Eight for show – four for go! If bumper stickers had been popular right after World War II, they sure would have carried this message. The four cylinder guys didn’t care much for the V8 drivers and never really missed a chance to show that their four bangers were faster.
At the beginning of World War II, speed equipment for Model As and Bs was easily to be found: There were replacement Flatheads made by ACME, Duray and Winfield. Overhead valve conversions could be bought from Alexander, Amber, Cragar, Gemsa, McDowell, Miller-Schofield, Moller, Murphy, Riley, Rutherford, Sparks and Winfield. If you were seriously into racing there were single overhead camshaft conversions from Gemsa, Hal, McDowell, Miller and Morales. Double overhead camshaft set ups were available from Cragar, Gemsa, Hal, Frontenac, Dreyer, McDowell, Miller and Lyons. Ignition systems were produced by brands still well known today like Bosch, Scintilla, and Mallory. Some hot rodders though prefered aircraft or marine units they adapted to their Ford’s engines.
Manifolds could be bought in speed shops all around or were just made by the guys themselves. Fabricating your own exhaust headers was fairly simple and there were even a great number of racers on the dry lakes who even made their own intake manifolds. Guys mostly built those because they were cheaper than the aftermarkt parts and because they might have thought that they knew their engine the best and could do it better than the speed shops.
Even after Ford started producing V8 engines in 1932, four banger engines remained popular among the racers. This might have been because they were familiar with those engines and the speed parts and just didn’t want to change to something different. Cheap and well-tested speed equipment was available on the market. In some cases stubborn loyalty to something they already knew prevented the racers from making the switch to V8 engines. Another reason might have also been that speed equipment for the V8 Ford wasn’t widely available until the late 30ies.
As more and more speed equipment for the Ford V8 became available, the four bangers were step by step replaced with the newer V8 engines. Astonishingly, only a few manufacturers of four-cylinder speed equipment also started making V8 speed parts. Camshaft-, carburetor- and igntion companies could easily adapt to the new V8 and started producing speed equipment fairly quickly.
In the 40ies the number of racers running four bangers significantly decreased but never died out completely. Still today, there’s quite a few people that favour those antique assemblies of iron over more modern V8 engines.