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Bolt-on Speed & Performance for the Flathead V-8

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 9/16/2019 Gerry Burger
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When we left you in our last issue we had just heard the last click of the torque wrench bringing our new Sharp finned aluminum heads down into perfect contact with our vintage 59AB Flathead Ford V-8 block. We had also installed a new rear main seal, oil pan, and happily discovered the internals of our good-running Flathead were in good condition. With the bottom end sealed up and the heads in place it was time to turn our attention to the topside of the motor, continuing the "glory work" of installing the Sharp two-deuce intake and other performance upgrades. 


Of course before you can install a new aluminum intake the old cast-iron intake must be removed. First we lifted the original style, Ford script, and carburetor off the intake and set it aside and did the same with the fuel pump and breather tube. Then we unbolted the original intake and set about cleaning any remaining gasket material from the block. Take every precaution you can to ensure none of this old material finds its way into the engine.

When it came time for torque specs we referred to the Ford Flathead EnginesThe Complete Ford Flathead V8 Manual published by The Hot Rod Library and penned by our own Ron Ceridono (available directly from Ron at With the intake torqued down we opened the box from Summit Racing containing two Stromberg carburetors and a Stromberg Flathead electronic distributor. These are the moments every hot rodder lives for; getting a Summit Racing Equipment box filled with speed equipment is like Christmas in March. Opening the boxes produced two carburetors that were nothing less than gorgeous. The metal finish and movements of these brand-new Strombergs is stunning.

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Complete with gaskets it took no time at all to bolt them atop the Sharp intake. Continuing with the installation of "eye-candy speed equipment" we bolted a pair of Edmunds Custom aluminum air cleaners from O'Brien Truckers. Once again, a faithful reproduction of the original, the polished air breathers was period-perfect in every way. 

Next, we turned our attention to the front of the engine to install two new Speedway Motors water pumps. The Flathead Ford has two water pumps that also incorporate the motor mounts. While our motor did not overheat and neither water pump was leaking we thought it was wise to install two new pumps. We opted for the Speedway Motors pumps because of the improved ceramic seals and the improved impeller design. Once again this proved to be a simple remove, clean the gasket and bolt on the new parts. The pumps were a perfect fit that should keep our very cool motor cool. Next up was the Stromberg distributor.

The Stromberg e-Fire distributor is a fully electronic unit. It is compact and finished as nicely as the carburetors. Before installing the distributor we rotated the motor to ensure the number one cylinder was at top dead center. There are many ways to do this; we still use the simple "hold your finger over the spark plug hole" method. Rotate the motor, when the compression blows past your finger the number one cylinder is at top dead center on the firing stroke. We then installed the new Stromberg distributor with the rotor pointing toward the number one piston.

With the distributor in place it was time to route our vintage-style, cotton braid ignition wires through the Speedway Motors ignition wire looms. It should be noted that the new electronic distributor requires the use of modern suppression or spiral-wound style wires. It is also worthy to note the Stromberg e-Fire distributor comes with a great instruction booklet; read it.

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Now these looms are designed for 7mm ignition wires and our vintage-style cotton braid wires are listed as 7mm wires. However, it appears the cotton braid is installed over a modern 7mm wire, so what we have is a slightly plus-sized 7mm wire. This proved to make routing the wires through the loom very tight. After much effort we devised a method to "pull wire" rather than attempt to push the wire. When you push wire into a tight hole you effectively expand the wire, create friction, and the harder you push the more the wire expands. Pulling a wire reverses all of this. After puncturing the wire with a sharp scribe we used a long piece of MIG welding wire through the hole and twisted it together.

A pair of pliers compressed the welding wire so it was effectively smaller than the ignition wire. We added a coating of clear electrical grease to the outside of the wire and were amazed at how easily wires pulled through the loom. After feeding the wires through the loom we cut, crimped, and installed the wires into the distributor cap, making sure the wires were routed inboard and close to the block to avoid the fan belt. 

In keeping early style dressup of our motor we added a chrome cover to our 12V generator and mounted it to the Sharp intake manifold. We installed a new fan belt to complete the front of the motor.

With intake and spark taken care of it was time to deal with the exhaust. Our engine had headers on it when we purchased the car. They were in good condition and fit the rest of the exhaust system so we saw no need to change. However the headers did have some minor surface rust in areas and the finish had long since faded. We decided to spend a couple hours giving them a detailed cleaning and sanding down to metal. We then applied three coats (allow dry time in between coats) of Summit Racing Equipment High Heat paint.

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While white might have been more traditional color we opted for their Cast Iron Gray. Following the directions on the can we sprayed the headers, let them dry, and then we fired up the backyard grille and baked those bad boys to 500 degrees for 10 minutes and then allowed them to cool slowly. Ah yes, nothing like headers on the barbie. We did this three times and while we have not fired the motor yet all we can say is the finish on our headers is perfect. 

And just like that we were done hopping up our Flathead. The engine looks great, will perform better, and weigh less so we covered all three of the basics of hot rodding. Next up we will be adapting an S-10 T5 transmission to the back of our 59AB Flathead motor, so stay tuned.


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