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Technical Building a 221 flathead

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by draggin49, Mar 8, 2018.

  1. draggin49
    Joined: Jun 9, 2014
    Posts: 44


    I know most people opt for larger cubic inch flatheads but was curious about specifically building the original 221 flathead .
    I picked up a car that has the original motor in place . It runs well but was debating on modifying it to make some extra power .
    I’m new to flatheads so I didn’t know if there was a reason you see less built 221’s aside from having less cubic inches .

    Figured guys on here would know of some that have built them or could explain if it would even be worth doing
  2. Petejoe
    Joined: Nov 27, 2002
    Posts: 9,560

    from Zoar, Ohio

    The 221 covers a lot of engineering changes from
    1932 thru 1937. The main thing I’d stay away from is the pour Babbitt vs the insert type main bearings.
    The 21 stud engines aren’t as smooth and powerful as the later engines. The later post 37 engines have more aftermarket goodies.
    Aftermarket parts for the early engines are rare and expensive.
    The 221’s can be found in lighter Hotrod’s vs heavier Hotrod coupes/sedans.
    If it were me I’d run a 221 but I’d definitely wouldn’t put any money in them.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018
  3. Jimmy2car
    Joined: Nov 26, 2003
    Posts: 1,702

    from No. Cal

    Go to the Ford Barn
    Look up Lawrie.
    All questions will be answered,
    221 is good engine
  4. patmanta
    Joined: May 10, 2011
    Posts: 3,038

    from Woburn, MA

    What year and body is the car, that would help to know.

    If it were me, I'd swap in a later engine and put the 221 in a stripped down T, give it dual exhaust and maybe an extra carb.

    But if you don't mind spending around twice the money on speed parts, you can build one up.
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  5. draggin49
    Joined: Jun 9, 2014
    Posts: 44


    Car is a 1932 roadster , it’s got the original flathead v8 . I have a another motor (392 hemi)
    but am not sure I want to cut up the original firewall to make it fit .
  6. draggin49
    Joined: Jun 9, 2014
    Posts: 44


  7. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 8,500

    Rusty O'Toole

    First rule is, if you have an original engine and baby it, it can last for many thousand miles. If you hop it up it will blow sky high in a month. Have seen this happen more than once.

    Second are you nuts? There must be like 2 unmodified original 32 Fords in the universe that still have the original engine and you want to mess with it? Sell it to a restorer for big bucks and build a hot rod from something that is already butchered.
    Clay Belt, FlatJan, Never2low and 3 others like this.
  8. Petejoe
    Joined: Nov 27, 2002
    Posts: 9,560

    from Zoar, Ohio

    I agree ^^^^.
    That roadster would make a perfect pre-war Hotrod.
    17” wires with skinny bias ply, stressed Leather seats and that great original 32 flathead is the cats ass.
    Never2low, patmanta and slv63 like this.
    Joined: Feb 16, 2016
    Posts: 53


    That's a good looking car. I would drive the wheels off of it as-is.
  10. Atwater Mike
    Joined: May 31, 2002
    Posts: 8,677

    Atwater Mike

    My bud and I built a channeled '30 'A' coupe, his Dad wanted the stock running gear, (he had an A-V8 so we just traded chassis. Dad's frame had a '37 221 engine and '39 box, '37 'X' member grafted in.
    Hedman headers & dual exhaust were the only 'mods'.
    He sold it to me, I replaced the engine with a .030" over fresh 221, (also a 1937) Weber F2 cam, matched ports, Offie 2 jugger, 94s. Surprisingly fast, went from Santa Clara to Long Beach, then San Diego, numerous times. L.A. back-and-forth trips had to number 20 times, freeway speeds 65 MPH, 3.78 rear, 7.00 X 16s. Engine was still in great shape when sold, new owner changed it over to Nailhead.
    I have a 221 core I keep walking past, Red's Headers has bearings and some 'hard parts'...Back burner for now...I like those little buggers!
    31ster likes this.
  11. Atwater Mike
    Joined: May 31, 2002
    Posts: 8,677

    Atwater Mike

    As I mentioned above...Hedman headers and a 2 jugger. Never mind the cam.
    That '32 Roadster IS already a 'hot rod'. At least the way WE knew 'em...
    Tim and Petejoe like this.
  12. draggin49
    Joined: Jun 9, 2014
    Posts: 44


    Thanks for the compliments on the car , I agree with you about leaving the original flathead v8 since there aren’t many out there still original , just wanted to see what kind of options I had to just get a tad more power .

    I will probably find a project roadster body/frame and build a second roadster the 392 hemi can go into.

    I want to drive the car daily however I’ve got an issue with the original motor /trans . It cant go on the freeway , turns too many rpms.

    Since the stock flathead is limited on power would it be a bad idea to switch rear end gears to something taller so I can freeway drive at 65-70mph with turning a ton of rpms?

    Or would the flathead be better off leaving the original gear ratio in the rear end and putting a t5 to be able to have an overdrive gear ?
    Petejoe likes this.
  13. Petejoe
    Joined: Nov 27, 2002
    Posts: 9,560

    from Zoar, Ohio

    Original driveline for sure on that one. Just install taller rear end gears.
    Now if you have a lot of tall hills/mountains. That small flathead might complain and over heat some. But on flat roads that’s the ticket.
  14. draggin49
    Joined: Jun 9, 2014
    Posts: 44


    I live in Southern California so don’t really have to deal with too many hills .
  15. 1946caddy
    Joined: Dec 18, 2013
    Posts: 1,076

    from washington

    Just drive it on the freeways during rush hour and you won't need to go over ten MPH.;)
    Clay Belt likes this.
  16. draggin49
    Joined: Jun 9, 2014
    Posts: 44


    Haha , traffic is the worst , especially near Los Angeles, luckily I’m a good distance from there . I couldn’t handle driving in that everyday .
  17. draggin49
    Joined: Jun 9, 2014
    Posts: 44


    Since I’m keeping the original drivetrain, I was wondering if I could add any speed equipment ? Or is it something I should leave alone ?
    I know it’s harder to find speed parts for this motor vs some of the later flatheads .
    I know it’ll still be less power than bigger cubic inch flatheads but it might make the car a bit quicker since it’s light weight
  18. richard crow
    Joined: Feb 6, 2006
    Posts: 43

    richard crow

    if your going with a 21 stud use a 1937 eng best flat head ford ever made
  19. low down A
    Joined: Feb 6, 2009
    Posts: 129

    low down A

    did they make a 21 stud in 37 ? I've got a 36 LB in a 27 roadster, 2 94's, small cam Johnson adjustables headers, electronic ignition, it's a great little motor for a light car. I always tell people it's the most expensive 100 horse you'll ever do
    draggin49 likes this.
  20. doyoulikesleds
    Joined: Jul 12, 2014
    Posts: 219


    If thats the original block for that car i would not mess with it i would find another flatty to put in there and stash that one under a bench
  21. 32 4door
    Joined: Jan 27, 2014
    Posts: 75

    32 4door

  22. v8flat44
    Joined: Nov 13, 2017
    Posts: 62


    I'm real dumb on these older drive trains, but what about a 2 speed rear end? m
  23. draggin49
    Joined: Jun 9, 2014
    Posts: 44


    Picking up an original Edelbrock slingshot for it , will see what other parts may be available besides the intake, may be some aluminum heads too.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
  24. Mac VP
    Joined: May 13, 2014
    Posts: 251

    Mac VP

    It starts to get tricky (and very expensive) as you begin to modify the 32 flathead V8. The intake manifold has a unique mount for the 32 generator. The fuel pump stand is different. Not sure if the slingshot manifold will bolt up to the 32 carb mount. Any of these mods is likely to require additional purchases to make them work. There isn’t much available in speed equipment unless you buy used pieces that were compatible with the 32 motor.

    Anything you change on the 32 motor is going to be pricey for the little power gain. Consider leaving the engine stock if it runs well......tune the carb and the distributor for optimum operation. Headers won’t deliver a major power boost but will sound nice and are fairly easy to do.

    There are highway happy rear end gears available today that will let you scoot around at lower rpms on the highway.

    Also, consider having the water pumps modified for the better impellers, which should help with cooling.
  25. F-ONE
    Joined: Mar 27, 2008
    Posts: 1,447

    from Alabama

    You do that kind of stuff to a glass car, parts assembled from bits and pieces, or a car that has been messed with and modified over the years. You do not do that to original cars.

    It is what it is. That, what it is, is really great.

    Unless this car is an inheritance, I'm going to assume you have a lot of money because someone with an original 32 is either rich or born into it in 2018.
    If you have that car my opinion you also have the resources to find a beater Model A and build up a hot rod that can do more of what you want.
    I would enjoy as is....
    I would consider finding fenders, running boards and all that stuff.
    I would invest in a trailer, a truck....maybe some camping stuff for road trips....make the long hauls trailered, enjoy the car locally at the destination.
    I would drive the car a lot on the secondary roads locally.
    There is no free pass. Highway gear? maybe an option but what you gain on the top you loose on the bottom. Most of the driving you do in such a car will be towards the bottom.
    I would preserve it like it is....or go back stock.

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