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Modifying Small Block Ford Cylinder Heads
Modifying Small
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The 3.8L Engine
More than 75 percent of all the SN95 Mustangs were equipped from the factory with the 3.8L V-6.
Producing 145 hp in its 1994 form, this powerplant is usually overlooked by enthusiasts in favor of
its larger and more-powerful siblings – the pushrod and overhead cam V-8s. And yet, there are
some hardcore enthusiasts who‘ve pushed development on the V-6 and offer some guidance for
those who might follow in their steps. Tom Morana of Morana Racing Engines in Toronto  is a
leading proponent of the 3.8L V-6. His credentials include building a 12-second V-6 ’84 Mustang all
the way back in 1990 at a time when a V-8 was the only fashionable way to go fast.  Morana has
devoted his time for the past 20 years to squeezing big horsepower out of a small package.
Tom Morana Building a Ford Mustang 3.8L Engine
Tom Morana – the V-6
engine master. Tom has
nearly 40 years of engine
building experience, and his
shop, Morona Racing,
specializes in the 3.8L.
The early 3.8L blocks used in the ’94-’95 Mustang are adequate for moderate performance, but if
you are after more than 300 hp or are using a supercharger, turbo, or nitrous oxide, the ’96-up V-6
block offers some improvements. Chief among these are deeper holes for the head bolts on the
intake side of the deck. The early blocks used holes that weren’t as deep as the exhaust-side head-
bolt holes, and the threads start at the deck surface instead of deep within the block. When the
head bolts are torqued, the deck surface pulls up a slight amount, unloading the head gasket on
the intake side of the deck. This feature, and poor-quality head gaskets, are contributing reasons
for head-gasket failures on the early 3.8Ls, which they acquired a reputation for. The block was
reconfigured in 1996, allowing deep threaded holes to anchor the inner head bolts in the same way
that the outer ones had been anchored all along. The later block also has more support around the
bottom of the cylinder bore, and the main caps are beefier as well.

Speaking of main caps, one of the weak points on the 3.8L is the 2-bolt main cap. Once you exceed
300 hp, the caps tend to move around, causing reliability issues. The solution is to use ARP main
bolts and one of Tom Morana’s stud girdles. The steel stud girdle ties all the main caps together,
preventing flex. This simple fix ensures reliability at over 400 hp and 7,000 rpm.
Ford Mustang 3.8L with steel main stud girdle and ARP studs
The 3.8LV-6 bottom end
needs help over 300 hp.
The steel stud girdle and
ARP studs add strength
to main caps.
All the 3.8L V-6 engines used in the Mustang come with a cast crankshaft. Power junkies who want
to make more than 350 hp should consider using the crankshaft used in the Super Coupe
T-Bird. The steel crankshaft used in the Super Coupe is much stronger, but there is a catch. The
rear main journal is .010 inch smaller than the other mains. The easy solution is to grind the other
journals down to the same size, allowing you to use a set of off-the-shelf .010-inch undersize main
bearings. Federal Mogul or Clevite premium quality bearings should be used in all performance-
oriented 3.8L engine buildups.

The standard 3.8L cast connecting rods are useable for moderate performance applications, but
they aren’t considered reliable past 5,500 rpm and 300 hp. The ’94-’95 engines use a shorter
connecting rod than the ’96-up engines, the longer rod allowing a raised pin in the pistons, and a
lighter assembly. Aftermarket rods are available for the 3.8L from Scat and others. These need to
be matched with the correct compression distance on the piston (the distance between the
centerline of the piston pin and the top of the piston) and dish volume in order to achieve the
desired compression ratio. Forged pistons are available from JE and others to suit a variety of
Increasing the displacement of the 3.8L is as easy as dropping in the longer stroke crankshaft from
the larger 4.2L V-6. This cast crank increases stroke from the stock 3.39 inches to 3.74 inches. Of
course, the rod length and piston compression distance must be matched to the increased stroke.
Morana has forged rods and pistons that work well. For those who require even more, Tom has
experimented with 4.4L and even 4.6L derivatives by offset grinding the crankshaft. However,
reducing the diameter of the rod journals makes the crank more flexible and ultimately less robust,
so it’s best to stick with the 4.2L and to limit the RPM, respecting the cast-iron material it is
constructed with.

When boring the block oversize to fit larger pistons, the bore can be increased from the stock 3.810
inches to a maximum of 3.875 inches. Larger bore sizes than this weaken the block and cause
reliability issues. The oiling system on the 3.8L has no inherent problems, and the standard pump,
pick-up tube, and pan suffice for most performance applications. A high-volume pump is available
from Speed Pro to increase oil supply.
Moving upstairs, two cylinder-head variations for the 3.8L V-6 are available. The early ’94-’95
engines had a single intake port, while the later ’96-2004 engines had a Siamese intake port with
two runners feeding one intake valve. One runner supplies the cylinder with air at low RPM, and
then the secondary port kicks in extra air at higher RPM. The timing of this addition is managed by
the EEC-IV engine management system.

In 1996, the deck surface of the cylinder head was changed, providing more material around the
bore, improving head gasket sealing. For performance use, the best head gasket to use is the
Corteco gasket. It’s an MLS design, incorporating an outer layer of steel, with an inner core of
copper. The flexibility built into the head gasket means no more reliability problems from shifting
head gaskets. The stock head bolts are torqued-to-yield, one-time-use bolts and should be
replaced with ARP bolts which increase clamp load on the gasket, enhancing the sealing qualities.
Using all these techniques eliminates head gasket problems associated with the 3.8L V-6 for once
and for all.
Increasing airflow in the cylinder heads via porting and larger diameter valves readily increases the
power output of the 3.8L. The stock single-port ‘94-‘95 cylinder heads flow 175 cfm on the intake
port and 135 cfm on the exhaust port. These flow figures can be improved to 240 cfm on the intake
and 180 cfm on the exhaust with porting. The stock ’94-’98 valve sizes are 1.782 inches for the
intake valve, and 1.4 inches on the exhaust side. ’99-2004 engines come with 1.861-inch intake
valves and 1.461 inches on the exhaust side. The best choice for a street engine is to upgrade to
larger stainless-steel performance valves, 1.84 inches on the intake side, and 1.55 inches for the
exhaust. These can be installed using the stock valve seat. All-out race engines can go as large as
2.02-inch intake and 1.60-inch exhaust valves with larger diameter seats. The production valves
have a stem diameter of .341 inch, and replacement stainless valves with smaller .312- or .275-inch
stems help produce higher airflow in the ports. The later ‘96-up twin port heads can be ported to
provide up to 270 cfm on the intake side.

The stock intake manifold and throttle body inhibit the flow into the intake ports, as the runners are
too small to support the airflow potential of a modified cylinder head. Street engines can benefit
from porting the stock upper and lower intake manifold, either by hand or using the Extrude Hone
process, where an abrasive putty is forced under pressure through the ports. Extrude Honing
increases the cross section of the runners and contours the curve of the runner at the same time.
Another method for the upper intake is to cut open the intake through the plenum portion, port the
runners from both sides, and then tig weld the intake back together. Radically reworked intake
manifolds or custom sheet metal intake manifolds are required by the most extreme engines, to
provide adequate airflow to support reworked cylinder heads. The stock throttle body, which has a
46-mm throttle-blade diameter, can be bored oversize and fitted with a 53-mm throttle blade. or a
new 70 mm throttle body, available from BBK for the ’01-’04 cars, can be fitted.
Oversized Intake and Exhaust Valves
Compare these race valves on
left – 2.02-inch intake, 1.60-inch
exhaust – with the street
performance valves on the right
– 1.89-inch intake, 1.55-inch
exhaust. That’s a production
exhaust valve in center.
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This has been a sample page from

High Performance Mustang Builders Guide High-Performance Mustang Builder's Guide
by Sean Hyland
High-performance ‘94-‘04 Mustangs represent the high-water
mark for late- model Mustang enthusiasts. From the ’94-’95s with
the 5.0L, through the ‘96-‘04 models with the 2- and 4-valve 4.6
Ls, to the Bullitt, Mach 1, and factory supercharged ’03-‘04
Cobras – never before has such a range of highly modifiable
performance cars been available. These Mustangs were amazing
performers straight from the factory, but they can be even better
with the right combination of performance parts.
Regardless of which ’94-’04 Mustang you start with, the availability
of high- performance parts is unparalleled. You can build your
Mustang for drag racing, road racing, or improved street
performance – and High- Performance Mustang Builder’s Guide
1994-2004 will show you how! Author Sean Hyland uses over 300
photos to explain how to upgrade your Mustang’s engine,
suspension, chassis, transmission, rear end, brakes, and body.
There’s even a special chapter on getting active in various forms
of organized racing.

Sean Hyland is the proprietor of Sean Hyland Motorsport, which
builds and supports internationally competitive Mustangs for road
racing, drag racing, and everything in between. Sean recently did
a complete Mustang build-up for Speed Channel’s Sports Car
Revolution and is also the author of the bestselling title How to
Build Max-Performance 4.6-Liter Ford Engines.
Click below to view sample
pages from each chapter.
Chap. 1 - Chassis
Chap. 2 -
Wheels and Tires
Chap. 3 -
Chap. 4 -
Chap. 5 -
3.8 Engines
Chap. 6 -
4.6 Modular Engines
Chap. 7 -
Chap. 8 -
Rear Axles
Chap. 9 -
Chap. 10 -
Safety Equipment
Chap. 11 -
Get Involved!
Chap. 12 -
Project Cars
8-1/2 x 11"
144 pgs.
300+ B/W photos
Item: SA106P
Price: $
Click here to buy now!
This is a great book
that any Mustang
enthusiast will enjoy!

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