~FLATHEADS~
1. OVERVIEW & HISTORY                7. IGNITION
2. FUEL FLOW                                8. INDUCTION
3. HEADS                                       9. EXHAUST
4. CAMSHAFTS                             10. LUBRICATION   
5.
CRANKSHAFT
6. RODS & PISTONS
LUBRICATION
Now this is a subject that any
red blooded Flathead fan
should take great interest in.
Without proper lubrication, all
that hard earned work on the
block, and all those beautiful,
hard to find performance
parts, will soon be for naught.
As with anything, a race
engine is only as good as it’s
weakest link and proper
lubrication of your racing
Flathead is essential not only
for performance, but longevity.
Fortunately, we have a good
base to start with. The
Flathead V8 from it’s
inception in 1932 was
equipped with a full pressure
oiling system which is more
than adequate (and quite an
improvement over the previous
‘dip’ system) for stock
applications. As has been
pointed out in many books
and Flathead websites, the
only true drawback to the
system was the lack of
filtering. The 8BA model,
introduced in 1949, addressed
this problem to a degree with
a bypass type filtering system
but the flathead really never
had a full flow type system in
production (at least that I’m
aware of). The only other
drawback I can think of in the
system is the lack of adequate
crankcase breathing which,
along with the non-detergent
oils of the era, created a lot of
sludge in many engines. Both
of these shortcomings can be
easily remedied of course and
as such cannot be looked
upon as any type of deterrent
to building a good racing piece.
So, what did the racers in this
area do? Well, for the most
part they used a larger pump
to start with. Lincoln pumps
were modified for use and
Melling made an excellent
high volume racing pump (I
believe it was model M21, now
replaced by the new M15),
that were used to great
success during the era. Must
add here though that these
were, and only should be,
used on racing engines and
Ardun’s where extra oil
volume is needed due to
higher stresses and, because
these engines have a place for
the oil to go. Smokey Yunick
wrote some interesting
commentary on the subject in
his book ‘Power Secrets’ – a
good read by the way – in
which he discussed the
phenomenon of oil whipping
and cavitation. At high RPM
the oil can be whipped into a
foam, air is introduced into
the oil and subsequently the
oil breaks down, then the
bearings follow suit. You don’t
want to overwork the oil, and
by adding a high volume
pump to a stock clearanced
engine – that’s what you
would be doing. The pump
tries to push the oil into an
area that can’t take the
volume, the bypass on your oil
pump opens and recycles the
oil back to the inlet side, and
this creates heat, whipping
and cavitation - hot oil with air
in it isn’t as good as cool oil
without so you get the picture.
You wouldn’t put a
supercharger on a high
compression engine (unless of
course you wanted to blow it
up) and the same theory
applies here, the application
has to be matched to the part.
The Lincoln and Melling high
volume pumps are basically
the same as a stock pump
with longer gears which create
the additional volume flow and
should only be used on
engines clearanced for racing.
And racing clearances are
quite a bit larger than stock or
street clearances, for instance,
in stock applications 0.001-
0.0015 is considered in
tolerance for rods and mains,
while I like to see 0.0025 on
racing engines. But the big
differences is in the end
clearances of the rods and
mains, stock can be 0.006-
0.010 but race engines should
have a minimum of 0.015 up
to 0.025, (and a tip of the hat
to Mr. Ron Halloran) the rod
bearing itself should have a
minimum of 0.010 clearance
in width from the journal as
well. Now, that extra volume of
oil has a place to go, to get in
lubricate, cool, and get out.
Just like a blower with a low
compression engine, it’s gotta
have the room to work
properly. Another thing while
we’re on the subject –
stretching the bypass spring,
or shimming it, in order to
obtain greater oil pressure
does nothing but close down
the bypass valve, make the
pump work harder and heat
the oil – no good. Bottom line,
if you don’t have an engine
with loose clearances for
racing, you don’t need a high
volume pump and you don’t
need to have ungodly oil
pressure either, it does more
harm than good.
While we’re on the subject of
bearings I’ll throw out a little
more BS. I like the floaters
best, just like all the racers
that I’ve talked to. Sure, they’
re harder to fit, fussier, take
longer, but they’re worth it.
They provide two oil films, one
between the crank and
bearing and one between the
bearing and rod, in this case,
two is betterer than one. The
bearing cools better and wears
better, I have used Clevite 8BA
type bearings as well and they’
ve worked fine but never wear
as well as my floater engines
have. It’s interesting to note
that in my conversations with
former racers and builders
that once they went to the
overhead Fords (Y-blocks) that
many of them had problems
with the insert type bearings –
they’re solution – machine the
rods to accept the floaters and
the problems disappeared.
And this came from some
noted, and successful
mechanics and drivers – Fred
Decarr and Frankie Schneider
namely. Another interesting
tidbit came from a mechanic
in Florida named Speedy
Spiers who related to me that
he always had the cranks
ground for the biggest oversize
bearing he could get his
hands on (0.080), his theory
was that this slowed the
bearing foot speed (the speed
at which the bearing turned
on the crank) and also that
the additional bearing
material helped cool it better,
interesting and it makes
sense.OK, so we’ve got that
settled, a high volume pump
for your ‘loose is fast’ race
engine, and a good stock
replacement pump such as
Mellings M19 for your street
car. What else did the racers
do? Breathers. Crankcase
pressure is no good either,
you gotta get that air out of
there. Since I’m a circle
tracker, I always add a
breather to the oil pan on the
drivers side of the engine,
towards the front. Doesn’t
have to be fancy although the
aluminum pieces look best –
make a template of the gasket
surface, place it on the pan
and drill some holes. I put a
baffle on the inside of the pan
and attach the breather to the
outside because it wouldn’t
make much sense the other
way around. Add a second
breather off the manifold – I
use one off the back of my
injectors but of course you
can use the fuel pump stand
for this since you’re probably
not using a mechanical pump
anyway and if you have a 8BA
type manifold you’ve got
another spot off the front –
two minimum, three is more
better.
Next is cooling. Cliff Kotary
always had a Beehive oil filter
which is a nice piece, looks
great and has to help cool that
oil a bit, every little bit helps.
Aside from that though, he
also had an oil cooler which I’
m sure did a great deal more
than the Beehive, keeping the
oil cool is paramount to
optimum lubrication and
performance as stated above.
Now, what’s next? In John
Gerber’s excellent book
‘Outlaw Sprint Car Racer’
(another excellent read) his
last words in the book are ‘I
always kept my oil clean’. Hot
oil is no good, dirty oil is just
as bad or worse. The 8BA
bypass system only addressed
the top end of the engine and
the 59A block had no filtration
system at all. However, it is
interesting to note that is
must have been the topic of
much debate at Ford as many
blocks have a boss cast in on
the rear of the block right over
the oil pressure passage –
foresight on the engineers
part? The ‘95%’ oil filtration
system (the entire engine sees
filtered oil with this
modification, sans the main
rear) is my choice because it
can be done at home, by
myself, with few pieces
involved (ie: cheap) with no
internal tubing or bulkhead
fittings through the pan to
fail. The pictures included
demonstrate how this
accomplished although I
admit this is nothing new by a
long shot, Mike Davidson’s
book ‘Flathead Fever’
(amongst others) has
illustrated this modification
nicely as well as many
websites on our ‘links’ page.
Now, add your two filter setup
and you’ve got a nice filtration
system as well as additional
cooling. The next step beyond
this system is the ‘Full Flow’
system which taps into the
bottom of the oil pump and
then pumps oil through
tubing and a bulkhead fitting
through the pan to a remote
filter and then back in. I’ve
also included a
nice article
(click for the link
)written by
Bill Mumyaw on this
modification which is still
available through Mark Kirby
and other sources. It’s an
excellent idea, the only
drawback I can see in it is that
the possibility of failure of the
tubing or bulkhead fitting
exists, and this happened to a
fellow racer here once in NY.
He didn’t lose the engine that
night as he caught it in time,
but did lose it soon after and I
wondered if the damage hadn’
t occurred the night the fitting
failed. Regardless, I like the
‘95%’ system, it’s never failed
on me.
Oil pans. I like the Mercury
EAB (’49-’53) best as it has
the baffle and corresponding
baffled oil pickup tube, better
control of the oil in the turns.
Once at Oswego I had 59A in,
great engine with a 425-2
Crane, cranker. In the corners
though I noticed the oil
pressure dropping off – the oil
was running away from the
pickup, only thing to do was
to add more oil. The additional
oil pumped out my breather
onto my header in the feature
and – you guessed it, smoke.
Oil on a big, fast asphalt track
like Owego where supers do
140 plus is frowned upon by
track officials and they black
flagged me – and I was coming
too. Very disappointing. A
baffled pan would have
prevented this problem so I
set out with a Merc. Pan and
then grafted a nice SBC pan
to the bottom of it with oil
traps and a windage tray. Very
nice and works quite well
thank you, now if I could just
get back to Oswego with a
good set of tires like I had that
night..
Tidbits; block off the fuel
pump rod if you’re not using it
and if you’re putting in new
cam bearings then it’s simple
to do by just turning the rear
cam bearing. Speedy Spiers
suggested blocking off the
cam valley ports where the oil
baffles are as well to help
increase flow where’s it
needed as well although I
have to admit I haven’t tried
this yet. Another good point
he made (which came from
cam grinder John Schooler)
was to take a file and groove
the inside of the lifter bores
on the thrust side when using
a radius cam, and also to drill
a 3/16 hole into the lifter bore
(from the valley side) under
the key holes to ensure extra
oil gets to the lifters and cam –
that one I am going to try. The
radius cam does have the
drawback of side thrust
(whereas the flat and
mushroom tappet cams don’t)
which over time can wear a
lifter bore egg shaped.
Additional oil in this area can
only help, and I like the, as
Harvey Crane put it,
“enhanced torque curve” that
the radius cam provides. What
else? Oh, yeah – OIL!
Todays petroleum oils are
light years ahead of what the
racers in the 50’s and 60’s
had. The detergent oils today
run cleaner, cooler, blah blah
blah, at least that’s what they’
d have you believe. Now, you’
re going to break the engine
in correctly, you’re going to
use plenty of molybdenum
sulfide (cam lube) and you’re
going to change oil twice
before you go racing and then
you’re going to change it
again after a few races, if you’
re smart that is. Oil is cheap.
Bearings, cranks, rods, cams,
lifters, pistons and rings are
not. You’re going to change
your oil, plenty. And then
once you’ve gotten to the
point where it’s broke in and
clean you’re going to consider
synthetic oil, great stuff. I do
believe the oils of today are
probably better but I’ve used
Oilzum when it was available
and that was good sticky stuff,
today I’ll use Valvoline 20-50
racing or Pennzoil but only in
a pinch. I’ve tried Mobil 1 and
Amsoil Synthetic and would
recommend either. But, if you
want the best the you have to
look to the past and get pure
racing Caster Oil. It’s still
available from Blendzall in
Ohio, not cheap, but you’re
engine is worth it. And it
doesn’t mind methanol either.
Just don’t breath too much of
it or you’ll be driving your
racecar to the bathroom – as
Speedy Spiers recently
pointed out to me – ‘Those
Germans in WWI had the best
lubricant possible, Caster, and
that’s why they wore those
scarves, to keep it out of their
nostrils. Didn’t matter, it still
got in through their skin and
they’d nearly crash trying to
get to the head after a flight.”
And that my friends, is being
well lubricated.         
Flathead Ford V8 Oiling Schematic.
Flathead Ford V8 Ventilation Schematic.
Melling M15 (left) and M21 pumps, high volume with longer gears.
Floater rods and bearings - I've found these to wear best.
Melling M19 (left) stock high volume pump and Bob Hayslett's answer - two stock pump gears and housings pinned and brazed together - this pump works extremely well.
A pan breather doesn't have to be fancy...
59A pan with a Mercury (EAB) baffle welded in place.
Mercury pan with an additonal SBC graft for additional oil volume and control.
Simply the best I've found, click for website link.
The Beehive Filter adds cooling as well as good looks..
95% Oil Filtration Schematic from Mike Davidson's book 'Flathead Fever'.
To do this you'll need a 3/8 Pipe Tap, a 37/64 drill,
a 7/16-14 tap, some grit and luck. It makes for a
nice job though and will help keep the oil much
cleaner - which in the end makes for a better engine.
Stick a drift in to determine where to drill, don't miss.
Take it in steps, this thing will walk you around.
I hit this one next and leave the top outlet alone for oil pressure.
Tapping is fun with a good tool.
Tap for 3/8 pipe thread.
Now tap the passage for a grub screw.
Loctite the grub screw in place to seperate the passages.
Add the fittings and you're done - make sure to clean thoroughly afterward.
95% Oil Filtration Modification