So an engine is an engine, right? Wrong.

Four cylinders, V6s, V8s, V10s, and V12s, all are named the same but can vary greatly from function, capacity, design, and output.

Although some of you may not know it, Ford vs Ferrari was one of the most famous rivalries in motor history. That was a fierce motorsport competition between the two brands during the 1960s but it shows the unique way two brands can approach building engines.

Even with a push for EV’s these two manufacturers are still creating combustion engines synonymous with their brand, and probably will continue to do so for a while.

If you want to read more about my opinion on combustion engines check it out here.

Ford and Ferrari both have stepped away from their rivalry but they continue making the type of engines that made them legends.

So let’s dive in and dissect what actually makes them different.

Table of Contents

Engine Characteristics

Ferrari and Ford both have manufactured an array of engines. Ferrari’s engine characteristics are known as being high revving, high horsepower, and quick responding. Ford’s engines are known for the opposite generally, low revving with high low to mid-range torque. These character traits come from the design approach that each company takes when creating their respective engines.


Four-cylinder counter-balanced crankshaft (Autocar Handbook, 13th ed, 1935)

Ford and Ferrari take different approaches to the mechanical design of their engines, most notably in their V8s. Ford makes a majority of “cross-plane engines” whereas Ferrari makes “flat plane” engines.

It’s worth noting that ford has created low-volume engines for special cars like the Ford Gt40 and 2015 Mustang Gt350 that closely resemble what Ferrari has done but we’re going to stick to the mass-produced engines for this discussion.

Ferrari Engines Are Built For Peak Output

Ferrari’s engines have very high tolerances in their engineering which allow for lower capacity and high horsepower.

The “flat plane” crankshaft engine is what Ferrari is known for. Without getting too technical, it’s a design where the pistons and counterweights are in a single line creating an alternating firing order between the two cylinder banks. This also creates the distinct high-pitched exhaust sound that exotics are known for.

This design allows for smaller packaging with a lighter but buzzier engine. Imagine two inline-four cylinders glued together.

This comes at a cost though, that being longevity. Running really tight tolerances and high output isn’t meant for the long haul. Think of these engines as a specialist’s tool.

Most Ford Engines Are Built For Longevity Over Performance

Ford builds commuter cars and work vehicles; its aim as a brand is different than Ferrari. Its engine design skews towards building engines that will last for the lifetime of the vehicle. Creating engines with simpler designs and larger capacities works for vehicles that aren’t designed for performance but to work in traffic.

The “cross-plane” crankshaft engine is a design where the pistons and counterweights are offset from each other resulting in more random firing order. It’s what gives the more familiar rumbling V8 sound we have come to know.

This design results in a very smooth engine that creates a lot of power but is larger in size and doesn’t rev as high.


If you’ve ever looked at the prices of Ferraris you know that these two brands are playing in different fields. Ford builds cars for a specific price point whereas Ferrari almost has no limits.


The function of each respective brand’s engines is completely different. Ferrari creates small-batch engines designed with purpose first and price second. The car is designed around the engine, whose purpose is to thrill and excite. No cost is spared in the design because Ferrari knows they can pass on the cost to the buyer, who is willing and able to afford it.

Ford is a manufacturer of commuter vehicles first. All of its engines are designed around a price point because they need to fit a car that costs X amount of dollars. So just from an economics standpoint, their engines are simplistic and reliable.

This allows ford to put their engines in all different models and sub-brands, all while giving you choice.

In Sum

The purpose and intent of an engine are just as important as the car it goes in. You wouldn’t want a high revving precision engine in a work truck or a low-revving heavy engine in a car designed to do high-speed laps. Ferrari and Ford both know their target buyers and that’s the real difference in their engines, the design is just how they execute it.

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