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©2012 U.S. Auto Scene®
january 30, 2012
’32 Ford V8 Accelerated Move to
Hot Engines in Affordable Cars
By Gerald Scott
 That new “Driving America” exhibit that opened at the Henry Ford Museum recently isn’t just about cars.
 It’s also about engines, transmissions and other pieces of the larger auto industry puzzle.
 One interesting case in point is the 1932 Ford V8 engine, on display by itself to illustrate how that particular powerplant actually helped to rev the car industry during the depths of the Great Depression.
 Under the title, “Democratizing Speed and Power,” the exhibit says that “from the beginning of the automobile age, luxury cares featured powerful engines with many cylinders while inexpensive cars did not.
 “The 1932 Ford V8 changed all that. It was the first V8 engine light enough and cheap enough to put in an inexpensive car like a Ford.
 “It made Fords some of the fastest cars around and raised buyers’ expectations about the kind of performance even the cheapeast (less expensive) cars should provide.”
 Another history of the engine says that The Model B was a Ford automobile with production starting with model year 1932 and ending with 1934. It was a much updated version of the Model A and was replaced by the 1935 Ford Model 48.
 The history adds that, strictly speaking, the Model B was a four-cylinder car with an improved version of the engine used in the Model A, but Ford also began producing a very similar car with Ford’s new flathead V8 engine. The V8 car was marketed as the Model 18, though it is commonly called the Ford V8, and, other than the engine, is virtually indistinguishable from the Model B.
 Up to this time, Ford had produced only one “model” at each time with a range of body options and retained the idea of a single basic platform, despite the engine choice and two associated model designations.
 (This explains why the colloquial name, “Ford V8,” by itself was sufficiently descriptive in the early 1930s; it was the Ford with a V8, unlike in later decades, when the paradigm of various models to a make became universal.)
 Model B and Model 18 Fords came in a large variety of body styles: two-door roadster, two-door cabriolet, four-door phaeton, two-door and four-door sedans, four-door “woodie” station wagon, two-door Victoria, two-door convertible sedan, Panel and sedan deliveries, five-window coupe, a sport coupe (stationary softtop) and the three-window Deluxe Coupe. Prices ranged from US$495 for the roadster and the coupe’s $490 to the $650 convertible sedan.
 The Museum display further notes:
 “The 1932 Ford with the V8  cost between $460 and $600, depending on options. Its closest price competitor with a V8 engine was the 1932 LaSalle – which cost four times as much, at $3,295.”
 Finally, let’s not forget that gangster Clyde Barrow once wrote a personal letter to Henry Ford, praising the performance of what was believed to be a 1932 Ford V8 getaway car that “Bonnie and Clyde” drove.
 “While I still have got breath in my lungs I will tell you what a dandy car you make. I have drove Fords exclusively when I could get away with one. For sustained speed and freedom from trouble the Ford has got ever other car skinned and even if my business hasen't been strickly legal it don’t hurt anything to tell you what a fine car you got in the V8 – (signed, Clyde Champion Barrow).”
 The Driving America exhibiit opened on Jan. 29.
The new “Driving America” exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum contains more detail than imagined. Here, the 1932 Ford V8 engine gets its due as the first such car engine able to “democratize speed and power” when employed in a less expensive model.
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