The Jalopy Journal
Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by panhead_pete, Aug 15, 2020.
Did any of those early issues carry over to the 283s?
As soon as you could trust a 4” bore. Howard Johansen has a 1/2” welded crank for a 352”. He also cast up Aluminum heads
55 but it really took off with the dual quad Duntoff cam "PowerPack" engine in 57, compared to everything else, they "Screamed".
They weren't called "crate motors" then but you could order a complete small block Chevy from the local Chevy dealer in the mid 50's. The power pack 4 barrel engines were pretty easy horsepower compared to many engines from the time and weren't all that expensive then.
In the early 70's you could buy a 302 fitted block that was a 4 bolt main 302 block with pistons fitted to the cylinders with rings for around 300 bucks out the door. Snag a steel 283 crank and a set of 2.02 heads and you had the base for a hard running 302 for not a lot of money.
In the 50's, my college professor road raced a Czech built Tatra. He said that in 1955, he bought a new 265 from a Chevrolet dealership and made the adapter to mate the small block to the rear engined Tatra drivetrain. I can't imagine it was the best handling creation, but he raced it for years, eventually re-bodying the chassis to something more aerodynamic.
Well planned adhead by a smart guy named Zora Arkus-Duntov
Zora was very forward thinking. Hot rodding owes a lot to this letter and his continued push for performance.
Even considering his immense contributions to the automotive industry and performance in particular, it's still pretty remarkable that he was thinking along these lines as early as 1953. He was truly a pioneer.
RIP Zora Arkus-Duntov
Wow that's a great bit of history that had a huge impact, thanks for sharing @Baumi
A lot of the old timers that I know don't completely understand the love affair for the obsolete engines like the Flathead, Nailhead, Olds Rocket, Y Block, etc., when everybody wanted a SBC then.
Sort of on-topic; who knows that Chrysler was seriously working on the '51-'53 long-bellhousing 331 hemi @ Indianapolis? They put it in a Curtis chassis and started setting speed records by 10s of mph. they set a track speed record in '57 that stood 'til the mid 70s. The Indy racing regulators frantically changed cubic inch and other specs 'til they regulated the hemi out of contention to keep the Offy king of the race.
I believe that car was used for many years for tire testing, probably into the early 60's.
I believe Chet Herbert had a new '55 sedan with multi-carbs that helped in sbc popularity
Most people were happy to get rid of the underpowered flatheads. I grew up in the 50s and all of the hotrods I saw had SBC. I didnt see ANY flathead hotrods at all. In the 50s and 60s traditional hotrods were always Fords and had SBC engines . Oddrods werent accepted until streetrods started about 1971
Adapters. Chevy engine to Ford manual transmissions.
Automatic transmissions were undesirable. If you wanted a hotrod in the 40s, flatheads were the best you could do but to me a traditional hotrod is a Ford with a SBC. Thats a HOTROD!
I think the big influence was in 1957 when chevy was, for the first time, putting out an engine that had horsepower equal to cubic inches with the injected 283.
Correct me if I'm wrong but I think the McGee roadster got a SBC in 55.
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I do love the look of early Caddy engines etc but I wonder if its partially the ' I want to be different' factor that leads to some of the derision towards SBCs? Maybe the easy way is too easy?
Zora, and minds like his, are the reason it's far easier to find and buy vintage/authentic speed and dress-up parts for SBCs. It was a real treat reading that memo.
I've gotten grief for putting a 327 in my coupe from the Facebook "If-Henry-meant-to-put-a-different-engine-he-would-have" crowd.
The choices on my shortlist (389 was my other choice) ended up being won over by the 327 for the availability/affordability of period parts. Sadly, if I ran a 389 I'd have 4x what I have into my set-up. Maybe I just don't know the right people... haha.
As long as the first 265 chev V8 came out, they were being used as soon as hot rod guys/girls got their hands on them. More power, more crashes, more parts and motors in the local junkyards. In the early 50s through the late 60s, junkyards were scattered in almost every city. In our So Cal area near Lion’s Dragstrip, there must have been at least 25-30 all within a 5 miles radius. Each local city had at least two or more.
The first thing we saw was a 56 Chevy with a 265, a cam was all it took to be faster than most of the other hot rods. Flathead powered “Traditional” cars had no chance. This guy ruled the roost. The other hot rod guys used Oldsmobile motors and had the same success. There was even the "only Buick" powered 1940 Ford Sedan with a LaSalle transmission. He was the lone wolf in the Buick motor usage. For the time being, the standard 3 speed from the factory did the job.
The transmissions in the modified hot rods were usually LaSalle 3 speeds as they were commonplace in the large local stockpiles. If we did see a roadster within our cruising So Cal area, it had an SBC motor as the traditional hot rod look and style.
56 Chevy at Lions
The guy with the 56 was one of the early guys who started modifying his car. He liked being the top dog at the teenager hangouts and gabfests. So, the 265 became a 283 with more speed goodies like dual quads and a different cam set up. By 1959-60, he went the farthest of any of the local hot rod guys. His next step was a bore to make the newly purchased 283 into a 301. Now, it was fast and getting faster.
There were very few 301 SBC motors in a 56 or for that matter, any Chevy sedan. But, the topper was and still is a secret, he may have had a stroker kit from Reath Automotive to create a huge 352 C.I. SBC motor. No one alive ever had proof, although we did see the 56 Chevy Bel Air in action.
The local hot rod modified cars had an Olds motor, one 40 Ford Sedan had a Buick motor and one 46 Ford Coupe had a 283.. The rest were standard factory Chevys and Fords. The 5 window 34 Ford Coupe was fast, as seen at the drags in the A/Gas class.
Whoops, I forgot the hot 55-56-57 Chevy sedans of Tom McEwen. Now those Chevy sedans from Bixby Knolls are legend stories about what he ran inside of the SBC motors. His era was a couple of years before our time in the neighborhood.
By 1960, the 56 Chevy we knew was still one of the fastest around. The modified hot rods went from old coupes and sedans to the later model 55-58 Chevy sedans. The old hot rods were still around, but weren’t the most popular. Then, those old coupes and sedans began to disappear… their time to showcase had come and gone…
If anyone looked at a time capsule of this time period of 57-62, they would see a gaggle of 55-58 Chevy sedans in great numbers over the old style hot rod Ford coupes and sedans. Then, there was a kid with the slowest flathead powered 1940 Ford Sedan Delivery in the whole neighborhood. A “traditionally” slow and plodding Flathead that lasted for 1000s of miles of happy times all along the coastal roads and surf spots.
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