What started its life as a "blessing" for hot rodders seems to have fallen upon disdain. The small-block Chevy is so successful there are rodders who turn their nose up at it. To them any motor is better than another small-block Chevy. To these rodders something along the line of a vintage Caddy, Nailhead, the venerable Hemi, and arguably the vintage engine champion the Ford Flathead V-8 is a much better alternative. Making inroads into the SBC kingdom over the past decade is the Ford where all the Model A’s, Deuces, Model 40s, etc., are equipped with modern Ford V-8s. Possibly, but let me make a case for the small-block Chevy.
For starters, in corresponding with Pat Ballogg of Wickenburg, Arizona, I learned he recently found himself back into the hot rod lifestyle having retired from the Army. During his high school years he had a ’40 Ford with a 283. (Does this sound familiar?)
In our writings he mentions, "One thing has puzzled me and that’s the disdain for SBCs that seems to be in every mag out there. You know the deal, another Chevy 350 syndrome."
Pat goes on to say, "However, as far as I can see, the Chevy 350 is just the Ford Flattie of its day. When I look at cars from the ’40s and early ’50s they were all Ford inline-fours or -eights and "I don’t remember anyone saying or writing, Just another old Flathead, why doesn’t someone use a Bugatti thumper?"
According to Pat he figured it this way, Why all Ford Flatheads? Because they were plentiful, cheap, and could be made to run fast on a budget, just like the SBCs. Most rodders were into cheap speed and not the Flathead cache and when OHV-8s became available cheaply they dumped the Flatheads for something that would go faster.
Pat closes by writing, "I love the sound/look/feel of a Flathead wound-up and the preservation of that era is great but the attitude thing I’ve noted since my hiatus is flat weird."
Have to agree with Pat on all of the above.
Did you know that over 90 million small-bock Chevy V-8s have been made in one form or another since 1955? It’s this availability that made the small-block so omnipresent. The speed equipment market was on the ball and made every imaginable piece of go-fast equipment. The small-block was the powerplant of choice for decades; availability made them affordable, and cheap speed equipment made them powerful. And, did we mention it fit nicely into a hot rod?
Excerpts from another letter I read seems to point to just the opposite. It talks about the lock on our hobby that Ford has and what can be done to get Chevy noticed.
"The hot rod movement and interest in things connected with hop-up and speed is still growing. As an indication: the publications devoted to hot rodding and hop-upping of which some half dozen have a very large circulation and are distributed nationally.
"From cover to cover they are full of Fords. This is not surprising then that the majority of hot rodders are eating, sleeping, and dreaming of modified Fords. They know Ford parts from stem to stern better than the Ford people themselves.
"A young man buying a magazine for the first time immediately becomes introduced to Ford. It is reasonable to assume that when hot-rodders or hot rod--influenced persons buy transportation, they buy Fords. As they progress in age and income, they graduate from jalopies, to second-hand Fords, then to new Fords."
This should sound familiar but I should mention that it was written by a well-respected, accomplished hot rodder, Zora Arkus-Duntov, Dec. 16, 1953. How times have changed, or have they?