Designing the 1932 Ford Model B and Model 18 -- starting with the V-8 engine -- involved the input and planning of many people.
Under the direction of Laurence Sheldrick, engineer Arnold Soth had started work on a V-8 in May 1930. His 60-degree V-8 of square design had a displacement of 299 cubic inches. Once again, however, Henry Ford's directives presented the engineers with problems. He wanted this engine built without an oil pump; instead, the flywheel would throw oil into a tank in the valve chamber from whence it would run down to the bearings. Needless to say, that engine quickly burned out on the dynamometer.
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The 1932 Ford Model 18 Victoria was billed as a five-passenger coupe, though one could just as easily have called it a close-coupled (and far more stylish) two-door sedan. Only 8586 of the 1932 Ford Victorias were produced for the U.S.
Unknown to anyone else, even his son Edsel, Henry had started engineers Carl Shultz and Ray Laird working on his ideas in Thomas Edison's old Fort Myers laboratory, which had been relocated from Florida to Henry's newly established Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.
Ford then asked Ed "Spider" Huff -- who had worked with Ford since Henry built his Quadricycle in 1896 and was now head of the electrical laboratory -- to develop the ignition system. Huff's unwelcome reply was that it couldn't be done the way Henry wanted and there was no use bothering with it.
That was hardly the kind of answer old Henry wanted. Instead, he instructed Emil Zoerlein to develop the ignition system, similar to those found today, mounted on the front of the engine and driven directly from the camshaft. Ford told him, "You'll probably run into a lot of opposition on that, but that is what I want, and that is what is going on this engine."
Henry also cautioned Zoerlein, as he sent him over to the Fort Meyers laboratory, "What you see back there I want you to keep to yourself and not say a word to anybody about it. We are designing a V-8 engine." Ford was emphatic about its secrecy saying, "Keep Sheldrick out."
Shultz and Laird were concentrating on transferring Ford's ideas into reality, but there seemed little urgency, probably because business was good in 1930, with Ford selling more than one-million vehicles -- almost double Chevrolet's total. Success for Schultz and Laird came in November 1930 when two different 90-degree V-8 designs were completed. One was of the same square dimensions as the ill-fated 299-inch Soth engine, but the other had a bore of 3.375 inches and a stroke of 3.25 inches, giving a displacement of 232.5 cubic inches.
With the help of Herman Reinhold, blocks were secretly cast at the Rouge, and by February 1931 the first engine was running. By June, four engines designated Model 24 were installed in revamped Model As for testing. Even Henry Ford and his friend Thomas Edison drove them between Dearborn and Ford's winter house in Macon, Georgia. But Ford decided that "The time wasn't right, the depression was on, business was bad." Instead, he decided to release an improved Model A, and work on that was begun in late summer 1931.
To learn more about the design of the 1932 Ford Model B and Model 18, continue on to the next page.
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