Today In Ford History--nov. 25
On Nov. 25, 1953, Ford Motor Company’s Rouge Engine Plant rolled out the last of the flathead V-8 engines—21 years and 16,388,762 engines after Henry Ford’s affordable design put 8-cylinder power within the reach of everyman. When it switched to the new overhead valve design in1953, Ford had built more V-8 engines than all other manufacturers combined.
The Ford flathead was a favorite of early hot-rodders in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s because it was light, powerful and easily modified. Ford flatheads won Europe’s Monte Carlo rally in 1936 and 1938, and in 1949 a flathead-powered Lincoln won the first ever NASCAR race. By the 1960s, the V-8-powered ’32 Ford was immortalized in American pop culture by the Beachboys’ “Little Deuce Coupe.”
Nearly 50 years since that last flathead rolled out of the Rouge, the original V-8 design remains popular with loyal Ford enthusiasts like California’s Ron Main. At Bonneville, Utah, last August, Main and his streamlined “Flatfire”—with a supercharged, 700 hp engine that began life as ’46 Ford V-8 flathead—set a new world record with a top-end speed of more than 302 miles an hour.
Like the Model T and assembly line, the flathead V-8 was another Henry Ford masterstroke, blending technological innovation with an intuitive sense of what motorists wanted, before they knew it themselves.
Before 1932, V-8 engines were the hallmark of luxury automobiles because they required hand-tooling by highly-paid skilled craftsmen. With his own racing roots, Ford had longed to offer the common man an affordable V-8 and that took on greater urgency in 1931, when the four-cylinder Model A introduced in 1928 was being outsold by newer, bigger, faster competitors with six-cylinder engines.
In a top-secret crash program, Ford and his best engineers, foundrymen and manufacturing experts took less than a year to develop a V-8 engine block that could be mass-produced cheaply in a single casting.
With a 221 cubic inch displacement (CID), only 20 percent more than the four-cylinder Model A, the 1932 flathead produced 62 percent more horsepower, 65 @ 3400 rpm. In their last production versions from 1949 to 1953, the Ford flathead V-8 had 239 CID and 100 hp and the Mercury 255 CID and 112 hp.