Truckstop Classic: 1961 Ford F-350 – The Y-Chromosome Butch Brother

(first posted 7/8/2011)

Here we have the Y chromosome-rich brother to the rather fem 1962 Styleside: a plain no-nonsense work/utility truck like the tens of millions that before and after it. In fact, if this pulled up in front of your house three months after you called the cable company, you probably wouldn’t be surprised. But it did have a bit of a surprise for me when I popped the hood.

Speaking of utilities, our phone company, which used to be Qwest, and before that was US West, had a 1971 Ford F-250 that was still in the fleet just a couple of years ago. It never failed to surprise me when I still saw it in our neighborhood, the oldest fleet truck in the country? I guess the convicted former CEO of Qwest had better things to with the corporate kitty. Better to talk about the burlap seat cover, just to prove how butch this truck is. Or is it hair cloth?

Ok, I didn’t even shoot the back of this truck, so I must not have been that interested at the time. We all know what a utility bed looks like. But I did make a point to open the hood, because I wanted to get some shots of Ford’s older six, the 223 CID unit that first appeared as the 215 in 1952, and was replaced by the 240/300 Big Six in 1965. Since the emblem on the hood indicated a six, up it went.

But either someone put the wrong emblem on the hood, or it’s been changed out, because here’s the source of this truck’s butchness, the Y-block V8. Why is this poor motor so unloved?

The Y-Block was Ford’s first OHV V8, appearing in 1954 in a peculiarly small 239 CID version. Well, it must have seemed like a great leap forward to Ford itself and the lovers of the brand, and it did beat Chevy with a new V8 by one year. But what a difference one year can make. The Y-block was pretty typical of the first generation of OHV V8s that appeared starting in 1949 with the superb Caddy and Olds units. The Y-Block might have looked pretty nifty in 1949 or so, but by 1954 it had nothing really new going for it. A massively heavy block that extended well below the crank center line (hence the Y moniker, when looking at a cross section of the block), it was certainly anything but delicate, which probably explains why it soldiered along in Ford’s trucks for so long.

The most distinctive feature of the Y-block was the unusual exhaust cross-over pipe that burned so many hands over the decades. Not a very good idea, and it just looks so…crude and ugly. Is that the source of the Y-Hate? It’s apparently a hold-over from the flat head’s cross-over (above), which at least ran down under. Why Ford didn’t like their down pipes to meet somewhere behind the engine is unknown to me. Maybe one of Henry’s last eccentric influences?

Our first car upon arrival in the US in 1960 was a 1954 Ford with the 239 V8 and two-speed Ford-O-Matic. I was pretty proud of that V8 emblem on the front fender, but the damn thing wouldn’t start half the time in Iowa’s winters. And it would get vapor lock in the summer, especially up in the Rockies on vacation.Ford Power indeed! At least the views were good as we sat by the side of Trail Ridge Road waiting for the vapor to condense again.

Well, my bias against the Y-Block was formed very early on, but like many biases, I’ve come to appreciate these roarty old motors. The dump truck clearing out my demolition site is a similar vintage Ford, with a Y-block, and you should hear its un-muffled blasts when it starts up and takes off.

The Y-chromosome has its shortcomings, and I wouldn’t be surprised that someday the world will be populated only by women who have learned to reproduce asexually (or from a few men kept in a cage and tapped for their sperm), but they’ll never know what they’re missing when an un-muffled Y-block goes roaring down the street.


Very much related:

CC 1962 Ford F100 Styleside – That Most Feminine Truck