If you know hot rods, you know Stromberg 97, right? Whether it’s the dry lake, the drags, circle track, car show, or just a street near you, they were the go-to, go-fast carburetor for generations. And you know what? They still are, if you’re building an early style hot rod or race car. Whether you’ve got a flathead four or eight, six-pot Chevy or Lincoln V-12, or pretty much any American OHV from ’49 to ’60-something, there’s an manifold somewhere to make it move a little faster, all with the tell-tale three-bolt, two-hole Stromberg carb mounts.
So where did it all start? Strombergs have been around since the earliest of automobile days. 1909, in fact, when Alfred Stromberg and five others formed the Stromberg Motor Car Devices Company producing one brass carburetor a day. By 1928, it was 4,000 a day thanks to some 12,000 staff. And in 1929, the company was sold to Bendix Aviation, moving to join their other operations in South Bend, Indiana. Up through the 40s to the 60s you’d find a Stromberg carb on your Buick, Olds, Plymouth, Stude, even Auburn and Lincoln. But by the 70’s the writing was on the wall for carburetion. In the USA, Stromberg’s last hurrah was the ’74 GMC V-6 truck. And in Europe they stuck the name on a Zenith-designed constant vacuum carburetor, flogged to a host of popular brands including Mercedes and Lotus.
But if we’re talking hot rods, it’s all about the 97. Easy to find. Easy to tune. Good for a reported 150 cfm through 15/16-inch venturis. Original equipment on Ford V-8s for barely more than two years—1936 and ’37. Yes, as we said, the carburetor of choice for hot rodders and drag racers right up to the 1960s.
So here’s the question: Why the 97? Chandler-Groves. Ford. Holley. Carter. Rochester. They were all around at the same time. A lot of them were bigger too, which offered more bang for your buck at the time. Its replacement, the Ford/Holley ‘94’ 2-bbl was Ford’s V-8 choice for some 15 years in various guises. And there were plenty of other Strombergs to choose from too. The 1933/34 Model 40 and 48 had a bigger 1-1/32-inch venturi and a reported 175 cfm. Some Lincolns had a 1 inch 160 cfm-rated LZ version, and Ford’s thrifty little V8-60 motor came with the 81, a smaller version of the 97 with a 0.81-inch throat, making it perfect in a 2×2 for your Ford 4-banger or V8-60 powered midget.