This article’s for you “Forgotten Fiberglass Ford Flathead Fanatics” out there…(I kind of like the ring of that…it’s a record….5 “F’s” in a row….I don’t even do that when I’m grading papers for my students..) You’ve heard of the 60 horsepower Ford Flatheads (V8-60), the 85 HP, and even the 100 HP Flatties. But who ever heard (or even thought possible) a 175 horsepower Ford Flathead with “Ardun” heads?
Bill Tritt did, and he put one in his Glasspar G2 racecar in 1953 and nearly cleaned the field up on more than one occasion.
Ardun heads were originally designed to give more power to Ford trucks when needed. And this same approach was used by more than one hot rodder back in the day – including Bill Burke when he hit the Bonneville Salt Flats. As we progress with sharing research about significant fiberglass sports cars built back in the ‘50s, you will start seeing more vintage stories about cars powered by Flatheads with Ardun heads.
Let’s take a look at what Tom McCahill had to say about Ardun heads in an article from Mechanix Illustrated, January 1951.
175 Horsepower For Your V-8:
Mechanix Illustrated, January 1951
A nice guy named Zora Arkus-Duntov, whom I first met while he was trying to qualify a Talbot at Indianapolis in 1946, has designed and is selling (under the more easily pronounceable name, Ardun, an abbreviated version of his own handle) an overhead valve kit for V-8 Fords that is really a dilly.
A car with a straight Ardun engine tried to qualify at Indianapolis last May and averaged 124 mph, not quite enough to get in the big race, but perhaps the fastest time ever recorded out there for a hot Ford. Ardun claims 175 horsepower at 5200 rpm for a standard, unrebored and untouched Ford block, simply by adding his overhead valve assembly with a compression ratio of only 7 to 1.
He says he gets 150 hp at 3600 rpm, as against 100 hp for the stock Ford at this speed. He further claims 225 foot-pounds of torque at 2500 rpm and says that his engine runs as cool as your mother-in-law’s scowl when she finds you in the local bar and grill on payday.
I don’t know how he squeezes 5200 rpm out of a standard Ford ignition system, but that’s his claim. The day I saw this job there wasn’t a car around to test so I asked Ardun to make checks for me later. Here they are: in a standard 1949 Ford business coupe, with just the head equipment added, zero to 60 averaged 9.8 seconds, he reported. Zero to 70 went 14 flat. These are very fast times.
This is a slick conversion. I suggest you look into it if you are interested in such things. The price runs around $475 and no special tools are needed to install it, which takes 6-8 hours. Tom McCahill.
That’s a lot of hours to make the conversion – but if you are lucky enough these days to have a set of these heads, every minute is worth it. This setup is still available but at a lot more than $475. Nowadays it’s about $14,000 for the heads and setup, and it’s offered by a very reputable and honorable company. Click here to learn more about how this technology works by visiting Don Ferguson’s website. Be sure to visit the “Features”, “History”, and other relevant parts of his website for added detail.
And by the way….I didn’t know that Zora had a brother Yura? Another fact for “Trivial Pursuit…”
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
Click on the Images Below to View Larger Pictures
This picture shows the spark plug access holes in the side of the body.
I visited the Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, Nebraska a few years ago. “Speedy” Bill Smith has several engines with Ardun heads on display. What a stunning collection of engines he has.
I knew and worked with your uncle Zora, but never met your father, who was just a mythical figure to me. When I was still a teenager I wasn’t as interested in automotive history as I have become in the following 58 years, so I missed a great many opportunities. I could easily have asked Zora more about his own past, and about Yura’s, but it just didn’t occur to me, which I much regret.
For instance, there were three guys in the Chevrolet design studio at Tech Center who had all been Army pilot in the second world war, “flying the hump” over the Himalayas, as dangerous an assignment as existed in military flying, but despite my lifelong interest in aviation, I never got them talking about it. Youth is wasted on the young, as people have been saying for centuries.
Wish I could help, but I missed my opportunities back then.
Yura Duntov was big on small engines, and he ramrodded the V-8 60 Ardun heads, of which about a hundred sets were made. Zora first used the bigger heads in his Allard J2, which is why there were three portholes in the Allard hood: to reach the plugs without opening the hood. Zora’s Allard still exists, in the hands of a Texas collector.
I’ve only ever seen one set of the V-8 60 heads, but that proved the existence of two distinct Ardun heads.
Yura was my dad, but he died when I was six, so i didn’t really get to know him. Your comment suggests you knew him, and perhaps during his younger years when he was still involved in engineering. I’d love to get in contact with you if you did in fact know my dad. Thanks,