I got to thinking about flathead valve/port design the other day and
investigated on the net.
Flathead intake and exhaust ports are cast into the block. Intake is
relatively simple. Exhaust ports ran from above the cyl., around
the cyl., down to the port below the cyl. This complicated the
exhaust and coolant design. The blocks look damned complicated to
design/cast. The heads look simple.
Contrast OHV. The port design is part of the heads, which are more
complex. The block looks lots easier to design/cast.
Flathead design succumbed to OHV (which later largely succumbed to
OHC) in the late '40's and '50's.
Per http://www.gmphotostore.com/prodinfo.asp?numberS216861 ,
OHV V8 designs have been around since 1917.
Ford's mainstay V8 was the famous flathead from about 1932-1953.
Obviously they got a lot of mileage out of the design, but ...
Why did they stick with the flatheads for so many, many years after
OHV was afoot in the design world? Were flatheads cheaper to make?
(It doesn't look like it from here).
"Blues starts to rolling ... stops at my front do'.
I'm gonna change my way of living ... won't have to worry no mo'."
- from "Blues Before Sunrise", Leroy Carr, maybe 1934
One reason why small engine companies like Briggs and Stratton switched
to OHV engines is that the fuel doesn't burn completely near the valves
in flathead engines, leading to higher hydrocarbon emissions.
With a flathead design, the valve train is a little easier, too. The
camshaft is geared directly to the crankshaft, and there are just
lifters which directly contact the valves. No problems with push rods or
The Ford 239 flattie was around a lot longer than 1953, but in
industrial-only models. Last factory new 239 I saw was in a tug motor
at a trucking terminal. It was built in 1963, and was, basically, the
same old 239" flattie used in Ford cars and trucks until '53, but with
a single bbl carb. The old Model A engine lasted about the same on
tractors and in industrial applications, last I've seen being around
1966. Ford got their money out of THOSE molds, for sure...and then
Ford got caught last in the OHV game for a multitude of reasons, one
of them being the great disarray of FoMoCo after Edsel died and the
old man was floundering the company into bankruptcy. When he finally
picked his grandson, Henry II (known to insiders as "King Henry II")
FoMoCo was #3 in sales, had a listless product line and was losing
millions on stupid pre-war projects favored by the old man previous to
the war. The conversion to aircraft manufacture and other military
uses during the war also took its toll, as the old man hadn't a clue
as how to manage the postwar recoversion.
King Henry II came on board as FoMoCo president and immediately
started trying to fix the mess. First priority was getting out of the
cellar on sales...Ford was #3, and Chrysler was comfortably ahead.
King Henry didn't know how to assemble a design team to "fix" the
laconic product lines, so in came the "Whiz Kids," among them Robert
McNamara and other luminaries who would go on to become legends in
their own right. First order of business: fix the car line. The
result of the "Whiz Kids'" work on that were the startling 1949 Fords
and Mercs, with new IFS, new fenderless rear ends, slab sided styling
(first introduced on the '47 Kaiser/Frazer line, by the way) and a
vigorous ad campaign behind it. Under the hood, it was still 1932,
albeit with a new Ford 2V carb, a higher lift cam and 100 BHP, later
going to 110 in '53 with a small compression and cam bump. Same
gearbox, too, adapted to use a "3 on the tree" shifter, and the same
weak rear ends. Didn't matter...the '49-50-51 Fords sold on looks and
ride immediately, and they pushed Ford past Chrysler in early 1950 as
the #2 US automaker. Shrewd move by King Henry II. His most lasting
legacy was the first he implemented...the Ford parts numbering system,
still in use today. Prior to that, Ford's parts, engineering and
warehousing systems were the worst in the world. One area where Ford
managed to ace out rival Chevrolet was in automatic
transmissions...the Borg-Warner three band unit was licensed by Ford
as the "FM," in use, heavily modified as the FMX, until 1966 and later
in some models. The cheap but limited 2 speed Powerglide was no match
for the 3 speed "Fordomatic." Ford later again stayed way ahead with
their C4 and C6 aluminum case transmissions, leaving GM's Powerglides
and Detroit Transmission 2 speeders in the dust.
Next issue: the flattie. This wasn't as successful, but Ford managed
to cobble together a new engine, the Y-block, in the same size as the
flattie for the '54 model year. At the time, GM had several, with
Olds, Cadillac and Buick (late '52) each having their own designs to
appeal to disparate markets. GM ran rings around Ford in the design
department on this issue. GM's Cadillac and Olds OHV V8s were
designed to the basic tenets of "Boss" Kettering, who before WW II,
said that the new GM OHV gas engines should be capable of being
"punched out" to as high as 400 cu in, have a compression ratio of 12
to 1 (never realized) and be as light and strong as engineering would
allow using the best available gray iron alloy.
Ford, on the other hand, kept heavy block weight as a feature of the
Y-block...good for the bottom end, not-so-good elsewhere. The Y-block
had severe constraints as to "enlargability", and was stuck at 312"
until replaced by the far better FE starting in 1958. Overall, they
were pretty good...not great...engines, but nothing like the fireballs
from Cadillac and Oldsmobile in 1949. All GM had to do to leave Ford
in the dust was start boring, stroking and upping the compression on
their entire V8 line to keep comfortably ahead of Ford
performance-wise, with Chrysler nipping at their heels with innovative
"hemis" and wedges. The original 303 Olds topped out at 394, the
original 287 Pontiac topped out at 389, and the original Barr-Cole
Cadillac engine, probably the best production V8 ever produced in the
US as far as stock efficiency went, went from 331 to 390.
Ford desperately needed yet another fix, and that was the well liked
FE and FT engines of 1958-1976, one of Ford's greatest engine success
stories. They were fair to middling in efficiency, but the 390 HP,
406 and 427 variants developed for NASCAR are the stuff of legend. The
car 390s, 410s and 428s, especially in the CJ versions, weren't any
slouches in power, either. The 332, later the 352, were the work
horses of the Ford car and light truck line until 1971 (352 was gone
after '67, replaced by the 360 in trucks until '76 and the enlarged
small block in cars), and gained a popular loyalty among Ford buyers.
The big claim to fame on any FE or FT was durability. Many ran up to
300K miles with no rebuild, a feat GM products couldn't do...nor did
they want to. The most durable of the GM car engines were the Cads
and Oldses, and by 1965, they were gone, as well, replaced by cheaper,
"Chevyized" new models. GM started its "fall from grace" starting
around 1962, when the "less car for more money" dictum took hold after
the retirement of Al Sloan, who'd built GM into the powerhouse it was
during the '40s and '50s.
But wait...there's more! GM wasn't alone in aging flatties. Pontaic
kept theirs (in two different, horrid 8 cylinder displacements, plus
the original Oakland 6) on the market until 1955, which then was
replaced by a low cost, but high output and durability V8. Pontiac
was the "dowager empress" of the GM line until Bunkie Knudsen took
over, and then John DeLorean...and things then started to happen
pretty fast for Pontiac. Knudsen, a GM cookie cutter exec, would
later go on to be a huge failure at FoMoCo in 1969, with his only
legacy being trying to make the T-Bird look like a Pontiac Bonneville.
King Henry II dumped him cold and gave it to a whole different
legend...that of Lee Iacocca, who took the presidency of FoMoCo late
in '70. Iacocca's reign really yielded nothing of great importance,
other than he ran a good, tight ship that favored the sales
organization over everything else. Mainly, he specialized (as he did
in the mid-'80s at Chrysler) in "stretching" platforms into new
models, notably the loser T-Bird into the hot selling Mark III, the
doomed Pinto into the popular Mustang II, and so on. Remember, he
made the bare bones Falcon into the biggest US sales sensation, the
original Mustang, a lesson he never forgot.
Engineering-wise, Iacocca was no great shakes at all. He was, and is,
a salesman first and foremost. As far as engines went, Ford was again
in the doldrums in '70s and was reduced to simply punching out the
365-series engines into the 460, making the basic Windsor 351 into a
"modified" high deck 400 and the like. Nothing much to see there. The
only legendary and likable Ford engine of that era had already been
designed in the '60s...the "Clevelands."
Although your opinions are amusing, your facts are flawed. The 385-series
429/460 big-blocks were both manufactured in the 60's, and were years ahead
of the 1970 335-series 351 Cleveland engines. The Ford 400 (and 351M) is
based on the 351 Cleveland design, NOT the 351 Windsor design... Although I
prefer the 351 Cleveland over the 351 Windsor, the Windsor family of Ford
engines 1962-1996 (221, 260, 289, 302 and 351) was arguable Fords best and
most successful engine ever.
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