Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cadillac in a Ford?

One of the earliest parts of the Gow Cart project was the mill. In this case it's a Cadillac motor, in a Ford. A lot of folks out there ask me why I would choose the engine for an early ford car.

"Why not a Flathead?"
"Did you think about a Y block?"
"What about a 302 Small Block?"

All valid questions, sure. For the Flathead, I've already got one in the '49 Ford. It's been a great engine for the size, but the price for doing another one, I'd rather have something with a lot more power in a Hot Rod. Y-Blocks are pretty cool, but I don't think they are any cheaper to build up than an early OHV Cadillac motor, not to mention finding vintage speed parts for these beasts. And to the the small block 302 fans, well, I just can't do it in a model A with the focus on the mill. I can't argue with the readily available parts and the cost associated with them, but I think there is a lack of style that comes along with just a plain old 302. I just always associate that engine with a Mustang, which conjures a completely different era of cars.

The Cadillac 390 was introduced in 1959 which was essentially a stroked and bored version of it's original first OHV Cadillac motor, the 331, in 1949. Much like the Flathead it shared the center exhaust ports so you only have three exhaust manifold tubes coming out. I don't know what it is I like about seeing that in old Hemis, Desotos, Olds Rockets and Flatheads, but it gets my blood pumping and screams vintage mill!

The thing I love about the Cadillacs of that time period, outside of the loud American styling was the fact that people were in love with cars and many music artists sang songs about Cadillacs owning the road. Folks like Chuck Berry, Doc Starkes & the Nite Riders, Tex Rubinowitz, The Howlin' Wolf, Hugo Peretti, The Spaniels and more contemporary: Brian Stetzer and many more all have songs about Cadillacs.

It's hard to imagine that a 20+ foot long car was a race car to the folks of yesteryear. In todays terms these cars weren't that fast, but when you are comparing a Flathead that is generating 90 HP, stock in 1949 vs a Cadillac 331 spinning out a torquey 325 HP, stock you can see why it would be the natural choice for a kid building a Hotrod, if he could get his hands on a fresh junkyard crash (or a stolen car!) It takes a lot of HP to push around that kind of steel and chrome on a Cadillac!

Besides the fact I was able to pick and pull a Cadillac 390 for the Gow Cart, it's got some history and some advantages that an early rodder would want pushing their roadster down the road.