Mr. Ford Muscles Up

March 25, 2016

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By Matt Wolfe

March 31, 1932, Ford Motor Company Introduces the “Flathead V8.”

While not the first V-8 engine, the Ford Flathead is recognized as the motor that brought power to the people. The Flathead was first introduced in the 1932 Ford Model 18, one of the successors to the Model A. The Model 18 marked a major milestone in American automotive history as the first reasonably-priced automobile offered with an optional V8.

Upon its introduction, the engine displaced 221 cu. in. (3.6 liters), and produced 65 hp. That figure may seem paltry now, but compared to contemporary 4-cylinder engines, the Ford V8 was a rocket, and its output was further increased in later years thanks to carburetor and ignition improvements. Though Ford tinkered with their engine, their improvements were nothing compared to what their customers had in store for it.

Thanks to its low cost and wide availability, the Flathead Ford became the backbone of the post WWII hot-rodding community. Companies like Edelbrock, the first to offer a performance cylinder head for the Ford V8, and Holly Performance, the famous carburetor company that supplied Ford with carburetors for the Model T, owe much of their aftermarket business success to the popularity of the Ford V8.

Produced until 1953, the Flathead V8’s production run was even longer than that of the Model T. It was named one of Ward’s 10 best engines of the 20th century, and remains a popular power plant for classic car enthusiasts today. Over its lifespan, Flathead V8 became more than just a motor, it became an American cultural icon.

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