Ford Flathead V-8 Identification

Written by tim mcquade
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Ford Flathead V-8 Identification
The Ford Flathead was a high-output engine. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

In the early 20th century, the Ford Motor Company became synonymous with innovation and industry. Manufactured from the 1930s into the 1950s, the Flathead V8 was one of Ford's largest engines of the time. Ford issued an identification code on every Flathead V8; understanding this code helps establish the year and model of a particular Flathead V8 engine.

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Serial Number Location

Ford's Flathead serial codes provide valuable information about a particular engine. However, Ford did not list this number on the engine. Instead, the company stamped the engine serial number on the top of the bell housing from 1932 until 1948, and then from 1949 until 1953, Ford cast the code on the top of the bell-housing flange on the engine. Owners can usually access the serial code by removing the inspection plate on the vehicle's floor board.

Serial Number Background

Ford had reasons for printing the engine code on the bell housing and not directly onto the engine. Stamping the code in this location simplified the registration process: by having the serial number stamped on the bell housing, the vehicle owner did not have to change his registration papers when he replaced the engine. Ford also manufactured the engine in its Canadian plants. Corresponding engines feature serial numbers with a preceding letter "C." From 1949 until 1953, serial code 8EQ referred to a large, 145-horsepower Ford Flathead engine model.

1932 through 1937 Identification

For the first year of Flathead production in 1932, Ford issued a No. 18 serial code on these engines. In 1933 and 1934, the company stamped serial code No. 40 on all Flathead engines. For 1935, the Flathead engines bore a No. 48 code. For 1936 and 1937, the first digit in the code marked the year of production, and the second digit differentiated between Flathead engine model 60 and 85. For example, engine code 74 symbolised the year 1937, and the second digit (4) designated the engine model, No. 4 being model 60 and No. 8 signifying model 85.

1938 through 1953 Identification

In 1938, the first digit represented the year of production, such as No. 8 for 1938, and the second digit referred to the Flathead model -- a No. 2 represented engine model 60, and a No. 1 designated engine model 85. When Ford dropped the model 60 engine in 1941, the second digit remained a No. 1; after World War II, the second digit was always a No. 9. In 1949 Ford replaced the second digit in the code entirely with the letter B. Ford used this system until the end of production, with 1953 being 3BA.

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