Thursday 5th May 1938
The 5,000,000th Ford V-8 was produced. The Ford flathead V8 (often called simply the Ford flathead, flathead Ford, or flatty when the context is implicit, such as in hot-rodding) is a V8 engine of the valve-in-block type designed by the Ford Motor Company and built by Ford and various licensees. During the engine’s first decade (1932-1953) of production, when overhead-valve engines were rare, it was usually known simply as the Ford V‑8, and the first car model in which it was installed, the Model 18, was (and still is) often called simply the “Ford V‑8”, after its new engine. Although the V8 configuration was not new when the Ford V8 was introduced in 1932, the latter was a market first in the respect that it made an 8-cylinder affordable and a V engine affordable to the emerging mass market consumer for the first time. It was the first independently designed and built V8 engine produced by Ford for mass production, and it ranks as one of the company’s most important developments. A fascination with ever-more-powerful engines was perhaps the most salient aspect of the American car and truck market for a half century, from 1923 until 1973. The Ford flathead V8 was perfectly in tune with the cultural moment of its introduction, leading the way into a future of which the Ford company was a principal architect. Thus it became a phenomenal success. The engine design, with various changes but no major ones, was installed in Ford passenger cars and trucks until 1953, making the engine’s 21-year production run for the U.S. consumer market longer than the 19-year run of the Ford Model T engine for that market. The engine was on Ward’s list of the 10 best engines of the 20th century. It was a staple of hot rodders in the 1950s, and it remains famous in the classic car hobbies even today, despite the huge variety of other popular V8s that followed.