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Everything To Know About Camshafts For Your Coyote Mustang

Samuel Weber
December 14, 2021

inside of a coyote motor with camshaft

For any muscle car enthusiast, the thumping sound of a highly modified car chopping down the road or the drag strip is one of the best in the world. The camshaft setup in those cars is designed for sucking in air and pushing out exhaust fumes as aggressively as possible. With this setup, the cars are built more for hard acceleration as the lobes of the camshaft have valves open with their exhaust at different intervals, with some with longer durations or lift. Setups like these are beneficial in some cases but are not necessary at all times and in many cars, these camshafts are smooth and not as audible as many other options.

Some companies, such as COMP Cams have made their camshafts perform better than ever before for the S550 generation Mustang. With the sports car design, COMP knew they would need to change their initial setup to cater towards the more sports car-oriented market. With as much expertise as they have gained over their 40+ years in the industry, COMP Cams has been able to build camshafts that are capable of everything from improved fuel economy and reliability to massively increased horsepower and torque figures.

History Types Performance Benefits Camshaft Timing Levels Choosing Your Camshaft

1980s mustang GT foxbody burnout

History Of The Camshaft

To get started, camshafts have been in use in nearly any motorized setup including music boxes, water systems, and obviously combustion motors. Driven by the crankshaft, the camshaft rotates inside the engine block which opens and closes the intake and exhaust valves. This lets the engine take in air for combustion and expel the exhaust fumes. The camshaft’s lobes are designed to increase airflow and in return improve performance. The positioning of the lobes can also make the engine produce more power at different points in the rpm range with some improving low end while others improving high end.

Ever since people began racing their cars, professionals have been grinding camshafts to modify their performance for different applications. Racing applications hit their stride with camshaft upgrading and modification in the 1950s when hot-rodding began to take its first steps into the public eye in cinema and as a result, were found often in Southern California.

2018 mustang hpde car

Major brands like COMP Cams got into the hot-rod and racing camshaft market after the initial boom but were able to take what was learned throughout the era to develop their own high-performance cams with a more accurate design than others had in the past. In the past, it was difficult to file everything in as it needed for different performance applications, but by starting the brand as better technology developed COMP Cams could jump in as it became more science-driven.

camshaft up close

Types Of Camshafts

There are multiple types of camshafts and each has its own performance benefits and specialties. Mostly, they can be divided into four different types of camshaft based on design of the lifters installed. For flat-tappet cams, the lifters have flat faces along the camshaft while for roller cams there is a roller bearing between the lifter and the cam. Additionally, there are mechanical/solid lifters versus hydraulic lifters. The one commonly associated with muscle cars is the mechanical flat-tappet camshaft or today's solid rollers. The cheapest option for most individuals is to use a hydraulic flat-tappet design which is inexpensive and easy to maintain. While this is the cheapest design, it is not as usable in higher performance setups as other designs which require more maintenance. For vehicles such as our Silver Bullet 2018 Mustang GT drag car we use COMP Cams Stage 3 camshafts since we know that it will work perfectly in our vehicle even with the factory variable cam timing.

2018 s550 mustang drag strip

Performance Benefits Of Coyote Camshafts

Over a stock camshaft, an upgraded camshaft offers many performance benefits. These camshafts are designed to improve performance throughout the entire engine thanks to Ford's Variable Camshaft Timing system while maintaining great fuel economy. With a properly set up camshaft system, you can improve your car’s fuel economy, horsepower, torque, and even how cool the engine stays based on the amount of air being brought in and exhaust being brought out of the engine. With many of the choppier camshaft designs, the engine lope is the sound of the air being brought in with exhaust being expelled back out in rapid succession. There are smoother styles of the camshaft that level out the sound based on the lobe design and separation. Since the faster the camshaft spins means the more air is being effectively brought in to fire the cylinders, a camshaft such as the COMP Cams Thumpr camshaft has an aggressive exhaust at idle but can take off down the road with ease since it improves performance from 2,000rpm through 7,600rpm which covers the nearly the entire rev range of the motor in the 2018 and newer Mustang GT.

When Ford developed the Coyote with its DOHC design, it was a game-changer for the performance market. The DOHC design pushed Ford out into a modernized market with this technology, outperforming larger engines that used slightly older technology found in the Mustang's competition. The Coyote was so far advanced that it won awards for its design because it was able to generate more performance out of a much smaller engine than before, matching the power from Chevrolet's 6.4L pushrod V8 motor and the HEMI 5.4 from Dodge. These motors were lighter, smaller, and just as powerful which resulted in these cars being faster than ever before for the mainstream Mustang GT. The dual overhead camshaft changed the sound of the motor, making it distinct as well as performance-oriented in a way not found in its rivals until recently.

2021 mach 1 under hood

Coyote Camshaft Timing

When it comes to timing for the camshafts, each setup will differ from others. While previous generations of Mustang ran a single overhead camshaft in the 4.6 and earlier S197 other than the Mach 1 and Cobra, the Coyote V8 features a dual overhead camshaft layout. Ford had moved towards an all-new form of valvetrain technology through this as well. The Coyote motor was Ford's first to feature cam-torque-actuated Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing (Ti-VCT) changes both the intake and the exhaust timing. Ti-VCT allows the motor to do this independent of the other camshaft to improve fuel economy and emissions while also increasing horsepower and low-end torque. This was a major change for the Mustang and resulted in the engine being ranked as one of the top engines of the year multiple times.

coyote mustang camshafts

Camshaft Levels

Different camshafts can be measured in levels in many cases. These levels could mean that it will need high-lift springs and additional hardware in order to function properly if it is a more aggressive camshaft. To start, the baseline for camshaft levels is the stock profile cam, which many people will use if they simply need to replace other stock camshafts. This keeps the same duration, lift, and lobe profile as the factory setup. As you move to higher performance camshafts, the ratio of air intake to exhaust changes more which allows for better performance. This is caused by using a more aggressive camshaft with a more aggressive profile to increase horsepower and torque, but can also cause your engine damage if you choose too aggressive of a setup. Additionally, the overlap between the intake and exhaust valves can change as you move into higher performance cams which results in the thumping sound in the engine as controlled by the car's computer. This is why newer cars can have "ghost cams" tuned in without having an actual new camshaft installed. For the highest performance camshaft, the engine of your Coyote Mustang will have to be heavily modified already. These cams, such as the COMP Cams Mustang GT 5.0L XFI Blower/Turbo 240/246 Camshaft are designed to see minimal road use and are designed solely for racing and are most commonly run in NHRA forced induction drag cars.

coyote mustang camshafts

Which Camshaft Is Right For You?

When determining which camshaft upgrade is right for you and your car, the type of driving you do and other upgrades will make a difference in which camshaft is the right one. For most people who intend to simply improve their car's driving slightly or simply replace a factory camshaft, a lower profile camshaft will accomplish the task easily. However, once you begin moving towards higher-performance parts, more research should be done. Here at Steeda, we have been working with the Mustang for over 30 years, and in those years we have become experts on everything about the Mustang from taillights and wiring through forced induction builds. We have done camshaft work in our road race cars, drag cars, and high-powered street builds both within the company and for customer cars.

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