Flathead Ford, 71 cid. Freedom to pursue happiness.


Following up on the topic of flat heads, here is the flagship of our personal flat head fleet. Pictured is a tiny flat head Ford from a 1948 Anglia. If you know model A’s, this engine will look very familiar.


Above, the busy side. This is a four-cylinder engine, but it is only 71 cubic inches. It has a nominal HP rating or 8 or 10 by some English taxation system, but its actual power output is about 20 ponies. This engine came in a very small car, a 1948 Anglia, built by Ford in England. I got the engine from Vern, who had it for 25 or 30 years. I have motored it over with a very powerful drill, and it has good compression. The only thing missing is the starter. The transmission is a 3 speed that would fit in a coffee can. The engine was built in England, but the design is pure Ford.


For size, that is a 12″ ruler sitting on the head. the item ay the lower right is an external water pump. The clutch is a 6″ unit. For a while I thought about making a 3/4 scale Pietenpol Sky scout with it, then gave some thought to re-engining our tiny Case tractor with it. It is a bite sized marvel of simplicity, and it makes you day dream of a use for it.


As an aside, I looked on the web and found that the starter is very easy to buy from clubs and shops in England where Angilas were predominantly sold. There are car clubs that restore and drive them there. The main thing Americans did with Anglias was use the bodies for dragsters.

Above, a blown, injected Big Block Chevy powers this American ’48 Anglia. It will run a 1/4 mile in the mid seven second range. Thats zero to 180 mph in less than eight seconds. This car probably has 75 times the original power output of the little flat head.


When I contacted the people in England, a funny thing happened: They refused to sell me any part, including a manual for the engine. They pointed out that their website said “Absolutely no sales to Americans.” When I asked why, I was told that they were ‘afraid of being sued.’ I politely asked if they had ever heard of a single person in the US who had ever sued anyone in England over any vehicle part. They couldn’t name one, but they had decided to live in fear of this, even though there is no legal mechanism to allow it to happen. I pointed out that I was not likely to get hurt in a 20 hp car. No luck. Just because I am a jackass, I asked them if a guy wrote them from Pakistan and said he needed a part to finish the car bomb he had made out of an Anglia so he could drive it down to the market place, could he buy it? Answer: “Well, we don’t have any rules against that, so yes, but we do have rules against selling to Americans.”

Neville Shute AWW 1949.jpg

Above, Nevil Shute. Pilot, builder, enginner and writer.


We have a number of friends in Great Britain. 145 years ago 50% of my DNA lived there.  My favorite Aero engineer of all time is Nevil Shute. I have a 1959 Triumph 650. On the topic of English history, I am the most well read American most people have ever met. I like many things about the people there, but in many ways, today’s Britons live in a fear driven bureaucracy I would find maddening. Not only are they afraid of impossible lawsuits, you find other things like flying a Corvair there is illegal (technically it is under review, but is has been so for 10 years.) You can not build a Pietenpol in Britain, because the design was deemed, without any evidence, to be horribly dangerous. The Pietenpols in Britain look like ours, but their government paid professionals to design a new structure for it, presumably in the name of ‘safety.’  Fair enough: Would you like to build their ‘better’ version? You can’t, because of course they will not sell Americans the drawings.

Above, A man, a plane and an engine. In Britain, by bureaucratic decree, he is a dangerous person to be stopped, the design unairworthy, the engine not to be flown. Here, the engine flies by the hundreds, the plane has been built for eight decades, and the man is hailed as the patron saint of homebuilding. The Atlantic is very wide, but the gulf between perspectives is wider.


In the history of aviation Britain has had many outstanding pilots engineers and builders. They made many fantastic designs. If you like motorcycles, you know that the British ruled the roads for 50 years. They made great machines, even if we like to make fun of Lucas electrics. If their traditional creativity was unleashed, many people in America would be flying British designed and kitted experimentals, instead of the tiny fraction of their designs that are flown here. But somewhere along the line, for reasons I don’t claim to understand, they dropped out of the running.

A man I have never met, named Francis Donaldson, has been the sole person in Great Britain passing judgement over what people there will be allowed to build. As far as I can tell, he does this on his own personal whim. He has been in charge of this since 1990, yes, the same job, one guy 23 years.  Many people from England have told me he is a nice guy, but I am not inclined to like a person who has been telling people for 23 years that a Pietenpol, a plane flying here for 84 years, is unairworthy.

Maybe if I was raised to believe that I was a ‘subject’, that God selected a king to rule me, and that a type of human called an ‘aristocrat’ was a better ‘class’ than me, I would have much more tolerance for one man arbitrarily making decisions for me. But alas, 50% of my ancestors left that behind when they got in 4th class steerage to come here, a land where they would be judged by their hard work and ethics, not their ‘class status.’ I am just another one of those “Crass Colonials” who doesn’t know his place, who will never understand the wisdom of a life appointment bureaucrat making decisions for me.

If you live on this side of the pond, and you like airplanes, go back to the family tree and thank the person who had the wisdom to get on the boat. Over the years, I have heard aviators who were political extremists from both sides of the fence make the stupid comment “If so and so wins, I am leaving.” What a joke. It would be nice if everyone who ever said that did us a favor and followed through, but I can’t think of a single one who ever did. This is your proof that things are not perfect for aviators here, just better than anywhere else.

Tonight, perhaps 200 people in America are going out to their workshops, to put in a few hours of progress on their Corvair powered Pietenpol project. When completed, many of these planes will be masterpieces like Mike Groahs, Gary Boothe’s and Kurt Shipman’s. Most will be good solid planes, and a handful will be pieces of feces. Every one of them can get an airworthyness cert. for phase one flight testing because the neither the FAA nor a DAR can deny a builder one. Here we believe that humans should be in charge of their own lives, including the potential to end these lives. Truly ironic that Darwin was from England, but we are the ones who recognize his genius in social engineering. This, in place of a lifetime bureaucrat is the single biggest reason why American designs dominate the world-wide homebuilt market.

We are not better than other people, we are not special humans. Unless your family was here in 1491, we are the other people, a nation of people from somewhere else. In this experiment, the people are the same, only the system is different.  We  have a system that allows the individuals who are better, work harder and are gifted to rise to the top. I don’t feel better than fellow aviators elsewhere, I just feel lucky to be here, working in our system. Some people here like to gripe, and that’s fine, as long as it comes with the acknowledgement that aviation freedom is a lot easier to pursue here.

If you are one of the two hundred, celebrate your good luck and freedom by going out to the shop to work on a plane that, were you living in Britain, would land you in prison after your first flight.  Do some solid work tonight that would make Bernard proud. Think of your fellow aviators, men just like you, but fate determined you to have freedom to build as you mind wishes and your hands are able, and they must wait another decade or two for the whim of a bureaucrat to change. When you are done for the night, take a few minutes to admire your work. Offer a salute to your brother aviators  living in repression on the other side of the pond by drinking a Cold beer.-ww


*If any friends from the other side of the pond are heading to Brodhead or Oshkosh, I welcome you to come over and lecture me at length about what a crass colonial jackass I am. If you can smuggle a starter out of the kingdom for me, I will print a retraction, sing God save the Queen, and do my best to drink one warm beer with you. If Frances Donaldson is visiting, please advise him that we plan to teach him how to have fun, culminating in him getting drunk on Jack Daniels, taking him Lynyrd Skynyrd concert in an F-250, and flying him around the pattern in an original Pietenpol powered by a Corvair. He may never go home.

2 Replies to “Flathead Ford, 71 cid. Freedom to pursue happiness.”

  1. reading your ramblings have given me hours of enjoyment…and a few tears of joy and ironic sadness as well…happy Easter !!

  2. In the early 60s I worked in a Lincoln dealership and we carried parts for English Fords. I bought one of their Anglia sedans and it was a great car with an over head valve 105e engine. I am sorry to hear of this turn of events. I wonder if one appealed to Ford of USA if they could intervene.

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