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Technical Riley OHV V8's-Flathead Conversion and SOHC

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by miller91, Jul 7, 2009.

  1. miller91
    Joined: Dec 7, 2008
    Posts: 542

    miller91
    Member

    We all know George Riley largely based on his 4-banger OHV conversions and rightfully so. But in fact, George Riley’s contributions towards the development of high performance on land, sea and in the air could fill a book; and they have. Dan Iandola compiled a stack of Riley documentation and tied it together in his “George Riley Racing Scrapbook”. For those with interest, it is a worthwhile addition to the library, and records the exploits of this original thinker. But I want to start a conversation about his less known work with the Ford V8, both his OHV conversion for the 21 stud, and his fascinating SOHC using Ford internals.

    First, many HAMBers are familiar with the Riley OHV thanks to the ’32 V8 roadster owned by Don Orosco. Hopefully we can get someone involved with that build, and this engine on this thread.

    Here is an original installation.

    <O:p[​IMG]</O:p>
    <O:p
    <O:pRiley borrowed the valvetrain from the 36/7 Buick which were mounted on shafts, a thrifty use of a proven design. Strangely, many of these early conversions, including Riley&#8217;s did not take advantage of the opportunity to provide individual exhaust ports for each cylinder. In addition, Riley chose the less popular 10mm size spark plug, and the angle the plugs were mounted placed the connections close enough for a potential crossfire.

    <O:p[​IMG]</O:p>
    <O:p[​IMG]</O:p>
    The heads never caught on according to Riley, very few sets were completed, and as the 21 stud design V8 made way for the 24 stud, development wasn&#8217;t continued. Riley was not alone as other early OHV conversions fell by the wayside as well, with Zora Arkus-Duntov&#8217;s later post-war &#8220;ARDUN&#8221; hemi heads for the flathead emerging as the best developed and remembered.<O:p</O:p
    <O:p

    The heads were used with some success however, with some attempts on the lakes. The Spaulding Bros. ran this blown OHV Riley to 132 mph in 1941.

    [​IMG]

    Gus Rollins took his Riley OHV AV8 to 116.58 at Muroc in &#8217;41.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    All in all the Riley heads, like several others, while not successful were an important part of the then truly exciting frontier to achieve higher and higher speeds.

    Next up, Riley&#8217;s SOHC V8.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2009
  2. miller91
    Joined: Dec 7, 2008
    Posts: 542

    miller91
    Member

    George Riley&#8217;s Racing SOHC V8


    [​IMG]


    1935 rules for International Stock Car racing allowed for a new unlimited class. Crank, rods and pistons derived from a production engine were all that were required, the rest could be completely engineered. Henry Ford himself contacted Riley about a proposal. Ford was well aware of Riley&#8217;s capability, with his Model T &#8220;Multi-Lift&#8221; and the OHV conversion&#8217;s for Henry&#8217;s &#8220;A&#8221; and &#8220;B&#8221;. The work had to be done swiftly, to budget and Riley delivered the requisite four V8s on time. The 225 cid SOHC V8 turned in excess of 200 horses on the dyno, with weight well shy of 400 pounds. They were designed to fit precisely in regular V8 mounts and were installed in &#8217;34 roadsters and packed off to Argentina.


    [​IMG]


    Dan Iandola suggests some of these engines or traces may still exist down there. The design and manufacture of these engines happily coincided with the popularity of the 225 cid hydroplane class, and marine versions of Riley&#8217;s engines were developed, and Ken Harmon ran a record 77 mph in a hydroplane fitted with a Riley.

    [​IMG]

    <O:p
    The 3-1/16&#8221; bore and 3-3/4&#8221; stroke 225 were fitted with Riley sidedraft carburetors naturally, and prominently featured a Scintilla Vertex magneto. Once again, Riley used the less popular 10mm plug which again proved a detriment to tuning the engine properly. Internally, the Ford crank rode in bronze alloy diaphragm webs similar to Miller fashion, bolted to the aluminum crankcase. Each alloy cylinder bank was cast integral with the head, again in Miller/Goossen fashion, and the cams were driven by spur gears encased in an alloy housing. The valves were activated via Peugeot/Miller type cup followers. Lifted of the required use of stock rods and pistons outside of the stock car rules, Riley fitted first Graham rods, ultimately using chrome-vanadium replacements as these units found their limits. Pistons were Rayday full skirts with 8 to 1 compression. Maximum revs were in the 6500 rpm range. Price complete in 1936 was $695.

    [​IMG]


    Never fully developed, less than a dozen were completed. They did however find their way into many machines from the dry lakes to the dirt track. The engine powered the N.Y. State Champion tracker Hank Browning in 1938. Eugene Von Arx ran his 8 at Muroc in Jim Curtain&#8217;s Deuce roadster, driven by Bill Spalding to an &#8220;anemic&#8221; 114 mph in the late 30&#8217;s/&#8217;40-&#8216;41period.

    [​IMG]
    <O:p
    Here an engine resides in Marsh Baldwin&#8217;s sprinter, shown here in 1949.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    <O:pThe final engine was special ordered for fitting into a 1939 Lincoln continental sporting a centrifugal supercharger. Later removed, Iandola mentions it exists today, fitted to a &#8217;30 Model A Ford.

    <O:p[​IMG]</O:p>
    </O:p

    </O:p
    </O:p
    A neat engine, and should count as a &#8220;Holy Grail&#8221; of hot rod memorabilia. Hope there is some interest, and more information from the HAMB community forthcoming. This chapter of George Riley&#8217;s important contributions to speed deserves to be discussed more deeply. I&#8217;ll end with some shots from Bill Smith&#8217;s (the last one built for the Lincoln with blower?) example of the Riley 8.<O:p
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2009
  3. Thanks for the info - there were so many innovators years ago, where are they now???
     
  4. Fogger
    Joined: Aug 18, 2007
    Posts: 1,391

    Fogger
    Member

    Truly a great historical post about a true genius and his contributions to early Hot Rodding. Thank you for the information, always great to read your posts. The FOGGER
     
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  5. miller91
    Joined: Dec 7, 2008
    Posts: 542

    miller91
    Member

    The Orosco Riley overhead.
     
  6. miller91
    Joined: Dec 7, 2008
    Posts: 542

    miller91
    Member

    super photo...
     
  7. James Maxwell
    Joined: May 6, 2006
    Posts: 549

    James Maxwell
    Member
    from So-Cal

    Great research! Fantastic history, thank you for this, a wealth of information on an early pioneer.
     
  8. 296 V8
    Joined: Sep 17, 2003
    Posts: 4,673

    296 V8
    BANNED
    from Nor~Cal


    I had the Baldwin cars offered to me by the guy that purchased them from his estate. Three big cars and a bunch of spares. Two have offys and the other is unfinished and was said to have had a Riley V8 mocked up in it. I believe the Riley went to Bill Smith before Marsh died. The car in the photo looks like the one Marsh campaigned and held on to and updated a few times. At the time it was sold, it was 270 offy powered but otherwise looks the same.
    Do you have any more photos or info?
    Oh ya, I passed on the deal and told my boss about it. He got it all for pennies on the dollar and never even said so much as thanks.

    The one in the center
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2012
  9. miller91
    Joined: Dec 7, 2008
    Posts: 542

    miller91
    Member

    Wow, amazing connection. I don't have any more pix of that car, and a google search has come up empty so far. Thanks for the story. Miller91
     
  10. 296 V8
    Joined: Sep 17, 2003
    Posts: 4,673

    296 V8
    BANNED
    from Nor~Cal

    When I was still working for him we restored the black car on the end. We were never able to find any history on it.
    255 offy
    Entire chasses and suspension plaited
    Oakland wires
    Halibrand QC
     
  11. Ole don
    Joined: Dec 16, 2005
    Posts: 2,915

    Ole don
    Member

    Neat stuff here! Some of us geezers appreciate the work you are going through to save small parts of history. Thank you.
     
  12. pasadenahotrod
    Joined: Feb 13, 2007
    Posts: 11,776

    pasadenahotrod
    Member
    from Texas

    Engine conversions almost disappeared completely due to the economics of the times and were never really commercially successful except for the 4 banger OHV versions.
    Early conversions were made for racing and hopped up street/track cars. Oddly the ARDUN was developed as a horsepower conversion for big trucks using the 221/239 Ford V8s. Their purpose was lost when Ford began using the big Lincoln V8s in the trucks and so they languished until the Speed Community got on board, too late to continue production so again, a commercial failure.
     
  13. JeffreyJames
    Joined: Jun 13, 2007
    Posts: 16,588

    JeffreyJames
    Member
    from SUGAR CITY

    What was Isky using on his "T"? Was that a Riley or was it one of his designs?

    From what I heard there is a guy that lives near me that has an OHV design for the flathead and cast one for his plane. I need to find that dude.
     
  14. miller91
    Joined: Dec 7, 2008
    Posts: 542

    miller91
    Member

    Isky used "maxi" heads, cast his own valve covers with his name on them. Maxi's were another OHV design meant for trucks, many of them were.
     
  15. The37Kid
    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 26,000

    The37Kid
    Member


    I thought it was a Riley until I checked the Veda Orr book that says it is a Maxi head. He recast the rocker covers with his signature on them. Same book has a photo caption stating the first Riley OHV V8 was in a 1930-31 Ford Roadster.:)
     
  16. The37Kid
    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 26,000

    The37Kid
    Member

    Based on the reaction some of my replies have caused on other threads I'm being cautious about how I word this question. I don't have a copy of the Riley book, but I do have a folder of original letters from George Riley, restored a Riley 4Port Sprint, and would like to have another 4Port some day. Had two Riley carbs with consecutively numbered carbs too, and greatly admire the man. Was the OHC V8 an engine he designed by himself, or did others help? I just looks like a giant jump design and machining wise from the pushrod heads. Is there any HISSO aircraft V8 linkage or is that just how all OHC V8's look?
     
  17. The37Kid
    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 26,000

    The37Kid
    Member

    All true, but the first V8-60 ARDUN was placed in a Midget and driven to victory first time out by Duntov himself. Finding this tidbit of info 20 years after I parted with the engine still smarts.:eek:
     
  18. miller91
    Joined: Dec 7, 2008
    Posts: 542

    miller91
    Member


    Well, I don't have a negative reaction to the question at all. I would have to say that most engineers like Riley would have borrowed heavily from influences both from the past as well as contemporary. I personally see a Miller/Goossen (who themselves borrowed heavily from the competition) connection in the design. Given the notable relative light weight of Riley's 8, (in addition to the similarities noted to Hispano-Suiza) I think he would have looked naturally to successful aircraft units. I think most engineers would agree that much of the work is done on the shoulders of they who came before, and a keen eye towards the competition is always wise. This is exactly the kind of thought provoking conversation I hope occurs within any thread. While I do not suggest that Riley is a, let's say, a Leonardo Da Vinci, he is a ruggedly clever pioneer in the pursuit of affordable speed for the American masses. His V-8 efforts were underdeveloped, but few can argue against the merits of the 2 and most notably 4 port OHV banger conversions. He had some WILD marine designs and is sometimes credited with pioneering the outboard marine engine as we know it today. He is surely an historic character worth discussion.
     
  19. The37Kid
    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 26,000

    The37Kid
    Member

    In addition to the above mentioned Riley parts & pieces I had another complete Riley 4Port that I beileve saw marine use. One of the few items I don't have a photo of. If someone has a copy of the book is there a photo or mention of a 4Port with a unique intake on top? The normal 4Port had the intake manifold on a 45 degree, while this head had the manifold on the top, allowing downdraft carbs to dump straight down into the ports.
     
  20. miller91
    Joined: Dec 7, 2008
    Posts: 542

    miller91
    Member


    I do own the book, (obviously an important resource for this post) a quick perusal does not provide a picture. Mr. Iandola did an excellent job with his book, yet I am sure there is much still to find out.
     
  21. What a fascinating thread. Truly educational.
     
  22. miller91
    Joined: Dec 7, 2008
    Posts: 542

    miller91
    Member

    Thanks, I am hoping to learn more!
     
  23. hugh m
    Joined: Jul 18, 2007
    Posts: 2,148

    hugh m
    Member
    from ct.

    Have Iandola's book, will have to pull it out. Seems like the folks who reach DaVinci status do so with lots of financial help, either from benefactors, governments, or just from being rich themselves. Not just with cars but in life in general. Makes you respect guys like Riley all the more.
     
  24. Just a little correction here. I know this is a thread about his OHV conversions but you brought up the marine stuff.

    Riley is creddited with the modern I/O, (inboard outboard, or just outdrive) not the modern outboard as you said. His outdrive was hugely sucessfull and his copyrights were infrindged upon by Volvo and they now are generaly given credit as to the invention. He was too old and didn't have the $ to fight Volvo in court. I've talked to Dan Iandolla at length about Rileys marine stuff and some, but not all, of the marine material in his book came from my collection of crap.

    The outdrive was invented in 1895 by the way, several guys tinkered with it through the years but Riley nailed it. He even had a trim unit, but he wasn't the only one that was building them either. I've also included a pic of a Johnson unit from 1931.

    His outboard was a monster compared to the other engines of the day in the mid 50's. It used some Harley Davidson parts inside, rods and pistons I believe. I have a friend with one of these and a NOS powerhead, and the Mancillias brothers use to have one as well.

    Sorry for the wide off-course direction of my post.
     
  25. Oh, by the way, I'd give my fucking left nut for one of Rileys outdrives.
     
  26. Ahh, 2 weeks away on vacation and the good stuff comes out while I'm gone... :)
    The picture of the Spaulding Bros Modified is what hooked me on early cars, and led me down the "Riley" path... I've asked questions about it before but it seems there isn't too much known about it.
    Iandolas book is a great resource... but I'd like to find something more "in depth". Personal experiences maybe?
    Thanks for bringing this up- hopefully we get a good discussion about them.
    PS ^^^^^ what flyin-t said about the outdrive! ;)

    JK
     
  27. miller91
    Joined: Dec 7, 2008
    Posts: 542

    miller91
    Member

    my lack of knowledge about boats is pretty obvious!
     
  28. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,322

    50Fraud
    Member

    A guy in my high school car club (Dave Williams, long deceased) had a Riley V-8 that he bought just as a curiosity, never ran it in anything. As I recall, one of the iffy features of the engine was that it only used 17 of the original 21 Ford studs.

    Isky's Maxi heads, if I recall correctly, are F-heads rather than full OHV.
     
  29. miller91
    Joined: Dec 7, 2008
    Posts: 542

    miller91
    Member

    Maxi's are F-heads...U R correct!
     
  30. miller91
    Joined: Dec 7, 2008
    Posts: 542

    miller91
    Member

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