For the Love of the Flathead V8
What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word Hot Rod? Maybe it brings back a memory of your neighbors 1955 Chevy Hardtop burn out machine, a family members classic car you remember riding in as a kid or even your very own old school car.
If you are reading this I would be willing to bet the term 'Hot Rod' triggers some kind of thought, memory or emotion. For me it’s all about emotions. I rarely remember or store any memories for something that didn’t have an emotional effect on me. If it didn’t make me feel some kind of way, I pretty much dismissed it.
Fortunately for me my very first “Hot Rod” memories definitely come with emotion. The roots of these memories come with the time spent with my grandfather on our family farm. I was the oldest of four children and from a very young age I spent the majority of my summer days with him. We did all kinds of things from chores, to checking the irrigation pipes, keeping the cattle in check or spending time at the local German Club playing cards. It was time well spent with a true all American. He was a Korean War Vet and my Hero.
During this time I learned some basic mechanical skills servicing the fleet of tractors and tow rigs we had. I learned what it took to take good care of something that absolutely had to last. These machines had to work at the right time. Usually to keep something functioning you must service that machine and service it with good parts. I believe this is where my love for mechanics started and never really stopped!
On this farm the vehicles we drove were FORDS! Some of the Tractors were even Fords. My Grandmother LOVED Ford vehicles. From the 1958 Ford Sedan my Grandfather bought for her right off the dealership floor, to the later model Supercharged T bird and the Ford Escape she currently drives. He purchased the 1958 Ford sedan to pick up my Grandmother and my new baby Aunt up from the hospital! One of the many stories I love to hear about him.
Ford offers a heritage unlike any other and this heritage has been passed down to me. My father still takes care of the family farm to this day. Can you guess what his beater truck of choice is? Yep, you guessed it, an older Ford F150.
Even though I mostly worked on tractors at a young age, some people would argue that those aren’t Hot Rods. I would probably be up for a debate on that. Especially when it’s the first four wheeled machine I was allowed to operate at eight years old by myself, and I was able to bump that throttle rod until it won’t go any higher and scream down a gravel road free as could be. I’d say it’s a Hot Rod! Although, by today’s standards my parents could probably go to jail for letting an eight year old operate a tractor, it was something from my past that shaped who I am today.
In their defense I was only able to drive about a quarter mile to the first drive of our cornfield. That was still pure freedom and 10-20 mph at eight years old felt amazing! Seeing the exhaust flapper fly up, some smoke barrel out the pipe and the tone of the engine revving up was more than enough for me, at least for a short while. The wind blew through my hair and the smile on my face couldn’t get any bigger, it wouldn’t take long for the go fast bug to get into my blood.
The reality would hit when I would have to throttle down and make my turn. It was time to work! I would do whatever I could just to get the job done and get my chance at driving the tractor back to the homestead. I just wanted to rip down the gravel again. It was something I lived for. The next time grandpa would let me drive any vehicle I could, was the next best moment of my life.
There were things done in my grandmothers supercharged T bird that I wouldn’t dare to speak about or even tell that story in public! I still remember my grandpa questioning why she needed tires so often and that he wouldn’t buy ‘such and such’ brand ever again because they didn’t last. HaHa! Stories about cars and life? I have got them.
I have many stories about the machines I was able to drive and operate at a young age that I could write a book about that alone. I also heard a lot of stories about my grandfather and the things that happened in his lifetime. You would think it would be the fact that my grandpa started a farm with literally nothing and that farm is still here today. Or that fact that he had dozens of War medals for his sharp shooting ability.
However, my favorite story of his has shaped basically everything I believe in that makes a Hot Rod a Hot Rod. This story starts with my grandpa purchasing a brand new 1949 pickup from the local Ford dealership. This truck was driven and worked hard on the farm from that very day until 1971 when he traded it in. Do the math- that’s twenty-two years of service.
The power plant was a super smooth running “powerful” 8BA Ford Flathead V8. The story is told to me like this- My grandpa drove this 1949 Ford Truck for twenty-two years with regular maintenance only and the flattie was never torn open for an issue. No blow by, over heating or cylinder head issues and he never even replaced one of the water pumps! He changed the oil and air filter often. He worked it hard, serviced it and then repeated it over and over for more than two decades.
This story is incredible when I think about my LS powered 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ dropping a valve at under 100,000 miles and the fact that it “loses” a quart of oil per oil change! The base of this Flathead story and a few particular Flathead powered Hot Rods I ran into was all I needed to shape the way I feel about these motors and the term Hot Rod in itself.
It only took one time of me hearing a heavily modified 8BA to ensure my love for these motors wasn’t a fallacy. This motor was cammed out, had loud pipes and ripped! That combo was enough to make me fall even harder for the Flathead V8. I will remember that feeling and the tone of that motor revving up till the day I die.
I would argue with anyone that Speedway Motors would not be the business that it is today without the invention of this motor and I would not be writing to you today with so much passion had that motor disappointed my grandfather or myself in any of my endeavors with them. Even though I may only be able to wrench on Flatheads for a short while they will be in my Heart FOREVER.