The Straight Scoop on "Canadian" Heads

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This story was written by Bruce Sizemore and edited by Scott Hollenbeck.

(Left to right) Tony Rainero, Domenic Garofali, and Bruce Sizemore talking about "Canadian" heads at the 50th Anniversary Ford Performance Cobra Jet Reunion on August 25, 2018.

Ford's 428 Cobra Jet engine had many drag racing successes during the 1968 and 1969 racing seasons, but as time went on racers found themselves needing more power to keep up with their Mopar competition. Bruce Sizemore, a Ford Performance Events Department employee who worked for Drag Racing Manager Emil Loeffler, decided to take action as racers were getting ready for the 1969 NHRA US Nationals held in Indianapolis, Indiana, during the last weekend of August, 1969. Bruce began working with Allen Buckmaster of Ford's Scientific Research Laboratory, where all the experimental non-production prototype engine development work was conducted. Buckmaster was the Key Flow Lab employee who forgot more than most people would ever know about flow bench work. Al and Bruce's "off the books" effort to design a new, 428CJ look-alike cylinder head was primarily done in after-hours evening sessions. Their goal was to quickly produce only a new intake port core for the foundry that flowed considerably more cfm as Bruce felt that both exhaust port and intake modifications would be too obvious. Bruce had 14 sets (28 heads) cast at Dearborn Iron Foundry (DIF) on a Sunday (editor's note: we've seen one head with a casting date of 9H21, or Thursday, August 21, 1969), when service or special castings were normally run. In nearly 100% of these entire special or revised core or port runs, finished heads were assigned an SK part number and they were stamped with that number in a typical obscure place. Getting the heads in raw un-machined form was the only way Bruce was able to avoid compounding this already difficult task by not having a stamped SK number to deal with.

Machining was done off-Ford premises at the suggestion of Bill Holbrook (#2 in the NASCAR program reporting directly to C.E. Grey, Jr). Bill arranged for Bruce to solicit Paramount Boring and Machine, who used a tape machine for experimental or "specials" as Paramount Boring did most of the Ford NASCAR prototype work that could not be run on production equipment. Even though these 28 unique CJ heads could have been machined by Ford using production equipment, Bruce didn't want to run the risk of getting caught doing a "special look-a-like" on Ford property compounded by the strong possibility of mixing these heads in accidentally with other production look-alikes as he stated recently "good luck sorting that one out". Paramount finished the heads on a rush basis except for the all-important valve seat and CC minimum resurfacing work, which is how and why Bruce approached Domenic Garofali, a trusted Ford Experimental Garage employee. Dom did the valve job at his house in Dearborn Heights with lightweight valve train parts supplied by Holman & Moody of Charlotte, North Carolina, at Bruce's expedited request. Dom also checked chamber volumes for compliance with NHRA's 68CC minimum specification. In fact, Bruce insisted on a more conservative approach using 69CC to provide a margin of error. Dom recalled that 11 sets, all with lightweight valves, were driven down to Indy in his 67 Galaxie. Dom and a friend of Len Richter, who worked with Len as a test driver at the Safety Labs, drove at 80-90 mph down to Indy. The test driver (Dom couldn't recall his name) got ticketed in Coldwater, Michigan, for speeding. Dom was sleeping in the back seat exhausted from the no sleep effort with a glass jug mixture of kerosene and automatic transmission fluid on the passenger side floorboard. The state trooper asked Dom "what’s in the bottle", and Dom said from the back seat, "CC juice". The heads were delivered to Paul Harvey's Ford dealership garage service area where the selected cars were already torn down for cylinder head installation. For Indy, Paul Harvey's son Jerry Harvey was not slated to get one of these sets, as the class he was running required heavy valves and all 11 sets Dom delivered were for the lightweight valve class CJs. Paul Harvey insisted on having a set made up so Bruce called his boss Emil at the motel and was told to have Dom take a set over to Louie Meyer (Indy Engines) to see if they could do the required seat and CC machining work. Unfortunately, Louie told them he didn't have the correct tools. At Emil's request Dom flew from Indy back to Detroit, took a cab home, finished another set of the BS heads with heavy valves, and had his dad drive him back to the airport. Not wanting to risk taking the heads back to Indy as checked baggage, Dom said he installed rocker stands and shafts on the pair of cylinder heads to use as handles and wrapped them up. He then carried them on the plane, stashed them under the seats and flew back to Indy in First Class for installation on Jerry's car. Ironically, Jerry Harvey's Mustang was the last CJ standing on Race Day, when he was defeated by Ronnie Sox's Barracuda in the quarter finals. Sox went on to win the Eliminator title by defeating Dave Wren in the final. Here is a video with coverage of the 1969 US Nationals; Super Stock coverage begins at the 1:05 minute mark.  

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUoDy5n-JrE  

Now back to the Paramount story:

At Paramount Boring Bruce had the 28 heads stamped with his initials ("BS") on the front facing pad of every head. Why? How else could he keep track of who had these unique heads among the many teams that wanted the high flow heads! Inventory control was important for obvious reasons. One giant hiccup surfaced early on as Paramount Boring called Bruce at home one night announcing the heads were finished but in their quality control checking procedure they had drilled only a 3/8-16 accessory hole in only one end of each head. The quality control check discovered an optional "call out" in the blueprint that one or two holes could be drilled. Paramount offered to re-machine all 28 heads on an expedited basis, but after discussing the orientation of the bolt hole they had already drilled (passenger side head, 1-rear facing 3/8 hole, drivers side forward facing hole) Bruce declined as all CJ brackets were front-left mounted. The other primary reason for not drilling the additional hole was that time was running out to make all of this happen for Indy. This seemingly insignificant detail led to a problem when installing the new "BS" heads at Paul Harvey Ford. Due to the 428 CJ having a front-right located battery and tray, this "innocuous hole" served as the ground strap anchor. This explains why all the "BS" head racers who went through NHRA tech the following day after the head swap raised NHRA eyebrows and the 3/8 hole required all the "BS" head Mustangs to ground their batteries using the passenger side header bolt. Ironically, this anomaly also clearly displayed the "BS" initials and was another dead giveaway to NHRA tech officials, who called for immediate corrective action. Not wanting to go back to Paul Harvey Ford (because Marty Barrett worked in parts department and he was the head NHRA Division 3 tech guru), Bruce contacted Ed Martin Ford through Bob Glidden (his sponsor) and arranged for an all-nighter fix of grinding off his initials, tapping a fresh 3/8 hole, and repainting the pad Ford corporate blue. This was all done under the cover of night with assistance from the likes of "Dyno" Don Nicholson and his loyal "wrench" Earl Wade.

Cars equipped with the heads at 1969 Indy ran 1-2 tenths faster (according to Bruce) than those with production heads. Rumors began to fly when some Drag Council members noticed the improved time of their fellow Ford racers. Cars were routinely torn down in the NHRA specifications checking process, which required removing both cylinder heads, putting those heads, intake, carb, and head gaskets on a long card table for NHRA scrutiny. The intake port "three fingers vs. two fingers" measurement deep in the intake runner was not initially caught by NHRA tech personnel, but suspicions were high and rumors were rampant.

The week after Indy when Bruce and Emil were back at Ford Division Headquarters, Bruce received a call from NHRA National Tech Director Bill "Farmer" Dismuke, basically asking Bruce to "tell me what’s going on with the Cobra Jet Heads". Bruce explained that Ford cast CJ heads at two production foundries, with one in Cleveland, Ohio, and the other in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He had pulled about 100 heads from Ford's Canadian foundry (where in Bruce's opinion there was less core shift with casting tolerances closer to intended dimensions, producing heads that were better than those cast at the Cleveland foundry) and he picked the best flowing heads from the same production batches. Bruce states that Farmer Dismuke used the Canadian head moniker and Bruce jumped on that opportunity to get out from under further NHRA scrutiny as "Farmer" mentioned factoring in that all important, problem-solved call. This is why the heads have come to be called "Canadian" heads.

Monday morning after the race, Bruce and Emil were summoned to John Cowley’s (the head of all Ford Motor Company Performance Events) office and were subjected to the usual Cowley-style beratement, e.g. "so Ronnie Sox kicked your ass again, you guys are pathetic". We then mentioned that Mickey Thompson's Mustang, with Danny "On-Gas" Ongias driving, won Funny Car Eliminator. Cowley then quipped, "big deal, you still let Mopar kick your ass". The conversation then shifted to the heads as Cowley had his sources for all inside information and Bruce recalls having to do the two-step in an effort to avoid and delay the inevitable casting and machining bills that had not yet hit the office.

NOTE: this article was authored by Bruce Sizemore, Sr. exactly 40 years to the day in 2018 after my last ride down the quarter mile and a win at the 1978 US Nationals as Modified Eliminator Champion. Here is a picture of me in the winner's circle, with mascot Muffin and the Wally that disappeared during my subsequent contentious divorce.

Bruce Sizemore and Muffin at the 1978 NHRA US Nationals