I can't really explain or justify my interest (some would say obsession) with old Ford Flathead speed equipment, especially multicarburetor intake manifolds. I guess it's insufficient to rationalize that I was speed equipment deprived as a teenager. Collecting aluminum is a recent phenomenon for me. Fourteen years ago, I wanted a high-rise Ford intake or two as a wall hanger. My first acquisition mushroomed into what's now more than 140 intakes, and there's no sign of stopping.

Mike Russell inadvertently started me down the never-ending road of aluminum hoarding. He had a superb collection of over 150 Flathead intakes. The first time I visited his Northern California garage and saw those manifolds mounted like so many silver trophies on his garage walls, I was hooked. I wanted to know more about the men who made them, why there were so many manufacturers, and why they were cast in so many different configurations. I wondered which ones worked well and which of them were flops.

I soon learned Russell was one of a small group of passionate Flathead manifold devotees. Floyd Hulegard, in the Pacific Northwest, owned an impressive early Ford intake hoard, as did Bill Ewing in Arizona. All three sold their collections. Serious Flathead manifold collectors, like Ron San Giovanni in Connecticut, Harry McAuliffe in Detroit, and Bob Whitehead in Arkansas, have been augmented by the irrepressible "Speedy Bill" Smith in Lincoln, Nebraska, and John Mumford, in South San Francisco. To better understand their obsession, you need to know more about Ford's fabulous Flathead.

Considering Henry Ford's many contributions to the automobile industry; arguably, the lightweight, affordable, powerful, and remarkably long-lived Flathead V-8 has to rank with the best. Stated simply, the elder Ford hated Chevrolet's inline-six. After considerable experimenting with cylinder configurations as varied as an inline-five (they couldn't balance it) and an X-shaped eight (which wouldn't cool), Ford's crack engineering team, led by Don Sullivan, Laurence Sheldrake, and Emil Zoerlein, developed a cast-iron, 221-cid V-8 engine, with a central camshaft, nonadjustable tappets driving inclined valves, and a pair of flat, detachable cylinder heads.

In the mid '30s, hot rodders still prized Ford's sturdy four-banger. Vic Edelbrock Sr., Tommy Thickstun, Eddie Meyer, and Phil Weiand recognized the Flathead V-8's potential, but there wasn't much aftermarket speed equipment available in the beginning. So it took a while before Ford's Flathead was able to assert its superiority.

When Harry Miller prepared a quintet of radical Flathead-powered front-drive race cars for the '35 Indianapolis 500 (only four qualified), they sported two different intakes. Don Sullivan created a clever 2x2 with the twin Stromberg 97s facing rearward; it was later sold in volume by Hexagon Tool Company in Detroit. The other was a slick four-carb setup that used a quartet of Winfield SRs.

Some of the earliest commercially available dual-intake manifolds were made by Robert Roof (in Anderson, Indiana) and Californians Wayne Morrison, Jack Henry, Eddie Edmunds, Thickstun, and Vic Edelbrock. Barney Navarro cast his first manifold just after the war. Before the conflict began, he machined high-rise intakes for Weiand. West Coast Flathead pioneers like Colonel Alexander (Colonel was his real name), Earl Evans, Jack Radke, Mal Ord, Al Sharp, and others offered intakes, as did Ed Almquist on the East Coast.