When choosing an engine to upgrade the performance of your hot rod there are a staggering number of options available from both major manufacturers as well as aftermarket engine rebuilders. Your choice depends on what you are trying to accomplish, be it a fire-breathing, blown big-block or a streetable, fuel-injected small-block. Dressing up a late-model V-8 to emulate a design from decades past sometimes leaves you wanting more if you really want your engine to have that vintage vibe. On a recent visit to the Hot Rod Garage in Denton, Maryland, we came across an upgrade that shop owner Ray Bartlett designed to bring a bit of classic style to late-model Ford V-8s. There’s nothing like opening your hood and seeing a set of early T-bird finned aluminum valve covers in place accented by other period-perfect elements. Problem is that the Y-block V-8 valve covers will not bolt to a late-model Ford V-8 as they have different mounting systems. Leave it to the Hot Rod Garage to come up with a fix for that dilemma by designing a set of custom cylinder head adapter plates to make mounting them in place a snap.

To create a simple template, a sheet of thin cardboard was used. The outside diameter of the valve cover and boltholes were traced first onto the cardboard stock using a black marker. The valve cover gasket was then carefully removed and used to trace the inside diameter of the cover. By doing this we were able to establish the inner seat of the valve cover where it mates to the cylinder head. Be sure to mark the template to illustrate the top of the valve cover to avoid any confusion. For the next step, a vintage Thunderbird Y-block valve cover was then placed onto the template to establish the difference in the outer diameter between it and the stock cover. To illustrate the difference, a white marker was used to trace its dimensions onto the template. It was easy to see from the first marking that while its horizontal planes were exact, its vertical planes were significantly inboard from the stock cover. A digital caliper was then used to establish the vertical width of the cover so as to complete the width of that plane at 0.615 inches. This completed the measurements needed for the template. Shore Fabrication was then contacted to transfer all of the dimensions to an AutoCAD program and create a blueprint of the template. It was determined that the design should be transferred to 3/8-inch 6061-strength aluminum sheet for strength and durability when mounting to the base of the cylinder head. To create the adapter plate, the program was transferred to a Calypso water jet with 60,000-psi cutting strength. Once Nash ran the program it was only a matter of minutes ’til the adapter plate was completed.

Since the plate needs to bolt flush to the head, it was determined that the six mounting holes would have to be countersunk. The final fabrication for the upright supports required fashioning a thin cardboard template from the interior area of the Y-block valve cover. It was important to first measure the interior depth of the cover. This was accomplished by laying a straightedge over the opening of the bottom of the valve cover and measuring the interior depth with a tape measure, which equaled 2 7/8 inches. From there a U-shaped cardboard template was made which would work on either side of the valve cover. This template allowed for space exactly 1/4-inch from the inner cover surface to the top of the upright support stanchion for mounting purposes. For plenty of strength, the template was transferred onto a section of 1/2-inch aluminum plate. The upright supports and valve cover were then mocked in place so that the mounting holes could be marked on the supports. To complete the job, a custom stud spacer was bolted in place to retain the perfect alignment of the uprights to the adapter plate. The uprights were then TIG-welded to the adapter plate. Once completed the adapter was bolted to the cylinder head and fitted with the Y-block valve cover gasket and cover. The final outcome was perfect, melding the vintage good looks of the finned aluminum T-bird valve cover to the late-model Ford V-8. For further information on the availability of this conversion contact the Hot Rod Garage at the number below.

[3-4] With the valve cover gasket removed, its inside diameter was then traced to establish the interior seat of the valve cover on the cylinder head.

[5] Using a vintage Thunderbird Y-block valve cover, a white marker was used to trace its outer diameter onto the template.

[6] It’s easy to see the difference in the exterior diameter of the Y-block versus the late-model Ford V-8 valve covers. While the horizontal planes are exact, the vertical planes differ.

[7] This shot lets you see a close up of the exact dimensional difference between the two valve covers for mating the Y-block cover to the cylinder head.

[8] The width of the Y-block valve cover mounting surface was measured using a caliper with a digital readout confirming 0.615 inches.

[9] With the mounting surface width confirmed, it was transferred to the template, completing all of our needed measurements.

[10] The completed template was then converted to an AutoCAD program by Shore Fabrication for use with their water jet cutting system.

[11-12] The Calypso water jet system is fully automated and uses 60,000 psi to cut through 3/8-inch 6061-strength aluminum, making the job look effortless.

[13] From start to finish took only a few minutes till the adapter plate was completed.

[14] Once the new adapter plate was cleaned off you can see just how exact it is to the original template.