How Did Henry Ford Come To the Decision That He Needed A V8 Engine?
When Henry Ford introduced his new V-8 engine in 1932 he delivered something that the experts had said was impossible. A single casting V-8 engine in a car at a price that the general public could afford! Although the correct name is an L-head engine, the Ford Flathead made news and was an instant hit when it was introduced to the public on March 31, 1932. All V-8 engines that have appeared in competitors products since Ford introduced his V-8 engine were made in response to the Ford marketing challenge.
Fact is, the Ford Flathead V-8 is enjoying something of a resurgence in popularity these days with the hot rod magazines devoting quite a bit of press to them. This is remarkable considering the last Flathead V-8 Ford engine was built in 1954. Over 42 years ago! Why the interest? The engine is simple in construction when compared to modern engines, parts are still plentiful and relatively easy to find. In addition, many performance parts makers such as Edelbrock and Offenhauser still make parts for this venerable engine. Even superchargers are still available for the Ford Flathead! You can really make this engine perform! And to top it off, most of the standard engine parts are still available off the shelf at your local autoparts store!
Why did Henry Ford introduce a V-8 engine at the height of the Depression? Very simple. Henry was losing sales to Chevrolet! Chevrolet had introduced a six cylinder engine and was selling more cars as a result. Henry Ford didn't like six cylinder engines. In his early attempts at building a six he came upon what appeared to be insurmountable problems. The crankshafts were long and prone to breaking. As a result old Henry swore he'd never build another six cylinder engine (he did eventually, but only at the insistence of his son Edsel). Ford's reasoning was that if he did match Chevrolet's six with a Ford designed six, he would be an industry follower and not an industry leader. So Ford tasked his engineers with designing and building a reasonably priced V-8 engine.
Ford engineers obtained some examples of V-8 powered cars on the market at the time, and found they all had two things in common. All were in cars for the well to do, and all engines were cast in two or three pieces that were bolted together. Ford determined that to save cost and to increase durability, his engine would be cast in one piece. That was what the experts considered to be the impossible. Henry Ford and his engineers did it and proved them wrong!