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Why Didn't Henry Ford Follow Through on His 1935 Overhead-Camshaft Engine Patent?

Posted September 23, 2020 8:17 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: Ford

Up until the last few decades, overhead-camshaft (OHC) engines were generally reserved for luxury or high-performance vehicles; pushrods or side valves would have to do for the hoi polloi. Yet it appears that at one point in the Thirties, Henry Ford decided it would not only be possible to mass-produce an OHC engine, but also make it simple to service and affordable to the general public.

Ford had the resources to patent just about every idea that came his way, and he used them as smokescreens for his competition and diversions for his critics, all of whom watched his every step.

Ford filed an OHC internal combustion engine patent in November 1932, featuring a design claimed to differ from others in that it "may readily be assembled in perfect precision by inexperienced labor" - of which he had plenty at his disposal - and in its novel gear train that "adds to the simplicity and reliability of the engine." According to Ford, he designed the engine so that the entire head - camshaft and all - could be removed as a unit from the engine and that, should one have to remove the camshaft from the head, it could only go back together in one way, thereby eliminating the need to re-time the engine. In addition, Ford eliminated the oil pump by integrating it into the flywheel.

So why didn't Ford end up building its first production automotive OHC engine for another few decades? Could be that Henry Ford found his 1932 design still too complicated and costly, especially with those multiple bevel gears. Could be that it didn't stack up in terms of performance versus cost to the popular V-8. Or it could have been another Henry Ford smokescreen after all.

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#1

Re: Why Didn't Henry Ford Follow Through on His 1935 Overhead-Camshaft Engine Patent?

09/23/2020 10:20 PM

Clearly you are not familiar with Italian cars, where the mass market Fiats and Alfa Romeos were DOHC, with four wheel disc brakes to boot.

I enjoyed my 1600cc Fiat 132, although I fought a losing battle with rust.

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#2

Re: Why Didn't Henry Ford Follow Through on His 1935 Overhead-Camshaft Engine Patent?

09/24/2020 9:40 AM

Maybe you missed the GAA overhead cam about 1939 or so, V 8 used in tanks, 500 hP and from what I read loved by the tank crews due to ease of maintenance, power and reliability. Also all aluminum block and heads.

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Re: Why Didn't Henry Ford Follow Through on His 1935 Overhead-Camshaft Engine Patent?

09/24/2020 10:07 AM

That's the difference between "for profit" manufacturing and "for purpose" manufacturing.

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Re: Why Didn't Henry Ford Follow Through on His 1935 Overhead-Camshaft Engine Patent?

09/24/2020 4:09 PM

1916 Peugeot race car, 4 cylinder 4 valves per cylinder. Who lost the recipe?

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Re: Why Didn't Henry Ford Follow Through on His 1935 Overhead-Camshaft Engine Patent?

10/08/2020 5:36 AM

I was by coincidence at a Ford sourcing meeting here is Aus last century where the buyer announced they would commence 4 valves per cylinder instead of the previous 2 and they asked the valve supplier whether he had capacity to cope with double the production given the reduced unit price.

He pretended to wait for a while before answering that they could handle it. We talked later and he confided the he had just been handed the means to double his profit. Same margin on each valve but twice as many. There was no way that he was going to let that opportunity get away.

Later that day it was revealed they had plans for a 6 cylinder engine on the same valve sets. That guy went home VERY happy since the 6cyl was estimated to be 75% of production.

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