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Hot Rods Flathead no power

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by deskjet894, Aug 9, 2023.

  1. deskjet894
    Joined: Sep 14, 2010
    Posts: 28

    from ma

    I have a 1934 Ford flathead V8 pickup. When going up a hill the vehicle slows down as it loses power. I down shift to second but there is no speed. On flat roads there are no problems.
    What can the issue be?
    Thank you
  2. Bandit Billy
    Joined: Sep 16, 2014
    Posts: 11,371

    Bandit Billy

    1934 flathead ford? :cool: Sorry, reality TV is making me catty.
    wandi harry likes this.
  3. Ebbsspeed
    Joined: Nov 11, 2005
    Posts: 6,191


    How steep is the hill?

    You might just have a worn out flathead? Give us some info as to the condition of the engine, and what modifications have been made to it, if any.
  4. gimpyshotrods
    Joined: May 20, 2009
    Posts: 23,071


    It is a 1934 flathead.

  5. deskjet894
    Joined: Sep 14, 2010
    Posts: 28

    from ma

    The engine was rebuilt, it has a Stromberg carb and a Stromberg e fire distributor, 12 volts.
    Joined: Aug 1, 2009
    Posts: 759

    from 94577

    Came here to post this. :D

    Start with basics, timing, compression, spark plug condition and general tune.
  7. I read the title and thought to myself, that's a fair statement :eek:;)
  8. Petejoe
    Joined: Nov 27, 2002
    Posts: 12,136

    from Zoar, Ohio

    Since it’s a rebuild, my first look would be into the ignition advance.
    Has the carb been rebuilt as well?
    ffr1222k, ClayMart and Tow Truck Tom like this.
  9. 1952henry
    Joined: Jan 8, 2006
    Posts: 1,273


    There is a thread about the Stromberg efire on the fordbarn. Not a lot of applause for it. May want to check it out.
    Petejoe likes this.
  10. BJR
    Joined: Mar 11, 2005
    Posts: 9,349


    A flathead with little power? They came from the factory that way.:p
    Truckdoctor Andy and '34 Ratrod like this.
  11. FrozenMerc
    Joined: Sep 4, 2009
    Posts: 3,060


    80 Hp in a 2700 lb pickup, yeah it is going to slow down for hills.

    Hell, it probably takes 50 to 60 hp just to push the air out of the way on flat level ground. That doesn't leave you much power in reserve to climb hills. Add in a poor tune were you are down 10 or 15% on power, and things get worse quickly.

    But Hey, At least it isn't a 6.2 Diesel in a 1990 GM 3500 dually.....
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2023
    Truckdoctor Andy and 1952henry like this.
  12. xix32
    Joined: Jun 12, 2008
    Posts: 580


    GM fixed that in 1949, with the 303 Olds and the 331 Caddy.
    hemihotrod66 likes this.
  13. xix32
    Joined: Jun 12, 2008
    Posts: 580


    Put a timing light on it so you can watch a mark on the crank pulley to see if the timing is advancing
    properly. That way you can see if that complex vacuum brake system is holding it retarded.
    Yes, I know there is no timing mark on the crank pulley. But you should have put one on there
    When the right side head was off, then you can confirm top dead center on #1 piston.
    You really don't need a accurate mark to see if it's advancing, just a chalk mark will do.
    Those flatheads only advance 22º
    Measure the circumference of the crank pulley, that distance equals 360º, then divide that by 22.
    That gives you the short distance to make the advance mark , clockwise from the top dead center mark.
  14. tubman
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 6,803


    I would also suspect the e-fire; I wonder if you could put one on a distributor machine to check out?
  15. xix32
    Joined: Jun 12, 2008
    Posts: 580


    Those flathead distributors have a centrifugal advance system, but they also have that goofy vacuum brake to drag on the advance disc to hold it retarded when vacuum drops, such as when going up hill with the throttle open. With todays more modern higher octane fuel, that retarding system is not needed, and causes more problems than it solves. I disconnected mine ( `46-`48 59a block) by removing the brake pad/ piston. Then plugged the line so you don't have a vacuum leak. This allows the centrifugal advance to work properly. This will allow the timing to return to the retarded position for easy starting.
    Primered Forever likes this.
  16. twenty8
    Joined: Apr 8, 2021
    Posts: 2,029


    MAD MIKE, RMR&C, ClayMart and 2 others like this.
  17. Bearing Burner
    Joined: Mar 2, 2009
    Posts: 1,101

    Bearing Burner
    from W. MA

    In the early and mid '30s it was a real feat to go up a hill in high gear.
    Joined: Nov 22, 2005
    Posts: 8,431

    from SIDNEY, NY

    ...and while a stock '34 Ford may have been considered to be hot in 1934, not so much today.
  19. 05snopro440
    Joined: Mar 15, 2011
    Posts: 1,076


    So you have a lack of power. Is this a new condition where it was good before and now isn't, or is this just an issue where you put it together and now there no power?

    To start with, to make power you need:
    • Compression
    • Timing
    • Fuel
    • Air
    Add to that translating power to the ground you need:
    • Transmission
    • Rear end
    • Clutch
    Looking at each item individually may help you diagnose where your issue is. If everything is optimal, it's just that you engine doesn't make enough power. However on many vehicles there are systems that aren't running optimally, I would guess you have something in one or more of the items mentioned above that needs some work. For example if the timing and spark are good, the clutch, trans, rear end, and gearing are good, then I'd be looking at the carb and fuel pump. Start investigating what you can and knock them off the list.
  20. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 8,871




    Talk about a Flathead powered hot rod with no power. When I bought the 1940 Ford Sedan Delivery, it had a stock 80 hp Flathead. It was an automatic 200 hp loss when the original owner took out the 348 Chevy motor and installed the Flathead to meet my teenage pocket book for a sale of the sedan delivery. No one else wanted the sedan delivery, but for me, it was nice inside, met my goals of a reliable surf vehicle for our road trips all over So Cal coastline and beyond.

    When it started up with the first click, I knew it was going to be fun and allow me plenty of adventures. Not so much for the dads of the girls I knew and wanted to go for rides in the sedan delivery. I suppose my outstanding reputation was not enough as the sedan delivery is not what a normal teen would be driving at the time.

    Our trips started with 20-25 mile road trips to nearby Orange County, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. It was all on flat, level roadways to and from the beach areas. Yes, there was tall Signal Hill and the steep climb uphill back to our house, but, we always went back along the flat Ocean Blvd. in downtown Long Beach to our Westside of Long Beach house.


    As our experience expanded, we went down PCH to points farther South. Laguna Beach and San Diego regions were just a drive away from Newport and Huntington Beach. So, now, that ocean front drive included several steep hills and coastal roadways. The entrance to Laguna Beach is one of the best views of the ocean in this part of Orange County. At El Morro beach, PCH drops down from Corona Del Mar to the North and starts its climb up and into North Laguna Beach. This roadway is one of the steepest roads in the whole area.

    So, down hill is 60 mph in 3rd. Then as the climb starts and there is no traffic, we can get the momentum to go up the El Morro slope about half way. A down shift is necessary to continue the climb. If there is any kind of traffic, then sometimes it was necessary to go to first to finish the up and over the top, drive. Two to three 45-50 lbs longboards, teenagers and food supplies all weighed down the sedan delivery adding to the slow crawl transportation.

    The same thing and possible worse was the Southern area at Torrey Pines State Beach along the Coast Highway. It seems steeper and the Flathead just did not have the power to go up hill with emphasis. The slow lane was our home. From 3rd to second and also to first near the top of the incline. When we surfed at Torrey Pines at the base of the tall cliffs, afterwards, it was a very slow grind up hill to the turn around and go back North. So, the "slow lane" climb in first gear was always the case.

    (Why did I not just turn left out of the beach parking lot and go North? Well, first, those cars are coming down hill from the San Diego region and going fast. We had little power to get up to their speed to flow into the cross traffic lanes. Eventually, it was a right turn out of the lot ONLY, and head uphill for safety sakes.)

    My idea was to get some more speed and power for the Flathead with carbs, cam and possibly a larger bore. Our friends at Reath Automotive had a nice Flathead on an engine stand and every time we went there, it stood out like a gold mine. Yes, that would have solved our modified driving style for those steep incline along the So Cal coastline.

    A stock Flathead runs well for most and perhaps, “more power” in a build is necessary. I could not complain about the reliability of the 80 hp stock Flathead motor. It just kept on starting on the first click and ran like a top everywhere we went from Santa Barbara in the North to Baja Mexico in the South. Even after several loops around our local, huge field, motocross course in the rain, slipping and sliding and trying controlled power slides. “Power” slides, what a concept for this underpowered hot rod/surf transportation vehicle.

    Note: To emphasize the lack of Flathead power in our fully loaded 40 Ford Sedan Delivery, when we went North along the coast, it ran fine. But, we knew the Conejo Slope portion of the 101 Freeway home would not be possible due to having to go into the far right lane in first gear, all the way to the top in the San Fernando Valley region, on the way back into Los Angeles. So, we always took the coastal route to and from Santa Barbara.

    A built up flathead for more power would have been nice. But lack of money, having a reliable starting hot rod and serving all of the needs of a fledgling surfer with some lofty goals was the key. Start up instantly and go surfing...
    "Everybody's gone surfing... "
  21. A Boner
    Joined: Dec 25, 2004
    Posts: 7,287

    A Boner

    Didn’t spend enough money for hp parts when rebuilding?

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