Up until now, my personal experience with Ford’s venerable L-head V-8 has been, oh, let’s just say anything but venerable. My first one, a bone-stock 8BA that powered my chopped ’49 Shoebox, was like me—hot headed … literally. After the culprit (head gasket) decided to make a break for it, I’d about had it with Flatheads (I was young and didn’t like messing around with old engines at the time—especially anything with a Blue Oval). But that wouldn’t be my last Flathead experience.

Fast forward roughly 10 years and once again I found myself with another Shoebox—a '51 Club Coupe to be exact. And just like before, "stock" Flathead powered (lack of oil bath air cleaner notwithstanding). At first, the only problematic issue was a badly slipping clutch—but seeing as I lived but a block from CW Moss at the time (and back then, good ol’ Bill McGrath had his used parts section there!), that problem was quickly cured with a new disc and a reconditioned pressure plate. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the last of my Flathead troubles—among other things, excessive blow-by and, just like before, excessive overheating ultimately dictated the lil’ 239 go bye-bye, making way for a 302/T-5 combo. That, it seemed, would be my last Flatty foray.

From that point on, my focus engine-wise went Inline—sixes, that is, Stovebolts to be precise. And oddly enough, the first- and second-gen Chevy straight-six is no less quirky, finicky, and hot-tempered than the Flatheads, yet that didn’t discourage me nearly as much as it had in the past. So, as time went on, my horizons re-widened, and when it came time to decide on an engine for my '33 Tudor, while the old circa-’64 283 small-block in the corner of my garage seemed to be the easiest choice, it also posed the challenge and temptations to revisit the old Flathead again. But this time, I wasn’t going it alone, nor was I jumping in without first doing my research, just as I’d done with all my recent, well-running 235s—the right combination of parts (most importantly, the proper block to start with), setup, and tuning … with a few tricks thrown in for very good measure.

As with the Inliners, there’s more than one way to skin a Flatty, and even more opinions, philosophies, etc., regarding the skinning—er, building and tuning—of said Flatties. To say one particular model and one particular technique is right/best is to say all Flatheads are created equal to begin with … no and no. But I had to start somewhere, and that somewhere led me to La Crescenta, California, where, midway up the Angeles Crest Mountains, H&H Flatheads is located discretely behind a corner service station.

H&H has been in the Flathead business for decades now, and its current proprietor, Mike Herman, has not only learned the ropes from his father, Max Sr., he was able to slide more than a few tricks up his sleeve, thanks to developing a close relationship with one of hot rodding’s leading Flathead performance experts, the late Barney Navarro. Rather than simply asking Mike to build me a decent little 8BA for my ’33, I sat down and picked his brain to get his opinions, insight, and whatnot regarding all things Flathead—all the good things, that is.