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How dependable is a flathead?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Mike Britton, Jul 16, 2012.

  1. Hey Mike I'm so tired of people saying flatties are undependable, damn they were built for over 21 years here and for many more overseas and powered damn near everything. My truck was built 10 years ago and it has been on many 1500plus mile trips and to Bonneville last year even on the salt for a week it has always got me there and back with few exceptions that were my own fault, not the engines, gear it right and it will give you many years of trouble free service put a blower on it and you can keep up with all the assholes that want to go over the speed limit..............
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  2. i got a straight 6 flat. it sat for well over 15 yrs. fired right up and purred like a kitten. worked great for about another 10 years. i think i was the first one in it since 58. i drove it alot the last few years. i am currently rebuilding. i say go for it. i actually want to get some other flatties and store them in the barn...you know for safe keeping.
     
  3. paulie_boy13
    Joined: Mar 1, 2005
    Posts: 269

    paulie_boy13
    Member
    from NC

    They were dependable enough in the 30s to get to California during the dust bowl migration. Don't see they wouldn't be dependable enough to the same now.
     
  4. hombres ruin
    Joined: Nov 21, 2006
    Posts: 3,301

    hombres ruin
    Member

    Damn straight paulie boy... I think the myth is spread by ignorance and people who own SBC
     
  5. kracker36
    Joined: Jan 21, 2012
    Posts: 756

    kracker36
    Member

    According to most people, the only flathead that would have been reliable would have had to be made Chevrolet.
     
  6. l love small blocks. Best invention since 1955. But flatheads got people everywhere for the twenty+ years before we were blessed with the mighty 265. Cars actually ran, cross country even, before the greatest engine ever invented(small block Chevy, circa 1955)and everything else, air bags, antilock brakes, etc. If it was good enough then, it's good enough now. I'm looking forward to building my T roadster with a flatty!
     
  7. rotenjon
    Joined: Oct 26, 2009
    Posts: 111

    rotenjon
    Member

    I get so tired of hearing the only good rod engine is a SBC. Flatheads where on the road for decades before the chevy showed up and they did it all. Tow trucks, school bus, family car, otr truckers, what the hell makes EVERYONE think only sbc's can and should power your rod! OHV engines all look the same, ugly!, give me a flatty any day!. My T tudor has a 53 candian engine, 39 3 speed and banjo rear, thats how it should be IMHO!!
    To each his own though.;)
     
  8. Sheep Dip
    Joined: Dec 29, 2010
    Posts: 1,572

    Sheep Dip
    Member
    from Central Ca

    I think with all the new improved parts out for flatheads you can make them peppy and reliable but if you think your going to hop one up and get 8000 rpm out of it in a basically stock form you are sadly mistaken.
     
  9. Koz
    Joined: May 5, 2008
    Posts: 2,318

    Koz
    Member

    I agree with the guys above. Since I'm building my flatty I am amazed at the amount of stuff available for them. Places likke Flathead Jack and H&H have everything you need and parts that pretty much cure any and all weaknesses.

    One thing that seems universal is that flattys are not pressure cookers! They will run cool and reliable as anything else. Yankee Dave on here has one in his roadster for the last 20 years or so which he pulled out of a junkyard truck. He drives everywhere we do and runs with the pack. That car has been on lots of long runs and never misses a beat. A testament to Henrys' finest.

    One thing that hasn't been mentioned is nothing, but nothing, sounds like a flatty. Last winter Pete at the motor museum fired the flatty in his old dirt car inside the shop. It brought a tear to my eye as to how good it sounded. Those were the days!
     
  10. Thanks for all the input guys! If I can talk my friend into selling me the car, first obstacle, I plan to run around the neighborhood, go to parking lot shows, and basically keep it close to home. I have a late model Suburban to travel in, inmyarrogentopinion, the very best traveling machine. The tudor won't travel much, maybe Austin, maybe.
    I'm picking everyone's brain simply because, unlike the small block, or the hemi, or the early cads, I've never been around a flathead.
    I've been doing research, and yes, the flathead is more expensive to rebuild, but not enough more to keep it from being viable. Add to that the fact that it's already there, and running well and it seems to me the thing to do.
    Maybe add a set of aluminum heads with reasonable compression, make sure all the cooling system is as good as I can make it, and the old girl will probably last for several more years.
    One thing about it, the small block doesn't take up much room in the shop, and I don't have to feed it, so it is always an option. Albeit one that would complicate the car somewhat.
    Thanks again....I think I'll keep the flat motor..... Mike
     
  11. No the myth even the one about people who own an SBC is just spread by ignorance. You can always tell a blond even if she has a different color hair, when she opens her mouth her brains will run out.

    With few exceptions any engine can be made to be dependable, they are all just engines.
     
  12. One last question before I strike out on my own.
    I think that when it comes to flatheads, the prettiest of all is one with nice aluminum heads and three deuces. Now, can I find an aluminum head that has near stock compression?
    Also, am I going to muck things up if I run a three deuce manifold with the outside carbs blocked off. No fuel to them, plates under the throttle bodies, just running off the center carb?
    I don't want a hot rod, I just want to pose........lol
     
  13. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 28,536

    Mr48chev
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Flatheads need more care and maintenance than modern engines and may not like hard fast miles as well but if you do the maintenance when it should be done and don't beat it to death one should be just as reliable as any other engine. There was the day when guys knocked small block Chev engines because they were "only good for 40,000 miles" at least that was according to some of the local Ford guys around here in the 60's.
    If you want a dead nuts reliable engine that is a bit forgiving if you forget the maintenance schedule and will still run with the big dogs on the highway get a 350R out of a mid 70's Olds. They aren't an exciting engine but they don't break easily either.
     
  14. Aluminim heads used to come in two basic configurations one was nearly stock compression and the other was a little higher than that. You would be hard pressed to get a head that will make it more than 9:1. Something else that looks good on one is a pair of canadian heads or you can just smooth the original heads off to resemble canadian heads.

    Lots of fellas run 'em with the outside carbs blocked off, it is not a problem as long as the carbs share a common plenum. What I would od if it were me is remove the outside throttle blades then put a plate under the carb, they way you can still run the linkage and it will look functional.
     
  15. Went to my first Winter Nationals from Eugene, Or to Pomona in '63. Drove my daily '52 Ford with a warmed flatty and we ran with the traffic at the time. Ran about 2,000 miles total. I drove that car all over the NW working construction. Never broke down. I could even play with the Y blocks and sbc's for a half a light or so :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2012
    Ken50merc likes this.
  16. flathead4d
    Joined: Oct 24, 2005
    Posts: 888

    flathead4d
    Member

    Yep, I just made a 150 mile round trip to the Michigan International Speedway for a car show with my flattie. I have a triple carb setup but ran on the center carb only. I drove the track at 80 MPH without a problem and that was at about 2500 RPMS. I'm runing a 3:55 rear end with a Mustang T-5 trans. Outside temperature was 95 degrees and the old flattie never went over 190 degrees. If you build it right it will last for a long long time.
     
  17. Hello Mike,,we ran a 36 21stud from Disneyland to NYC in the 1986 Great Race..No problems then and the car is still running today..I suggest that you take an afternoon off and drive up to Denton and have a chat with Wayne Calvert,at Calvert Automotive,He is in his 80s now and has many ,many years of flatmotor knowledge..
     
  18. Thanks, I will go talk to Mr. Calvert. A lot of people consider him a "god" around here. He may even know the car, as I'm under the impression it has been in the neighborhood for years.
    BTW, wasn't Mr. Putty in your neighborhood? I remember going down to his place to get cranks done. That was several lifetimes ago.....
     
  19. Mike,Wayne did go thru the falthead for the 36 for us back in 85..He may remember it as he knew we were going on the Great Race,,The car was sold shortly after the race to a corp pilot,I have no Idea if he still has the car..a washington blue cabriolet..if Wayne doesnt remember,tell him it was Harold Peeples car at the time..
    Harold has since passed away..The Pilot who bought it was Lionel McCamey..lived at air park in Plano
    Yes as to Mr Putty..he was only a block or so from us.
    I'm fairly sure he has also passed by now..most all us OLD racers now use TINKERS..Tinker worked for us in those days before he went into business for himself
     
  20. JunkYardFrog
    Joined: Dec 8, 2010
    Posts: 215

    JunkYardFrog
    Member
    from CA

    Good for you! Our '53 flatty would probably still be running today, if I hadn't fried it because of a leaking radiator. I was young and dumb. Still kick myself over that one.
     
  21. I am just having all the standard machine work done on my 46-59A (C69A) over the past couple of weeks by Hi Performance Engines, Burnaby B.C. Canada including.

    Bore and fitting pistons
    Valve seats installed (8), seats Serdi ground
    Merc 4" stroke crank turned and polished (3/8 clean out Canadian crank)
    Rods, bushed and big ends re-sized (floating bearings because it's a FLATHEAD)
    flywheel lip turned off
    Balance
    Etc Etc...

    I started with a clean, complete and running $650, CL engine that had a couple stuck valves which led to pitted seats then a valve job then quickly into just doing it all.

    I have never rebuilt an engine so have no accurate benchmark for comparing costs, all the parts seemed affordable enough and easy to acquire but the rod bearings where spendy.

    I've purchased pistons (egge), main bearings (Israel) rod bearing (nos), rings (grant), new valves, guides, keepers etc, etc from Patricks in AZ. I went with cast pistons as the piston selection is limited at 0.020

    Isky 1007B camshaft ground by Pete in Wa, new Isky springs, N.O.S (in the orig box) Johnson lifters

    Two Stromberg 97's fully treated by Uncle Max on an old Thickstun PM-7 (Thank You)

    Stock crab distributor with POINTS gone over by Bubba (Thank You)

    39 Generator rebuilt and 12V conversion by Rusty at Speed O Meter/Alternator Service in CO (THANK YOU)

    Porter Mufflers (custom 16") and rare Ford Pilot factory exhaust manifolds that where complete JUNK when we started welding on them to fix 'em up.

    I CAN NOT WAIT to hear this engine run, hopefully in Sept sometime. I have been having a TON of fun with my flathead and it's not even in the car yet.
     

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  22. Deuce Daddy Don
    Joined: Apr 27, 2008
    Posts: 5,081

    Deuce Daddy Don
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Great comments here!----If you just wanna' putt around,--Go for it!
    On the other hand,---Forget about line chasin' over lots of miles! (5000) round trip.

    Just try & find any flattie parts on the road when broke down!
    Dropping in a reliable small block will insure you of parts about anywhere on the road.
     
  23. 2-TONED
    Joined: Jan 31, 2005
    Posts: 1,683

    2-TONED
    Member

    i guess the answer here is: IF you make a trip over 100 miles with a flatty 'trouble free' you always remember it and have bragging rights! :)
     
  24. Not a flathead V8, but in June, I took my '51 6 cylinder flathead on a 3500 mile round trip to Carson City, NV. Had one flat on the trip, no other problems. Used one quart of oil. according to the GPS, averaged 59.2 mph (with a 3 speed overdrive).
     
  25. Ok I have a question that probably applies to above 80% of the people on here maybe more.

    I have made major repairs on the road but I doubt that the average fella does that, so what parts are you going to be changing on the side of the road? I mean a lot of what everyone thinks that you can't find should be in the trunk anyway. Points plugs a water pump? Tell me just what it is that you think that you can't find on the road that you are actually going to repair or replace, please.
     
  26. Koz
    Joined: May 5, 2008
    Posts: 2,318

    Koz
    Member

    You are absolutely correct. The only thing that would keep you from making it home should be something like sticking a rod out the block and that happens on new stuff too. The Rolling Bones guys routinely run their flattys from one end of the country to another. I don't know these guys personally, but to the best of my knowledge most of these motors are nothing special. Just take the usual stuff and you'll be as secure as if you had the Nissan. I think people worry because there's not a dealer on every corner who can fix them. If you have a good bottom end, it's bringing you home.

    Oddly enough, I've done my most walking with SBCs'. I can't ever remember any of my flattys leaving me stranded, and until now, they were all well "tested" motors.

    I might add, a flatty is easy to troubleshoot. My new F-150 started throwing fits on the way to Detroit and I felt totally screwed on a Sunday. I nursed it back to Philly and found out I lost a shift position sensor. I'd have felt a lot better with something I could figger out!
     
  27. 8flat
    Joined: Apr 2, 2006
    Posts: 1,380

    8flat
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Very dependable engines if built right. Just as a precaution I had a radiator custom built for mine, factory tanks with the biggest core he could fit, just to make sure she won't overheat on me...
     
  28. Koz
    Joined: May 5, 2008
    Posts: 2,318

    Koz
    Member

    Man that somebitch is upstairs quick! What kind of cam you running? 3 3/4 stroke, aluminum flywheel?
     
  29. Steve Hedke
    Joined: Sep 28, 2005
    Posts: 74

    Steve Hedke
    Member

    Don't listen to opinions, look at real life. The 2012 Greatrace ran 2100 rough miles from Michigan, through Canada to New York, and back to Dearborn. Won by a '35 21 stud. 2nd place a '32 pickup, also with a 21 stud. We won Day 5 with our 24 stud '29 A-V8. You can't win if you can't finish.
     
  30. Koz
    Joined: May 5, 2008
    Posts: 2,318

    Koz
    Member

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