January '20

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42 THE SHOP JANUARY 2020 PRECISION ENGINE I t doesn't seem possible that in this day and age of autonomous, hybrid vehicles that there can still be a busi- ness case for reconditioning and hot rodding an engine that was introduced almost 100 years ago and ceased produc- tion in America 20 years later. Nevertheless, the lowly Ford flathead V-8 and its four-banger predecessor are just such engines that continue to defy market trends. If we go back in time to the dawn of the speed equipment business, it grew out of people's fondness for the Ford Model T and their desire to make it faster and go racing. The first speed shop that we are aware of came in 1930 when Lee Chapel began selling parts taken off cars in the wrecking yard in which he worked at 3265 San Fernando Road, Los Angeles. The parts had names like Frontenac, Morton & Brett and Rajo. Within three months, business was brisk enough that he opened a shop that his brother Herman Chapel ran. In 1933, Lee Chapel moved to a bigger location at 4557 Alhambra Ave., and out of that meager beginning grew an industry that SEMA now says is worth in excess of $41 billion. Fast Ford-ward to 1972 when Max Herman Sr. and his son Max Jr. started H&H Antique at 4451 Ramsdell Ave., La Crescenta, California, specializing in rebuilding and rodding Ford Model T, A, B and V-8 engines. Thousands of engine rebuilds later, they're still there and still building bangers and flatheads at the average rate of four per week. V-8 FOCUS In 2000, Max Jr.'s eldest son Mike Herman joined the family business and in 2003 he separated the V-8 part of the company and established H&H Flatheads to differentiate it from H&H Antique, which is now operated by Max and son Max III. Both businesses operate under the same roof, sometimes leading to confu- sion, but the boys figure it out and there is always the benefit of shared overhead and equipment. Since Mike, who earned a master's degree in business management with marketing at Colorado Mesa University, took over the V-8 side he has grown the business dramatically. He's managed to corner the market to some extent, with some canny marketing and by acquiring other brands. His first purchase was the Navarro Racing Equipment brand from founder Barney Navarro who was a post-World War II hot rod pioneer. Navarro was followed by Sharp, Austin, Wilson & Woods and Dixon that produced a SOHV conversion for the flathead. H&H is also the main distributor for SCoT Supercharger and the ARDUN OHV cylinder head conversion made by Don Ferguson. Incidentally, all of this new speed equip- ment is cast and machined in Los Angeles and is 100% made in the USA. "My philosophy," says Mike Herman, "is to own as much of it as I can. That way, when people think flathead, they think H&H Flatheads. I want to be that one- stop shop." BRINGING FLATTIES BACK TO LIFE For those in the market for a flathead, be it mild or wild, Herman can supply an original block that is inspected (flatheads tend to crack), hot-tanked, sealed and machined. Or, the customer can supply his own block, but those dreaded cracks can mean your block is junk and there are sto- ries of guys going through numerous blocks before they find a good one, especially if it's Bangers &Flatties Forever 42 THE SHOP JANUARY 2020 A new market for a famous engine design. By Tony Thacker Mike Herman & Don Ferguson have looked to corner the Ford flathead market.

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