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2010 Car Craft Engine Swap Drags - Engine Swap Drags!

Take These Engine Swap Ideas, Build A Car, And Compete In The . . .

By Car Craft Staff, Photography by Car Craft Staff

'81 Mustang
Kevin Kenley's Mustang should look familiar. We ran a six-page feature on it in the June '10 issue. The Engine Swap Drags was still in the planning stages when we did the photo shoot, but we did hint to Kevin at the time that we were planning a drag racing contest that would be a good match for his car. He agreed to be there no matter what.

Because Kenley's car is subject to California's biannual smog testing, he had to decide if he wanted this to be a dedicated race car, never to see the street again, or to be an emissions-compliant, state-certified engine swap. One is the easy path, the other, convoluted, aggravating, and expensive. He chose the latter. To make the car compliant, he had to swap the entire fuel system and all the emissions controls from an '04 Mustang Cobra donor car. Fortunately, the floorpans for '79 to '04 Mustangs are all the same. The '04 fuel lines fit his '81 exactly. The gas tank straps needed to be relocated to fit the newer tank, though, and he had to find a place to locate the '04's massive EVAP canister. In the end, he was able to meet all the state's requirements. As far as the state is concerned, his car is an '04 Cobra in an '81 wrapper.

The most labor-intensive part of most engine swaps is the wiring. Grafting a new engine's harness to the one in your older car takes a lot of patience, planning, and good wiring diagrams of each car. One thing you don't need however is an engineering degree. Though it looks like a daunting task, if you work carefully, this is something almost anyone can do. Kenley is good with wiring but admitted to being intimidated by the maze of wires he had to sort through when he started to rewire the car. He reckons he had to make about 300 splices to join the harnesses from the two cars together.

Because Kenley had only just finished the engine swap and supercharger upgrade a couple of months before we met him at the photo shoot, he was still trying to figure out a good suspension setup and how to launch the car. He described to us mad thrashes on his days off, changing springs and shocks, blasting down the dragstrip, fixing broken parts, and negotiating a steep learning curve during that time.

Though he was disappointed with his performance at ESD, we applaud his efforts. When he's able to get all the power to the ground, Kevin's car will be wicked fast.

Who: Kevin Kenley
What: '81 Ford Mustang/'04 Supercharged DOHC 4.6L
Where: Rancho Cucamonga, California
Engine: '04 Mustang Cobra 4V 4.6
Transmission: Dodge Viper T56 six-speed

A. Ford's venerable 8.8-inch solid axle is out back. It was built with Currie 9-inch bearing ends. A Detroit Locker spins 3.37:1 gears.

B. Kenley has been working on this car for more than 15 years. Originally a lowly, four-cylinder commuter special, he bought it to do a wicked 302 build. The project was shelved several times for a variety of personal reasons, then took a U-turn when he found a good deal on a complete 4.6 out of a wrecked '04 Cobra. The swap began in 2005, and he was finally able to get it on the road in November 2009.

C. This is a 4.6L, 32-valve V-8 out of an '04 Mustang SVT Cobra. These engines were the only 4.6s to come from the factory with a forged rotating assembly. Since it is so well equipped from the factory, Kenley didn't mess with the long-block. The cams, springs, and rotating assembly are all stock.

D. Kenley bought a used T56 from a Dodge Viper and changed the input shaft to fit the clutch and pilot bushing on his Ford.

E. Believe it or not, the engine still has the factory iron exhaust manifolds. This seemed to be the best option when considering how to fit this massive engine into the Fox-body engine bay.

By Car Craft Staff
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