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The Hill Files

Hemi vs. the SOHC Ford

by Jim Hill - 11/24/1998

[Jim wrote this response to some newsgroup members who maintained that the Chrysler Hemi was obviously superior to the SOHC Ford because it is still used in modern fuel racing applications. bp/drl]

First, Your parts list is a little "off". Valve covers, oil pan, bellhousing bolt patterns for the Hemi are the same, but none of these pieces used are stock hemi. The crank journal sizes are stock, unless the engine builder requests a different main/rod size. (Some like larger journal sizes to carry extra load and "slow" bearing speed!) Deck height. Not many stock requests. Mostly "Tall", .100"+. Lifter bores - nope! All now use 1" dia. roller lifters. (We make the "accepted standard hemi fuel lifters for nearly all hemi racers!) Rocker arm assembly bolt pattern - yep, it's still stock, but all components have since moved up (in price, too!) to aftermarket.

The bottom line is the aftermarket stuff is just too damn strong not to use. The stock hemi stuff was overengineered for its day, but can't cut it even in today's' alcohol-only engines!

Pete Robinson's gear drive did indeed work! He claimed it solved all the problems of the stock chain drive and eliminated the "Ka-Booms" of cam timing related blower explosions that plagued most all SOHC Ford racers.

The SOHC overcomplicated? Only if you consider that this was based on the vehicle production line "FE" series Ford wedge engine. Ford's engineering folks had to respond quickly to Henry II's edict that: "We vill haf an engine that can kill der hemi in der stock cars, ve vill haf it immediately, und you vil hen-joy hit! "Obviously, I jest, but only somewhat. If you don't think that Henry II carried some horsepower around Detroit, consider this sub-story:

While at Holley (April 1970-March 1976) I worked with our R&D and Engineering groups to produce a presentation to top Ford management for Holley to design and manufacture a staged, two-barrel carburetor for the new Ford Pinto, the car Ford wanted to use to stem the deadly "Yellow Tide" of Japanese imports. I assembled all R&D's data, drawings, photos, etc., created a slide show and "Show and Tell" booklets for each person scheduled to be in this meeting. Our presentation was made in "The Glass House", Ford's World HQ, in Dearborn, in a huge conference room, and I was on hand to make sure everything functioned and our guys had all the ammo they could shoot at Ford's top guns. (I was the smoke and mirrors, BS guy. Our engineering and R&D guys were the true-blue good guys! I was a navy suit-clad, wingtip shod, "gopher.")

We were about an hour and a half into the presentation when suddenly, there was a rumble and the room lights were came up! I turned, expecting armed Arab terrorists to jump into the room and begin spraying automatic weapons fire.

No, not Arab storm troopers, but Henry II's bodyguards, executives and "entourage" stormed the complex! As if on que, everyone in the room immediately arose and turned in the direction of His Eminence. I half expected all present to drop and genuflect as a sign of their reverence for the great man.

He spoke, asking a few unsophisticated questions about our purposes, and then muttered this eternally recorded statement: "Looks good boys. Carry on", turned smartly on his well-heels, and left the room, the entourage trailing at a respectful distance.

Amazingly, no one meekly asked to kiss his ring, for I'm sure he would have glared at the offending infidel and had him removed immediately to the guillotine.

It was nothing less than an automotive epiphany! Does that give you any idea of how much power this guy wielded in Detroit?

As to the Boss 429, yes, Glidden did run this engine - well, sort of - in Pro Stock until his retirement a few years ago.

I say "...sort of", because Glidden's "Boss 429 Shotgun" engines were actually AR-based engines, aftermarket pieces based upon the basic 429 Boss design but mucho, mucho grande mucho different from the Boss motor of '69-70, when it was introduced. (Ford actually installed these motors in a short production run of '69 Mustangs, calling it the "Boss 429", It was a dog. Intake and exhaust ports were overly huge, killing velocity and bottom-end torque.)

Glidden's Boss 429 motors were as equal to the "real" Ford Boss 429 as the current Dodge Pro/Stocker engines are to being "real" Chrysler engines! I assume that you do know the Mopar cars are running engines that are Chrysler only in their identity on their rocker covers and the sheet metal and 'glass replica body panels. These are Dale Eicke-developed, Mopar PART NUMBERED big-block Chevy/Pontiac hybrids. Now, with David Nickens running the R&D program to get a Chrysler product - even if it is powered by a hybrid GM "corporate" engine - back in the winner's circle, the engines will move yet another step closer to true GM-dom.

Those gearheads still not napping as a result of my diatribe... I hope I've answered your questions and shed a tiny bit more illumination on this great, big, well-chewed puzzle.

Jim Hill
Crane Cams


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