FLATHEAD V8 (1932)
GM’s Cadillac gave the world its first mass-produced V8 in 1914, but the configuration and its power was confined to expensive models for the next 18 years. That all changed with Ford’s Flathead V8, first introduced in the Model 18 (pictured) in 1932. In keeping with the blue oval’s blue collar philosophy, this was a V8 for everyone.
In order to be affordable to make and thus sell, it had three main crankshaft bearings rather than the usual five of most V8s of the time. Originally 3.6-litre in size, it delivered 64bhp, though grew to as large as a 4.2-litre and 123bhp by the end; there was even a 5.5-litre for truck use, though that was also used in the 1949 Lincoln. Although Ford replaced it in 1954, the Flathead was licensed to France’s Simca, which used it in a military truck until 1990.
Very much a brainchild of Henry Ford himself (pictured inset with the engine), it was his last major engineering contribution to the company. In America at least, the V8 has been an accessible and affordable engine for most car buyers ever since.