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Technical Are heads worth the cost on a flathead?

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by Machwon169, Apr 27, 2019.

  1. aaggie
    Joined: Nov 21, 2009
    Posts: 2,531


    I will catch flack but here goes, Flathead Ford V8s are cool and nostalgic but not very powerful or sturdy. The connecting rods are long and break easily when leaned on. Valves are shrouded and don't flow good unless you spend a lot of time and/or money to relieve them. They have cooling issues and oiling problems. All that said, a clean Model A with a multi carb flathead will always make you smile.
    belair, firingorder1 and Hombre like this.
  2. zzford
    Joined: May 5, 2005
    Posts: 1,822


    The worst part about flatheads is that it costs so much to go so slow!
  3. Ziggster
    Joined: Aug 27, 2018
    Posts: 585


    Someone recently had a set of new never used Edelbrock heads. When I contacted him, he wanted retail price. Crazy. I also know someone who has several Ford OEM aluminum heads, and he doesn't want to part with any of them. I figure I can add that stuff later when I feel like or can afford it. Will be using bolts though vs studs.
  4. 3340
    Joined: Jun 4, 2010
    Posts: 557


    [​IMG]. Stock works for me

    Sent from my iPhone using H.A.M.B.
    31fords, dmdeaton, RustyDogg and 5 others like this.
  5. Hombre
    Joined: Aug 22, 2008
    Posts: 1,030


    While your question was aimed at performance and the cost vs the rewards. I think there is more to the question "Are heads worth the cost on a Flathead?"

    I do not believe that you will get a lot of gains "Just" from the heads alone. Several flathead guys have chimed in and I certainly bow to there opinions on this. However sometimes we as Hot Rodders do stuff for more than just performance. There is nothing like a Flathead Ford with a set of finned Aluminum heads, that alone is more than worth the cost's. So Are the heads worth the cost's? From that perspective alone I say Hell Yes!!
    nunattax and Clay Belt like this.
  6. dsiddons
    Joined: Mar 6, 2006
    Posts: 1,416

    from Indiana

    Rare speed equipment can’t be beat. Anything else is stuff that turns you on. And does nothing for the performance. It’s what’s inside that counts. No matter what you do it will be the most expensive turd you will ever build. One thing that can’t be beat is the sound. But a lot of people really work hard to put mufflers behind them and then they sound like shit. YouTube flathead straight pipes. A couple videos of 2” or so pipes all the way back on there. Can’t be beat.

    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    blowby likes this.
  7. banjorear
    Joined: Jul 30, 2004
    Posts: 3,792


    Agreed. Going with 1 3/4 mandrel pipe headers, into a 3' 1 3/4" straight into cut in half '36 drive shafts. Should wake the dead upon start up. WHAAAAPPPPPP!!!!!
    dsiddons likes this.
  8. Sod Buster
    Joined: Feb 28, 2019
    Posts: 177

    Sod Buster

    Slow is good.
    Clean it paint it call it good.


  9. There is an excellent book out there by JWL - he is on the Fordbarn - that goes through with real world testing what you are asking about heads, cams, intakes, etc and what does what for a flathead. My avatar is a flathead, 5-speed with an open drive banjo rear. The flathead is basically stock with a “Y” adapter running 2 94s progressively, new sealed bearing water pumps, Prrtronix ignition crab distributor by Bubba’s. The car has been all over the country and at 75-85 mph. Gearing and the right selection of components will not make a speed demon off the line but one heck of a dependable little engine that can keep up with all ohv engines.

    Aluminum heads are fantastic looking but if not matched to the rest of the build, will only be an expensive “cool” look. Hell, just running a flattie at the speeds I am I am super happy with.

    Any questions you might have, PM me - I am no flathead guru but with proper planning you will enjoy every nickel spent with the biggest smile on your face every time you drive it .....
    sidevalve8ba and Blues4U like this.
  10. oldbanger71
    Joined: Nov 18, 2008
    Posts: 131


    Depends if you want low rpm torque (below 3000 rpm for everyday fun ) keep the stock cam and add the edelbrock milled heads, they clear the valves fine, and have more watercapacity, 8:1 compression and the looks. The pair about 730 USD. Use two genuine Stromberg 97 carbs. Not the repro crap.
    Depends what intakt you have, with the dual super offenhauser, i found better athomisation with 2" carb spacer. Take care that you have korrect timingmarks on the Block and pully, it's a sensible think to do, while the heads are off.

    On the otherhand if you want top speed, go for the isky max 1 cam and all the expensive go fast stuff, but there you need also the good stuff IN the engine to not wreck the whole thing. With the no stock cam, you sacrefie low torque power.

    For i decent dayrunner, i would ditch the Performance cam... Just my experiance

    By the way mine is a '46 Ford 3.9 Liter. Edelbrock dual super .two Stromberg 97
    Electronic crab two bolt dizzy from Bubba's..... ...
    2" carbspacer, offenhauser heads original. And the isky max 1 cam... Which i will take out on the next overhoul.....just my two Cent.
    town sedan likes this.
  11. I'll bet it was. For the longest time here on the HAMB it was flatty or 235, the Jimmy 6 is the overlooked inline motor of the '50s and was a damned torque bugger. I probably don't have the cash or the time left to properly build a Jimmy 6 but if I had a bucket list it is one that I would sure have on it. ;)
  12. 55styleliner
    Joined: May 11, 2015
    Posts: 549


    I literally threw the book (checkbook) at my flattie. 286”, cam, 1.6” valves, ported, relieved, balanced, etc and so on. Now, I will guarantee you that it will open the eyes of the naysayers here (north of 200hp in a Model A) it is still not fast by today’s standards. But I can cruise comfortably at 80mph and I haven’t been brave enough to find top speed that is well north of 100mph. How does that relate to your head question? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t have my A any other way.

    x77matt, cederholm, TomT and 7 others like this.
  13. banjorear
    Joined: Jul 30, 2004
    Posts: 3,792


    Haha. Yep. I have little doubt that when my 297" motor is done, I'll have $5-6K in it and that is with me supplying majority of the parts. The pistons alone for my engine were $700.

    Normally I'm pretty frugal and try not to spend money on things that aren't necessary. This project is certainly testing my limits.

    Is a big flatty with all of the eye candy on it worth it in dollars & cents? Maybe not. Has it been my dream to have an AV8 powered car? Yep, so I'm willing to spend a little more to get the engine I've always wanted.

    I also believe in doing it right the first time. My builder may be the best guy in the business and has set a number of land speed records with his own flathead powered cars. I trust him completely and when he says we should do something, I do it.

    Getting back to the original question. Just throwing on heads with no other changes may be of little to no gain. Too many variables to tell. On a normally aspirated engine that has been worked over, yes A/M aluminum heads are worth it.

    Mine motor is also going into a Model A and should be a runner for sure.
    Last edited: May 1, 2019
  14. 55styleliner
    Joined: May 11, 2015
    Posts: 549


    I doubt I would spend the money on the heads without at least springing for a cam as well.
  15. Navarro heads and intakes as a set work the best. Barney designed them to flow better, Check H & H in La Crecenta Ca. they make and sell Navarro equipment.
  16. deathrowdave
    Joined: May 27, 2014
    Posts: 2,184

    from NKy

    The raising the compression also effects the effects of “ heat of compression “ . I would mill a your set of cast iron heads and be done . It’s a crap shoot if you notice the difference , a drag car maybe , a street car doubt it . But the looks go over the top . I have done this type of hop up , my self many times , the big cam just for the lumpy idle , the big gear set , the dual point on the street , the Holley carb that was as long as an aircraft carrier , just a few that come to mind . Use your $$ on a good set of brakes and steering , the engine will be the least of your worries .
    Never2low likes this.
  17. chiro
    Joined: Jun 23, 2008
    Posts: 853


    Stay with the Flathead. Nothing looks better in an "A' hot rod. Nobody goes, "OOOOOHHHH" when the see a 350/350. I got my flatty for $400.00 in unknown, possibly boat anchor, condition. Turned out to be a good motor. Found a very nice pair of 9:1 Edelbrock heads for it at Hershey for $250.00 and a Edmunds Custom two carb manifold for $180.00 at Hershey. Motor had been rebuilt at some point and had low miles on it. 0.30 over cylinders, cross hatching from the honing still clearly visible. No ridge at top of cylinders. Cost me another $1000.00 to have it put together and get running. Has 150 lbs. compression in all cylinders and runs like a raped ape. Sounds great, looks great, and I'm the only flathead powered hot rod at any local cruise I go to. Don't regret it for a minute.
  18. cederholm
    Joined: May 6, 2006
    Posts: 1,621


    Love this motor!

    55styleliner likes this.
  19. dan c
    Joined: Jan 30, 2012
    Posts: 2,126

    dan c

    can't beat the looks of the finned heads, but: cast iron heads breathe better for a lot less $ (ask joe abbin of supercharger fame). and breathing is what you need. iron heads expand/contract at the same rate as the block, too! pretty hard to strip spark plug threads in the iron heads...
    Truckdoctor Andy likes this.
  20. banjorear
    Joined: Jul 30, 2004
    Posts: 3,792


    There are certainly different ways to do it and Joe's book is an incredible resource for building a blown flathead.

    Normally aspirated is a different engine. Without boost, you are trying to have your cake and eat it too. You want compression and you want breathing. With a flathead, sometimes these priorities fight with one another.

    What separates a good engine from a great engine is how you accomplish this. Many different ways and many different tricks, but I wouldn't make a blanket statement saying cast iron is better.

    It may in your application, but not so much in another.

    Just my two cents.
    kadillackid and 55styleliner like this.
  21. boo
    Joined: Jul 6, 2005
    Posts: 545

    from stuart,fl.

    GEE!if you want to build cheep then plan ahead, i have 2 flathead cars that i have less than $500 in eng w/all alum. extras, started bying flt hd parts in early 70's, heads -$30, intk $15, good eng $150-200. OH! i forgot i'm over 150 years old.
    belair and town sedan like this.
  22. louisb
    Joined: Oct 13, 2008
    Posts: 991


    Of course you could always polish up a set of stock aluminum heads.


    These have been polished and milled for compression. Unfortunately the block they are bolted to turned out to be a boat anchor. Went through six blocks before finding a good one. Will be 3 3/8” x 4” when done. I am too scared to add up the cost but it’s well north of $7K.

    48fordnut, hfh, dmdeaton and 3 others like this.
  23. banjorear
    Joined: Jul 30, 2004
    Posts: 3,792


    I feel your pain, Louis. I guess I'm lucky for I only went through five blocks. Finding a good block was one of the most frustrating experiences of the build.
    louisb likes this.
  24. louisb
    Joined: Oct 13, 2008
    Posts: 991


    Yeah it is what everyone I have talked to is saying. Good blocks are getting really hard to find. If I do another FH it will use a French block.

  25. banjorear
    Joined: Jul 30, 2004
    Posts: 3,792


    I seriously considered that. If I stumble upon a French block in my travels, I will jump on it if the price is right.
  26. town sedan
    Joined: Aug 18, 2011
    Posts: 1,290

    town sedan

    Or possibly Tod, aka 427designer, will get a chance to finish his new flathead block. I've been following his adventures and he stays plenty busy making Ford banger parts.
  27. dmdeaton
    Joined: Nov 25, 2017
    Posts: 468


    Price isn’t that bad on a new French block if u add up all the time and money spent weeding out the junk blocks
    Shipping gets me from California to Ohio
    I did buy a new set of French rods though
    town sedan and louisb like this.
  28. birdman1
    Joined: Dec 6, 2012
    Posts: 973


    the high compression heads do raise compression, but the problem is the head is closer to the block area between the valves and the piston, creating a restriction of the air flow. so some used to relieve the block in the area between the valves and the piston, effectively increasing the combustion chamber volume and lowering the compression. If you want a little more power, get some headers and a 3/4 race cam, and 3x2 intake. I used to run a 1951 Merc engine in my 1953 Ford Mainline, thought I really had a hot rod.LOL
  29. Cliff Ramsdell
    Joined: Dec 27, 2004
    Posts: 1,227

    Cliff Ramsdell

    I had the same thoughts. I started with a well used 59AB and had everything to put a 392 Hemi into my Model A.

    After 3 years of driving I was hooked on the flathead, all 50 hp of its worn out self. I found a 276” motor for sale close to me. Rebuilt and never run all the bling was gone (Aluminum heads, 3 carb intake, ignition, headers) but the good stuff was left (.125 over 59AB, 4” merc crank, isky cam, adjustable lifters)

    My car has a stock heads because I couldn’t see $750 for new or $500 for vintage used. 2 carb sharp intake, headers, pertronics ignition and 3:54 gears the car moves right along with the stock 3 speed transmission.

    Cliff Ramsdell
    3F1C539F-E626-4098-A3D6-84098BB37C76.jpeg 8897629D-B8BA-4A63-95A5-AFAF433E9C47.jpeg

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