How to spot a Ford pushrod V-8, from flathead to 460
Let’s say it’s your lucky day, and you’ve found an engine laying around in the back of a garage with an unknown history. Or maybe you’re trying to discern which engine was swapped into a car, and all of the aftermarket parts between the fenders are muddying the waters. In any case, the first step is always to identify the engine
Determining precisely which engine you’re looking at under the hood can be difficult. Heck, sometimes a brand produced more engine families in the same decade than you can count on both hands. If you’re pretty sure you’re looking at a Ford V-8, the following guide will help you make the proper ID of your engine so that you can dive deeper into the ID.
This article, focusing on Ford passenger car V-8s, isn’t a full history on engine tech or applications. It’s intended as a primer to help you narrow things down and, in turn, enrich your gearhead knowledge. We’ll focus on the biggest visual keys to look for when you come face-to-valve-cover with eight cylinders of Detroit metal.
Not only were songs written about the car, most famously by the Beach Boys, but the ’32 Ford became the basis of a cultural phenomenon (hot-rodding) that spawned a movement (the Youth Culture of the 1960s). And that demonstrates the remarkable “staying power” of this car because even in the early Sixties, it was an antique car enjoying a new life as the emblematic hot rod. Who would guess that the popularity of the ’32 Ford Coupe would still be going strong more than five decades later?
How popular is it? Evidence of that is as clear and direct as the value NADA Guides lists for a ’32 Ford Coupe today. The car that sold new for $485 in 1932 now commands a retail price as high as $54,000, which turns the term “retained value” on its head.
From Model T to ’32 Ford Coupe
The story of the 1932 Ford Coupe started in the mid-1920s when uber-industrialist Henry Ford decided that his company would have to replace the Model T, the car that put America on wheels. It was a bold decision because, in 1924, Ford would not only sell its 10 millionth car (in June), but by the time October rolled around, it would sell its 11 millionth, representing an unheard-of sales rate.
Commanding a solid 50% of the American car market, Ford Motor Company was riding high as its Model T “Tin Lizzy” outsold everything else that moved. Yet Henry Ford could see that the competition was gaining ground rapidly as the company’s signature and only car model became more and more antiquated. The contemporary Chevrolet offered a more powerful 4-cylinder engine with a more modern drivetrain and better chassis than Ford’s rapidly aging Model T, and more expensive mid-priced brands like Nash, Dodge, and Buick were selling cars that were even more refined yet within the price range of middle-class Americans.
These facts weren’t lost on the public either. In 1926 Ford’s market share plummeted to just 36%. So, even though it had successfully sold nearly 15 million Model Ts, Ford began to develop a new model.
Since they were starting all over again, Ford decided to call the new car the Model A. As development continued, Henry Ford’s son, Edsel, became the driving force behind the car. He insisted that it have a conventional three-speed, sliding-gear transmission instead of the Model T’s planetary gearset. He pushed for substantially improved engine performance. And he closely directed the chassis and body design to make sure the new car wasn’t just better than the old one but more attractive, too.
Despite the critical drubbing it now receives from the collector community, Ford sold more than 1 million Mustang IIs over its five-year run during largely awful economic times. It would be easy to screw up that kind of sales record, so any new Mustang had a hard act to follow. Luckily, Ford developed a winner that lasted a decade and a half with relatively minor alterations with bones that lived under Mustangs clear into 2004.
Much as the original Mustang had Falcon underpinnings, the new-for-1979 Fox-platform Mustang used new-for-1978 Ford Fairmont chassis basics, including MacPherson strut front suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, and sections of the Fairmont’s floorpans. Fairmont was Ford’s new bread-and-butter sedan and had been met with strong positive reaction from both the press and consumers for its overall package of cost, room, efficiency, and driving pleasure; it was a no-brainer to base the redesigned 1979-’93 Ford Mustang upon it. Unusually for the era of gas-crunch-influenced downsizing, the Mustang (no Roman numeral attached) managed to be bigger than the car it replaced: Its wheelbase and overall length stood 4-plus inches larger, while overall height, plus front and rear track, all grew an inch. And yet the new Mustang, without the use of exotic materials like aluminum in the body or engine, weighed 200 pounds less than a comparable Mustang II.
One of the reasons the Mustang II caught so much flack is that, despite wild-looking stripes-and-spoilers versions like the Cobra II and King Cobra, the top engine was a 134-horsepower 5-liter V-8 —a far cry from the Mustang’s ’60s performance image. In truth, the V-8 was more or less a carryover for 1979, and the hot high-tech turbocharged 2.3-liter four made 132 horsepower. But the style and driving dynamics won customers over. Once the GT reappeared for 1982, Mustang never looked back: It renewed its cross-town rivalry with the Camaro, which was going through its own downsizing and performance renaissance, and quickly became the choice for hometown-hero hotshoes. Mustang’s second life, post-1987 as a late-model cheap-thrills machine, was furthered by its combination of robust simplicity and forward-thinking, high-tech, easily manipulated components. It’s fair to say that these cars are still affordable: Even clean examples of the hottest performance models (bar the limited Cobra R, and the best examples of the ’93 Cobra) remain at or below their original sticker price, and if you go the restoration route, there are plenty of unwanted boneyard specials to donate parts to one that will be improved and cherished. But its legacy, serving as a highlight among generations of Mustang, remains strong today. The Fox Mustang lasted for such a long time and sold so many copies over its 15-year life (2.6 million, not including the hundreds of thousands of Fox-based Mercury Capris built from 1979-’86) that breakdowns for individual model years will be impossible. It also means that there are plenty of examples out there in the wild to choose from, and doubtless plenty more that can be scored for a bargain and picked for parts.
A brand new Flathead V8 block with a lot of the inherent issues from the original engineered out.
The perfect Ford-Mercury block! Outstanding casting quality thanks to modern foundry technology.
– Brand new, no cracks, no rust. High nickel content steel.
– Stronger everywhere it needs to be with thicker decks and main bearing bulkheads and larger main-bearing caps.
– Mains are aligned honed.
– 3-3/16-inch standard bore.
– 59AB-type bellhousing with 8BA refinements for improved coolant flow. Requires 1938-1948 oil pan.
– Drilled and tapped to accept 8BA or truck waterpumps.
– Drilled and tapped to accept either early (center outlet) or late (forward outlet) heads.
– Factory relieved (won’t accept Ardun heads).
– Bellhousing CNC-machined to fit Ford firewalls without modification.
– Long center head bolts (required) and rear main seal retainer are included.
– Glyptol painted valve-lifter valley, timing case, and crankshaft chamber for fast oil drain back
In their stock configuration and the way French flathead blocks have been sold previously the bosses, casting numbers, and pads for military applications do not fit most Ford passenger car applications without firewall modifications. SF Flathead blocks are precision milled to remove the unsightly “lumps.” Only a pad remains that carries a SF Flatheads serial number. Stop searching for a savable old Henry lump. This strong, high-nickel casting is the last flathead block you’ll ever need! Please call for availability. Truck shipping required. Rate quoted at order
Same high-quality new casting as the standard block plus:
– Original flow restriction in bowl removed and enlarged for uniform volume and increased flow.
– Intake ports machined larger and straightened for improved flow.
– Exhaust ports machined larger and radiused to improve exhaust gas flow.
Please call for availability. Truck shipping required. Rate quoted at order.
All features of our stage – 1 and 2 block plus the following:
– Lifter bores cut and drilled for ease of adjusting lifters
– Grind valve seats open to 1.6 on either intake, exhaust, or both at customer request
– Valve bowls smoothed and polished
– Exhaust ports polished and matched to customer provided headers
– Intake ports polished and matched to customer provided intake manifold
– Rear oil galley drilled and opened for full flow oil filter adapter system
Footnote – The engines have disappeared from the So-Cal site the link now goes to their Flathead page
I’d also suggest watching this thread on the HAMB as it appears a little lively on this subject!
Popular with French celebrities at the time, the Comète is often overlooked when considering Ford’s best designs. To this day, the coachbuilt coupé is easily one of, if not the, most attractive Ford ever built and sold to the public.
The V-8 powered Fords were both large for the European market and expensive. Not only were they more costly to produce but the French taxation system severely penalized cars powered by engines larger than 2.0 liters.
Lehideux turned to the same consortium of Stabilimenti Farina and Facel-Métalion that had produced the Simca Huit-Sport. It’s likely the motivations behind Farina and Facel-Métalion coming on board were that Ford was a stronger distribution partner than Simca and that the Ford V8 was far more powerful than the Fiat-derived Simca 1.1 L engine.
By European standards, the Comète was a sizeable car. It measured 182” long and 55” inches high, about the same as a current BMW 4-Series. In comparison to the modern BMW, it was narrower by 10”. Weight was hefty for the time at 2,844 lbs.
The open-wheel single seater is said to be ready for vintage racing or man-cave décor
Midget racers were big in the mid-20th Century, scaled-down versions of Indy 500 cars that skittered around oval tracks with full-size performance.
Chief among them were the Kurtis-Kraft Midgets created by iconic race car designer Frank Kurtis to bring high-performance competition within reach of teams and drivers on a budget. They also were gorgeous pieces of kinetic art.
The Pick of the Day is a Midget racer built in the late ’40s, although the manufacturer is unknown, according to the Macedonia, Ohio, dealer advertising the car on ClassicCars.com. The little critter runs and drives well and has competed in historic racing in recent years, the seller says in the ad.
The car you see here is a 1932 Ford Roadster, and its biggest claim to fame is that it has an original Ardun head V-8 engine equipped with a blower. According to the seller, one of the biggest questions he’s asked is how he found an original Ardun for the car. He says that you don’t find them, they tend to find you. He found the engine in the 1932 Ford Roadster from a guy in Illinois who had pulled it from a 1933 Ford roadster.
The goal of the build was to create a vintage 1933 Ford roadster hot rod with correct vintage hot rod parts from the 50s in combination with original Ford and Brookville parts to create a Bondo-free car. The seller says that it took many years to round up all of the rare parts in the vehicle. Those parts include vintage Halibrand Quick Change magnesium wheels, Hilborn injection 471 blower, a one-off Art Chrisman intake manifold, Duvall windshield, and a close drive transmission with overdrive so that the car was streetable.
“I felt sorry for this rusty crusty flathead. It was sitting on Ebay and I ended up buying it. I think the challenge of getting it stripped down and evaluating what is there will make for an interesting series of videos. It will be a challenge. I just hope I can get it apart without damaging anything further. Will it run again? Who Knows? One day, maybe. I’m pretty sure it will need a rebore and maybe even sleeves. Anyway, check it out and come back to see the updates.”
The Flathead ‘Stang went on to Bonneville and set a world record for the XF/BFALT class by reaching 142.822 miles per hour!
The current crop of Mustangs from Ford has definitely set a new standard for power and performance within the model’s many years of production. And with companies like Roush and Shelby American unveiling pumped-up versions, the potential for serious domination on the track and on the streets seems almost limitless.
But the Mustang has also been a favorite for backyard builders and home mechanics to live out their dreams of wrenching on epic builds. Case in point is a Fox Body Mustang land speed record holder that’s featured on Engine Swap Depot with a turbocharged flathead V8 under the hood.