The Life Cycle of the Ford Flathead V8: 1932 - 1953



1932
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

221     3.0625   3.750     5.5:1    65@3400                    18           


Carl Schmaltz, Ray Lard, and Mil Zoerlein, working in secret, take one of Henry Ford's ideas and turn it into a production item - the Ford flathead V8. The first production car comes off the line on March 9th, 1932. The new flathead features a single belt, two water pumps, a generator/fan combo, a Detroit Lubricator carburetor, and an aluminum intake manifold. The cylinder heads are held on with 21 studs. The main bearings are poured rabbit. Water enters the heads at the top center. On only the '32 models, the belt is adjusted by a single nut on the generator post mount, and the crankshaft is forged. Cast as a single unit block, many said the 90 degree V8 was an engineering impossibility. It looks like they might be right, for early engines suffer from casting pinholes, cracks or overheating. The motor acquires a reputation as an oil burner after 1000 miles. Oil sometimes surge away form the crankshaft bearings on hard turns, resulting in engine seizure. Only a few go into commercial vehicles. To combat these stories, a V8 car travels 33301 miles in 33 days on a 32 mile course across the Mojave desert. It averages 20 mpg for the trip.


1933
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

221     3.0625   3.750     6.33:1   75@3800                    40           


Aluminum heads and higher compression give 10 more HP. Improvements in ignition and cooling help make it more reliable.


1934
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

221     3.0625   3.750     6.33:1   85@3800                    40A          


Improvements such as a dual-downdraft carb (Stromberg Model 40) on a new intake manifold and a cast-alloy steel crankshaft (an industry first) add another 10 HP. The car is so well liked that famous people such as John Dillinger and Clyde Barrow write to Ford to compliment the company on such a fine car.


1935
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

221     3.0625   3.750     6.33:1   85@3800                    38           


A new cam and improved crankcase ventilation appear. The carb is now a Stromberg Model 48. The 2 millionth V8 car rolls off the production line in June.


1936
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

221     3.0625   3.750     6.33:1   85@3800                    68           


Engineers add increased cooling capacity and greater radiator area to alleviate cooling problems. The 3 millionth car rolls off the production line in June. The carb changes again, this time to a Stromberg 97 on all 85HP engines. The LB block has insert main bearings, all others still have poured babbit bearings.


1937
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

221     3.0625   3.750     6.2:1    85@3800                    78           
                           (1)                                              

221     3.0625   3.750     7.5:1    94@3800                    78           
                           (2)                                              

136     2.60     3.20               60@                        74           


(1) Aluminum heads (2) Cast iron heads

221CID uses Stromberg 97, 136CID uses Stronberg 81 carb.

A new, smaller, V8 enters production. Called the V8-60, it gives 70 mph speeds and the best gas mileage of any Ford built before. It is designed for European laws that tax on displacement, as well as British laws that tax on bore size. Important to racing history because it will break the Offy's hold on midget racing. The V8-60 has a gear type oil pump driven off the crank timing gear. The V8-60's heads use 17 studs, not the 21 studs of the larger V8. For this year only, the little V8 has sheet metal sides on the block. The V8-85 gets a larger, relocated water pump, larger insert main bearings, and new cast alloy-steel domed pistons.


1938
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

221     3.0625   3.750     6.12:1   85@3800                    81A          

136     2.60     3.20               60@          94lb-ft@      82A          


Mid-year, Ford switches from the Stromberg 97 to the Holley (Ford) carb. This is the last year for the main journal size introduced in 1937. The V8-60 is now all cast iron, like the larger V8-85.


1939
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

239.4   3.1875   3.750     6.3:1    95@3600                    99A          

221     3.0625   3.750     6.12:1   85@3800      155lb-ft@     91A          

136     2.60     3.20               60@          94 lb-ft@     922A         


The 6 millionth flathead V8 is built. The V8-85's torque increases to 155 lbs/ft thanks to a new Ford-built dual-downdraft carburetor. The heads use 24 studs, instead of the old 21 stud pattern. Mercury begins using a bored out version of the flathead, bringing displacement to 239.4 cid. The main journal increases in size again, where it will stay through the end of the line in 1953. The Mercury version introduces heavier rods and crank, and other strengthened internal components.


1940
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

239.4   3.1875   3.750     6.3:1    95@3600                    09A          

221     3.0625   3.750     6.12:1   85@3800      155lb-ft@     01A          

136     2.60     3.20               60@          94 lb-ft@     022A         


In June, the 7 millionth V8 is produced. This is the last year for the V8-60. The 239.4 motor is only in Mercury vehicles. Ford experiments with aluminum blocks. Ten aluminum engines are produced, with one showing up on the street in 1952.


1941
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

239.4   3.1875   3.750     6.3:1    95@3600                    19A          

221     3.0625   3.750     6.12:1   85@3800      155lb-ft@     11A          


The 239.4 motor is only in Mercury vehicles.


1942
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

239.4   3.1875   3.750     6.4:1    100@3800                   29A          

221     3.0625   3.750     6.2:1    90@3800      155lb-ft@     21A          


Ford's rates the V8 as 90 horsepower, even though the motor is mechanically unchanged. The ignition coil is no longer bolted directly to the distributor case. The distributor now has the "crab" flat cap and a traditional separate coil rather than the two piece distributor cap design. The 239.4 motor is only in Mercury vehicles. By this time Edelbrock is producing his first manifold, for dual Stromberg 97 carbs. A tiny handful of cars are produced with no chrome just before civilian automobile production ends. These "blackout" cars are extremely rare today.


1943 - 1945

Ford, and everyone else, is busy making war materials. No new cars are produced.
JOHN HALE <jandjhale@fuse.net> adds:
"In 1943-1945 FORD did produce flatheads for some british military vehicals. FORD also made a 500 hp. overhead valve engine for the M4A3
Sherman tank. My father rebuilt a flathead last year and all the parts seemed to be military surplus."


1946
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

239.4   3.1875   3.750     6.8:1    100@3600                   69A Ford     

239.4   3.1875   3.750     6.8:1    100@3600                   59A Mercury  


Fords get Mercury's larger flathead. It has new pressurized cooling, revised aluminum pistons, and silver alloy bearings for longer life. The rod journal size is increased. To reduce cracking, the angle between the valves (passenger's side to driver's side) is decreased from 101.5 degrees to 100 degrees. The fan is moved up to just above the distributor to spray less water over the engine in wet weather. The distributor gets a new one piece cap, eliminating the old two piece system.


1947
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

239.4   3.1875   3.750     6.8:1    100@3600                   79A Ford     

239.4   3.1875   3.750     6.8:1    100@3600                   59A Mercury  



1948
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

336.7   3.50     4.38               145@         225 lb-ft@                 

239.4   3.1875   3.750     6.8:1    100@3600                   89A Ford     

239.4   3.1875   3.750     6.8:1    100@3600                   59A Mercury  




The F7 and F8 trucks get a 336.7 cid version of the flathead.  The F series trucks get the updated flathead (see the 1949 changes).


1949
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

336.7   3.50     4.38               152@         265 lb-ft@                 

336.7   3.50     4.38               145@         225 lb-ft@                 

255.4   3.1875   4.00      6.8:1    112@3800                   CM           

239.4   3.1875   3.750     6.8:1    100@3600                   98BA         


336.7 cid motor in the F7 and the F8 trucks is also available in the Lincoln line. The Lincoln version has increased compression to make more power than the truck motor. Mercury's V8 gets stroked for increased horsepower. There are some major mechanical changes to the flathead this year. The bellhousing is no longer cast as part of the block. The oil pump changes to a shorter, straight cut gear pump for higher oil pressure. The water now runs directly to the back of the block from a larger radiator. There are new valve guides, improved intake and exhaust systems, and locked in connecting rod bearings replacing the older floating bearings. The distributor is now a modern design, relocated above the front of the right side cylinder bank amd set up to be shaft and gear driven. The distributor drive on the cam changes from the old slot to a gear drive. The fan pitch, cam, and exhaust are modified to make less noise. (The early-'49 cam is milder than the late-'49 to '51 cam.) The coolant holes in the decks and heads are repositioned for better coolant flow to the rear of the block. The water outlets move to the front of the heads. There are better main caps and stronger main bearing webs. Over-all, there are 21 minor revisions to improve idling, valve and cam wear, and cylinder head stress.


1950
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

336.7   3.50     4.38               152@         265 lb-ft@                 

336.7   3.50     4.38               145@         225 lb-ft@                 

255.4   3.1875   4.00      6.8:1    112@3800                   CM           

239.4   3.1875   3.750     6.8:1    100@3600                   8BA          


336.7 cid motor in F7 and F8 trucks also available in Lincoln line. The Lincoln version has increased compression to make more power than the truck motor. 255.4 cid is available to only in a Mercury, except for a Police Interceptor package using the Mercury engine in a Ford car. The V8 gets a composition timing gear, revised pistons to cut cold start piston slap, and new cam to reduce tappet noise, and a 3 blade fan that is driven slower than the old 4 blade fan. The Mercury V8 gets a new cam, but rated power does not change.
ENFO <ENFO@prodigy.net> adds:
"I HAVE A GOOD FREIND IN ENGLAND WHO IS RESTORING A 1950 FORD PILOT. THIS CAR INCORPORATED THE FLATHEAD 60 V8, BUT THERE APPARENTLY WERE SOME SMALL DIFFERENCES IN THE COMPONENT PARTS (DISTRIBUTOR, CARB ECT.)"


1951
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

336.7   3.50     4.38               154@         265 lb-ft@                 

336.7   3.50     4.38               145@         225 lb-ft@                 

255.4   3.1875   4.00      6.8:1    112@3800                   CM           

239.4   3.1875   3.750     6.8:1    100@3600                   8BA          


The Ford V8 gets a new water pump, cam, offset piston pins, and valve rotators. The 7lb pressure radiator cap is introduced, raising the boiling point of the cooling system from 212F to 230F. The 336.7 cid motor is in F7 and F8 trucks. Dick Fullmer hits 119.92 mph trap speed at a drag race using a 312 cid motor in a very light car. Ford ads list the "43 ‘Look Ahead’ features and the new FORDomatic Drive." Most of the features relate to the overall car, but one engine improvement is listed. Called the Automatic Mileage Maker, it "Matches timing to fuel charges so every drop of gasoline is used - none wasted. New Waterproof Ignition System prevents being shorted out by moisture."


1952
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

336.7   3.50     4.38               145@         225 lb-ft@                 

255.4   3.1875   4.00      6.8:1    125@                       CM           

239.4   3.1875   3.750     6.8:1    110@3600                   8BA          

239.4   3.1875   3.750     6.8:1    106@3600                                


Lincoln gets an OHV V8. The Mercury 255.4 cid engine gets higher compression, boosting power to 125 HP. The mechanically unchanged 239.4 Ford V8 is called the "Strato-Star" and gets rated at 110 HP. In F series trucks, a higher lift cam raises the truck HP to 106. The 336.7 cid motor is in F7 and F8 trucks.


1953
CID     Bore "   Stroke "  Comp.    HP@RPM       Torque@RPM    Model        

336.7   3.50     4.38               145@         225 lb-ft@                 

255.4   3.1875   4.00      6.8:1    125@                       CM           

239.4   3.1875   3.750     6.8:1    110@3600                   8BA          


Ford's 50th anniversary year and the last year for the flathead in the U.S. The 336.7 cid motor is in F7 and F8 trucks. The smaller F series trucks get the passenger car 110 HP engine.


After 1953

Ford blesses Canadian and Australian customers with one more year of flathead fun, they don't get the y-block until 1955. Carlos Farjoun (farjoun@sti.com.br) writes: "The flathead was produced here since 1960? till 1969, in the Simcas. A funny thing: in its last year, it was made by Chrysler do Brasil!"


Copyright on the comments from visitors (noted with name and email address) belongs to the author.

Thanks, and please send info to help make this history grow.

Back to the main flathead page.