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Ford 239 Flattie in a 51 Starlight?

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  • Engine: Ford 239 Flattie in a 51 Starlight?

    Has anyone here on the forum ever contemplated installing a Flathead motor( I have a rebuilt Ford 52' 239 on a stand) ? I'm on the fence on which way to go for running gear. Seems most have used Chevy V8's I assume since they are reliable and parts are readily available. Any comments are welcome, Please share!
    Have a fine day all!
    Patrick Sammon

  • #2
    I sure would look cool! By the time 51's were old used cars, most swapped in whatever was cheap. Mostly chevy, but early Caddys were available by then too. I never saw any Stude's being rodded when growing up. They are a late comer to the fold. You would be laughed out of school if you drove one, and not part of the Camaro, Mustang, Mopar crowd.
    Bez Auto Alchemy
    573-318-8948
    http://bezautoalchemy.com


    "Don't believe every internet quote" Abe Lincoln

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    • #3
      WHY (other than you have one)???

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      • #4
        Such an installation would be a puzzler to me. Wouldn't a Stude OHV V8 be superior and an easier install?
        Don Wilson, Centralia, WA

        40 Champion 4 door*
        50 Champion 2 door*
        53 Commander K Auto*
        53 Commander K overdrive*
        55 President Speedster
        62 GT 4Speed*
        63 Avanti R1*
        64 Champ 1/2 ton

        * Formerly owned

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        • #5
          Has anyone here on the forum ever contemplated installing a Flathead motor( I have a rebuilt Ford 52' 239 on a stand) ? Seems most have used Chevy V8's I assume since they are reliable and parts are readily available.
          Your car, your money, your decision.

          Just adding up, it seems like a lot of work for no horsepower gain. Even the old Commander six made as much horsepower and more low RPM torque. A good 289" would be twice the horsepower. A good SBC 350" could be easily three times the stronger.

          We nutball-lunatic-fringe sometimes diss the SBC as being too ordinary; still nothing makes as much horsepower for the dollar spent or is more reliable and it fits most anywhere.

          Having said that, it would be specious to make a case for low cost and engine reliability on one hand and then install it into a sixty-five-year-old car.

          Bottom line - these cars make no rational sense, so just do what you think would be fun and can afford.

          jack vines
          PackardV8

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          • #6
            THINK about your theme on your build. Does a flathead fit in it? If so, and you have a good one, and don't have a Stude, then do it. If finances would be so that it would be easier on you, and you like flatheads, do it. Is your FH modified any?
            Do you have a clutch housing and a o/d Ford trans. ? Are YOU going to be happy with it?

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            • #7
              You have asked for opinions, but you have not given the most important factor in selecting an engine: what do you intend to do with this car? How far and how often will you drive it? Will you drive it enough that fuel mileage is a consideration?

              A lot of knowledgeable guys on this forum are old school, and I respect that. But even a 40 or 50 year old small block Ford or Chevy motor is modern compared to your Studebaker. I build my project cars to drive, so I don't even consider anything but a modern fuel injected motor. In any case, it makes no sense to me to put an antique motor in a project car unless it is something really special, and I don't think a Duesenberg straight eight would fit.
              Last edited by 48skyliner; 02-11-2014, 12:27 PM.
              Trying to build a 48 Studebaker for the 21st century.
              See more of my projects at stilettoman.info

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              • #8
                We put one in our '53 a while back. We've gone a lot faster with our 182 cubic inch Stude V8.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by bezhawk View Post
                  I sure would look cool! By the time 51's were old used cars, most swapped in whatever was cheap. Mostly chevy, but early Caddys were available by then too. I never saw any Stude's being rodded when growing up. They are a late comer to the fold. You would be laughed out of school if you drove one, and not part of the Camaro, Mustang, Mopar crowd.
                  I somehow think a Stude C-K; especially a Hawk V8, wouldn't be counted against you.
                  --------------------------------------

                  Sold my 1962; Studeless at the moment

                  Borrowed Bams50's sigline here:

                  "Do they all not, by mere virtue of having survived as relics of a bygone era, amass a level of respect perhaps not accorded to them when they were new?"

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                  • #10
                    Someone ask what was the intended use? Somehow, I doubt it is a salts assualt car, LOL

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                    • #11
                      Why? Other than you have an engine on the stand. The first engine swap that I did back in the 50's was put a 232 Stude in a 41 Ford. That was an improvement over the flatty.

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                      • #12
                        Could look at it this way. If you were an old school hot rodder circa 1946-54, the Ford flatty still had a HUGE following as a proper hot rod mill, and well prepped was still putting the hurt on a lot of the new-fangled OHV mills. (the dudes that hung in there loved the challenge ...just like Stude V-8 rodders still do today )
                        Any old time rodder that had a built flatty just sitting, and a solid lightweight car that needed an engine, wouldn't have wasted much time worrying about preserving 'originality' or CASO opinions.

                        That this or that would make a 'faster' car is really beside the point. No matter what you build there is certainly going to be a lot cars that will be a lot more powerful and faster.
                        But if you're just going to be cruising to the shows and running thru the gears once in a while, a good ol flatty hooked to a t-5 can certainly sing a song that will plaster a grin on yer kisser.

                        I have half a dozen vintage V-8s on hand, a couple of early Caddys, 3 extra Stude V-8s, a Mopar small-block with 4 speed, ...but I wouldn't hesitate for a minute to use a known to be good Ford flathead if I had one. 'Cause I don't delude myself that whatever I build is ever going to rule the world. It only has to sing to please me.
                        But be sure you know its good before you start, 'cause they're certainly no longer cheap to rebuild.
                        Last edited by Jessie J.; 02-11-2014, 06:46 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Wow thanks for Your input guys! The reason I asked is I have only had One Chev in My life and it was a 1936 Chev Coupe with a Modern Chevy 350 and turbo 400 automatic, That was years ago(Though I still occasionally see My old car at local car shows.) I think I will go with a GM crate motor as it's pretty much a drop in application. I am looking more for driving reliability, Vs. a rumpling, Thumping, fire breathing Hot Rod.
                          This quandary has me up in the air about the build! Sometimes lately I have seriously considered just bundling all Four of My Studebakers and selling them as a package deal. But I know I will never be able to find another '51 Commander Starlight in as pristine condition as the One I have in My shop. I do have a '59 Studebaker 2DR. regal wagon with the 289 V8 and 3-Speed trans with overdrive I'd like to sell. It needs a total restore but is a nice solid platform. If any of You are interested please email me through this site as I am not informed enough to post pics here on the forum.
                          Again I thank all of You who have taken the time to leave a comment to My questions!
                          Have a fine day!
                          Patrick Sammon

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                          • #14
                            I think "drop in" is a bit of a overstatement but if you are going the SBC way and that's the way I roll, use this opportunity to add a 4-speed overdrive to the SBC. Remember you are adding a 12 volt engine to a six volt car.

                            The crate motor is a fine idea but for that price, go to the local wrecking yard and price a newer LS engine trans combo.

                            If you still want crate, no problemo here. But you'll need a radiator for the SBC, aluminum generics are quite inexpensive. There will be a lot of small issues but the size of the package should physically fit OK and as you go you'll see the things that need to be changed/modified.

                            Even a 350 crate motor, and some of them are monsters, can be made to sound great with a correct selection of mufflers and cam choice.

                            You are building a great looking car that in this configuration should be dependable and attention getting too.

                            Avanti, Bob

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                            • #15
                              My thoughts on this? If it is a nice, built, flathead, it deserves to be in a traditional-style hotrod where it can be seen, not hidden deep in the engine of a Studebaker. I don't believe this was ever a common swap, back in the day, because it wasn't much of jump in power over the Champion six, and definitely less power than the 232 V8. I, for one, have never seen a "magazine car" with a Ford flattie swap into a Stude. So, you might have uniqueness going for you, anyway. I'm not against doing this because it will "ruin" a Studebaker; it's more that I feel it's not the best way to show off the engine. I have a little flattie V8 at home, myself, one from a Simca, which is a refinement of the Ford V8-60, and it's just too plain cute to be stuffed under the hood of a car where it can't be seen.
                              Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands

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