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1932 Ford Roadster: Engine Swap

by Dave on March 5, 2016

Quint Meland likes big motors. While his high school peers in Southern California were still messing around with flatheads, Quint dropped a 303 inch Olds V8 in his Model A roadster and went racing. Extremely successful, even as a young gun, his drag racing strategy was brilliantly simple: find out where the big name guys were running — and go somewhere else.

Quint_5.19_1As a pilot in Viet Nam and later with TWA, Quint went on to run bigger engines, but his love of hot rods never let up. Several years ago he acquired the Phil Cool 1978 AMBR roadster. Running a blown L-88,  this landmark car was famous for putting the “hot” back in hot rod. It ended a run of silly, over-the-top show cars that had dominated the Grand National Roadster Show for a decade.
With the Cool car, Quint’s just the caretaker of the Cool car. He had designs on a roadster of his own and, like his high school ride, it would feature an Olds motor. Quint contacted Mondello Performance and work began on a 403. Bored .30 over, it features Mondello’s Edlebrock heads, flat top pistons, a Comp Cam, roller rockers and a pair of 500 cfm Edlebrock four-barrels on an Offy intake. The motor arrived at our shop bolted to a Turbo 400 trans with a 2900 rpm stall converter.

Next Quint needed a car into which he could drop this monster. His ultimate goal was to build a tribute to his high school roadster, but to make it a little more civilized. Quint’s wife Shirley often rolls with him so the decision was made to step up to a Deuce. A good candidate eventually turned up in Arizona. Nicely built, it sported creature comforts like heated seats and a giant stereo.


It also came with a highly-detailed 351 Cleveland and C4 trans. Our challenge was straightforward: yank the Ford and drop in the Olds.

Builders take note: This 351/C4 combo will make a nice package for someone and is still available. Drop us a line if you’re interested.

The Olds/TH400 package was going to take some shoe-horning, so Gary applied his machine shop magic, shaving fractions of an inch off in multiple places. He machined the pulleys, cutting an unused groove off each. He machined the water pump and modified the fan mounts, grabbing a couple more fractions. A little here, a little there, and eventually the big Olds dropped in. At this point it should take no more than a small — very small — relief in the firewall.

Once in place, the C4 trans mount was modified to accommodate the TH400 and everything was locked in fore and aft.
Quint_5.19_8Next came motor mounts. The existing mounts were offset side-to-side on the chassis, but with a little imagination Gary came up with a design that would use them and the original Ford donuts.
Quint_5.19_6Quint_5.19_7The big Olds motor arrived with a polished power steering pump, a front-mounted puke tank, and an alternator on a bracket that placed it somewhere out outboard of the headlight bucket. Evidently Modello didn’t get the email that this motor was going into a roadster. We tossed the steering pump and Gary fabbed brackets that tucked in the alternator and repositioned the tank.

Meanwhile, I installed a panhard bar, set-up a new shifter, modified the speedometer sender, installed a beefier fuel pump, redid the fuel lines and transmission cooler lines, mounted a new starter, measured for a new drive shaft, rewired a number of circuits – plus all the other seemingly endless little chores that are part of a swap like this.

A key part of Quint’s tribute to his Model A were to be the headers. While the originals were admittedly primitive, Gary was able to their capture their spirit while maintaining a level of craftsmanship appropriate to the build.

He started by machining a mandrel and pressing the flares that would mount to the flanges. He also built the formed collectors you see here. He’s now begun tying it all together.
Quint_5.19_13Quint_5.19_14That’s where we are on the project today, check back in for updates.


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