As we learned in our flathead Ford V8 story here: www.torqtalk.com/home/ford-flathead-the-first-performance-v-8, the Ford V8 was not initially a performer. Out of the crate in 1932 the 221 ci produced only 65 bhp and even by the end of its life in 1953 the 239 ci ‘flattie’ only produced 110. Note: The ’53 255 ci Mercury did make 125 bhp—still no big deal.
To make the Model A/B four bangers go faster several outfits had produced overhead valve (ohv) conversions it seemed obvious therefore to build something similar for the V-8. Enter brothers Zora and Yura Arkus-Duntov and the Ardun Mechanical Corp., New York. By 1945, their mainstay military contracts were dwindling and Zora approached Ford about an ohv conversion for the V-8 that over heated and was under powered. Ford showed no interest and so Zora went ahead anyway buying a couple of V-8s and designing his own heads with the help of engineer George Kudasch.
Rather than have the middle pair of exhaust ports asthmatically ‘siamesed’ into one, the Ardun, a contraction of ARkus-DUNtov, breathed better through four equally spaced ports. It was also compatible with the Ford block and valvetrain, used the stock cam, and had hemispherical combustion chambers and large intake valves for improved performance. Interestingly, the Ardun had short intake rockers and long exhaust rockers and was similar to the 1951 Chrysler Hemi but preceded it by four years when it was introduced in 1947.
The downside was trifold: The assembly was 12-inches wider than stock, it weighed an additional 60 lb and it wasn’t cheap being cast from heat-treated, 355-T6 Alcoa aluminum alloy. However, the heads produced between 25- and 60-percent more power depending on tuning—the original had but a single carb. According to Zora, “I had about 230 hp on gasoline by 1949.”
Zora might have been a tad optimistic with his figures. After almost two years and more than 1,000 hours of testing on his own GE dyno, the Ardun-headed engine put out only 160 bhp. ‘Build it and they will come’ was Zora’s philosophy and he attempted to market complete engines and conversions. A ‘racing’ version was said to produce 200 bhp at 5,500 rpm. The conversion sold for a hefty $500 and installation took six skilled hours. Two thousand inquiries resulted from a feature in Popular Mechanics but few sales materialized.