4. How’d you first develop your relationship with Barney Navarro? Of all the Flathead "gurus", he remained one of the best right up until his death. How much of his "insight" did he instill in you? Obviously it was enough to believe in the Navarro name to the extent of acquiring all his molds and whatnot, but I’m sure his wisdom went far beyond the particulars of his cylinder heads and intakes.
I first met Barney Navarro at his shop on Chevy Chase Drive in Glendale. I needed some parts to build an engine and I took the time to go down there and learn why Navarro heads and intakes were the best on the market. As my company grew, I had to visit him more and more, each time spending an hour talking to him about engines, flow, and why he did the different things he did. He was incredibly sharp and knew every date and why he did what he did all the way back to when he started machining intakes for Weiand. He was incredibly proud of every part he produced and it was always the highest quality. He was the type of guy who, when you asked him a question, always knew the answer. He taught me why his heads have a horseshoe-shaped chamber for better flow and his intakes have reverse 180 ports for equal distribution (he also changed the ports of his intake to act as an extension of the ports on the block). Barney never did something just because someone told him to—he had to figure it out for himself. He was also involved in boat racing, Indy racing, concrete cutting, and even built a heart and lung pump that was used at Kaiser Hospital for many years. He was a true thinker and pioneer of the industry. It was an honor to call him a friend of mine.
5. How did you transition the parts production from when/how Barney did it to the way H&H does it now?
The transition from Barney Navarro making the parts to me making them was almost seamless. Barney has used the same fourth-generation family business foundry, AFCO in Los Angeles since 1946, so I didn’t change a thing. When I bought the company I didn’t have to move anything since I still used his foundry and tooling. It has been a great process reintroducing all the intakes and heads that Barney hadn’t made for years. He felt there wasn’t a market for them anymore. So as I started making the intakes that were out of production. I would bring them to show him—it brought him great happiness and pride that his name would be carried on.
6. Finally, where do you see yourself in the next 10 years as far as Flatheads are concerned? You’d mentioned expanding to Y-blocks and other OHV engines—realizing the economy’s somewhat coming back around, where do you foresee the vintage engine world going?
In 10 years I see myself building as many Flatheads as possible. This engine has passed the test of time and with the younger generations getting into the history of hot rodding, there is little chance this part of American heritage will disappear. I am also expanding, building other vintage engines like Y-blocks, Lincoln V-12s, early Hemis, Nailheads, and Cadillac engines. I love the challenge building something different, something that allows me to help the hobby grow at the same time.