Monday, June 7, 2010

Power Plant Preference

What scores highest in power plants for traditional hot rods?

In my opinion, the best engines to power a 1932 Ford roadster are:

10 out of 10 is the Ardun OHV conversion on a flathead
9 is a hopped up 24-stud flathead Ford
8 is a stock flathead 24-stud, OR vintage early race engine; Offy OHC for instance
7 is souped-up 4-banger Model A or B
6 is an ‘other’ brand vintage V8 engine, ie; Nailhead, Rocket 88, Chrysler hemi, Ford 292
5 is lesser Ford flatheads
4 is a vintagly dressed-up early Chevy V8
3 is a less-then vintage V8; Ford 289, FE, 429, Mopar, or anything late 60’s & newer
2 is a plain-jane Chevy 350 or Ford small block V8, or anything fuel injected
1 is any import engine

At the top, only one engine deserves to score a 10 out of 10, honestly it isn’t even really the engine but an add-on; It is the historical Ardun overhead valve conversion for the Ford flathead V8. No part can deserve as much respect from hot rod guys; its presence alone is awe inspiring, even to well-seasoned parts junkies.
Numbers 10-7 are all early Fords due mostly to tradition. But number 8 included race engines from the 30’s to the 50’s, because I couldn’t think of a better place to put it, and they can be some of the coolest looking things you ever did see.

At the bottom, numbers 3-1 are the least desirable, least imaginative choices for engines. If you are bothering to build semi-nostalgic ’32 roadster, steel or even fiberglass, and are considering any engine at the bottom of my list, Stop Now! You are wasting your time, nobody want to see a Ford 302 or a LS1. It just shows poor planning, a lack of imagination, and come with sorry excuses. Vintage engines are still available and worth any extra effort to use them, plus make great conversation pieces.

Here is what a legitimate Offy race engine looks like in a Model A. It's just so rare to see. Owned by Bob Anderson.


  1. The lesser Ford flatheads must be the little 60. The '32 roadster may be a bit too heavy for any known form of the 60 although it may be enough for a lighter open wheel roadster where the flathead look and sound play into a retro theme that for the most part, never was. Streetable performance will be tough to achieve however. Good Luck! Fred A

  2. Lighter yet is the new modular motors, like the 4.6, 5.0, and 5.4. FRPP (ford racing performance parts) sells all of these as crate engines, but they are quite a bit more high tech, and are really suited more to fuel injection than carbeuration. That leads to a lot of wiring, but it's cool when people pull it off.

  3. Up to this time, Ford had produced only one "model" at each time with range of body options and retained the idea of a single basic platform, despite the engine choice and two associated model designations. This explains why the colloquial name "Ford V‑8" by itself was sufficiently descriptive in the early 1930s; it was the Ford with a V‑8, unlike in later decades, when the paradigm of various models to a make became universal.