Rollin Willingham (pronounced “Raw-lin”) has a whole fleet of old cars that are ready to hop in and cruise, and each of them has its own soul and character. He calls this ’48 Ford Super Deluxe his “classy grocery getter.” But it wasn’t always that way.
When Rollin got the sedan, it was anything but classy. He had just lost another of his classics to an accident that totaled it when a friend offered up this grungy sedan at a good price. Rollin snatched it up to fill the newly empty hole in his lineup. But the car he brought home was barely running, and really ugly. The body was covered in old red primer, and the fenders were a different color. “I like patina,” says Rollin, “but this thing was ugly.”
Rollin is a professional car builder by day, and he got to work immediately on his new sedan as his busy schedule allowed. With friends and club members by his side, he began to sort the car out mechanically. The 239-inch 59A flathead stayed under the hood, but Rollin used a Speedway Motors kit to add an alternator which, along with a replacement wiring harness, converted the car to run 12 volts. The stock driveline lives on behind the flatmotor, but everything was tweaked, tuned, and repaired by Rollin to make the car a reliable driver. The stock stance was brought down in the rear with longer spring shackles, and the radial tires on steelies help it to run straight down the Phoenix freeways.
Rollin straightened out the body and shot it with a fresh coat of hot rod flat black. A few dings and imperfections remain to remind him that this car is meant to be a driver and not a showboat. The effect is that of a classy car that can be driven anywhere without losing sleep over rock chips, door dings, and rogue shopping carts.
They say veterans proudly wear their scars and decorations for all to see, and that apparently goes for cars, too, not only for the humans that have served in wars.
In the world of cars, only the ones that get to race end up becoming veterans, as you can’t really slap that moniker on your daily. And in most recent times, one didn’t get to look and feel to us as veteran as the Ford we have here.
Born in 1938 in the Blue Oval’s stables, it quickly embraced a racing career, and was often seen doing its thing at the Brewerton Speedway in New York state. It ventured beyond that, from time to time, making its present felt at tracks in Atlanta, Virginia, or South Boston.
As far as we were able to find out, no major name in the racing scene is linked to this Ford, but that doesn’t make it less appealing. Sure, it probably impacts the price, which reads just $15,995, but not its appeal.
Like any proper racer of its kind, the Ford got some of its body parts stripped and others added from place to place. Up front, the exposed sides of the vehicle let the image of a 1949 Ford flathead engine come to light. The powerplant works by means of a Ford truck 3-speed manual transmission and truck differential and breathes courtesy of a new exhaust system.
According to lore, and old markings on the car, this classic stock car ran races at the Brewerton Speedway in New York state. At some point, the Ford found its way south to Atlanta and then on to Virginia where it continued to participate in Vintage Races at tracks like South Boston well into the ’90s. This ’38 Ford is a vintage stock car from another era. When the coupe was converted into a race car, the body was moved back 5” on the frame for better weight balance. The exterior’s current respray is white enamel with period correct vinyl logos and numbers. Inside this interior is classic racer. A WWII bomber donated the tub seat/seat belt and the driver compartment is protected by a steel roll cage (no Hans device needed). The dash holds period correct Stewart Warner gauges and the driver’s door is welded shut. A Ford Flathead, circa 1949, furnishes horsepower and is backed by a Ford truck 3-speed manual transmission and truck differential. Other mechanical upgrades include:
• Rebuilt carburetor • New ignition components • Rebuilt Ford truck radiator/new hoses • Rebuilt water pumps • Manual and electric fuel pumps • Aluminum fuel tank • New exhaust system • New 6 volt battery (positive-ground) • New master cylinder/wheel cylinders • Bassett Wide-5 steel wheels • New Hoosier asphalt tires w/period-correct Firestone logos
The suspension was modified for racing and a competition right front hub has been installed. This old-school Ford stock car will be a fun addition to someone’s collection. The vehicle is sold on a ‘Bill of Sale’. ALL VEHICLES SOLD “AS IS”.
This is an original Ardun V8 engine, or perhaps more correctly this is a modified Ford Flathead V8 engine with Ardun heads and a slew of other upgrades that is now vastly more powerful than it was from the factory.
The Ardun OHV heads developed a legendary reputation in the hot rod world, they allowed people to modify their Ford Flathead V8 relatively quickly into an engine producing 200 bhp or more, up from 65 bhp in stock trim.
The name Ardun is a portmanteau of Arkus and Duntov, the hyphenated surname of Zora Arkus-Duntov and his brother Yuri, immigrants from Belgium by way of Russia who would go on to have an oversized impact on both the hot rod and sports car worlds in the United States around the mid-20th century.
The two men had arrived in the United States as refugees after the outbreak of WWII in Europe, they immediately turned their attention and engineering acumen to helping the war effort. They founded the Ardun Mechanical Corporation in 1942, initially producing dies and punches for ammunition and later produced parts for aircraft.
After the war they retooled, Zora and George Kudasch designed a set of high-performance overhead valve heads for the flathead Ford V8. The Ford Flathead V8 had become an almost ubiquitous performance engine in the United States since its introduction in 1932, as it was cheap to buy and easy to fix.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the engine was its propensity for overheating, largely due to an inefficient exhaust port design that siamesed the two inner ports on each side. This mostly affected trucks, but it reduced performance in automobiles too, and Zora knew that a good overhead valve head would solve the issue once and for all.
He took his design concepts to Ford who showed no interest whatsoever, a significant mistake from the company as just a few short years later they would witness the introduction of the Chevy small block V8 – an engine that blew them out of the water.
Zora and Yuri put the heads into production themselves, several flaws in the original design came to light, and significant time was spent ironing them out and turning them into a reliable, pair of high-performance heads.
Hot rods and land speed racers fitted with Ardun heads set a slew of world records out on the Bonneville Salt Flats, one example set a C/Street Roadster record of 162.61 mph in 1951, producing over 303 bhp at 5,250 rpm.
Chevrolet was eating Ford’s lunch. But Henry had a better idea.
It’s 1932, the height of the Great Depression. Nearly a quarter of all Americans are out of work. What money is being earned buys less, as a 1931 dollar is worth 90 cents in 1932.
The President, Herbert Hoover, is a pariah — so much so that during his re-election campaign, Detroit’s mounted police are called to protect the president from jobless auto workers chanting “Hang Hoover.”
Of course, things aren’t going well for automakers either.
The previous year, 1931, Ford sold 395,000 Model As, down significantly from the million-plus vehicles sold in 1929. But the whole industry is down, having sold 1.1 million units, down from 4.5 million in 1929.
But the slump in sales hadn’t deterred Henry Ford’s plan to beat Chevrolet: build a Ford with a V-8 engine. Unheard of in a mainstream car, it was introduced 90 years ago this week, at the height of the Great Depression.
A wild idea to top Chevy
Whereas Ford once commanded 50% of the car market with his Model T, his refusal to change it gave competitors a chance to catch up, offering more power, more comfort, more amenities and colors other than black. And it wasn’t just Chevrolet. Mid-priced brands like Oldsmobile, Nash, Dodge, Hudson and others nibbled away at his dominance. While Ford still had the industry’s largest market share, it was sliding. By 1926, it stood at 36 percent.
The Model T was losing its luster.
So Ford shut down his factories as he developed his next car, the Model A. It would be a sea change from the Model T, with markedly better performance, thanks to its 200.5 cubic-inch 4 cylinder that produced 40 horsepower, double that of the Model T. It boasted a far more modern design and employed a 3-speed manual transmission, rather than the T’s planetary gearbox.
But while Ford’s factory shutdown cost him the lead in sales, it would reverse itself in 1928, with the arrival of the Model A. By mid-1929, Ford sold 2 million of them.
While Ford thought the car was good enough to last a decade, Chevrolet one-upped him, introducing its 60-horsepower “Stovebolt Six” and overtaking Ford.
Vast distinctions exist among overhauling, rebuilding, restoring, and blueprinting engines. As a customer, you should know exactly what you are seeking from a machine shop. Communication, clarity, and a clear understanding of terminology are critical to achieving the desired result.
Basically, an overhaul could include deglazing cylinder walls,re-ringing existing pistons, a possible bearing change, and installing new gaskets, just to get the engine running. Rebuilding may include new parts but not necessarily complete machining of cylinder bores or crank grinding; it might require only a polish. Restoration usually includes all new parts and complete machining to factory specs as outlined in the factory manual. Blueprinting includes installing all new premium parts, complete machining to specified tolerances, balancing, and more to achieve optimum performance and durability.
Depending upon where you live, finding a machine shop to tackle your block may or may not be easy. The flathead is not a complicated engine, but it does have its idiosyncrasies, and a shop that typically rebuilds small-block Chevys might not be the place to go. We mean no disrespect, but the shop needs to know flatheads. If it doesn’t, don’t pressure the shop into learning or experimenting on yours. It might be a costly mistake for both parties.
Be sure to take plenty of photographs of your block and any little identifying marks it may have. You don’t want to hand over a fairly good block but receive a different and perhaps poorer-quality block after the work is done. You might even want to put your own mark on the block before handing it over or shipping it out of town.
I heard one story of a guy shipping a complete, brand-new rotating assembly to an engine builder. When the engine came back, however, it soon seized. Tearing it down revealed that the builder had switched out the good internals for a set of not-so-good originals. It pays to be aware of such possibilities.
It’s always smart to do plenty of research before you settle on a machine shop. You can learn a lot about a shop by checking the Internet, where people are quick to air their grievances. You can also ask fellow enthusiasts about their experiences. Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) is the phrase to keep in mind
Blueprinting and Balancing
These words hold much mystique, and summon images of a black art. However, they mean nothing more than making sure that parts are balanced and that the engine is assembled to certain specifications and tolerances recommended by the manufacturer for optimum performance for the desired application, such as street use, racing, or touring.
If you are rebuilding a stock engine, it’s fairly easy to follow the Ford specifications found in the various service bulletins. Most people building hot rod engines use components from a variety of sources. Nevertheless, you should still follow specs for main bearing clearances, ring gap clearances, cam timing, head port and chamber volumes, torque for bolts, and so on.
Factory specs are parameters that suffice for mass-production engines (taking into account time, labor, materials, and so on). They meet the driving needs of the general public with a broad range of driving styles. A blueprinted engine meets and exceeds those factory parameters.
Theoretically, there is no tolerance for a blueprinted engine. It either is or it isn’t, and there’s no in-between. If you build two engines to factory specs, there will always be variances between rod and main bearing clearances, variances in piston clearances, deck height differences, valve-spring pressure differences, and intake and exhaust port and chamber volume differences. If you blueprint an engine for racing at Bonneville, for example, there should be no variances. It should be built to a specific race spec.
Properly blueprinting an engine takes many hours, a lot of patience, and a lot of skill. To achieve a properly running, reliable engine, you need to follow procedures and not just throw it all together.
Balancing is also worth worrying about, because a well-balanced engine is like a well-balanced checkbook: Keep it on the good side and life will be good. Theoretically, to do it correctly you should preass emble the engine before balancing the components, so that any subsequent machine process or task does not affect the balancing act. The order of the day is: pre-assemble, machine if necessary, and balance.
If you are running a mixture of aftermarket components (crank, rods, pistons, and so on, all from different suppliers), it is essential to balance the parts. Of course, you can avoid this work if you buy a rotating assembly from one manufacturer. Even if you do, it is still worth checking the parts for quality. I was a crank grinder in my youth, and there were days when I ground good cranks and days when I was in a hurry and just wanted to get it done. Those grinds were within tolerance but were not my best work.
Weight matching and dynamic balancing are the two steps to balancing an engine.
To weight match, you weigh the pistons and the rods individually on a balancing scale to determine the lightest of each. Then, remove a little metal from each, until all of the pistons weigh the same as the lightest piston and all of the rods weigh the same as the lightest rod. Parts are usually measured within .25 gram.
A balancing fulcrum is also used to determine how heavy a rod is at either end. If a rod is a little heavier on the big end (the main bearing end), a little weight is removed from that end to balance the rod. (The procedure employed at H&H is outlined in this chapter.)
Dynamic balancing is the process of balancing the rotating assembly, including crank, rods, and pistons. Although the crank itself is put in the balancer, bob weights are installed to replicate the rod and piston assemblies. Be sure to record all of the weights for the rods, pistons, and associated components; they will be needed later when you balance the crank.
Almost no factory production engine comes precision balanced. Even some so-called performance engines aren’t balanced to within 1 gram, as are the engines balanced by H&H on its Hines electronic balancer.
Does balancing make any difference? The answer is yes. According to Mike, “A well-balanced flathead makes for a smooth-running car. It produces efficient power by eliminating power-robbing vibration and imbalance.” A flathead is balanced internally, as opposed to a 454 Chevy, a 400 Chevy small-block, and 460 Ford trucks, which are balanced externally; each uses a harmonic balancer.
Balancing and Honing the Rods
Although the rods produced by companies such as Scat are extremely well balanced, Mike likes to double-check them because balancing flathead internals is important to a smooth-running engine. In addition, Mike suggests that if you’re reusing stock rods, you should definitely resize the big ends, because years of wear will have forced them out of round. Moreover, you should definitely balance them, because Ford’s tolerances were more liberal. Ford service bulletins give an acceptable weight of 451 to 455 grams; with a little care, all of the rods can weight exactly the same.
Assuming that your desire is a smooth-running, long-lasting engine, then taking your time and being careful will be rewarded. Precisely honing both rods is paramount.
You can balance connecting rods at home, and with a little care, you can match them exactly. You will enjoy a feeling of satisfaction for a job well done.
Really useful Ford Flathead V8 specification reference page from VanPelt Sales
The Flathead V8 engines produced by Ford Motor Company included basically three versions. The most popular being the 85-125hp that was first produced in 1932, and continued until 1953 (except for Canadian and Australian production which ended in 1954). Ford also designed and produced a smaller 60hp flathead V8 engine from 1937 until 1940. Lastly, the big 337 cubic inch flathead V8 engine, which was produced mainly for truck use and for Lincoln cars from 1948 to 1951. Ford’s flathead V8 engines when introduced in 1932 were the first mass-production V8’s where the block and cylinder assembly were poured as one single casting.
Click on the links below for general descriptions, general specifications, and tune-up specifications on each series engine. Horsepower and torque curves are available on some
In the early 1940s, a policeman showed up at the Smith family home in Lincoln, Nebraska, with 12-year-old D. William Smith in tow. Like other youngsters, he had used an old gas-powered Maytag washing machine engine to power a go-kart. Problem was, he’d been driving it down one of the town’s main streets.
From an early age, D. William Smith, to become better known as “Speedy” Bill, had a need for speed. He tinkered with cars, raced them and motorcycles as well, yet went to Nebraska Wesleyan University and graduated with a degree in education.
But instead of teaching, he borrowed $300 from his fiancé, Joyce — who later would insist that he never officially repaid that loan — and opened a speed shop called Speedway Motors in a 20×20-foot building on Lincoln’s main street, US Route 6/O Street.
Fast forward a few decades and the Smiths with their four sons grew Speedway Motors into a major supplier of automotive speed equipment that occupies a half-million square-foot warehouse and headquarters on a 46-acre Lincoln campus just off O Street that since 1992 has included the Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed.
The museum is a separate building just across the parking lot that fills three stores while preserving race cars, engines and historic performance accessories. For example, there’s a large area devoted to Henry Ford’s Model T, and to the parts from Frontenac, Rajo, Riley, Roof and others that, shall we say, accelerated the car’s capabilities.
Ditto the Flathead Ford V8, with one wall covered by every cylinder head ever created to enhance that engine’s performance, including some experimental models that Ford sold to the museum by mistake and then asked for their return, which Speedway Motors politely declined.
While visiting Ronnie Roadster Matt filmed a ton of footage while talking with Ron. We wanted to put together a video showing exactly how an Ardun OHV Conversion works for a Ford Flathead engine. Ron is a wealth of knowledge and has over 100k miles on his blue 32 Ford Roadster that’s powered by a blown Ardun. Ron shows us the inner workings of an Ardun valvetrain and some of the tricks that are needed to get them running correctly. A huge thank you to Ron and his wife Laura for letting us visit and film!!
The time has finally come to take the engine for the 1933 Ford 3 Window Coupe up to Ronnie “Roadster” San Giovanni, the master of the Ardun OHV conversion.
Ron built his first Ardun back in the early 1980’s and has been hooked ever since. His blue 1932 Ford Roadster with a blown Ardun has been cross country twice and around 100k miles.
Ron is a wealth of knowledge about hot rods, local Connecticut racing history and of course flatheads. Matt spent the better part of the day talking with Ron about his set of heads, and his large Italmeccanica blower that Ron has surprisingly never seen before!
We could have put together a 4 hour video with Ron and wife talking about every amazing piece of history they have in their shop and all the amazing engines Ron has built. We can’t wait to return to pick up the engine and spend more time with Ron!!
Spring may have just arrived, but at least one vehicle going up for auction at Bonhams’s next sale may have you longing for winter’s return.
Impossible, you say. Wait until you check out the 80-year-old Bombardier B-7snowmobile. Set to hit the block late next month at the auction house’s Amelia Island auction, the restored snow cruiser will have even the most cold-averse among us wishing for a thick snow fall so they can take it out for a spin.
Although the B-7 was born out of a family tragedy—inventor Joseph-Armand Bombardier’s young son died during the winter because no vehicle could safely transport him through the snow—it’s also a dazzling creation. The vehicle, which was referred to at the time as a “snow coach,” looks like an old-fashion family wagon with skis and tank treads in place of its wheels, so that it can “float over the snow.” After being introduced in 1935, the vehicle proved to be a hit, and by the end of the decade, the Canadian company had built more than 100 examples.