1932 Ford Roadster With a Custom High-Torque Flathead Engine

Dick Raczuk built his Roadster with a big, one-of-a-kind engine—but not for racing.

You’ve never seen another flathead like the one in this 1932 roadster. This engine is one-of-a-kind, full of unique engineering ideas from the nimble mind of Dick Raczuk.

Dick is one of the fortunate ones who can say, “I never went to work a day in my life.” He always loved what he did for a living. Still sharply focused at age 83, he’s been tinkering with things mechanical since he dropped a Cadillac engine into his Model A as a teenager. He has owned several businesses over the years, starting with a go-kart shop in the 1960s. A few years later he owned Kerker, which in the 1970s and ’80s was the No. 1 motorcycle exhaust company in the world.

“We sold 50,000 exhaust systems a year, and we supplied parts to GM, Toyota, and Honda. We designed tools for Honda—thousands of tools. That’s my background, solving mechanical problems. It’s easy to come up with a difficult solution, but difficult to come up with an easy solution. That’s my motto.”

His latest business venture is Koul Tools, “which came from working on old cars,” he said, humbly describing his innovations as “discovering how to stop leaks and make hose installations easier.” The Koul Tools client list includes companies like NASA, Boeing, Lockheed, NASCAR, Tesla, and Ford.

His Car Collection Includes Stutzes

In his spare time, he has assembled an eclectic collection of cars, including three 1932 Fords, two 1931 Stutzes (powered by straight-eight DV32 engines with twin camshafts and four valves per cylinder), a V12 Packard, a Willys-Knight, and a hot-rodded Graham Hollywood. “The Stutzes and Packard are all original. I don’t touch those cars. They’re artwork from the factory.”

All About the Rake

This roadster came into his life in 2006. It was built in the early 1990s from a gennie 1932 steel body. The 1932 framerails are fitted with a 4-inch dropped axle and a Columbia two-speed rearend. The 15-inch Wheelsmith wire wheels he put on it “kind of give it a back-to-the-’50s look,” Dick said.

What set this Deuce apart from other 1990s hot rods was the steep, laid-back rake of the windshield. The posts had been cut only about 2 inches, but the chop looked more severe because of their rake and the shape of the custom top. “It was kind of unique when it was done in the early ’90s, but it’s probably been copied since then,” Dick said. “You can lay them back too much, too, and it doesn’t look right, but this has the right amount of layback.”

Interior Work

Tim Case, an upholsterer near Dick’s Arizona home base, redid the top following its original custom design. He also upholstered the interior in dark gray-blue leather. The traditional cockpit has Stewart-Warner Wings gauges in the instrument panel, and Dick used a connecting rod to fabricate the steering column drop.

A French Flathead?

Dick drives all of his 1932 Fords, and started to do the same with this car. “But I didn’t have 100 miles on it when the engine blew up, so that’s when I started all my modifications,” he said.

Rather than work with the blown motor, Dick started fresh with a brand-new French flathead block. (The French licensed the manufacture of flatheads from Ford for use in military trucks. They’re something of an amalgam, with features and components similar to an 8BA and the earlier 59A.) “I had it stress-relieved and shot-peened before I did any boring,” he explained. “It’s a ⅜ x ½-inch motor,” he said—a ⅜-inch overbore and a Scat ½-inch stroker crank combining to make 304 cubic-inches.

Unusual Induction Setup

“This engine wasn’t built for racing,” Dick said, “even though it’s a big motor for a flathead. I built it for a street car. And I wasn’t interested in horsepower. Just torque.”

That explains the unusual induction system. Dick actually started down a path of multiple throttle bodies—eight individual IDAs to feed the fuel injectors—”which would be great for racing, but for driving around on the street, adjusting eight throttle bodies is a pain in the ass.”

Instead, the air comes in through the air cleaner and a single four-barrel, spread-bore throttle body to a custom-made plenum. Below the plenum is an intake he fabricated using the IDA throttle bodies minus their throttle plates. He sized the runners for air velocity, not quantity. “People usually make their intake runners bigger to give it more air, but I made mine smaller to give it more velocity. It fills the cylinders better.”

To arrive at the proper runner length, he tested them “one inch at a time.” He found the runner diameters to be too big for the velocity he wanted, so he sized them down by inserting surgical tubing within the runners and then pouring metal filler around the tubing to create the shape he wanted. “I had a mold release on the surgical tubing,” he said, “so I poured the Devcon, let it dry, pulled the tubing out, and there were my runners. I found the perfect bore size versus the valve size. That was probably 10 years ago, and they’re still in there, working great.”

Ignition Solutions

Dick also designed an ignition system that uses an Emtron ECU (hidden under the seat) that gets signals from a crank-mounted trigger wheel. Where the distributor used to be is now a device that counts camshaft revolutions. There are individual coil packs for each cylinder and knock sensors plumbed into the Wilson & Woods cylinder heads, visible just above the custom V8 emblems on the heads.

“On flatheads, cylinders two and three, and six and seven, share an exhaust port in the middle,” Dick explained. “Those two cylinders don’t like each other much, and sometimes they’ll start detonating a little bit with good timing in it. The knock sensor will detect that and, just like on new cars, pull spark out of that one cylinder until they can put it back in so it’s running at full pressure.”

Preventing Overheating Issues

Dick is proud of the fact that, in the 10 years that the engine has been together, “my leakdown is in the 4- to 5-percent bracket, because when we final-honed the cylinders, I made fake heads and clamped them on, so the torque was all there, just like we used to do with our racing engines.” To solve the flathead’s notorious overheating problems—exacerbated by Dick’s desert environs—he coated the piston tops and combustion chambers “with heat-reflecting material. I think it’s working because I live in one of the hottest parts of the country, and this engine runs at 180 degrees no matter what’s going on around here.”

In case he did encounter overheating issues, Dick installed a stainless-steel tank on the firewall, filled with deionized water that he can pump through misters in front of the Alumicraft Winterfront grille. “Never had to use it, but I have it there, just in case.”

Helping Dick with the build of his engine and its dyno- and road-tuning was longtime friend and colleague Dave Bush of Dave Bush Racing. “He did my tuning for me when I was at Kerker in the 1980s. He built a lot of championship superbike exhaust systems and was responsible for a lot of the development at Kerker.” The engine produces 204 horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque at 2,700 rpm. “It runs smooth, idles smooth, and gets 19 miles per gallon,” said Dick.

Still a Work in Progress

The car may be finished, but Dick’s work continues. These days he’s applying his expertise to diesel fuel lines, looking for ways to improve fittings and solve issues with fuel-line assemblies. And he shows no signs of slowing down: “We like to make things better. It started back when we made McCullough engines for go-karts. We’d look at something and say, ‘How do I improve that?’ It just goes on all the time. I can’t stop doing it. Just part of the MO, I guess.”