H&H Flatheads is known for being “your one stop shop for all your vintage motor needs”. We offer a variety of Ford Flathead V-8 and Lincoln V-12 speed equipment from various manufactures. We also own vintage speed brands, Austin Speed Equipment, Dixon, Navarro Racing Equipment, Sharp Speed & Power Equipment, and Wilson & Woods, all of which are casted, and machined in the USA.
If you’re looking for a complete turn-key engine, we have you covered too. Our knowledge of Ford Flatheads goes back three generations that started with Max Herman Sr. and son Max Herman Jr. We have also had the privilege of working and learning from some of industries pioneers. Our turn-key engines have a reputation that speak for themselves. If you’ve ever flipped through the pages of a hot rod magazine, chances are you’ll see one of our engines tucked under the hoods of featured vehicles. We build complete, turn-key engines for some of the industries top builders and for the DIY guys building hot rods out of their garages.
Despite not being a fancy, state-of-the-art set up, Mike and his team at H&H have a great thing going. The equipment does exactly what it needs to, his team is experienced and the shop has built thousands of vintage engines for customers everywhere!
It’s not every day that a photoshoot for Rod & Custom is what pushes you over the edge into engine building, but that’s exactly what got Mike Herman to begin his journey building V8s. Of course, this photoshoot wasn’t Mike’s first time being around engines, but before that moment, he hadn’t taken time to learn and understand the work.
Mike’s father, Max Sr., started an engine shop back in 1972 doing Model A work. As Mike tells the story, he was just out of college and decided to join his dad at a car show in Scottsdale, AZ where Jim Rizzo of Rod & Custom came through the booth.
“He asked if we wanted to do a Flathead article,” Herman recalls. “My dad said, ‘Sure, we’ll do it.’ He stuffed me in all the pictures. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t even know how to work a boring bar or anything. The issue took like nine months to come out, and it was like 10 pages in one issue, and then nine pages the next. The phone never stopped ringing, and I just had to learn on the fly. I shadowed my dad to learn all the tech and read whatever I could. I learned how to break everything and fix everything.”
That push into engine building was exactly what Mike needed, who said he might be working a desk job otherwise. Herman soon took what he learned from his dad and started his own shop, H&H Flatheads in La Crescenta, CA in 2003 – March 2023 will be the shop’s 20th anniversary.
At just 44 years old today, Herman has successfully built a name for himself and his shop in the vintage V8 world, focusing on Ford Flatheads, Lincoln Flathead V8s and V12s, Y blocks, Hemis, early Cadillacs, Nailheads, and others.
“I was fortunate enough to enter the industry at the right time, because within two years, I bought Navarro Racing Equipment from Barney Navarro,” Herman says. “That was perfect timing because I was up and coming and he was retiring. Since then, I’ve acquired seven other companies. I have eight vintage speed equipment companies under my H&H Flatheads brand.”
Now, Herman gets to add one more accolade to his shop’s name – Engine Builder’s and Autolite’s 2022 America’s Best Vintage Engine Shop award. H&H Flatheads is a modest shop on the surface – around 3,000 sq.-ft. of space, Kwik-Way boring bars, Sunnen hones, a Hines digital balancer, a Storm Vulcan surfacer, some hot tanks, and tons and tons of old and new engine parts.
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.
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.