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Ford V8 National Meeting 2023

The Early Ford V8 Club of New Zealand held its annual national meeting in January, in Lower Hutt.  That club is for owners of so-called flathead Ford V8s – the sidevalve models – which were built from the introduction of the Ford V8 in 1932 through to 1954.

US-built Fords saw the flathead V8 replaced a year earlier, with the new overhead valve Y-block technology.  Herein lies one of the differences between the US-sourced Fords and those built by Ford of Canada - a US-sourced 1954 Ford had an overhead valve engine, while the Canadian equivalent still had the old technology.

So, why was Ford of Canada a year behind Detroit?  It was definitely not because Detroit “dumped” the old technology on Canada to dispose of in the colonies, as so often is said!  The much more interesting truth of the matter is given in the Ford in New Zealand book, Driving Ahead.  It is all explained on page 155 of the book and beside it, on page 154, are photos of a highly original 1954 Canadian Ford V8, with side-valve power, that American readers would see as an oddity.

I took those photos myself back in 2006.  17 years later the same car and owner, Karen Warman, appeared at the annual V8 meeting in Lower Hutt, along with around 30 other magnificent Ford V8s from the era.  Click here for more photos of that meeting.

The Ford V8 was a really important development in the motor industry.  V8 engines were already offered in cars such as Cadillac and Lincoln at the top end of the market, but such cars were hugely expensive to buy.  Part of the reason for that was the cost of building their motors, the blocks for which came in three parts.  A low-cost V8 engine would require a one-piece block, but that defied the laws of metallurgy.  That is what Henry Ford and his engineers overcame.  So, whilst Mr Ford did not invent the technology, he made it available in a popular car at a time that, in America at least, buyers were looking for larger and faster cars.  So, while other carmakers were trying to get the most out of their six-cylinder engines, in 1932 Ford released an eight for the masses!

The timing was excellent - except for one thing.  1932 was the height of the Great Depression.  It had hit New Zealand hard.  So hard that the year before, 1931, no new Fords were imported to New Zealand because there were just too many 1930 cars sitting unsold in dealer yards.  So, very few of those 1932 Fords came to New Zealand.  And that explains why so streetside photos of that era include Ford's revolutionary new car.

The photos above are two rare examples of 1932 Fords that happen to be in photographs taken at the time here in New Zealand.  On the left, a gentleman leans against a late 30's Chevrolet while we all drool over the other car that happens to be in the photo!  On the right, a press photo of the new stone gates in Auckland's Cornwall Park, taken just as a 1932 Ford V8 roadster happens to be driving through and over the cattle stop.

Given the rarity of the 1932 Ford, it is hardly surprising that the presence of one particular example that came along to the National V8 meeting had everyone's mouth agape when she arrived.  A one-family owner 1932 Ford V8 Coupe, pictured below, which has never been restored.  No words will suffice.....

For the full story of the Ford V8 in New Zealand, you'll need to read Ford in New Zealand - Driving Ahead.


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