Register now to get rid of these ads!

Technical when did the flathead stop being king?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by chappys4life, Nov 23, 2011.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,682

    Bruce Lancaster
    Member Emeritus

    In drag racing, maybe 1955...Rice's flathead took top eliminator in the NHRA nationals.
    He switched to Chrysler for 1956...
  2. 1949 Oldsmobile :cool: Truth is these rockets put a world of hurt on the flatties, and although traditional, flatties couldn't breathe as well. Everything after that became history as we know it.
  3. thirtytwo
    Joined: Dec 19, 2003
    Posts: 2,641


    These threads always turn into some stupid responses ... But in all honesty the guys who really knew what they were doing with a flat motor it still took a couple of years after 1955 for the speed equipment and the learning curve by then gm had a highperformance 283 and Chrysler had the 392.... I am sure the really fast flathead guys were really reluctant to give up but there is a point where you realize what you are doing just isn't competitive

    The flat motor still did well in the jalopy races into the late 50s early 60s

    The flathead also wasnt responded to right away in 32 either , guys were slow to give up on their 4 bangers and it took a few years for the v-8 to catch up and catch on ... Same story different generation

    Now we have the sbc losing the throne to the LS... And so it goes
  4. BigDogSS
    Joined: Jan 8, 2009
    Posts: 915

    from SoCal

    I agree. I never thought the Chevrolet small block engine would NOT be KING. But the LS is such great engine....the NEW King!!
  5. jcmarz
    Joined: Jan 10, 2010
    Posts: 4,633

    from Chino, Ca

    At least the LS is still a Chevy:) Hail to the new king and long live the mouse motor.
  6. First Chevy V8 did it!
  7. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,682

    Bruce Lancaster
    Member Emeritus

    Think about the displacement difference as well as breathing...stock Ford at 239 or 255, maximum practical circa 300. Olds 303 minimum, Chrysler 331, and both capable of massive boring and stroking.
    The early Olds had rather poor breathing, with first generation heads dropping dead on flow circa 5200, not much difference from a hot flathead. It took over rapidly in heavy cars on massive torque but not in light drag cars. The Chrysler did that job, with real breakthrough breathing capability, large displacement, and scads of power to make up for its weight.
    Chevy was the breakthrough in lighter cars because it too was capable of putting out far more power through flow than the smaller early OHV's like Stude and Y block. It started out barely bigger than flathead at 265, but by the later '50's 301 Chevies were common as dirt in the modified classes and those backed by some money could readily be built as 352's from the 283 block. Thus it could fit into lots of roles and it had the breathing ability to rule at its displacement fact some of the hottest and lightest Chevy dragsters got close to threatening the dominant Chryslers at the top of the heat.
    Oldsmobiles eventually became contenders in big displacement competition cars, also getting close to the heels of the Chryslers, but only after several layers of port development along with displacement increases and aftermarket attention to bad rods and lifters.
    The Chrysler was more limited in its impact on the street because it was bulky, heavy as hell, expensive, and relatively scarce in the junkyards...but it was top of the heap without question at the drags after '55. The Chevy did everything well and was a virtually exact fit for anything with a flathead in it...if you look at the '55-6 magazines you can watch its VERY rapid acceptance as the perfect choice.
  8. thirtytwo
    Joined: Dec 19, 2003
    Posts: 2,641


    Well said Bruce , it's always been the running joke that ford engineers actually designed the Chevy cause it fit so well in those early fords!

    The Chevy was kinda hotroding for dummies you didn't have to know a lot to make a Chevy in a old ford fast.... But to make a flat motor run hard you had to be pretty bright ... I think some of the old guys did enjoy the challenge for a little while but like you said 301s and 327s it was pretty much game over as far as competitive

    I think the discipline of trying to squeeze as much power out of that poor little flathead is what gave all the rodders such a good education for things to do on the overheads ... That's why speed increased so dramatically by the 60s overheads were soo easy in comparison
  9. Pete1
    Joined: Aug 23, 2004
    Posts: 2,045

    from Wa.

  10. hotrod1948
    Joined: Jan 17, 2011
    Posts: 494

    from Milton, WI

    Doesn't anybody remember the Zora Arkus Duntov letter to higher GM management stating that GM had better start producing or at least supporting high performance parts for the SBC or they would never unseat the ford flathead? GM had the vette platform to disguise the performance offerings, Ford did not have such a platform in the flathead days, not until the T-Bird, which was Y block vintage.
  11. Well said. The A/B banger was competitive until the late 1930's (they had the aftermarket support). A few held on until the early-40's, but by the time life in America returned to 'normal' after the war, the 4-banger had, by-in-large, sang its swan song.
  12. Larry T
    Joined: Nov 24, 2004
    Posts: 7,690

    Larry T

    Cutting edge / gold chain Hot Rod in 1955. Not a flathead in sight.

    Attached Files:

    • 32-1.jpg
      File size:
      84.2 KB
    • 32-2.jpg
      File size:
      116.1 KB
  13. Speed Gems
    Joined: Jul 17, 2012
    Posts: 3,851

    Speed Gems

    When did the flathead stop being king? The day it got beat by a guy with car with a OHV engine in it.:D
  14. tfeverfred
    Joined: Nov 11, 2006
    Posts: 15,792

    Member Emeritus

    The day people wanted to go faster.
  15. In 1958 I was driving a '40 coupe with a flathead and all the usual go-fast stuff. In 1959 I put a 303 Olds and hydro in it. Also started collecting Olds engines and speed parts and sold my obsolete flattie parts for a song. Not too many years later, I sold all my obsolete Olds parts for a song and started collecting SBC stuff. 10 years ago, I sold all my obsolete SBC stuff and tried to replace it with flattie stuff but it was too late. Like they say, hindsight is 20-20.
  16. A Duece Bruce
    Joined: Jun 8, 2010
    Posts: 111

    A Duece Bruce

    Flatheads are more king now then ever. Royalty! You don't even see them at your average car shows anymore. They don't bother. They only show up at exclusive blueblood get togethers and hob nob and chackle together, gleaming in their elegant authenticity. Nobody mans the traditional hotrod better then the royal king, flathead V8. You know the mean Look, the starter motor alone is an ancient thrill! And when you mash down on it, thoughts fly from your head and again, you experience what infected so many redblooded, kindred spirits, long ago. Engines are faster now, more everything, it's pretty washed out. But the King still brings it. When I park my flattie roadster on a side street at a car show, it gathers a crowd. Some want to know what it is, some know exactly what it is. Makes us feel like we're hanging with Royalty. Still the KING!
  17. tfeverfred
    Joined: Nov 11, 2006
    Posts: 15,792

    Member Emeritus

    They're not for everyone and have their place. Just like every other engine.
  18. The flathead lost popularity in the 50s but has certainly come back stronger than ever with true traditional hot rodders, I have 2 hot rods on the road both flathead powered and currently building a 3rd flathead powered hot rod.

    But according to the 1954 December issue of Rod & Custom the flathead was no longer King after the 1954 Bonneville Speed week.
    2 quotes from there 10 page coverage of Speed week.

    Chrysler built engines were dominating the field. The Ford flatheads were gasping their last an era was ending.

    This years Bonneville speed trials put the hot rodder's stamp of approval on the new engines. But one cannot help but feel a twinge of nostalgia at the passing of the old tread and true bent eight.
    The King is dead, Long Live the KING.


    Last edited: Apr 24, 2014
  19. 1941coupe
    Joined: Jul 4, 2010
    Posts: 402


    I think the flathead was doomed when the 49 olds and caddys hit the junk yard back in the early 50's I once owned a 40 ford coupe that was built in 1956 had a worked 303 olds bored to 324 ran B/gas in the low 13 teens, mostly up against big inch flatheads,i heard the only time it would lose if the driver missed a shift,it was a cover car in rodding and restyling oct 1957,sorry I sold it
    Joined: Jan 24, 2010
    Posts: 2,252

    from IDAHO

    the flathead stopped being king the same day that elvis stopped being the king!!!!!
  21. pljas
    Joined: Mar 14, 2010
    Posts: 17


    my uncle won the Stockton 99 championship and the state title with this flathead in 1959 it was a 48 bored and stroked. And the radiator was in the trunk..

    Attached Files:

  22. black 62
    Joined: Jul 12, 2012
    Posts: 1,895

    black 62
    from arkansas

    the thing chevy did was mass produce and sell to the public their best hipo offerings being King has always been about stoplights and street racing not race tracks---their was a great shortstory in one of the mags years ago about the night a 40 with a warmed over flatmotor lost the crown to a store bought 55 chevy, kinda sad but it happened all over the country...
  23. tfeverfred
    Joined: Nov 11, 2006
    Posts: 15,792

    Member Emeritus

    While I agree to a certain extent, street racing and stop lights could never be used to back up a claim. Nothing is recorded or logged and it's word of mouth at best.

    Who or what is king, depends on who you're talking to, who's around and what you're drinking.
  24. woodypecker
    Joined: Jan 23, 2011
    Posts: 300


    In my world it was 1957.
  25. Probably when the overhead valve engines displacement exceeded that of heavily modified flatheads and the cost of the new readily available overhead valve engines started showing up in the scrap yards. HRP
  26. sadsack
    Joined: Jan 29, 2014
    Posts: 72


  27. Atwater Mike
    Joined: May 31, 2002
    Posts: 10,728

    Atwater Mike

    "The day the flathead died". There was a song...

    Bye bye, Miss. Now we drive chevys to the levees. Not me...
  28. Truckedup
    Joined: Jul 25, 2006
    Posts: 4,273


    The Ford V8 was popular due to the aftermarket performance parts and it was readily available. As mentioned the GMC 270 was available pretty cheap after WW2 and could make more power than big flatties for the same money . But the Ford was well established and some just like a V8 sound...And the GMC fit best in a Chevy, not something Ford guys would drive :D
    The SBC Chevy became popular for the same reason as the Ford.

    And 60 years later the SBC is still popular and a front line competition engine..
  29. richie rebel
    Joined: Oct 8, 2007
    Posts: 1,184

    richie rebel

    early 50s,sad to say...............
  30. sawbuck
    Joined: Oct 14, 2006
    Posts: 1,897

    from 06492 ct

    flathead,panhead,knucklehead, givemehead!.........i have my first flatty going together with new cyclone 24s..and Sharp two pot.pretty stoked ! its gonna be king of my garage !
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page

Register now to get rid of these ads!


Copyright © 1995-2021 The Jalopy Journal: Steal our stuff, we'll kick your teeth in. Terms of Service. Privacy Policy.

Atomic Industry
Forum software by XenForo™ ©2010-2014 XenForo Ltd.