I'm an old man. The sorts of vehicles I grew up with as a kid, and learned how to wrench on, were what you see only in car shows and cruises today. Go to one of these events and watch the old guys leaning over the engine compartments of old cars (say Sixties and earlier) and listen to them mourning for the days when you could sit on a fender and dangle your lower legs . . . INside!!!
Yes, this is a rant. Today you can't even SEE your engine without removing hoses, wire bundles, plastic (modern cars seem to be about half plastic) boxes for air-cleaners, big flexible ducts running hither and yon, a dozen sensors sending voltages to the computer, . . . and you'll HAVE to move a whole bunch of this glop someday, thanks to the absurdity of today's insistence that we must have OVERHEAD CAMS.
I am dealing with one of these wretched POS motors now. SOHC crossflow hemi head with intake and exhaust rockers on opposite sides of the cam. Nasty little stamped or drawn steel hydraulic lifters. When I rebuilt the engine the machine shop shaved it flat and had a local company regrind the cam (with a skosh more lift than stock). This called for those lifters to get tiny shims, like #4 flatwashers, a cheapo, crappy fix, but that's what the manufacturer specifies. Unfortunately, these shims want to move around, block the oil holes in the lifter and rocker, split, leading to an audible hammering of the rocker, which can soon break in two!
I'm not saying all SOHC and DOHC engines have these particular issues, but they all require you or an expensive hired mechanic to yard-out all those hoses and ducts and wires to get at and replace the cam drive apparatus. And in the great majority of cases, this will be on a bleeping front-drive car, another mechanic-unfriendly modern idea, with the engine/trans/diff all press-fitted sideways into the tiny engine compartment so that you only get at part of the engine by removing a front tire and working through an access hole in the fenderwell, oh, and by pulling a motor-mount.
Why would any of us want cars like this? Why the bleep does an old man like me, who grew up with far better basic car designs, who KNOWS BETTER, have a car like this, with an engine like this?
I have a pretty good idea of where the overhead cam stuff came from. In the Fifties, one of the most popular car magazine columnists was Ken Purdy, who worked for one of those anglophile/Europhile magazines, Road & Track or Car & Drver or something like, that appealed to the sort of upper middle-class fellow who put on open-back driving gloves to go to the grocery in his TR-3, idolized Stirling Moss and Juan Fangio and other gentleman-drivers, and limited his own mechanical efforts to changing spark plugs.
Ken Purdy, a good writer, was a man from this mould, whose mechanical expertise was more conceptual than hands-on. And by the mid-Fifties he started singing the praises of the overhead cam engines coming out of Jaguar and Mercedes. Purdy and his pals thought the Brits and Europeans were making American engineering look crude (and certainly those old Jag motors, with their polished aluminum cam covers and porcelain-ized exhausts looked impressive). "No more 'monkey-motion' pushrods and rockers," was the cry. "Detroit needs to stop being so cheap and so stuck in the old ways when the Europeans are leaving us behind," was the call from Purdy and many others. It took a long time, and the rise of heavy competition from Japan, before Detroit started going to overhead cams, and then four-valve heads . . . .
And the main benefit of either of these things is primarily in marketing; this stuff is exciting to the modern version of the driving-gloves set, the software programmers and computer game designers and investment bankers who read the same magazines and try to show real mechanics and machinists how much they know. And they still repeat the nonsense about "old fashioned monkey-motion pushrods and rockers."
Monkey-motion? What about your mile-long belts and chains flapping and snatching and stretching (you should watch this under a strobe light!) at high rpm?!! Pushrods and rockers are good to at least six grand; how often do you rev your street machine over 4800 (especially when FAR more often the reality for modern cars is morning and evening commuter-crawls, bumper to bumper)? 4-valve heads are actually inferior to any good 2-valve swirl design until close to 4000 rpm (according to David Vizard, who has done more dyno pulls than almost anyone), meaning inferior for practical street machines. Sure, if you want a RACE engine you'd want all the overhead cams, all the valves you can afford, so you can wind it to five digits like the sportbikes you hear shrieking down the highway at two in the morning. But where are you going to make your family car scream? Five-second bursts on freeway on-ramps? Give me a break!
I used to own a car I that I liked a lot more than what I have at the moment: my 1979 Ford Fiesta! Cheap, simple, never any trouble after I rebuilt it. Eight valves total. Pushrods. Solid chilled-iron lifters that you'd adjust when you got around to it, that never plugged up or leaked and clattered, and never would break. And because the Kent engine has been used forever in the USA version of Formula Ford racing, there are parts, some upgraded from stock, such as ARP rod bolts and Cortina S cams, high-silicon pistons, and free-flowing headers if you want that stuff. Oh, and there's a good upgrade carburetor, the Weber 32/36 DGEV progressive 2bbl, which is what the FF racers use. Yes, the Fiesta was a FWD, sideways-engine/trans/diff car (another overseas concept that was promoted by those who read magazines rather than work on cars), but at least, like the original Austin Mini that inspired it, the pre-smog Fiesta pushrod engine still was not too hard to work on because it was SIMPLE.
I can understand the frustration. At the same time, however, alot of progress has been made in terms of power and emissions that the old "simple" engines didn't give. The older engines typically required a rebuild every 100K or so as well (if you have to remove the heads for any reason, you're doing a rebuild in my book). Many current fiestas are over 250,000 miles on their original 1.6L. No head gaskets, no adjustments, just a new timing device at 100-150K.
Old truck engines is where I really get a laugh. They were tough, and simple. Which was great for keeping them going. But they made 0 power for the amount of fuel they consumed. The Ford Super Duty engines are great examples of that problem.
Current: 2014 Ford Fiesta SE Green Envy
RIP 2004 Expedition - The Real LNDBARJ 2007-2014
I keep hearing about how new engines run forever while our poor old Stone Age pushrod motors "typically" were getting worn out at 100Kmi. That sure as, uh, heck was not true for me!! I changed the oil. And the air filter. And less often, the plugs. So where an ignoramus who continued to run his car with no maintenance and way out of tune and the choke out of adjustment had to pump and pump the throttle to get the engine to fire on a cold morning, washing all the oil of the cylinders with raw gas, yeah, at 100Kmi HIS car had poor ring-sealing and a ridge in the cylinders, and the cam lobes worn off and so on. So I suppose you are right in the sense that new cars with EFI compensate for some of this, and don't wash down the cylinders, etc., plus they are so complicated that the maintenance they get is from professionals, so yeah, I suppose they do last a lot longer for the average shmoe. But I assumed the enthusiasts likely to visit this site aren't shmoes, but understand preventive maintenance and do most of it themselves.
Maybe oils weren't quite what they are in this age of long change intervals, but they were plenty good enough to take MY engines past 100Kmi with excellent compression and the rest of the components in good order. I don't know what miracles of modern materials and such that today's wondermotors are supposed to have, but even back in pushrod days we had moly-faced rings for easy break-in, and induction-hardened valve seats (or stellite inserts) and moly cam-lubes in new engines or when doing a rebuild, and positive crankcase ventilation to keep our simple engines from sludging up (and cutting total engine emissions by about one third at a single, simple stroke). Factory tolerances are a good bit tighter now, a real improvement, so engines can come off the line with tighter squishbands and other dimensional improvements that could come without resulting in a high scrap-rate for the car-maker. Because of the Arab oil embargoes of the Seventies, car-makers started spending more money on engines to make them more efficient. But many of the upgrades were versions of ordinary hot-rodding techniques: better flowing manifolds, better exhaust designs, better heads allowing more compression, progressive opening two and four-throat spreadbore carbs that both made more power and better mpg than the cheapo carbs that used to come standard. Most of this was not new technology.
And that was part of my point. Guys here, I hope, have the ability to build themselves a vehicle of an old-fashioned, simple, easy-to-service configuration WITH such upgrades needed to make them more powerful, more efficient, and last a long time. Your old truck engine, with it thickwall-cast block and heads, can be rebuilt to be a lot more gutsy and a lot less thirsty than it was, and serve you for decades without the imagined necessity of overhead cams and drive-belts and computers and all the other complications and krahp.
Not sure why Overhead stuff is such an irritation, other than teardown time. But I have no issues with pushrod engines. The GM's still use pushrods, and their new 4.3, 5.3, and 6.2L DI engines are nothing short of absolutely amazing.
The downfall of mechanicals vs electronics is their existence in state vs gradient. An ECM can run an engine in perfect combination for maximum efficiency from Point A to B. A mechanical setup typically needs to work in states, an that loses efficiency.
Most here will not be building their own engines. This is an exceptionally tiny group of people in the global outlook. And that's why .Gov stepped in and mandated better, because unless forced to none of the manufacturers show interest in efficiency. Humans want more power (one-up-manship) for their money, not increased efficiency that either makes no difference, or even weakens the go pedal.
But hey, I'd love to look at a V8 with carbs that can make at least 415 ft. lb's of torque, at least 380HP, and get 23mpg highway real world in a 4K+ pound 1/2 ton if you've got a link to one. Still can't beat that classic rumble of the earlier V8's.
Current: 2014 Ford Fiesta SE Green Envy
RIP 2004 Expedition - The Real LNDBARJ 2007-2014
Why? Its bigotry! An old man's bigotry, at least partly. It is the privilege of any old man like me to coddle and indulge the various aspects of his bigotry because we know we will mostly be ignored anyway (sometimes rightly so).
I hear ya! I owned 3 of those Fiesta's, a '78, a '79, & an '80. All bought used. They all ran good and the '80 which I bought in '87 was built into a road race car (SCCA Improved Touring) and even after I sold it the car continued to be raced by that owner and then with a later owner until 2009.
FYI the Kalamzoo Craiglist has an ad for multiple Fiestas for sale cheap.
If I only had the room I'd go up there and pick one to keep for fixing up later.
1988 E250 Extended Pass. Van (Race car hauler.)
1988 Scriocco - Race car
2012 TDI Jetta - Daily Driver
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