It seemed kind of sacrilegious to me - putting Chevy engines in Fords, and I always wondered what made rodders drop Chevs in to their Ford engine bays. I’ve discovered there was method to their madness.
Drag racers and hot rodders were on a never ending quest for more power through the 1950s and into the ‘60s. No matter how many horses resided under the bonnet, it was never enough. By the late fifites the venerable Ford flathead, even with Offenhauser heads & every performance accessory, was starting to slip behind in the horsepower stakes.
It just so happened that around the same time, the late fifties to be precise, the first Chevy small blocks were finding their way into wrecking yards across the States. The Chev small block was introduced in 1955, and when you consider Chevrolet made around five million cars from '55 through '57 - that's a lot of pre-loved small blocks for sale from '58 onward.
Rodders had done their math, and they knew it was possible to get a lot more horsepower from a Chev small block than a flathead.
So auto junkyards across the country were scoured by horsepower freaks on a budget. Flatheads were torn out of Ford rods in their thousands, replaced with Chev power. Marque loyalty be damned - it was all about being at the end of the quarter mile ahead of your competitor, or blowing him away on the street.
But why Chev engines, when Ford made small block V8s too? Blame a gentleman by the name of Zora Arkus Duntov. He of the Duntov cam, and 'fuelie' Corvette fame. No sooner had Chevy introduced their small block, than they offered a dizzying variety of go-fast bits - cams, fuelie heads, inlet manifolds and more. Within a few short years the Chev V8 was the street performance motor across the USA. Ford had nothing much in the way of go-fast bits for their small block until the mid 60s - so Chev got the jump. Drag racers could pick up a used Chevy 265 or 283 at a wrecker, buy some goodies from an aftermarket supplier or local Chevy dealer, and turn their Duece into a winner at the drag strip.
Flathead diehards aside, by the early '60s it actually became the norm to have a Chev small block in a '30s Ford rod. Drag racers lead the way as usual, their quest for quarter mile supremacy starting a whole new custom - Chev powered Fords.
When you know the reason behind it - doesn't seem so sacrilegious after all. And die-hard Ford fans can an will often drop a 289, 302 or 351 between the front wheels. That's the thing about rods and customs - there are no rules. For seriously big horsepower, true quarter mile junkies didn’t both with Chev or Ford power - they trawled wrecking yards for big block mopar hardware, namely the brutal 392 Firedome hemi. Chrysler products worked too - it all depended on your budget, and just how fast you wanted, or needed to go…