainers and locks, this valvetrain setup will handle pretty much any Coyote camshaft on the shelf.

“Only the cam followers and lash adjusters are OEM [as far as the valvetrain components], and so far nobody makes a product in the aftermarket that is better than stock, except in pure race-only form.” Gabriel explains. “Since low maintenance was a primary goal with this, a high-end race solution that requires periodic adjusting was not something that would have been desirable.”

Since our OEM followers and lash adjusters were toast, we went to Summit Racing and ordered a set of replacements from Ford Performance Parts. The lash adjusters (P/N: M-6500-M50) are hardened-steel direct-fit replacement units, as are the cam followers (P/N: M-6564-M50).  As pointed out, the OEM pieces are more than capable at this power level, thanks to being over-engineered from the factory.

To finish off the valvetrain in the heads, Livernois opted for Ford Performance Parts OE replacement cam followers and lash adjusters from Summit Racing. The factory-spec pieces are plenty strong to live at the planned power and RPM level.

To Lock Out or Not to Lock Out

However, one major component that is still OEM is the camshafts. If you recall, Ivan’s stock camshafts were unusable after the original fiasco, so he actually had to spend a significant amount of money to purchase new stock camshafts. That wasn’t a money-saving option, but rather an informed decision made between Livernois and Ivan.

“Honestly we don’t push Coyote guys to aftermarket cams for street use, unless they are willing to sacrifice some drivability. Anytime aftermarket cams are used the customer has to have an expectation of some form of degraded drivability,” Gabriel explains. “Since [the Gen-2 Coyote] cams replicate the BOSS cams in specs, the 2015-2017 cams are one of the best options for this build. While the right aftermarket cams would make more power, the potential changes in drivability mean that we take the time with the customer and make sure aftermarket cams are the right fit for them.”

Unlike many of the big-power Coyote builds we’ve seen lately, Livernois opted to retain the factory variable camshaft timing system on Ivan’s engine. “We, as well as most tuners, like to have the option of using the VCT system in our custom tuning,” says Gabriel.

At first glance (left) using stock camshafts and not locking them out seems to go against conventional thinking, but on the Coyotes, this is a tried and true combination for Gen 2s that will see street duty. The timing chains used are Ford Performance Parts stock-replacement pieces, along with Livernois' Powerstorm billet timing chain guides, which will reduce deflection and keep everything tight.

“With these being stock cams, the benefits of the VCT system being retained far outweigh any possible negative effects. Removing VCT would have ensured a good deal of power loss on the build. We elect to retain the VCT as often as we can unless it is a race application. But even then we still try to retain it.”

Wrapping up the valvetrain – no pun intended – are a set of new Ford Performance Parts primary and secondary timing chains and VCT cam phasers (P/N: M-6004-A5015) coupled with a set of Powerstorm billet timing chain guides (P/N: LPP823129). Livernois designed these pivoting guides for the Coyote to be exceptionally strong and replace the OEM cast guides. In addition to strength the billet design offers an increase in rigidity, which is a key factor in high-RPM valvetrain performance.

Sealing It Up

When the time came to seal everything on the engine, we turned to our friends at MAHLE. With their line of gaskets constantly expanding, the Gen-2 Coyote was an early application on their list. Their kits come for bottom and top end, with the former including an oil drain plug gasket, water pump gasket, rubber oil pan gasket and a rear main seal. The top half kit is a whole lot more comprehensive, including gaskets for the intake manifold, valve covers, timing cover, water pump outlet, camshaft seals, multi-layer steel exhaust gaskets and multi-layer steel head gaskets.

For gaskets, we went with a complete kit from Mahle's Original line. That included all the needed gaskets and seals, along with a set of MLS head gaskets advertised as exceeding OE specs. Since Livernois said OEM MLS gaskets would be perfectly fine on this level of engine, we are doing better than fine with the Mahle gaskets. We also reused Ivan's original ARP head studs from the original engine, making a grand total of three parts which were salvaged: the block, the ATI Super Damper, and the ARP head studs.

“While production multi-layer steel head gaskets are on-par with the race head gaskets of the past, options like the aftermarket MLS are a go-to when we get to moderate to high boost levels,” says Gabriel. “For high to, well, really high boost levels we often use the time honored copper gasket with stainless O-ring.”

In order to keep the heads firmly attached to the block under serious cylinder pressures – like those which will be generated by a 2.9-liter Whipple at full song – head studs are the obvious choice. While Livernois makes a head bolt kit for the 2013-’17 in house, Ivan’s previous engine had ARP2000 head bolts installed, which survived the carnage and were reused.

With the top end bolted on, Livernois crated up the engine and put it on the truck to Ivan’s, where we’ll get it reinstalled into his Mustang and towed to the dyno to get broken in and tuned on Renegade Performance Fuels E-85, which we’ll cover in the next installment of Boosted Coyote’s engine rebuild.

Our engine builder, Fonzie Novelo, with Ivan’s new bullet. Novelo did it all with this engine project, from uncrating it when it arrived to crating the new mill and putting it on the truck to Ivan’s house.

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About the author

Greg Acosta

Greg has spent eighteen 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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