The Ardun OHV conversion for the venerable Ford flathead was designed by Zora Arkus-Duntov and his brother Yuri as the “Ardun Engine Company of New York” in the late forties. By then the “old flatty” had become the engine of choice for the burgeoning hot rod craze but was also popular for commercial use as well with less than desirable results. As trucks became larger and heavier the 239 cubic inch V8 failed with increasing regularity under the heavy loads. This is due in part to the Siamese center exhaust port on each bank that cooked the coolant. If the engine was going to produce significantly more power, it would have to be with overhead valves and short exhaust ports.
The Duntov Brothers (and others) sought to solve this problem with OHV conversion kits, some being more successful than others. After Ardun completed 200 castings and parts, Ford recognized the need for a larger commercial engine and modified the big Lincoln V8 (337 cubic inches, Model 8EQ) for truck application beginning in 1948.
The Ardun (an acronym for ARkus-DUNtov) was too wide for passenger car installation and they were now in trouble before the new castings had barely cooled.
However, since the casting work was done in England, sports car builder Sidney Allard, creator of the now famous and expensive Allard/Ford V8 cars took note and installed a few Arduns in his roadsters. There were problems because the conversion kits had not been debugged, creating havoc for Allard and they turned to Cadillac and Oldsmobile engines for their cars. During this time Stevens Motor Company of New York noticed what was going on and saw an opportunity to represent the Ardun Engine Company and became the sole US distributor. Zora and Yuri washed their hands of the whole project.
About the same time, dry lakes racers, Clem TeBow and Don Clark saw some drawings of the Ardun kit and recognized the potential to extract lots of additional power from the flathead Ford. They installed a modified converted engine in Don’s HiBoy Deuce and in 1950 made wide eyed believers of SCTA (Southern California Timing Associatioin) crowd. In 1951 they took the black duce to Bonneville setting a C/Street Roadster record of 162.61 Mph and the unofficial title of noisiest car on the salt! Later that year an engine dyno test recorded 303 Hp @ 5250 rpm with 25% fuel.
A small ad in Hot Rod Magazine, May 1950, told of a new OHV conversion available from Bell Auto Parts of Bell California. (The same company that ultimately provided the industry with Bell helmets and Cragar Wheels.) The Ardun OHV conversion is still being used today in street rods and is the best known of all Ford flathead OHV conversions.