1. Let’s start from the beginning. Why Flatheads? What drew your family to them in the first place—but maybe more importantly, what kept you at it all these years rather than going out and getting a "real" job?
It all just seemed to fall into place like it was planned. When I finished college I was working for my brother, Max Jr., helping him with the Model A engines, but that wasn’t going to work. So it came to a point where I either needed to find a job or start something here. My dad threw out the idea to start building Flatheads, and Rod & Custom liked the idea so they came up here and followed my first Flathead build—it just kept going from there. Since the shop was already set up for the old engines and my dad had the knowledge to pass down to me, H&H Flatheads has been growing every year. I continue to build these Flatheads because they are the best-looking engines ever produced and it brings me great pride to know that I am restoring and preserving history and keeping these old cars on the road. Plus, who wants a real job?!
2. What have you learned over the years (that you’re willing to share) that has allowed you to improve on Flathead performance and maybe even set your engines apart from others? Are there any tricks you’ve developed for keeping Flatheads from running hot, anything like that?
Even in the last few years there have been new products that have made it much easier for the Flathead to be more reliable. We acid dip all of our cores before we even start to machine anything. This helps remove the flaky rust and even core sand that is still in the pan rail from Ford. It is a crucial part of the cooling. We also pressure-seal every block with a cast-iron resin that we heat to 180 degrees and pump through the water jackets at 20 pounds of pressure. It will show if there are any leaks and also coat all the water jackets. This is a must; we have been doing it for over 40 years with thousands of engines. In every engine I install hard seats for the unleaded gas and stainless valves. I use Isky springs, hollow body adjustable lifters, and only the best parts. Now, there are new water pumps with sealed bearings and improved impellers, new radiators available for everything, all of which make it really easy to keep the Flathead running cool.
3. For the people who may think a Flathead’s just an old V-8, explain what it is that makes a Flathead what it is, and why, unlike a small-block Chevy where you can simply go to Pep Boys and buy a complete rebuild kit (and then some), it takes more effort and more financial investment to end up with what seems like less?
Flatheads are in a class of their own. It was the first production V-8 Henry Ford ever made and was produced from 1932-53. It has a siamese center exhaust port, which gives it that unique sound. All the valves are in the block, which is why the heads are so thin. There are no pushrods or rocker arms. This is the engine that built hot rodding and a lot of America. It was used in forklifts, welders, wind mills, pumps, etc. This was an engine that just kept running. It was the first engine that speed equipment was readily available for (following the four-bangers, which had their share of hop-up parts, but not nearly as easy for just anyone to get), and style was introduced to speed. It is easy to drop a 350 Chevy in any fiberglass kit car, but it takes dedication and a goal to preserve history and put a Flathead in a car. Hot rodding is about being an individual and making your car your own. Flatheads are a just a way of life—something your grandfather drove, which also makes it a generation bridge. There is so much history behind the Flathead and people always tell me about the car their family drove every day back in the ’40s and it just brings people back to a good place in time.