This dual overhead cam Model T Ford conversion engine was developed by Jack E. Gallivan and was available through his shop in Illinois from 1926 until 1930. The engine had a pair of two-inch valves in each cylinder and the cams were gear driven. It was considered to be rather pricey with the head alone going for around $750 - The Illustrated History of Sprint Car Racing: 1896-1942 by: Jack C. Fox
The Gallivan head, and complete engines, are almost legendary. Appearing late in the Model T era, they never made the impression the Frontys did, yet stories (have cropped up over the years) about their fabulous performance.
Two letters in the possession of the Briggs Cunningham Museum in Costa Mesa, California, provide some information about these heads. One of these letters, dated Nov 15, 1961, was written by J.E. Gallivan himself to a gentleman in Salinas, California, who owned a Gallivan engine at the time.
In his letter, Mr. Gallivan stated:
“A few of these (D.O.Cam heads for the Model T Ford) units were sold separately to customers to build their own engines, however as the Model T crankshaft was not heavy enough we built most of the units into complete engines with large crankshafts and tubular connecting rods machined out of solid steel billets. “These engines were very successful in racing during the 20s. The first ones were built in 1925 and the last one in 1929. Later on, some of them were converted to fit the Model B block and won the majority of races they were entered in at that time.
“These heads required a very special high-domed piston and we believe that we were the first to use domed pistons that were relieved to clear the valves”
The second letter, to that same Gallivan engine owner but unsigned and undated, cannot be verified for its accuracy but makes interesting reading:
“I do have a little bit of History that I would like to pass on. Most of it is hearsay but it will be interesting I am sure.
“Jack Gallivan (Rantoul, Ill.) was employed by Curtiss Wright Corp. and did considerable work on the development of the Curtiss Aircraft engine of World War I fame. After World War I he developed and made the Gallivan engine while in the employ of the U.S. Government, using government time and material. For this act he was severely reprimanded and did time in the government prison at Joliet, Illinois. However, Mr. Gallivan did produce seven engines.
“Of the original seven engines one was sold to Cokee Fuller who was a wealthy Indian sportsman from Muskogee, Oklahoma. Cokee Fuller was murdered during the Roaring Twenties and his engine came into the hands of Murry Earle.
“Murry Earle as car owner and builder, and Walter Barnett as driver, proved to be a good combination and won many races in Nebraska and Kansas during the late Twenties. Both Murry Earle and Walter Barnett are now deceased.
“Murry Earle sold his engine to John Mauro (Denver) who in turn sold it to Vic Felt (Denver).
“Vic Felt did quite a bit to the engine to improve the breed by using the Wills St. Claire crankshaft. Vic Felt owned and drove the Gallivan with good success on the Fair Grounds of Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa. In the early Thirties, with Vic Felt as owner and Lloyd Axle as driver, this engine competed at the old Ascot Speedway in Los Angeles. Vic Felt then sold his engine to Bill Harding (Doniphan, Mo.), and Bill Harding to Jack Lovely (Omaha, Neb.).
“Another original owner of (a) Gallivan was Joe Lencki (Maplewood and Chicago, Ill.). Joe Lencki did considerable work with the Gallivans, and made a five main bearing block for the Model T. He also made a pattern for the Gallivan head. Joe Lencki had a Gallivan entered at Indianapolis with Johnny Sawyer driving. A check in the Indianapolis yearbook may show the results and year of this feat. Joe Lencki (owner) and Johnny Sawyer (driver) continued to run the Gallivan up to 1939 or 1940 when Sawyer set an AAA record at Springfield, Illinois.
“I understand that Jack Lovely (Omaha, Neb.) also acquired this engine. Anyway Jack Lovely sold two Gallivans to the Syer brothers (Denver) and this is from whom I bought the engines.
“Syer Brothers ran these engines prior to World War II around Kansas and Colorado. Proceeding (sic) World War II the Syer brothers did considerable work in fitting Model A shafts to the Gallivans and had good luck running the Gallivan in the I.M.C.A. Circuit with T.E. Russell driving.
“In about 1948 and in conjunction with running one Gallivan, Syers started rebuilding the second Gallivan by fitting a Model B shaft in the T block and making a set of tube rods and cup system for the cams. This block was never completed. I bought the Gallivans in partnership with John Frank (Denver) in 1951.
“I started in the Gallivan business and quite by luck located the new head casting in Illinois from a Mr. Clifton Denny who at that time was running a Hal. I am not sure how Mr. Denny came about the head casting but I know it was the only casting he had or knew the whereabouts of. I also quizzed him for the whereabouts of any more Gallivan equipment with no avail.”