Tag: 1920’s

For prewar Ford four-banger speed enthusiasts, the Roof OHV conversion is tops – Daniel J Beaudry @Hemmings

For prewar Ford four-banger speed enthusiasts, the Roof OHV conversion is tops – Daniel J Beaudry @Hemmings

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Image from the Roof family collection, shared by Jim Roof and the Secrets of Speed Society.

It doesn’t happen every day, but sometimes you just fall into something really, really good. That’s how it was with me when I was researching an upcoming article on pre-muscle speed parts and my friend Kevin Carlson told me about the existence of an exceedingly scarce original Roof overhead-valve conversion for Ford Model A’s. And it’s what happened to Brandon Fish of South Kingstown, Rhode Island, when he answered a Worcester, Massachusetts, classified ad for a couple of Winfield SR carburetors, a homemade intake and what turned out to be that rare Roof OHV.

“I drove up, and it was a blizzard,” Brandon remembers. “It took me two and a half hours to go maybe 70 miles.”

And, truth be told, when Brandon saw the OHV conversion, he wasn’t quite sure what he was looking at, but the price for the assortment of parts was too good to pass up. “I knew what the carburetors were worth, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong, and when I saw it [the OHV conversion], it was clean. It was a raced head, back in the day, because the water pump—the fan—was cut off, so it had external cooling. There was no scale. I’d say it was maybe used minimally. Minimally. It was mint.”

Brandon had been very close to missing out on the historic purchase because, like himself, a lot of other hot rodders had noticed the listing—planning, building and bench racing is what we do during the long winters up here in the frozen North. “They all had seen it,” Brandon says of some of his comrades, “and they laughed because they all tried to get it that same night. It was first-come, first-served.”

But, while Brandon had been considering an overhead-valve conversion for the engine in his Model A he was reworking for the 2014 Race of Gentlemen, a Roof hadn’t been on his radar. “We’ve done The Race of Gentlemen for two years now, and you don’t like to keep the same car … I had pretty much a stock B motor in my coupe. It was nothing flashy, but it was kind of a hopped-up B motor,” Brandon explains. “I was going to go overhead valve… I was leaning more toward a Riley.”

It took several months and some conversations with Charlie Yapp, of the banger-focused Secrets of Speed Society and Scalded Dog Speed Parts, before Brandon changed his plans to include the Roof. Charlie “…was the only person I knew who was knowledgeable,” says Brandon. After their chats, Brandon was hooked: “I thought, ‘Oh, I gotta build this, just to have this huge piece of history’

Image from the Roof family collection, shared by Jim Roof and the Secrets of Speed Society.

What, exactly makes the Roof head so special? Roof patented an OHV conversion for the Model T in 1919, and according to Charlie Yapp, while “Morton & Brett was the first speed parts company to advertise an overhead conversion for Model A Fords … Roof, of Anderson, Indiana, was the first to have actual product and 101-MPH race results for his promotions.”

With a four-cylinder L-head engine displacing 200.5 cubic inches and rated at 40 hp, a stock Ford Model A engine could turn between 60 and 70 MPH, given enough smooth surface to travel over, but Roof was claiming that his “Cyclone” OHV conversion could increase this figure by around 34 percent.

Image from the Roof family collection, shared by Jim Roof and the Secrets of Speed Society.

Charlie explains, however, that, while almost any OHV conversion would improve the airflow and increase the horsepower of a Model A engine, the original Roof castings would be considered rough by the standards of today, and the 101 MPH claim was likely possible only because of “having a longer run than the other guy.”

Nevertheless, along with the premium componentry—Winfield carburetion, Packard sparking, etc—that accompanied the Roof Cyclone, its F-head, two-port architecture utilizing 2-inch intake valves, resulted in a smoother, more powerful engine not unlike those then distinguishing themselves in professional racing automobiles.

But their enhancement to four-banger performance isn’t what makes them so desirable, especially when they are compared to the more powerful Riley, Cragar and Miller conversions that would soon become available. It’s that the Roofs were the first and that they are rare—”rarer than hen’s teeth” was a phrase I encountered a lot when talking with people about them.

Charlie doesn’t have any definitive production records, but “I’m pretty sure,” he asserts, “that only about 10 of these heads still exist, and only four or five are in a condition to run”—a fact that makes Brandon Fish’s find even more exceptional.

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Books from Richard Edmonds Auctions

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About an hour away there is an auctioneers that specialise in transportation and automobilia. I managed to score a set of books called “Automobile Engineering” from 1920 published by the American Technical Society. Very interesting stuff!

Upon collection from the auction site there were a number of cars to be collected, including a Model T and a Metropolitan

Richard Edmonds auctions are in Chippenham Wiltshire and hold regular classic car and automobilia auctions.

History-Making Hot Rod At Mecum – Andy Bolig @RodAuthority

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Before there was NASCAR, before twisting race tracks were known for their road-racing antics, and almost before the Indianapolis 500, there was Elgin, Illinois. Located roughly 35 miles from Chicago, Elgin was the place where speed came of age, and terms such as “stock cars” were used in their truest sense.

We often think of hot rodding as a post-WWII phenomenon, but if one traveled the streets of Elgin, even before the first World War, you might have a different reality. Starting in 1910, the streets of Elgin, Illinois would once a year, turn from the typical commuter route to a roaring race track featuring some of the biggest names in racing. Noted drivers such as Eddie Rickenbacker, Cliff Durant, the son of GM founder, Billy Durant; Ralph DePalma, and Fred Frame all competed with others on this early version of automotive competition.

The Elgin Road Races were held in 1910-1915, 1919, and 1920. They were halted during World War I and were only brought back after the 1920 race as part of the World’s Fair that was being held in Chicago in 1933. In 1933, there were actually two races held. There was an “open” class, which was won by Phil “Red” Shafer, and a “stock car” race, comprised of production vehicles powered by engines less than 231 cubic-inches. It was during this race that this particular car came into prominence. One year after Henry Ford introduced the all-new flathead Ford V8, several automobiles powered by this new engine were dominating the twisting course at Elgin. The video below shows antics from both classes of cars during that race.

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It sure looks like Ford had an experimental gas-turbine Model T running around in the Twenties – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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Don’t try to wipe your screen to clear up that blurry image above: It’s a screen-capture from a 50-plus-year-old promotional video uploaded to YouTube at a low resolution setting, so that’s about as sharp as it gets. It’s also about the only photographic evidence we’ve been able to find of a gas-turbine engine that Ford designed and experimented with in the mid-Twenties, long before other American carmakers started their own gas turbine programs.
As noted in Ford’s own 1966 promotional video on Big Red, the turbine-powered concept truck that was the predecessor to Ford’s gas-turbine engine program of the late Sixties and early Seventies, this little gas turbine engine predated Big Red by 40 years. “Since that time, Ford’s engineers have been interested in the potential of gas turbine power,” the narrator boasted, implying an unbroken thread of research and development into the engines. However, it appears Ford’s scriptwriters included the mention of the engine only to boost the company’s credentials; after a quick mention that Henry Ford and two associates built the gas turbine engine in 1925, the video switched back to the development of the 700-series gas turbines without elaborating on the earlier engine.
The gas turbine engine in the image appears to be a patent demonstration model, but we’ve yet to come across any such patent in our searches. A clearer image of the patent model would help, but we’ve yet to make any headway with Ford itself or The Henry Ford. Without much else to support the existence of the Henry Ford-developed gas turbine, we could’ve easily dismissed it as another wild Henry Ford idea or part of the accretion myth around the industrialist.

Criss-Crossed Conveyors, River Rouge Plant 1927, Ford Motor Company by Charles Sheeler

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A realistic painter as well as a photographer, Sheeler rarely failed to uncover harmonious coherence in the forms of indigenous American architecture. His series of photographs of the Ford plant near Detroit was commissioned by the automobile company through an advertising agency. Widely reproduced in Europe and America in the 1920s, this commanding image of technological utopia became a monument to the transcendent power of industrial production in the early modern age.

Ladle on a Hot Metal Car, Ford Plant 1927

Charles Rettew Sheeler Jr. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art from 1900 to 1903, and then the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied under William Merritt Chase. He found early success as a painter and exhibited at the Macbeth Gallery in 1908.[1] Most of his education was in drawing and other applied arts. He went to Italy with other students, where he was intrigued by the Italian painters of the Middle Ages, such as Giotto and Piero della Francesca. Later, he was inspired by works of Cubist artists like Picasso and Braque[2] after a trip to Paris in 1909, when the popularity of the style was skyrocketing. Returning to the United States, he realized that he would not be able to make a living with Modernist painting. Instead, he took up commercial photography, focusing particularly on architectural subjects. He was a self-taught photographer, learning his trade on a five dollar Brownie. Early in his career, he was dramatically impacted by the death of his close friend Morton Livingston Schamberg in the influenza epidemic of 1918.[3] Schamberg’s painting had focused heavily on machinery and technology,[4] a theme which would come to feature prominently in Sheeler’s own work.

Source – Wikipedia

 

Garage In the 1920s, Fordson tractors were turned into snowmobiles – Larry Edsall @ClassicCars.com

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Mount a pair of screw-designed and hollow pontoons on either side of a Fordson tractor and you might be able to travel pretty much anywhere, over snow, ice, even over water.

That was the idea behind the Fordson snowmobile concept vehicles — aka the Snow-Motor — created in the mid-to-late 1920s. What is believed to be the only one still operational was restored and displayed by the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum in Alaska.

Top speed is reported to be 8 mph but the device can tow 20 tons of logs out of the forest.

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Video: The Fifteen Millionth Ford Model T – Mac’s Motor City Garage

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“What it did can only be done once,” historian Bob Casey shrewdly observes at the top of this video. “It’s the car that made people want cars.” He’s speaking, of course, of the Model T Ford. When the Model T was introduced in the autumn of 1908, within a few years it became such a phenomenal success that the notion took root that Henry Ford had  personally invented the automobile. He’d done nothing of the sort, of course. Cars were around years before Ford or the Model T. What Ford did was to make the automobile a serious idea, a real possibility, to the great mass of the American people. And ultimately, that became a more significant achievement than inventing the automobile in the first place.

The Historic Vehicle Association is calling this awesome video history lesson Part 1, so naturally we’re expecting additional episodes. We can hardly wait, as the six minutes released so far are simply superb. We can’t recall the Ford Model T story being told with such expertise and visual style. If the interest is sufficient, we’ll share the following episodes here as well, but in any event, be sure to bookmark the HVA YouTube Channel so you can follow along. We trust you will enjoy the video as much as we did.

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How Rajo Jack went from speed parts salesman to one of the first black race car drivers – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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[Editor’s Note: The story of Rajo Jack isn’t an easy one to tell – he went by multiple names throughout his life and told many a tall tale of his exploits – but it’s a necessary one when discussing the color barrier in motorsports. Bill Poehler took on that task recently and the result of his research, The Brown Bullet: Rajo Jack’s Drive to Integrate Auto Racing, will hit bookstores soon. Ahead of its May 5 release date, Chicago Review Press has given us permission to run this excerpt from the book in which Rajo Jack determines he wants to be a racecar driver and takes his first step toward that goal.]
The Tacoma race was a dud. Jimmy Murphy was the biggest name driver in the race, having won the Indy 500 a month earlier. Barney Oldfield, chomping on his trademark cigar, drove the Marmon in the pace laps at such a fast pace people thought he might take off from the rest of the field and drive the full 125 laps. Oldfield eventually pulled off the track in time for the green flag, allowing Murphy and Tommy Milton to speed off from the rest of the field. Murphy won the race and the $7,500 top prize. As the prize winnings were announced over the public address system after the race, Rajo Jack could hardly believe what he was hearing. Even the last‑place money was more than he could earn if he sold dozens of Rajo heads each year for the next decade.