Montana Dodge Boys Scorch the Records

montana dodge boys


montana dodge boysIs there any room left for real hot rodders in a world gone bonkers for LSX engines, high tech 4-valve modular motors and second generation Hemis tweaked with mail order, bolt-on speed parts in fifteen different colors plus chrome and brushed aluminum and two color glossy stickers in every box at your doorstep overnight?

Insane boost pressure, EFI and electronic engine management systems have all but overwhelmed the traditional paths to power where atmospheric pressure and a swamp full of refined dinosaur muck are magically converted into tire twisting torque. Luckily the legacy of true hot rodding survives and flourishes with racers like the Montana Dodge Boys. Bolt-ons and mail order parts are not a part of their engine building repertoire.


dodgeThese die-hard hot rodders still serve the need for speed with old fashioned technical savvy and lost art engine building skills that put the bark in vintage engines not that far removed from their one hundredth birthday. Their boardroom was a sticky table in a taco shop and their original plan was pretty damned close to the proverbial "back of cocktail napkin." The lure of racing at Bonneville in a vintage roadster was simply overpowering and they quickly came to the conclusion that they could build a vintage roadster and smash the record books despite their lack of experience. It was reckless hot rodding spirit at its best and the fuse had already been lit.

montana dodge boysThe Montana Dodge Boys; Pete "Pedro" Hendrickson, Chris King, and Tony Smith

"Our first four records were set with a modified stock crank, SBC 283 pistons, off the shelf SBC valvetrain parts, and stock reground cam & lifters"
...Tony Smith

The star attraction of their considerable efforts is the Montana Dodge Boys Fast Four Special, a 1928 Dodge roadster of which very few were built, and the Fast Four Dodge flathead engine which was only produced for a brief period of eight months between the fall of 1927 and the spring of 1928. The focus of this Hot Rod Engine Tech story is of course the record setting 87 year old Dodge engine and engine builder Tony Smith's mechanical tweaks that helped the car set 10 vintage class records at Bonneville.

dodgeThe V4F (Vintage 4 cylinder Flathead) engine class at Bonneville requires only an original pre-1935 production cylinder block with displacement not to exceed 220 cubic inches and the hot rodding talent to make it sing. The Dodge Fast Four engine produced from late 1927 to early '28 seemed a far better choice for the Bonneville vintage class than the Ford Model A engine other competitors were running because it has five main bearings, five cam bearings, and babbitted bearing inserts on the connecting rods and mains.

dodgeThe antique crankshafts have small diameter main and rod journals (1.750" mains, 1.625" rods) combined with a very long stoke (4.500"). The extra main bearings add support to the relatively spindly crankshaft which as no material overlap between the throws. These engines are exceedingly rare and neither Summit Racing, JEGS or even Honest Charley carry any speed parts for them. Pure hot rodding would be required. They would have to adapt modern parts into the engine where necessary and fabricate that which did not exist.

"We fabbed a homebrewed high volume oil pump made from two stock pumps and copious machining. We're not currently using it but did set 5 records with it."

The Fast Four oiling system uses a small gear type oil pump that pulls oil out of the pan and into an oil gallery. A pressure bypass connected to the gallery limits the pressure to a frightful 4 psi. From the gallery it pours into a trough above each main bore where it gravity feeds the main bearings and then across at a slight downward angle to the cam bearings. The rods have lubrication dippers on the rod caps and corresponding troughs in the oil pan. The cylinders, piston pins, and valvetrain are marginally lubricated as oil is tossed about by the rods and there is no provision for an oil filter. To ensure durability on repeated 3 mile runs at WOT Tony made modifications to provide all of the critical components with a continuous supply of pressurized and filtered oil.

dodgeTo increase the oil pump's volume Tony made two pumps into one by making longer shafts, double stacking the gears, and making a double height housing. There is no room for a deep sump pan under the car, so the added pump length had to be compensated for by cutting a section out of the upper housing and grafting it back together. Tony calls it Frankenpump and it is a perfect example of hot rodding talent; making something useful and better through the magic of modification. The oil line connecting the pump to the main oil gallery was interrupted and plumbed outside the block via an AN bulkhead fitting. It runs to a remote oil filter housing, then back into the block via another bulkhead fitting.

dodgeSwitching to a billet cam after several years eliminated the oil pump drive gear so an external oil pump replaced it. A standard hydraulic tractor pump was sourced based on the cc/revolution of the former Frankenpump. Pete fabbed adjustable mounts and matched up the belt drive. The stock oil pressure bypass was a modern design and only required installing a stiffer spring to set the pressure at the desired level. To make adjustments easy Tony drilled and tapped the bypass housing for an external adjustment screw, allowing the oil pressure to be adjusted while the engine is running.

"We converted the cylinder block to a internally routed full pressure oiling system using old International Harvester pushrods for oil galleries."

Proper oil distribution was the next consideration. Tony connected the main gallery to each main and cam bore independently via tubes machined from International Harvester pushrods. The block was machined to accept the tubes with a press fit. The crank was drilled to supply oil to the rods from the main bearings, just like modern engines. Due to the spindly crank the rods couldn't be connected to the mains with one straight hole, so three interconnecting holes had to be carefully machined. To keep the valves, lifters, and springs well oiled (and cooled) two drain holes behind the side covers were tapped for pipe plugs. Using square headed pipe plugs I made oil squirters with two nozzles on each, 90 degrees apart. These are installed so that each nozzle sprays oil at a pair of valvesprings. The drains connect to the #2 and #4 cam bores and oil is supplied to them via external grooves in the cam bearing inserts.

Here's a look at block prep for the 1927 Fast Four Dodge. Note the upper and lower girdles and external support struts to help strengthen the assembly. Lifter gallery features homemade rev kit with small block Chevy components. Earlier versions used studs and nuts with original main caps to retain the crank.

montana dodge boys"Ditching the babbitt and fitting modern hardback bearings was my next task," says Tony as if this were a matter of fact task. Babbitt is a fine bearing material, and it might have been able to support the cylinder pressures and associated bearing loads that this motor would experience but he didn't want to risk it. The bearing catalog was consulted and it was determined that due to the hefty wall thickness of the stock main inserts no off-the-shelf bearing would be a direct fit. Bearing shell spacers, like those used when destroking a Chevy 400 with a 350 crank, would be required. Starting with a bar of cored bronze (bronze was chosen so that the thrust bearing surfaces could be made as an integral part of the #3 bearing spacer) Tony machined spacers for each main bore and then split them in half. The block was line bored twice: once to straighten and make the main bores perfectly round, and then a second time with the spacers installed to set the ID for Clevite bearings from a modern industrial application. Spacer halves were numbered, directionally marked, and labeled for top or bottom position.

In subsequent years the stock main caps were replaced by a solid steel 2" thick bedplate. It ties the entire bottom end of the block together and is the anchor point for external fasteners that provide additional support for the head. The steel was waterjet cut from a plate based on Tony's CAD drawing and then he finish machined it.

montana dodge boys Only one of the stock Fast Four cam bores actually has a bearing, a babbitted bronze insert with integral thrust bearing. The other four run in the block's iron. Quite a few modern engines have a cam bearing arrangement similar to this but Tony didn't want to leave anything to chance. The bearing book was consulted again, and suitable ones from a big Cummins application were chosen. The block was line bored to accept these bearings, and individual bearings were narrowed on the lathe to work in the different width cam bores.

The stock head has combustion chambers the size of a man's fist, generating a lowly compression ratio of 4:1. Short of expensive welding Tony could see no good way to make the kind of compression he wanted using the stock head. Fortunately crew member Chris had crewed at Bonneville for a fellow that makes aluminum heads, Earl Edgerton (EDGY Speed Shop). He agreed to cast us a head (and bet Pete $100 that he couldn't get a car on the Salt in one year, but that's a whole different story). They pooled their ideas regarding combustion chamber design and Chris went to work. He took the stock head and created the desired combustion chamber shape using Bondo. Then he did it again because only two of the chambers are the same shape - the other two are mirror images. Earl took it from there, making a wooden pattern and having the aluminum head cast from it.

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The Fast Four has a stock bore of 3.875 just like a 283 Chevy but the pin diameter and compression height of the two engines are very different. It was determined that the stock rods were not up to the task of handling the anticipated power levels so custom rods were ordered from Crower. The rods were designed around stock 283 pistons (hypereutectic flat-tops with 4 valve reliefs) and Clevite rod bearings from a different industrial application.

carrillo rods CP Pistons

montana dodge boysTo put the pistons at zero deck required a very long 9.375" center-to-center length, but resulted in a favorable rod ratio. An engineer at CP Pistons saw a Hot Rod article on the car, along with the picture of the pistons. He knew he could do better and contacted them with a lighter yet stronger design featuring less drag, better ring sealing, and no valve reliefs. Not long after that they picked up CP/Carrillo as a sponsor and have had the pleasure of running their custom pistons and rods ever since. To ensure proper piston fit and optimum ring sealing a homemade torque plate was made from a large chunk of aluminum to facilitate torque plate honing.

montana dodge boysThe stock Fast Four cam and generator were both driven by a chain. Since they were eliminating the front cover and the generator a suitable replacement was needed. After taking some measurements on the cam and crank it was determined that 340 Chrysler timing gears could be fitted with some machining. Tony turned the noses of the crank and cam down , and cut keyways in both to work with a gear drive. "I mounted the idler to the new front motor plate fabbed out of 3/8" steel plate." Gear backlash adjustment is made via a t-nut that slides in a slot in the motor plate.

Cylinder sleeves, bronze guides, and oversized hardened valve seats were installed. The stock cam and lifters were sent to Earl Edgerton for regrinding. To get a decent amount of lift lots of material needed to be removed from the base circle. This lowered the lifters in the block so longer adjusters were needed. Tony made his own. "I started with grade 8 bolts, faced the heads in the lathe, case hardened them in my wood stove using Kasenit, quenched them in oil, then tempered the shanks. I wasn't absolutely sure it would work, but 6 years later we're still using the same adjusters."

montana dodge boysPressurized oiling required much better sealing at the front and rear of the crank. In stock form the rear main "seal" consists of a felt wiper that only covers half of the hole in the back of the block! "With the stock crank I was restricted to the existing seal journal so I made a seal holder to fit in place of the felt wiper and packed old school rope seal in it and a recess in the oil pan. That worked well enough to run, but it never really sealed. Once we were able to upgrade to a billet crank I spec'd it with a SBC rear main seal journal and machined a two piece seal holder. No more rear main leaks."

montana dodge boys"The front main sealing was much easier to handle. When I was turning the nose of the crank for the Mopar timing gear, it was a simple matter to make it work with a Mopar damper as well. Then I incorporated the corresponding front main seal into the fabbed timing cover."

"Finding off-the-shelf valves proved to be a bit of a challenge due to the very long valve length used in the Fast Four (about 6 1/2" overall length). Tractors and industrial engines are nearly the only place that you'll find valves of that length, but those applications aren't really focused on making power. I did finally find modern race engine valves of a suitable length but I had to use exhaust valves because the intake valves had much too large of a head. Bought 8 used ones off of Ebay for $48 - not bad! Cheap and readily available SBC springs, retainers, and keepers were employed. Spring installed height was achieved by machining custom spring spacers."

Fast Four distributors are cast from pot metal and are very fragile so when you do actually find a Fast Four engine it's extremely rare to find an intact distributor with it. Rather than try and adapt one from a different application we opted for a crank trigger ignition. It's a waste spark MSD system meant for midget racing. A universal timing wheel and trigger mounts were modified to work on the motor.

montana dodge boysAdapting the motor to a modern drivetrain was the next task. Getting a flywheel on was relatively simple as the Fast Four was very similar to a SBC flywheel bolt pattern and register diameter, requiring only minimal machine work. Adapting a SBC bellhousing required more work though. Chris made an adapter plate out of 1/2" thick steel and bolted it to the block. Dowels in the block locate the plate. The bellhousing was set on the adapter plate and a dial indicator used to perfectly align the bellhousing centerline with the crank centerline. Once that was done, the bellhousing alignment dowels were welded into place in the adapter plate and the bolt hole pattern drilled and tapped.

montana dodge boysOver the years we've tried several different intake schemes: 4-bbl NA large volume plenum, 4-bbl NA small volume plenum, dual side draft, and 4-bbl blown) and two different exhaust schemes. All of these required fabbing different manifolds and headers which Pete handled deftly. Starting with waterjet cut flanges and raw tubes he cuts, pieces, and welds everything together. Our latest intake was fabbed out of aluminum and put together with the assistance of a friend and local custom bicycle frame builder, Carl Strong.

montana dodge boysPete was also responsible for designing and fabbing everything related to the blower mounting, driving, and plumbing. For the first couple of years we ran NOS copper laminate head gaskets. These worked remarkable well but we did have some issues, mostly due to the stock gasket's poor fit to our custom head. With calipers, ARP head studs, and specially machined alignment dowels I took several hundred measurements on the head and block to get the precise position and shape of the combustion chambers, head studs, valves, bores, and coolant passages. Using that info I made a CAD drawing, printed out full size paper 'gaskets', and fine tuned the design until everything was right. The final drawing was sent to a custom gasket maker.

montana dodge boysAfter switching to the blown classes we suffered a couple of catastrophic engine failures (the deck was torn off the block in both instances). It was determined that a better way of holding the head on was needed. Compared to modern blocks, these old castings were very thin when they were new, and after 80+ years they haven't gotten any thicker. There is simply not enough material in the block's deck and sides to support the combustion pressure that we're now making. To remedy this, fasteners are run externally from montana dodge boysbosses on the bedplate and motor plates up through a 1" thick steel 'sandwich plate' on top of the head.

So far the Montana Dodge boys have knocked off ten SCTA speed records using core hot rodding skills and the determination to fabricate whatever was not available. Their effort evolved from a bench racing conversation to a multiple record holding team; strong testament not only to their collective hot rodding and fabrication skills, but also the fundamental concept of the internal combustion engine and its ability to produce more and more power as knowledgeable hot rodders continue to tweak and massage it far beyond its original design. Besides the records, perhaps the best part of this enduring project is the statement these guys make about the valve of traditional hot rodding skills and motivation. There is no substitute.

montana dodge boys

10 Time Bonneville SCTA Speed Record Holder
1928 Dodge Roadster w/ Fast Four Flathead 4-Cyl.
Vintage 4-Culinder Flathead Class Records

V4F/STR, 109.962 MPH Street Roadster

V4F/STR, 115.681 MPH Street Roadster
V4F/GR, 116.439 MPH Gas Roadster
V4F/FR, 117.597 MPH Fuel Roadster

V4F/BSTR, 127.352 MPH Blown Street Roadster

V4F/BGMR, 130.843 Blown Gas Modified Roadster


V4F/BGMR, 142.956 MPH Blown Gas Modified Roadster
V4F/BGR, 138.395 MPH Blown Gas Roadster

V4F/BFMR, 143.254 MPH Blown Fuel Modified Roadster
V4F/BFR, 138.984 MPH Blown Fuel Roadster

montana dodge boys


Cylinder Block Stock, modified for full pressure oiling, main and cam bores line bored, sleeved, decked, ported
Cylinder Sleeves Melling, 3.875" bore
Crankshaft Moldex custom, 4.500" stroke, fully counterweighted, drilled for rod oiling
Pistons CP custom, flattops, slipper skirt
Piston Pins CP, SBC diameter, narrowed
Pin Retention Dual Spirolock
Rings Total Seal custom, steel top ring, low tension oil ring
Gaskets Best Gasket custom
Connecting Rods Carrillo, custom billet, 9.375" length, full floating pins
Rod Bolts ARP
Main Caps Integrated into one piece steel bedplate
Main Bearings Clevite, Continental, narrowed & chamfered, oil holes drilled to match block
Main Bearing Shims Custom machined, line bored in place
Main Bolts ARP
Rod Bearings Clevite, Onan
Cam Bearings Durabond, Cummins, narrowed, oil holes drilled to match block
Cam thrust Modified stock bearing
Camshaft Custom billet, ground for reverse flow by Edgy Speed Shop, 280 duration, 0.440" lift
Lifters Stock cores, reground by Edgy Speed Shop
Lifter Adjusters Custom machined, extended, made from ground and case hardened grade 8 fasteners
Lifter Guides Stock, shortened to work with higher lift cam
Lifter Guide Retainers Solid steel, machined from bar stock
Cylinder Head Edgy, custom cast aluminum, chamber design by Chris King
Head Bolts ARP
Valve Springs Small block Chevy
Valve Spring Spacers Custom machined, steel
Intake Valves Ferrea, Pontiac, 1.900", backcut, hand lapped
Exhaust Valves Ferrea, Pontiac, 1.800", backcut, hand lapped
Spring Retainers Small block Chevy
Valve Keepers Small block Chevy
Valve Guides SBI, Bronze
Valve Seats Tucker, hardened
Timing Gears 340 Chrysler gear drive
Timing Cover Custom fabbed, integral cam thrust button
Oil Pump External, mounting and drive fabricated by Pedro
Oil Bypass Modified for external adjustability
Oil Pan Stock, modified to work with bedplate, integrated windage tray and crank scraper
Valve cover Stock, modified for crankcase evacuation
Intake Manifold Custom fabbed by Pedro & Carl Strong
Crank Trigger MSD, SB Chrylser, modified to fit
Ignition MSD Midget DIS
Coil MSD
Spark Plugs Autolite 66
Plug Wires MSD
Harmonic Balancer 340 Chrysler, fluid filled, modified to fit crank
Blower Drive and Plumbing Custom designed and fabricated by Pedro
Motor Plate Custom fabricated steel
Headers Custom fabbed by Pedro


Montana Dodge Boys

Photo Credits:

Lead Photo, Home Page Flipper and Closing Photo:
Michael Harrington,

Engine & Car Photos

Tony Smith and The Dodge Boys