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Increasing HP on the 1950 Flat Head Six

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  • Engine: Increasing HP on the 1950 Flat Head Six

    I went to my first Studebaker Drivers Club meeting, the North Carolina Founders day Meet this Saturday in Mooresville, NC. I was able to talk to several members in person about my engine needing a rebuild and enjoyed the event. We have a wealth of knowledge in our organization and a lot of good people. The guys got me thinking about increasing the HP a bit on my flat head six. I was told that a 58 or 59 head would help to increase the compression ratio. I was wondering what some of the members on hear have done to get a little more HP. Thanks

    Ron

  • #2
    A splitter exhaust Manifold will make it sound better! Some people search out a Dual 1 Brl. Carb. Intake Manifold. I would think most of the stuff is mostly for looks, but I am sure you could get 5 to 10 more H.P. but you will never "feel it".

    I have often wondered if these little Sixes would respond to some creative Porting, not many have tried that, that I know of, maybe it would help, but it would probably be a slippery slope, you would have to do a LOT more like a Cam etc.

    I am pretty sure you could "feel it" if you were to drop in a 185 C.I.D. '55-'58 Champion engine though, 101 H.P. stock, Wow!

    If it were a '51, you could install a Commander V8, but I would never recommend that in a '50 that was not built for it.
    StudeRich
    Second Generation Stude Driver,
    Proud '54 Starliner Owner

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    • #3
      Thanks Rich
      I would like to maintain the original engine but a few more HP would be nice. I will need to look into the porting and a cam to see if that will help. Has anyone did this on the 170....if so please let me know? I like the idea of Splitter exhaust manifold and Dual Carb look as well but I want to feel a little more get up and go. I have found that you can get larger pistons and machine the block. How much over can you safely go on the 170? If I have to live with the 85hp I am okay with that but since the engine will be out of the car now is the time to think about minor modifications.

      Ron

      Ron

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      • #4
        Bill Cathcart of Connecticut was a pioneer in hopping up the flathead six. Unfortunately he is no longer involved in the hobby. I would think you could find many of his ideas via a Google search.
        Chip
        '63 Cruiser
        '57 Packard wagon
        '61 Lark Regal 4 dr wagon
        '50 Commander 4 dr sedan

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        • #5
          With a 10 percent hp gain, about what you could expect with headers, carb swap, cam and over bore, it would amount to about 8 or 9 hp. And those gains will not be in the lower rpm range where most of your use will be in a driver. Better to start with a 185 engine. Lamar

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          • #6
            I am getting everything together to rebuild a Commander six. Common sense things are, higher compression cylinder head, LARGER intake valves, and having the whole rotating assembly balanced. L-heads are notoriously bad breathers so splitting the exhaust would probably help. I am looking at a Stromberg 97 2bb carb to go with the larger intake valves. Another mundane thing to consider is the cooling system, be sure to have the block hot-tanked. Any increase in HP usually adds heat to the system which will affect performance. I am looking at adding a thermostat controlled oil cooler before the partial-flow oil filter (full flow filter would be better).

            There is a book I have called "The Studebaker Extreme Duty Engine Book" which is full of tips and tricks for all Studebaker engines. Neal

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            • #7
              Ron, You can get plenty of HP out of your engine depending on how stock you want it to look and how much you want to spend. Easiest way to get HP is boost. From what I have read on the specs for boosting your 170 would only need stainless steel valves and a balance. You stock head and cam and all else is fine for a boosted engine. Put a small turbo from 2.5 Chrysler and away you go. I know it's not that simple but nothing is.

              A few links for you to consider.

              http://www.studebakerdriversclub.com...latheadsix.pdf

              http://www.turbostude.com/

              I have done many small upgrades to a Flathead and no matter what is done nothing can come close to boosting for power.

              Len

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              • #8
                Thanks Len
                I like the idea of a turbo but the stock look is what I am after. What could I do to make it look more like a 1950 engine and not a 2005? You talked about stainless steel valves and a balance. Would that do any good without a turbo? Sorry if I am asking a silly question but when it comes to cars I do ok with the exception of engines. I have a guy that is going to build it for me but need to know what to ask for before he gets started. He has never worked on anything this old so I am looking for ideas.

                Ron

                Ron

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                • #9
                  I was just talking with the guy that is going to build the engine and he recommended shaving the head to increase compression. How much can I take off and still be safe?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Studebaker Ron View Post
                    I was just talking with the guy that is going to build the engine and he recommended shaving the head to increase compression. How much can I take off and still be safe?
                    It depends on what head you have. As mentioned before you can put a late model head on and bump up the compression. I started with a 1959 Flathead and shaved 0.100" off and had no problems once the timing was dialed in.

                    The stainless valves are just a safety measure for the turbo generated heat. On a standard carbed engine regular valves should be fine.

                    Got to go.

                    Len

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                    • #11
                      Studebaker Ron, you're asking a timeless question here in Studebakerland. Start with the suggestions offered in this thread. Then try every possible search term and hit up the regular forum, and then the Tech forum and weed through the various threads through the years. There will be actual bits of help, but nothing's been gathered together in one particular thread or forum, but there is information here.
                      It is a shame that with the reputation and results that Bill Cathcart has obtained from sixes, that someone wasn't able to pick up where he left off and/or gather and write up a portion of what he knows. The interest clearly is always there for what he knows.

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                      • #12
                        FWIW, it costs the same to rebuild a 170" as it does a 185", so the upgrade to a 185" is most cost-effective horsepower in Champion-land.

                        Also, anything, such as dual carbs, dual exhaust, reground camshaft, which can be done to a 170" just works that much better on a 185".

                        jack vines
                        PackardV8

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                        • #13
                          The best thing you could do is put on a 1960 Lark head. It has higher compression and a much better combustion chamber. The chamber looks like a Hudson power dome. I did this in my 1947 business coupe and noticed a difference.

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                          • #14
                            Thanks
                            Does the 1960 Lark head look different from the original 1950 head? Can you post a photo?

                            Thanks
                            Ron

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                            • #15
                              There is no difference in look. The only things that I know that are different are the combustion chamber size and the water temp sender hole, the older heads have a larger hole. This can be enlarged to match if needed. The combustion chamber is the same design but not as deep so the part that is closer to the valves is missing. If one was to machine down the early head it would eventually look the same but it's a better idea to start with the later head so you will have more material to play with. Some Studebaker vendors have late model heads still in stock for less than $100. Just make sure if you order one it is the late model high compression head.

                              Also, what has been said about a 185 is well worth looking into.

                              Len

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