If you’re tackling most of a rebuild yourself, it’s easier than ever to find parts, thanks to the Internet. You just type “flathead Ford V-8 parts” into a search engine and dozens of sources appear. Many of the bigger suppliers, such as Mahle for pistons and Clevite for bearings, do not sell direct, so you have to search out their retailers. The good news is, parts are fairly plentiful. However, the market is constantly changing.
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Manufacturers sometimes stop making certain parts when they discover how small the market really is. Some parts, such as the Mallory distributor, are currently out of production, so you may have a search on your hands. The same applies to blocks.
The following is an alphabetical list of items that you are likely to need.The list also includes some popular suppliers.
Henry Ford installed air conditioning in his cars via something called a cowl vent. Today’s driver, however, often wants a little more comfort and control. Air conditioning kits are available for flathead applications from March Performance and Vintage Air. The former sells a modern-looking billet assembly with serpentine belts.
The air-conditioning kit from Vintage Air is traditional in appearance, with old-style V-belts. The air-conditioning unit mounts on a fabricated bracket bolted to the original generator mount. The generator is mounted on a bracket to the driver’s left.
Ardun Head Conversion
Zora Arkus-Duntov, “the Father of the Corvette,” designed the Ardun overhead valve conversion for the flathead Ford to increase the horsepower of Ford truck engines. Original kits are scarce (maybe 200 total were made), so Don Ferguson has reproduced them. The kit, which fits 1939–1953 engines, includes heads, valvetrain, spark plug tubes, valve covers, Coke-bottle solid lifters, water outlets, stock exhaust port block-offs, attaching hardware, exhaust-header flanges, and head, intake, and exhaust gaskets.
For those going the Ardun route, H&H Flatheads produces a line of Austin intake manifolds that accept a variety of carb combinations, as well as a blank manifold for blower applications.
A good number of companies supply bearings. The big players are Clevite (a division of Mahle), Federal-Mogul, Dura-Bond, Melling, and King Bearing. These companies are actually big OEM suppliers that do not sell direct to the public; you have to search out their dealers. Their websites are not really designed for the end user and can be difficult to navigate. That said, Mahle/Clevite, Federal-Mogul, and King Bearing manufacture a number of flathead products in addition to bearings, and it is worth persevering through the search process to find their other products.
Bellhousings and Adapters
The flathead came with four bellhousing styles, and any rebuilder should be careful when trying to figure it all out, especially when you are fitting the engine into a hot rod project and want something other than a stock transmission. H&H carries bellhousings from multiple sources, including those from the QuickTime division of Mr. Gasket. Quick Time offers two complete bellhousing kits that adapt 1949–1953 flatheads to Toploader BorgWarner T10 or TKO 500-600/TR3550/T5 Mustang transmissions.
In addition to the more common flathead-to-Chevy or -T-5 manual adapters, Flat-O offers the option of adapting a Ford C-4 tranny to your flattie. The kit comes with a cast-aluminum bellhousing, a balanced flexplate, a torque converter, all the hardware, and complete instructions.
Offenhauser offers a cast aluminum adapter for bolting a 3-, 4-, or 5-speed Chevy manual transmission to the back of a 1932–1948 Ford block or a 1939–1950 Merc. Wilcap, a name that has been around for many years, produced a line of cast-aluminum adapters to bolt to Chevy, or in one case, Ford, transmissions.
Bolts and Fasteners
For a one-stop shop for bolts and fasteners, try Automotive Racing Products (ARP). The company’s online catalog is full of useful technical information and fastener technology. ARP lists a few flathead products, including head studs and polished stainless-steel acorn head nuts to thread cleaning chasers; these are essential.
If you can’t be bothered figuring out the various bolts individually, kits are available from companies such as Speedway Motors. Speedway offers several bolt kits, including a stainless steel socket-head water pump kit. If stainless is your material of choice, check out Totally Stainless, which offers a wide range of bolt kits in hex, socket, 6-point, and even 12-point configurations. It also sells kits for headers, trans mounts, generators, fan pulleys, and heads.
Bob Drake sells 31⁄4-inch head studs for thicker aftermarket aluminum heads.
Camshafts and Sprockets
A number of companies produce off-the shelf camshafts that work for most street engines. Some companies can grind a special cam for you, assuming that you know what you want and that you can explain it to them.
The big three in off-the-shelf cams are Comp Cams, Isky Racing Cams, and Schneider. Most aftermarket camshafts do not come with the distributor drive gear, so be sure to save the one you take off. H&H can supply new 8BA distributor drive gears as well as rear idler/oil pump drive gears.
Comp Cams lists three solid-lifter cams for 1949–1953 239- and 255-ci engines, and the specs are easily found in its online catalog. The three cams are the Classic Thumpr for street performance, the Mutha Thumpr for street and strip, and the Big Mutha Thumpr for high-performance engines only.
Isky’s website is equally user friendly. It offers five different solid grinds, from the MAX #1, a good low-speed cam for use with a stock carb and manifold, all the way up to the 433 competition grind.
Schneider Racing Cams has been around since the 1950s, and it’s easy-to-use website offers various parts for the flathead, including valve springs, adjustable lifters, and nine different cam grinds. An extra click takes you to a lot of technical information that helps you decide if you want to go “mild” or “wild.”
Schneider can also custom-grind a cam from steel billet; the job takes from four to eight weeks. The company also makes cams for Ardun conversions.
Another company that custom grinds cams is Ed Pink’s Garage, which can either custom-grind a cam or build a complete engine. This shop is not to be confused with Ed Pink Racing Engines, which rebuilds flatheads.
H&H has worked with its own cam-grinding company since the 1970s. It offers multiple profiles, from Winfield to blower grinds.
Camshaft gears and crankshaft sprockets are available from Egge and Federal-Mogul/Sealed Power, but the latter’s website offers little beyond generic information. Old suppliers include Hoof, Dyna Gear, Cloyes, and Avon, and with some searching, you can find NOS items that are no longer available from the original aftermarket part manufacturer.
Stromberg Carburetor has dealers all over the United States. They supply everything you need to rebuild a stock 97 carburetor, as well as brand-new Stromberg 97s built to original specification with key improvements. The 97 range includes cable choke and LZ-style push-throttle options and a choice of finishes, from OEM-style pale chromate to triple-plated chrome, custom black, and even a “barn-find” patina. Stromberg has just launched an all-new 250-cfm BIG 97 model that combines 55 percent more airflow with improved fuel efficiency. Moreover, it offers a huge range of fuel delivery and linkage parts, which helps you put together a complete setup for a huge variety of manifolds, including Offy, Navarro, Edelbrock, Sharp, Eddie Meyer, and even small-block Chevy and Ford.
Thankfully, numerous options remain for clutch components. However, as the aftermarket continues to consolidate and the flathead recedes into the past,those options will likely shrink.
Chrome-plated or black 40K-volt Flame-Thrower oil-filled coils are available from Pertronix, along with a selection of universal brackets. These brackets are not flat head style. Coils are also available from Mallory and MSD.
Connecting Rods and Bearings
Unfortunately, few options for connecting rods exist beyond stock and Scat. However, good sources are available for connecting rod bearings. Federal-Mogul/Sealed Power, Mahle/ Clevite, and King Bearing offer bearing sets for 239- and 255-ci engines in standard and two undersize sizes: .010 and .020. Federal-Mogul/Sealed Power also makes piston pin bushings for the 239 to 255 engines in both normal and “split” styles.
Sources for new a crankshaft for your flathead are Eagle, Moldex, and Scat. The latter manufactures a wide range of off-the-shelf internally balanced cranks, from 221-ci cast stockers through lightweight cast 4.375-inch strokers. Scat also produces specialty billet cranks. Of course, original Ford and Mercury cranks are in huge supply.
The recent popularity of the flathead has brought about the reproduction of all sorts of obscure parts, including cylinder heads. Suppliers include Edelbrock, Navarro, ORD, Sharp, Smith, Eddie Meyer, Offenhauser, Tattersfield-Baron, and, most recently, TrickFlow. Twin-plug Elco heads are available from Monterey Speed & Sport.
Mallory was absorbed into the MSD group, which was then absorbed into the Holley family. Mallory ignitions are not currently produced,which leaves MSD, Roto-Faze, and original (from the vehicle) as the only distributor options. You can rebuild an original distributor if you want the authentic look. Parts and rebuilt distributors are available from C&G Ford Parts, Dennis Carpenter, Bob Drake, and Mac’s. Mallory distributors for 1932–1941 and 1942– 1948 engines can be found, but the supply is shrinking as the engines become older, as more people opt for the 1949–1953 version, and as the industry consolidates.
Although it is still possible to rebuild early distributors using a breaker points system, the advent of electronic ignitions offers a more reliable system that fits within a stock distributor cap for that traditional appearance.
Although an abundant supply of stock and aftermarket steel flywheels exists, they are heavy at around 38 pounds. A lightweight 6061 T6 aluminum flywheel from McLeod or Wilcap is a good option, thanks to the replaceable steel friction plate and 1045 steel-hardened ring gear.
In some ways, fuel injection could be historically correct for a flat head; lots of race cars ran it back in the day and it does look cool. However, mechanical setups are difficult to tune for the street, so the best option is an electronic assembly.
You can buy gaskets as sets or individually from a number of suppliers, such as Best Gasket and Fel-Pro. Head gaskets are available in stock or big-bore sizes in solid copper, a copper-graphite sandwich, or a graphite composite called Graph tite, which is a sandwich of Kevlar-reinforced graphite material mechanically bonded to both sides of a perforated steel core.
Best Gasket does not sell direct to consumers, only through retailers. However, it has a great, easy-tonavigate website that lists many individual and gasket sets, and includes everything from the rear main seal rope to a complete gasket set for the 1932–1938 21-stud engine. Even though you can’t buy direct, it’s a good resource as you discover your engine.
Federal-Mogul is another original equipment supplier that does not sell direct to the consumer. It produces a number of flathead components, but you have to consult the catalog on the website to find the head gaskets. The company sells both standard and large overbore versions.
Victor Reinz is a division of Dana that makes gaskets for flatheads. The gaskets are available through mail-order speed shops such as Jegs.
Generator and Brackets
Brand-new 75-amp (60 amps idle) PowerGen generators are available from Powermaster in either black or polished finish, and they come complete with the integral mounting bracket. Powermaster also has a shorty (51⁄2-inch) generator that can be used to accommodate multi-carb assemblies.
H&H and Bob Drake each offer a large variety of custom-shaped brackets to relocate the generator to either the right or left of center for 1949–1953 engines. Both companies also offer left and right brackets that bolt to the cylinder head for 1937–1948 engines.
A header is available for every application, beginning with stock type cast headers from suppliers such as Bob Drake. Bob even offers a redesigned, cast-iron manifold with a correctly angled outlet port to eliminate the original crossover pipe.
Tubular-type headers are available from Drake, Fenton, Flowtech/ Hooker (Holley), Hedman Hedders, Honest Charley, Hot Rod Speed & Custom, Mac’s Auto Parts, Patrick’s, Red’s Headers, Sanderson (which makes four different styles), and Speedway Motors. Headers also come from Australian companies such as CAE Performance Products.
The stock engine has solid lifters. Even though they can be tricky to adjust, adjustable lifters are a far better option. Manufacturers include Comp Cams, Dennis Carpenter, Bob Drake, H&H, Red’s Headers, and Isky.
Both new and used intake manifolds are available. They are cool, but old heads can be more work to refurbish than they are worth. New offerings are available from Navarro, Edelbrock, Eddie Meyer, Offenhauser, Sharp, and Tattersfield.
A simple and efficient magneto gives a nod to the flathead’s racing heritage while providing a strong spark. Vintage items are available from manufacturers such as Kong and Harman-Collins. However, finding a rebuilder is increasingly difficult.
Mains Cap Strap
If you’re building any kind of high-performance flathead, beefing up the bottom end is essential. The block does not have enough meat for four-bolt mains, but you can incorporate billet mains caps and a strap that ties the caps and the pail rail together for added rigidity. The pan needs some modification though.
In most cases, the flathead did not come with an oil filtration system; it wasn’t even an option until 1940. When Ford did introduce an oil filter, it was the bypass style, which meant that only a portion of the oil was filtered. Many builders don’t see the need for one, but if it’s on your wish list, kits are available from Bob Drake. Drake’s is a rather modern-looking assembly (it bolts to the original heads, not finned aluminum heads) with a billet holder for the filter. For a vintage-looking assembly, check the Speedway Motors/Offenhauser beehive-style filter. Another modern-looking remote kit is available from R&L Engines, while a re-creation of the old Hildebrandt beehive-style filter is available from O’Brien Truckers.
Oil Pump and Pickup Tube
Melling and Federal-Mogul/ Sealed Power are really the only two sources for oil pumps. Melling pumps are known worldwide for their accuracy and quality, and the company’s brand-new replacement oil pumps are manufactured from high-quality steel. They feature all-new components and are individually hand-turned and pressure tested to guarantee that they’ll perform like the originals. They are available in either standard or high-volume (HV); HV models pump 25 percent more oil. The 1949–1953 HV pump measures 51⁄2 inches from the mount surface to the bottom of the pump and is 11⁄4 inches longer than the standard pump. Consequently, the bottom of the pan will likely require modification to accept this additional depth. If this pump is to be used in a 1948 or older block, you also need Melling pickup tube PN 910-16259.
You may be able to salvage the oil pickup tube that came with your engine, because not all oil pickups are the same. The only new pickup tubes available are direct replacements in 1932–1947 car oil pans and 1932–1953 truck oil pans.
Pistons and Rings
Pistons are available from a number of manufacturers. Mahle has an easily navigable website, and it doesn’t take long to find the flathead offerings in the “Racing Components” catalog. Mahle offers pistons for bore sizes of 3.312, 3.342, and 3.375 with strokes of 4.000, 4.125, and 4.250 inches. All pistons come with rings.
Ross Pistons also has an easy-to-use website with quite a selection of pistons for both Ford and Mercury in bore sizes varying from 3.312 to 3.375 and strokes between 3.375 and 4.125 inches.
Scat manufactures forged aluminum pistons in a variety of sizes, from 3.312 to 3.375 diameters and in 4.000, 4.125, and 4.250-inch strokes. All options can easily be found on the website.
Plugs and Plug Wires
Choosing plugs for your rebuilt flathead might necessitate some trial and error as you break in the engine and ascertain what heat range is suitable for your location and driving style. You might need long-reach plugs for late Edelbrock and similar aluminum heads. They are available from Champion.
You have many choices for plug wires: everything from the original, cloth-covered style to high-tech options. If yellow is your choice, Accel (part of the MSD group) makes a 7-mm wire set with red caps. Wires are also available from Mallory, Moon, and Taylor; original-type plug wires cut to length, with original-style ends, are available from Bob Drake.
Many companies, including Falcon Performance, Kanters, Egge, H&H, and Northern Auto Parts, sell rebuild kits. These kits include all of the essentials, including pistons, rings, cam and bearings, gaskets, oil pump, cam, lifters, valves, guides, and springs. Kanters offers three kit levels: basic, master, and deluxe.
A rotating assembly, available from a supplier such as Scat, comprises the crank, rods, piston assemblies, and more often than not the rod and main bearings. A matched set of parts can be a good way to go.
Serpentine Belt Systems
There is something to be said for the reliability and efficiency of a serpentine belt system, but it’s not everybody’s choice for a traditional hot rod engine. March’s 1949–1953 serpentine belt system offers no-slip reliability and includes all mounting hardware, two water pumps with either 45- or 90-degree motor mounts, and powder-coated pulleys in a variety of finishes. Either 105- or 140-amp billet generators are optional.
A number of options are available when it comes to sleeves. Your machine shop probably has a supplier, but they are also available from Los Angeles Sleeve and Melling, as well as suppliers such as Dennis Carpenter, H&H, and Speedway.
Unfortunately, you don’t have a whole lot of options in the starter category. You can either have your original factory starter rebuilt and paint it or dress it up with an accessory cover, or you can opt for a new stock or compact Powermaster unit.
The flathead can have a visually low silhouette. Therefore, it can benefit from the visual impact of being blown. H&H offers two blower kits. The navarro blower kit,based on Barney Navarro’s original setup, employs a GMC 4-71 Roots-type Gilmer belt-driven supercharger and comes complete with manifold pulleys, belt tensioner, blower snout, and a three-carb intake manifold. Also available is a kit with a faithful reproduction of the SCoT (Supercharger Company of Turin) blower. The V-belt-driven blower kit includes everything needed for installation.
If your old timing cover is not serviceable, you can buy a new one from several sources, including TR Designs.
A few special tools make rebuilding the flathead easier. Manley offers a valve spring chamfering tool ,Mac’s has a nice stud extractor, and Van Pelt Sales has some necessary tools for both sale and rent.
As described in Chapter 6, flathead Ford V-8 valve seats can be non-existent in a badly used engine. It is highly recommend that you replace all 16, unless you are on a very tight budget.
Valves, after many years of use and combustion abuse, can be totally shot. If you’re building any kind of decent engine, a complete set of new stainless steel valves is mandatory.
Depending up the state of your engine, the water necks can be serviceable, broken, or corroded. A good selection for all sorts of configurations is available from H&H, Offenhauser, and Speedway.
You don’t have many choices when it comes to water pumps because they are engine specific; you need the right pump for the right block. Depending upon the year of your engine, new cast-iron and even polished aluminum pumps are available from Bob Drake and Speedway.
Written by Greg Kolasa and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks