Inside Ford’s Advanced Aluminum Engines (w/ Video)


Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang Aluminum Engine

The all-aluminum engines in Ford’s latest Shelby GT500 Mustangs typically make headlines for their staggering power output, but there’s some extremely high-tech stuff happening behind the scenes that makes Ford’s engines truly unique. That’s because- unlike other aluminum engines- Ford has found a way to make big power without the use of cylinder sleeves.

Ford is calling its new process for treating the aluminum blocks to a fine mist of molten steel “Plasma Transferred Wire Arc technology”, and it’s wild. Basically, an argon-hydrogen plasma arc of about 35,000 degrees F atomizes a wire feed and pressurized air blows the droplets onto the cylinder walls that earlier had been specially machined to accept and help bond the material to the surface. The molten steel will oxidize and build up layers inside the bore to a thickness of 150 micrometers. Ford then diamond-hones the cylinders to achieve the final smoothness and bore diameter.

It’s stuff like this that makes the future of Ford’s Ecoboost engine family seem so bright, you know? No pun intended there, by the way, if you skipped ahead to watch the video, below, before reading this. If you haven’t, you’ll see what I mean in a minute. Enjoy!


Ford’s Cylinder Bore Prep In Action On GT350 Engine Block

Source | Images: Ford, via EngineLabs.

About the Author

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.
  • roseland67

    Cool, but From your point of view,
    How can any car company justify any R&D with internal combustion engines?
    The only logical reason from where I stand is to squeeze as much profit out of their soon to be “stranded assets”, i.e.: engine, transmission, exhaust, fuel systems etc:
    Ford must see the electric motor as the future of urban transportation, no?

    • That’s nonsense. First of all, neither Ford nor any of the other major players in the rest of the auto industry have given up on internal combustion- nor should they! Biofuels are getting better and better, the demand for hybridization is still relatively high, and there are still large portions of the market that are hesitant to buy electric. Finally, Ford most definitely does not see the electric motor as the future- they’ve said so numerous times.

      • Garrick Staples

        I see stuff like this, and it just seems disconnected from reality. We just saw the beginning of the end of the ice industry last weekend. With the model 3 reveal, the industry is now divided into tesla and not-tesla. Ford’s new cylinder walls just doesn’t seem very interesting any more.

        • Even at 500,000 units sold per year, Tesla wouldn’t even be 10% of the US auto industry- let alone the global industry. That’s a crazy statement.

          • Eco Logical

            Crazy maybe, but worldwide EV sales are at about 1% now and Tesla has been growing at 58% compound annual rate. If you do the math that’s an order of magnitude every 5 years i.e. 10% by 2020 and 100% by 2025! So if a little startup company like Tesla can increase EV sales/production by 10X every 5 years it seems reasonable that a large automaker like Ford could do it … if they had the will? Only the market (you and me consumer) can influence/determine that…

          • I don’t think it’s reasonable to apply a consistent growth rate like that to something based on a current 1% market penetration. Yes, they’re on the steepest part of their curve … but it just goes down from here, IMO.

          • roseland67

            Agreed, it’s not reasonable, and it won’t happen, but all the auto companies together could reach close to that.
            If I’m a stockholder I would want to know where my r & d $$$$ is going and it shouldn’t be going to ICE.

          • That’s why you should invest in Tesla, and leave the big carmakers alone.

      • roseland67

        Hybridization maybe, if they do it with an all electric driver train and a duty specific on board generator to charge battery pack.
        Bio fuels, no way, they are less efficient than most ICE and due to the low energy density of bio fuels their net energy gain is abysmal.
        Ford is not blind, they do see the future of urban transportation as electric, they just can’t tell you that because they are so far behind and that have many hundreds of millions of $$$$ in ICE assets that will soon be worthless.
        Every major auto mfg on the planet, including some trucks have implemented plans for all electric drive train vehicles.
        Some large urban areas in China are actually considering outlawing ICE vehicles due to the emissions, more will certainly follow.

  • Steve Hanley

    I think you guys are getting a little ahead of yourselves. Yes, the Model 3 is a stunning far that will have as much impact on the industry as the Model T did. But as Jo says, it will be 20-30 years before the ICE goes into the Smithsonian. As exciting as the future is, it ain’t here yet lads and a whole lot of ICE units will be built while we wait.

    It’s not that I’m not a Musk fan. I am. But reality will take a while to catch up with the promise of tomorrow.

    • roseland67

      Nothing to do with the Model 3,
      Only efficiency.
      Best ICE engine is what, 25-30% efficient, maybe?
      That means that 70% of the energy in the gas is wasted as heat.
      Spread out over 16 million vehicles/year the quantity of wasted gas and energy is incalculable.
      ICE are dinasaurs, standing on a banana peel next to a 6′ hole in the ground.
      So, again, why spend 1$ developing tech that may increase efficiency by 1/2% for a dying product?

    • Garrick Staples

      20-30 years before complete retirement is rather optimistic. In 10 years, congested cities will start to ban them. Fill in any number you want, but the phase-out of ICE has begun and its tech advancements just aren’t that interesting any more.

      It’s funny. I’m a 40 year-old car-guy. I’ve built cars, done some rallys, obsessed over my carb tuning, and fixed my crashed motorcycles. Offroad racing is in my blood. In a year, I’ve just completely lost interest in anything that burns gas.

      • Steve Hanley

        I don’t disagree with either one of you. I just think you are both more optimistic than realistic. Despite our most fervent wishes, ICEs will be with us for a long time yet.

        Patience, grasshopper.

        • roseland67

          Steve, they should be, at least 20 more years, easily, but that wasn’t what I asked or implied.
          How can these companies task and R&D $$$ to ICE??

          • Steve Hanley

            Actually, the R&D money benefits even us greenies, as it leads to ever lower emissions and higher efficiency. The new Prius is 40% efficient, as is the Hyundai Ioniq. I know that is still far less than an electric, but it is a heckuva lot better then the 283 small block in my mother’s Chevy.

  • James

    Well one thing. Anyone who buys a big block ICE car now self-identifies as a person who “bought the wrong car”. Electrics are not only good for the future they are way cooler.
    Exhaust pipes out the back of gas cars like in the video will soon be hidden behind the bumper as they are becoming just plain embarassing

    • AaronD12

      Heh. I remember when auto designers were considering doing that in the early 70s. Then, it was more to mask the pollutants coming from the exhaust pipe. Yes, car manufacturers knew about pollution and how bad it was even then.

    • Steve Hanley

      So, you think people will soon be too embarrassed to drive Escalades and F-150’s? Not likely, considering the sales numbers. But. as Robert Zimmerman of Hibbing, Minnesota once told us, “The times, they are a’changin’ ” : – )

      • James

        How many people still covet their Hummers (H1, H2, H3)? Yes there will be some like those that still do like the “rolling coal” crowd but no mainstreamers any more. ICE vehicles are headed for the same fate.

        Escaladers et al should absolutely be embarrassed. As for F150 owners, the cool pickup on the block is the Via PHEV Silverado.
        (Note to GM: buy Via out and get serious about taking it mainstream. Many businesses want them and cannot get them)

        • Steve Hanley

          I fear, James, that history tells us Americans will buy the biggest, thirstiest cars they can afford until the oceans begin lapping at their feet. And in that event, many would prefer moving to higher ground to giving up their monster vehicles. : – (

          It is some sort of bizarre cultural notion that harks back to our Wild West heritage.

  • AaronD12

    I was at a Ford demonstration event. They had all their vehicles available to drive EXCEPT for the Ford Focus EV. (Not surprising since this event was in Wichita, Kansas — home of the Cock brothers.)

    There I watched the amazing capabilities of a Fiesta ST with its 1.6l EcoBoost engine doing an epic burnout, spewing tire smoke onto an unsuspecting crowd. Then I watched as the engine seized and the Fiesta had to be pushed onto the Ford trailer in shame.

    • Steve Hanley

      Oh, dear! : – O

  • GregS

    Not sure what’s so new about this, the motorcycle manufacturers have been doing this for years