Improving power from a flathead engine.

Ira

Sharpest Tool
Sep 26, 2020
201
Los Angeles
First Name
Ira
Willys Model
  1. Pickup
Willys Year:
  1. 1960
Yes, but people have been discussing the advantages of FI and if you're serious about power and looking at off the shelf FI units, it's probably worth looking at something with Coil Per Plug ignition. It's not that much harder and has huge benefits. I point out Megasquirt because if you're willing to do some work it's about that same price as lots of the plug and play systems and is way more flexible.
 

vintagetrk

Precision Fit
Apr 28, 2018
885
NW Wyoming
First Name
nathan
Willys Model
  1. Pickup
Willys Year:
  1. 1958
I'm in the process of modifying my brothers 292 chevy straight 6 for him. As always lots of speed parts for GM engines. One mod was a header that is split. The header went with a nice 4 barrel intake made from aluminum. I like the header but what does splitting it do for the engine? I see this a lot on straight 6 engines.
 

Ira

Sharpest Tool
Sep 26, 2020
201
Los Angeles
First Name
Ira
Willys Model
  1. Pickup
Willys Year:
  1. 1960
Headers are happiest if the distance from the exhaust valve to each junction is the same and if all the pulses entering the pipes are spread evenly, on a 3, which is what should be being done, that's every 240 degrees. If the lengths to the junction are correct, at some RPM, the pulse from the last cylinder firing will help scavenge the exhaust from the current one. If you put to many pipes into one collector you lessen that effect. Now there is the question does it matter and the answer is likely not at all. It also allows for dual exhausts which some people like.

Ira
 

Ira

Sharpest Tool
Sep 26, 2020
201
Los Angeles
First Name
Ira
Willys Model
  1. Pickup
Willys Year:
  1. 1960
And FWIW, I might be wrong about the price. I see the price of Megasquirt has gone up rather dramatically since I started paying attention back in 2002. I still have 2 of the original boards made from parts kits assembled by Grippo, I believe from the second run ever. I also laid out the PCB for the now defunct MegaSpark Jr. which became unnecessary when someone figured out how to support the Ford EDIS directly from MegaSquirt.

Ira
 

Stakebed

Well Oiled
All-Star
Mar 4, 2020
5,734
Northern California
First Name
Joe
Willys Model
  1. Pickup
Willys Year:
  1. 1957
Headers are happiest if the distance from the exhaust valve to each junction is the same and if all the pulses entering the pipes are spread evenly, on a 3, which is what should be being done, that's every 240 degrees. If the lengths to the junction are correct, at some RPM, the pulse from the last cylinder firing will help scavenge the exhaust from the current one. If you put to many pipes into one collector you lessen that effect. Now there is the question does it matter and the answer is likely not at all. It also allows for dual exhausts which some people like.

Ira
Plus Dad used to say that a split six with dual glass packs sounded awesome.
 

5JeepsAz

Sharpest Tool
May 10, 2021
279
Arizona
First Name
Paul
Willys Model
  1. Pickup
Willys Year:
  1. 1964
About 1968 I had been working in a Motorcycle Machine shop for a couple of years. When the owners Dad who was in his 70,s at the time came in with a sheet of 1 1/4" T 6 Aluminum. He walked out latter that day with 4 connecting rods.

The next week he came back in with an ugly cast lump of Aluminum and did the finish milling, installing guides and seats and then ported and finished out a Rilley overhead valve replica cylinder head for a Ford Model B
Later in the year he went to Bonneville and went over 200 MPH in a WW2 Belly tank streamliner with his hand built Ford Model B.

He was old Man Vesco. I can't remember his first name. But I worked with his 2 sons, Don and Rick for over ten years as an apprientice mechanic and machinist..
It was a Great place to learn. I'll always be thankfull for the oportunity. I had lost my Dad at 12 and was kind of drifting in a bad direction till Don offered me a job at 15.

Don went 470 MPH in 2001,in his Turboshaft Helicopter engine powered 4 wheel drive car. He sadly passed away from cancer the following year before reaching his goal of 500 MPH. We were friends up till he passed,, He is sadly missed. He was one of the most tallented people I've ever known.
I was with hin in the 70's when he broke the Motorcycle Land Speed Record of 318 MPH. In a Streamlined Motorcycle called the Silver Bird, It had 2 Yamaha 750 CC Grand Prix Road Race two cycle 4 cylinder engines. He went on to break the record again with 2 1200 CC Kawasaki's later in the 70's after I moved to Nor Cal and started a family.

The car sat till 2013 when his younger brother Rick rebuilt the car and re-named it the "Turbinator 2" " It still has the helicopter Turbo shaft engine in a 4 wheel drive Sreamliner that Don built. Rick got the record for the Worlds Fastest Wheel Driven Vehicle in 2018 at 503 MPH

The Turbinator.


At 3 min and 29 seconds into the Silver Bird video, the Tall gangly Long haired kid pushing the tail was me at 24 years old.

Nothing gangly about it. Thats a strappin young man of the world. Lucky too. Seeing your work now, very great, I get how you earned your way. I watched these kinds of stories as a kid and to know you now even on a forum is a distinct privilege. How great is that "we know he's OK because of a microphone" ... sound from microphone "tip me back over so I can get out!". Very cool.
 

bobthebuilder

Bigger Hammer
Jun 8, 2020
98
Stafford Conn.
First Name
Bob
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1960
Ok men here goes my 2 cents ! Put the MSD Box in the system , run a flying magnet pickup - MSD- off the front crank pulley and never have to mess with that distributor again. All the distributor is doing at that point is spinning the rotor . It can be pretty much junk and still get the job done. This compensates for all valve train slop as it is getting its signal directly from crankshaft position. If I was having issues with mine I'd do it in a heartbeat. That may be 10 cents worth so ........ have a great day !
 

Tralehead

Well Oiled
Aug 29, 2018
1,156
Silverado, CA
First Name
Bob
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1960
Ok men here goes my 2 cents ! Put the MSD Box in the system , run a flying magnet pickup - MSD- off the front crank pulley and never have to mess with that distributor again. All the distributor is doing at that point is spinning the rotor . It can be pretty much junk and still get the job done. This compensates for all valve train slop as it is getting its signal directly from crankshaft position. If I was having issues with mine I'd do it in a heartbeat. That may be 10 cents worth so ........ have a great day !
OK, "reads" great, but dummies like myself need pics, part numbas and maybe a link or two to get the explanation complete.
Bob, I'm not picking on you, just using your post as an example. Would love to see a MSD box and that thar magnet installed on something (preferably a Super Hurricane)
Ira; Megasquirt? Me thinks it's something kids fill up with water and chase each other around the yard with on hot summer days :D
Thanks!
 

Big Dog Frank

Well Oiled
Feb 12, 2016
2,221
North Lawrence,Ohio
First Name
Frank
Willys Model
  1. Pickup
Willys Year:
  1. 1959
OK, "reads" great, but dummies like myself need pics, part numbas and maybe a link or two to get the explanation complete.
Bob, I'm not picking on you, just using your post as an example. Would love to see a MSD box and that thar magnet installed on something (preferably a Super Hurricane)
Ira; Megasquirt? Me thinks it's something kids fill up with water and chase each other around the yard with on hot summer days :D
Thanks!

There was a member on this forum who rigged up a Ford ignition system to operate from a crank trigger system. I am not sure who it was but his post was quite detailed.
 

Ira

Sharpest Tool
Sep 26, 2020
201
Los Angeles
First Name
Ira
Willys Model
  1. Pickup
Willys Year:
  1. 1960
That was a long time ago, Don't think MegaJolt Lite Junior has been offered for many years. But, since I did the PCB layout for version 2 and still have the files, if anyone is really interested, I'd be happy to assist in any way I can. We'd need to make sure there is still parts availability and I'd have the change the processor to a surface mount one as they no longer make the DIP version. and you'd have to find the software and firmware, but I think it's still out there.
 

bobthebuilder

Bigger Hammer
Jun 8, 2020
98
Stafford Conn.
First Name
Bob
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1960
OK, "reads" great, but dummies like myself need pics, part numbas and maybe a link or two to get the explanation complete.
Bob, I'm not picking on you, just using your post as an example. Would love to see a MSD box and that thar magnet installed on something (preferably a Super Hurricane)
Ira; Megasquirt? Me thinks it's something kids fill up with water and chase each other around the yard with on hot summer days :D
Thanks!
I looked it up and found part number 8655 from msd is the trigger setup $$$$ I would have guessed less money . Being an old drag racer the precision part of the install would not have phased me. It is do-able though and I can say without any doubt that MSD components are bullet proof and reliable. Here is a pic of the kit. They work off any of the msd boxes. The instructions are always detailed and clear to understand.
 

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Bill Kuran

Well Oiled
All-Star
Oct 14, 2009
1,238
Potomac, MD
First Name
Bill
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1960
OK, "reads" great, but dummies like myself need pics, part numbas and maybe a link or two to get the explanation complete.
Bob, I'm not picking on you, just using your post as an example. Would love to see a MSD box and that thar magnet installed on something (preferably a Super Hurricane)
Ira; Megasquirt? Me thinks it's something kids fill up with water and chase each other around the yard with on hot summer days :D
Thanks!
I installed the MSD 6A box on my wagon with a Super Hurricane. Although it took some time to figure out how it worked and how to wire it, I was very happy with its performance. This diagram show the installation using a Ford TFI coil. It includes part numbers. This installation shows the MSD box used with a dual sync distributor. If using crank and cam mounted trigger wheels, the sensor wires shown connected to the distributor would instead be connected to the respective crank and cam mounted sensors.

Rather than use separate crank and cam trigger wheels, I used a dual sync distributor. You can read about how that was accomplished in this document.

I am no longer using the MSD box or the TFI coil. As engine testing progressed, I realized that at high engine rpm (greater than 4000) the distributor cap could become a liability. Due to its small size (about 3" diameter) the distance between the plug wire terminals was less than one inch. I was concerned that the cap could fire two cylinders at once by arcing from terminal to terminal - a very bad thing. I am not sure if it would have ever happened but it was enough for me to make a change.

I am still using the dual sync (modified OEM Delco) distributor but have installed a Holley coil near plug setup. The six coils, located under the battery tray, are controlled by the Holley Dominator's (ECU) ignition module.

I have no experience with Megasquirt so recommend looking at some of the Holley products.
 
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Tralehead

Well Oiled
Aug 29, 2018
1,156
Silverado, CA
First Name
Bob
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1960
I installed the MSD 6A box on my wagon with a Super Hurricane. Although it took some time to figure out how it worked and how to wire it, I was very happy with its performance. This diagram show the installation using a Ford TFI coil. It includes part numbers. This installation shows the MSD box used with a dual sync distributor. If using crank and cam mounted trigger wheels, the sensor wires shown connected to the distributor would instead be connected to the respective crank and cam mounted sensors.

Rather than use separate crank and cam trigger wheels, I used a dual sync distributor. You can read about how that was accomplished in this document.

I am no longer using the MSD box or the TFI coil. As engine testing progressed, I realized that at high engine rpm (greater than 4000) the distributor cap could become a liability. Due to its small size (about 3" diameter) the distance between the plug wire terminals was less than one inch. I was concerned that the cap could fire two cylinders at once by arcing from terminal to terminal - a very bad thing. I am not sure if it would have ever happened but it was enough for me to make a change.

I am still using the dual sync (modified OEM Delco) distributor but have installed a Holley coil near plug setup. The six coils, located under the battery tray, are controlled by the Holley Dominator's (ECU) ignition module.

I have no experience with Megasquirt so recommend looking at some of the Holley products.
Bill,
Thanks so much for your input, that's what I'm looking for; direct application to the 226 SH. with pics and diagrams. The only thing better would be me being able to call you up to stop by for a look-see, then go grabbing a couple of crab cake sandwiches and some Rolling Rocks :) (or maybe up to Rockville to check out 7 Locks Brewing ). I guess for now I'm relegated to reading your build thread ;)

FWIW, I checked out the Megasquirt website. Lots of info for those that wish, and have the skills, to build their own ECU, etc. While getting more juice out of that flathead is really tempting, I had to ask myself if getting it was worth my squeeze. Not sure if I need my original Wagon to break any speed records, but I DO need to finish insulating the cab and taming that Spicer 18 whine. I'm beginning to feel like slow could be acceptable as long as it's comfortable.
However, I still look forward with interest to seeing how folks modify there flatheads to get more power. I just wish it was as easy as it was to get that 100 more horses out of the V6 Diesel in my van (plug 'n' play).
 

fcredseal

Knuckle Buster
Dec 29, 2010
4
Willys Model
Willys Year:
Only things I can think to add are:

Ignition. 1) Stock system in good working order. 2) GM HEI where both the primary side and secondary side are upgraded to handle increased spark energy. 3) Coil on plug set-up that gets rid of the problematic secondary wires altogether.

Valves. For pressurized solutions consider increasing the exhaust valve diameter with available real estate and not the intake.

Quench. Remember on a flat head when you mill the head or the block you are reducing the cross sectional area between the cylinder bore and the area around the valves. This gap is where gasses have to flow back and forth on their way into/out of the cylinder. The concept of relieving would open up this area in exchange for a loss in compression. Some claim a net benefit. Milling to increase compression and quench goes the other way by reducing this area. Welcome to flat head performance trade offs not found in the world of OHV designs.

Flame Travel. The long lenght of flame travel from the spark plug to the far side of the combustion chamber. This causes detonation issues and is the real limiting factor on increasing compression or boost PSI. Dual plugging ($$$) was the answer found by some. There is a guy on Youtube testing various fuels in a flathead lawnmower engine. He rigged up a plexiglass cylinder head to shoot his videos. You can see first hand the long flame travel distance on a flathead.

No easy answers here. Just some things to consider.
 

Blindmelon

Well Oiled
Aug 10, 2014
2,329
Agua Dulce, CA
First Name
Larry
Willys Model
  1. Pickup
Willys Year:
  1. 1950
Only things I can think to add are:

Ignition. 1) Stock system in good working order. 2) GM HEI where both the primary side and secondary side are upgraded to handle increased spark energy. 3) Coil on plug set-up that gets rid of the problematic secondary wires altogether.

Valves. For pressurized solutions consider increasing the exhaust valve diameter with available real estate and not the intake.

Quench. Remember on a flat head when you mill the head or the block you are reducing the cross sectional area between the cylinder bore and the area around the valves. This gap is where gasses have to flow back and forth on their way into/out of the cylinder. The concept of relieving would open up this area in exchange for a loss in compression. Some claim a net benefit. Milling to increase compression and quench goes the other way by reducing this area. Welcome to flat head performance trade offs not found in the world of OHV designs.

Flame Travel. The long lenght of flame travel from the spark plug to the far side of the combustion chamber. This causes detonation issues and is the real limiting factor on increasing compression or boost PSI. Dual plugging ($$$) was the answer found by some. There is a guy on Youtube testing various fuels in a flathead lawnmower engine. He rigged up a plexiglass cylinder head to shoot his videos. You can see first hand the long flame travel distance on a flathead.

No easy answers here. Just some things to consider.
Well, I've been interested in this subject for at least 5 decades... My friend Tom Evans went 146 mph on a 86 " twin flathead motorcycle @ Bonneville.... His two big "speed secrets" getting the "quench" dimension to less that 0.030" and fitting a 2.060" intake valve in place of the
1.875"... He did this on gasoline and one carburetor...And he did it more than 25 years ago...

I've seen Model A Fords with hot rodded four cylinder flatheads run head to head and outrun ones with V8 overhead engines...

I'm just saying, there are simple hop up methods that can double the output of a stock 226 without spending huge bucks... Bill Kuran sought to'
triple output and spent a lot, but that's a whole other area.... Once you double stock output, the cost squares on the percentage of increase...

So, improving the output of your 226 can be complicated and very expensive.... But it can also be lot of fun and not too expensive if you
do a bit of research on what has been done in the last 100 years to improve flathead engine performance..
 
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