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Old 07-04-2011, 02:43 PM
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Writing story - Need help with Engine tips of car

Hello,

I'm writing a story about a 30s detective. He drives a 1937 Plymouth Business Coupe. His best friend in the story is a mechanic and soups up his car to be one of the fastest around.

From what I've been able to find, the 37' had a 6 cylinder. So here is my question. If you were a mechanic back in the 30s. What would you do to the engine in this car to soup it up?

I would like to write some details in the story about this. This is the reason I need the information.

Thank you!

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Old 07-04-2011, 04:09 PM
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This is a Question for Colbalt, no doubt about it.
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Old 07-04-2011, 04:59 PM
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LOL. As experienced as he might be in this field, could you even hop one of these up? So new a science, you'd have to make your own pistons or cranks to stroke it. Maybe a bigger carb? Maybe adding a second carb, but you're right back at making a manifold to hold it. Only thing I can think of is a rear gear change.
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Old 07-04-2011, 05:37 PM
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Maybe take a supercharger off of a Mercedes or Auburn. Just a WAG.
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Old 07-04-2011, 08:02 PM
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I would suggest an engine swap using the inline 8 cylinder supercharged engine from a wrecked Duesenberg Model SJ. Back then finding a wrecked Duzy wouldn't be that much of a problem. The rear end would have to be changed out as well. This would give a '37 Plymouth stratospheric performance for the day.

The straight eight model J Duesenberg motor was based on the company's successful racing engines of the 1920s and though designed by Duesenberg they were manufactured by Lycoming, another company owned by Cord. In unsupercharged form, it produced an impressive (for the period) 265 horsepower from a dual overhead camshaft and four valves per cylinder. It was capable of a top speed of 119 mph, and 94 mph in 2nd gear.

The supercharged version, often referred to as "SJ", was reputed to do 104 miles per hour in second and have a top speed of 135140 mph in third. Zero-to-60 mph times of around eight seconds and 0100 mph in 17 seconds were reported for the SJ in spite of the unsynchronized transmissions, at a time when even the best cars of the era were not likely to reach 100 mph.

Other cars featured a bigger engine but none of them surpassed its power. It was also both the fastest and most expensive American automobile in the market. All these unique features, glamour, and style inspired the expression, "It's a Duesy".
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Old 07-04-2011, 08:07 PM
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I would say if he did anything he would have to borrow parts from other cars. Hot rod parts were not readily available as they are today. He would probably use a bigger carb, and different exhaust, or least exhaust cutouts he could open from inside the car with a choke cable or rod to control it. Rearend gearing might be an option with a rearend from a pickup truck, which I would think had lower gearing. Whats this detectives budget? As with any hot rodding that always has a lot to do with how much changes you could make....
my 2 cents
Richie
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Old 07-04-2011, 10:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cool rockin daddy
Only thing I can think of is a rear gear change.
How about milling the head and/or block to get more compression and improve the quench.

How about reducing the weight of the vehicle by removing things that are not needed, making fiberglass body parts (or some other light material, fiberglass supposedly came out in the 30s), replacing glass with plexiglass (came out in the 30s), replacing the rims with aluminum rims, aluminum driveline etc. Improving power to weight ratio is always nice.

How about reducing accessory drive load by removing accessories that arn't needed and alter pulley ratios for the remaining accessories.

How about a dual snorkel cold air intake - those show a couple tenths improvement at the 1/4 mile over open element. Or maybe some other means of grabbing outside air through a scoop in the hood especially if a fiberglass hood is made.

How about some machine work on the heads...pocket porting and / or any other machining that can be done to improve upon the original casting.

If you think about it, there are all kinds of things that can be done even without lots of aftermarket support and still use the original powertrain.
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Old 07-05-2011, 08:14 AM
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Dual snorkel on a 37 Plymouth, back in 1937? Nobody knew what "quench" was back then. What makes you think a "mechanic" in 1937 could do anything but maintain the operation of a '37 six banger let alone do the types of engine modifications you're talking about. How many corner garages in '37 had the machinery or tools to perform all the modern day fixes you propose?
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Old 07-05-2011, 08:38 AM
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I really appreciate all the replies guys. This helps a lot! I really like what Centerline had to say about the Duesenberg. I think I will go with that for the engine. That sounds fantastic!

You guys mentioned the rear end gearing and the exhausts. I like the sound of that. What is it about the rear end gearing that would make it faster? I'm not sure I understand.
Also, the exhausts with the choke that Richiehd mentioned sounds cool. Does he mean shorter exhausts or wider pipes? How would that work?

In my story, the mechanic has a garage in Chicago and he has experience working at the Indianapolis 500 as a mechanic. He has a way of trading and picking up extra parts from various places. He doesn't charge the detective much for this stuff, since the detective is his best friend. Since this is fiction, he has a way of getting whatever parts he needs. But I still want to make it very believable. So he is still limited by being in the 1930s.
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Old 07-05-2011, 08:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by novaburst
Hello,

I'm writing a story about a 30s detective. He drives a 1937 Plymouth Business Coupe. His best friend in the story is a mechanic and soups up his car to be one of the fastest around.

From what I've been able to find, the 37' had a 6 cylinder. So here is my question. If you were a mechanic back in the 30s. What would you do to the engine in this car to soup it up?

I would like to write some details in the story about this. This is the reason I need the information.

Thank you!
The following link is to a forum that is primarily Mopar-related. Despite the title being "1946-'48", they cater to earlier models as well. To connect to the P15-D24 forum, CLICK HERE.

Stock, the flat head inline 6 cylinder engine made 87 HP. It used a 1 barrel carb and was just adequate for the application. But supercharged it could be expected to pick up 40% more power. Mods to that type engine would include:

"Porting and relieving" (procedures used to enhance the airflow into and out of the engine, to make more power).

Increasing the compression ratio. This gives a torque increase and allows a more radical cam to be used. However, the gasoline of the day was VERY poor quality, having a relatively low octane rating. Lead had been discovered to add to knock resistance, but the flathead design didn't allow for much compression, regardless. Another angle might involve "exotic" fuels like alcohol, benzene, possibly nitrous oxide was already in use for aircraft? But by seeing what was being used for aircraft will tell you also what the high performance car guys were also looking into.

Multiple carbs.

"Split" exhaust manifold to allow dual exhaust pipes to be used for less backpressure.

"Boring and stroking" to increase the engine displacement, along w/the size increase comes a power increase as well.

A somewhat common modification done back then was supercharging.

Engine swap. There were Pontiac straight 8's, Ford had its flathead V* to name two.

A two speed rear end, like the Columbia for example (became available just before the '37 you want to use), could turn it into a runner- and could be made into a storyline angle of how "he upshifted at a hundred mph, to the amazement of his competition, bla, bla, bla"- type of deal. LOL

You'll find more "hop up" info available for the Fords of the day, especially the flathead V8 that came out in '32, but much of this info would also apply to a Mopar flathead straight 6 as well. Barring a swap to a Ford automobile, either a blower (supercharger) or an engine swap would be the best bet, IMO.

Last edited by cobalt327; 07-05-2011 at 09:02 AM.
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Old 07-05-2011, 08:48 AM
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If you wanted to use an Indy influenced engine, Miller had a V8 in '33, Offenhauser started up about then after taking over tooling, etc. from Miller IIRC, there were even competitive diesels like driven my Cummins to the win in '31- by not having to pit for gas. Another angle/slant- getting the bad guy (or getting away, period) by outlasting the competition on fuel mileage.

Last edited by cobalt327; 07-05-2011 at 09:00 AM.
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Old 07-05-2011, 03:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cool rockin daddy
Dual snorkel on a 37 Plymouth, back in 1937? Nobody knew what "quench" was back then. What makes you think a "mechanic" in 1937 could do anything but maintain the operation of a '37 six banger let alone do the types of engine modifications you're talking about. How many corner garages in '37 had the machinery or tools to perform all the modern day fixes you propose?
It's very common for mechanics in todays world to remove a component, bring it to a machine shop, let the machinest do his thing, then reinstall the part. I would tend to think they did this in the 30s too.

Even if they didn't understand quench, they understood compression. By upping the compression in this mannor (decking, milling) they are improving the squish wether they know it or not.
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Old 07-05-2011, 05:01 PM
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1.21 giga-watts???!!!!
 
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I guess we'll just have to wait for the author to tell us the skill level of his mechanic.

BTW, congrats on being the first person I've ever put on the iggy list.
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Old 07-07-2011, 08:11 AM
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Well I think as long as it was known about at the time, the mechanic in the story would be capable of doing it.

Now that Cobalt mentioned the Miller, I did some research and I think I'm going to go with an engine swap and use the Miller supercharged V8, with twin cams and 350 bhp.
I think I will include the two-speed rear end and dual exhausts with cutouts opened with a choke.
I will probably add a hidden compartment in the door to hide an extra pistol.

What do you guys think? Should I add anything else?

By the way, my summary for this story was accepted by a publisher, so this baby will be published!
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Old 07-07-2011, 08:31 AM
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Congrats, Nova.

I am an unpublished-as-of-yet writer myself, so I can imagine how excited you are. Please let us know when it is published...I'd love to read it (and pick up some pointers!)

Cobalt is probably right. In that age, a complete engine swap was probably the most bang for your buck mod you could do for a major performance upgrade.
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