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Saturday, October 15, 2011

The 1951 Fordyllac

By Miguel Caparros.

In early in 1951 my father bought a 51 Ford Convertible. His plan was to exploit a hole in the Over The Road Racing Rules that did not forbid engine swaps. Dad somehow acquired a brand new 1951 Cadillac Overhead Valve V8 of 330 cubic inches, the "Hemi" of its time. He apparently had the engine before the car and his shop balance and blueprint the engine. In the process he discovered a Californian named ED Iskenderian who was working some magics with cams to find more power. The 51 went directly from the port of Havana to the shop where the 85 horsepower flathead was replaced by the 300 horsepower Cadillac V8. The Fordyllac was born. Speaking of being born, in November of 51 that was the car that took me and my mom, in a hurry, to the hospital when it was time for me to join this world. Mother was not much of one for speed, as a matter of fact she was terrified riding in a car. The ride to the hospital is a story I heard 10,000 times if I heard it once.

The Fordyllac became a legend! Due to the long time it takes rules to be changed Dad figured there was nothing that could catch it for the first year. The light weight of the Ford combined with the Cady Muscle also caused a few expected and unexpected issues. The Ford overdrive 3 speed was not quite up to the torque of the big V8. The Crafty Cuban mechanics at the shop somehow created a LaSalle 3 speed overdrive transmission and history has lost what overdrive unit they used. Next thing to get attention was the differential that was twisting axles and shredding gears, a Cady diff was made the appropriate size to fit in the Ford. Brakes were also an issue and the correction for this was to fit the brakes from a Lincoln limo. All these niggling breakdowns were keeping the Fordyllac out of the Victory Circle. For 1952 the rules were re-interpreted to eliminate convertibles from competition. Much to the competitors chagrin the first race in 1952 the 51 Fordyllac made its appearance with a coupe hard top properly welded in place. The Fordyllac went on to a few wins but at this point the factory teams were getting up to speed and getting very hard to beat. In 1954 the old Fordyllac was being left in the dust of the Buicks so for 55 the Ford got a new home and we acquired a new Studebaker Speedster, smaller engine trade for better aerodynamics. Stay tuned for that story.

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