Retired Ford Performance engines wizard Mose Nowland’s death last week at age 87 opened a floodgate of memories, with all eyes on the running of this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, which marked the 55th anniversary of Ford’s storied triumph there in 1966. Nowland’s specialized genius was behind the Ford four-cam engine that showed up at Indianapolis in 1963 and won in 1965 — and for the V8 engines in the ’66 Le Mans-winning GT40s.
For all those involved in one of vintage racing’s fastest growing classes, Nowland’s passing was much closer to home: With the supply of Ford crossflow “Kent” engine blocks drying up in the 1980s-1990s, the long-time Ford engineer came to the rescue.
It’s not known whether Nowland was prompted by Ford executives noting Honda’s sudden arrival on the FF scene offering a modern 1500cc replacement for the venerable Kent or his own enthusiasm for Ford-powered racing cars. But, in August 2009, weeks after the FF 40th Anniversary event at Road America, Portland, Oregon-based engine builder Jay Ivey got a phone call from an old acquaintance: Mose Nowland.
“What do FF people need?” Nowland asked Ivey.
“Right now, a block,” Ivey replied. By then out of production for more than 20 years, the wrecking-yard supply of Cortina, Pinto and Fiesta engine blocks was minimal. “I’d say 4-5 out of every 10 blocks were no good,” Jay explained. “High mileage, age deterioration.”
“A block? We can do that,” Ivey said was Nowland’s immediate reply.
On Sept. 25, 2009, Ford brass gave the go-ahead and Nowland sent an e-mail to Ivey detailing an ambitious 40-week program which would culminate in delivery of the first machined and pressure-tested new production block by July 2010 — and not just a copy, but a block improved in several key areas and made of a new alloy.
Read more at Vintage Motorsport.com.