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1932 Ford Models B and 18

Perfecting the Design of the 1932 Ford Model B and Model 18

Designing a new V-8 engine for the 1932 Ford Model B and Model 18 took a lot of thought, planning, input, and effort. By 1931, the new engines were being tested.

The Ford Rouge plant was abuzz with activity, nowhere more so than in the engine laboratory, where it was realized that the new inline four must show a significant improvement over the Model A engine. While the basic 200.5-cubic-inch block was retained, numerous modifications were made to increase the power output. A high-lift cam, new crank, new larger mains, and new rods with bigger bearings were exploited with careful balancing.

1932 Ford Model 18 phaeton V-8 engine
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
A new V-8 engine, such as the one in this 1932 Ford Model 18 phaeton, required years of designing and testing by Ford engineers.

When the engine was put into production in November, engineers believed they had the perfect four. It may have been perfect for Ford, but 50 horsepower wouldn't have been outstanding even in 1927 when the Model A was introduced, and it certainly wasn't in 1932. Contemporary cars, some with four-cylinder engines, produced more than this. For example, the 1932 Plymouth PB's 196.1-cid four developed an impressive 65 horses, slightly more than the 60 generated by Chevy's 194-cid, valve-in-head six.

Elsewhere in the Rouge, "Stamping Joe" Galamb came up with the idea of eliminating the Ford's side aprons, suggesting a new full-width frame that would be visible between the body and the running boards, thus eliminating the need for the aprons. Unfortunately, these new U-section frames were not torsionally rigid.

To compensate, Gene Farkas designed a rectangular-section, tubular cross member. It would have been expensive and difficult to manufacture, and Henry was persuaded it wasn't necessary. But the lack of rigidity became more apparent as the cars reached the road and twice dealers would be instructed to mount special strengthening plates. The problem was inherent, so the rejected cross member had to be adopted for 1933.

As usual, Henry laid down a few controlling factors, insisting for example that all his cars retain cross (transverse) springs. And, distrusting the tendency of brake fluid to leak, he always insisted on mechanical brakes, advertising the "Safety of steel from toe to wheel." Ford wouldn't make the switch to hydraulic brakes until 1939.

On the other hand, after having test driven a Model A across a field, Henry said that "Somebody must represent the public. It rides too hard. Put on hydraulic shock absorbers." Their fitment to the Model A, and its successors, set a precedent for low-priced production automobiles.

Ford was always stubbornly reluctant to follow anybody's lead. That's why he wanted to go from a four to an eight (rather than to a six) and why he resisted the adoption of rubber engine mounts. "Cast Iron Charlie" Sorensen recounted the arrival one day of Walter Chrysler in his new Plymouth with "Patented Floating Power," saying, "Henry Ford did not like it. For no given reason, he just didn't like it, and that was that."

Sure enough, the mounts were not fitted to the Model B when it first went into production. Ford had, nevertheless, taken note of them, for they were installed on the V-8. The mounts were developed for Ford by Firestone engineers because Ford employed only about 200 engineers and -- like many manufacturers then and now -- used outside suppliers to help develop components.

To learn more about the 1932 Ford Model B and Model 18, continue on to the next page.

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