By on January 24, 2011


American-made overhead-cam engines were almost as rare as reliable South Vietnamese presidents in the mid-1960s, so I did a doubletake when I spotted one in a Denver self-service wrecking yard.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a Tempest with a Sprint OHC Six, but running across an old Jeep pickup with a Tornado six still made my day.

The Tornado was only used in American-market vehicles for a few years, but IKA of Argentina kept building Tornadoes for the AMC Rogue-based, Pininfarina-restyled Renault Torino until 1982.

Clearly, this engine belongs in some sort of evil-looking rat rod— preferably a member of the proto-AMC family— but what kind? A rusted-to-hell ’25 Nash Ajax, perhaps?

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26 Comments on “Tornado Seeks New Home!...”


  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    you forget the famed ovc I6 of Pontiac, which as I remember, Hot Rod magazine swapped in to the ever unreliable Jaguar Etype as a lark.  Mid 60′s as i remember.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      You can’t get one past Murilee. The “Tempest with a Sprint OHC 6″ is the Pontiac you are referring to. I almost bought a ’68 Tempest with an OHC 6 in it when I was 14. I forget what happened but if it was anything like any of my other hair-brained car purchase ideas at the time I couldn’t come up with the money.
       
      This also reminds me of how much of a Pontiac guy I used to be…

    • 0 avatar

      Or the Ford Cammer 427!

  • avatar
    Morea

    You left out the most interesting part, at least from a technical point of view.

    According the the Wikipedia link in the article:

    One unique feature of the design was that the camshaft only had six lobes. One lobe operated both the intake and exhaust valve for each cylinder.

    I googled up a few images of the head.  An interesting and unique design.  Thanks for posting it.

    • 0 avatar
      cstoc

      Yes, the double-acting camshaft lobes!  I helped my dad work on one of these back in the 60′s.  He had the cam cover off while the engine was running and I marveled at the way each lobe activated two separate rocker arms.  I’ve wondered why more engines don’t work that way.

    • 0 avatar
      Slow_Joe_Crow

      That sounds like the setup in the Triumph Dolomite Sprint which had bucket tappets under the camshaft rocker arms immediately above at 180 degrees. This also allowed them to cram in 4 valves per cylinder.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Ah yes, back in the day, when instead of covering an engine with a stupid plastic shroud, the valve covers themselves or the air cleaners might receive an interesting set of decals.  What a novel concept!

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Ahhh…Monday morning in Ohio following Dan – again! I miss the days when Chevy painted their engines orange, Ford and Chrysler painted theirs shades of blue and so on. Really ticked me off when the OEMs stopped doing that. Just another “death rattle” of the domestics from what they were and stood for. The ENGINE was the advertisement, NOT the shroud/cover as you mentioned. Thanks for reminding me. I’ll go back trying to stay warm now.
      (edit) An old friend would like those Jeep Gladiator body panels, as he has what’s left of two of them that kinda/sorta run. He bought one Jeep J-10 new in 1980 and converted it to a flat-bed when the rear rusted away along with most everything else. Obtained an early 80′s Honcho that had a nice garden growing in the bed and a live mud-dobber’s community in every rust hole and nook and cranny under the hood including the air cleaner! We got the 360 running last summer and it moved under its own power for about 30 feet until the brakes locked up from sitting too long. Fun.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Hey how else was I supposed to know that the 289V8 under the hood of my Dad’s 1967 Mustang was the “High Output” variety?  Thank god for labeling.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Thank goodness for you young guys who actually know a thing or two about cars, and probably more than me! Keeps me young (kind of)! Back to work ’til lunch.

    • 0 avatar
      res

      +1 on the “styled” valve covers. I still have the OHC 6 cover from my ’66 Tempest – a real piece of art.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      All those silly plastic engine covers are (almost) all about noise reduction and to a lessor extend heat control. Aluminum valve covers that say “Cobra” or cool crinkle finish 426 Hemi valve covers look great, but they do nothing to muffle the sound of the valvetrain. I noticed a huge difference in the amount of engine noise I hear when I drive with and without the plastic cover on my TDI’s engine. The price of refinement I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Jimal: Also probably to hide all the wires and pipes, ’cause when all the pollution control and other stuff required all the hoses and wires and stuff, it was hard to even see the valve covers anymore, but still…

  • avatar

    Nice find! A manual transmission too. That exhaust manifold looks pretty decent too – much better than the traditional log style.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Oh that engine does bring back memories.  We had a whole line of M715s five quarter tons in the our motor pool when I was in the service.  I believe that most of them were left in country.
     
    http://www.olive-drab.com/od_mvg_www_kaiser.php3
     
    The Kaiser Jeep replaced the older M37 Dodge Power Wagon, which still had the Korean war vintage, flat-head six cylinder engine that delivered an astounding 6 miles per gallon when on the open road.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    I bought one of these a few years back for a winter beater. It had a bad engine rattle that turned out to be three broken wrist pin locks , allowing the wrist pins to wear big grooves in the cylinders. This engine was the Continetal flat head , an industral type engine used in many applications, even supercharged in the Kaiser and here with the OHC head.

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      Actually, it was the Willys Go-Devil four, with two cylinders added (years earlier) and then fitted with an OHC head for the Wagoneer’s launch.
       
      It was supposed to be a breakthrough; and would move Willys Jeep back into the automotive forefront.  But inside of a few years, the durability of the engine was shown to be SO lousy it was jettisoned in favor of the Rambler six.
       
      Willys/Kaiser’s last stand.  That was the last engine designed by Jeep, as Jeep; and the beginning of the end of Jeep as a stand-alone company.

  • avatar
    res

    This gentle reader will respectfully point out that the venerable Chevrolet Vega also had an OHC engine…
    (ducks and runs)

    • 0 avatar

      So did the Pinto. Well, some Pintos. But I said mid-1960s.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      I wish my old USAF uniform was as sharp as Brezhnev’s!

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Back in the late 70′s I owned a 66 Tempest Custom as well. It was a 2dr htp w/ the standard OHC 6 and 1 bbl. If I remember correctly the the valve cover was cast alumnium 1 piece with the cam and bearings inside.  

      I had transmission troubles with this car. The Tempestorque 2 spd auto was poorly designed. Olds and Buick mid sized used similar units. It was air cooled and had no provision to run lines off of the radiator for cooling which left it subject to failure. I found a replacement in the junkyard for $40 out of a Olds F85 popped it in in an afternoon using my tools and a skateboard and I was rolling again. 

      I always wondered why GM did not just take this engine and lop off 2 cylinders for use in the Vega. It would have been far better than the poorly engineered 140ci alumnium motor, though the later and much better Iron Duke was the OHV 6 minus 2 cyl.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    That shift lever has a bigger diameter than the sway bars on some cars. Must be a 4-speed granny box. Is that dog hair on the cam cover or fiberglass fibers from the hood insulation?

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Note the autolite 2 barrel carb,  I see they were using parts from the other big companies back then too.

  • avatar

    If nobody has bought that engine by the next time I visit that yard, I’m going to buy the Tornado valve cover to hang on the wall.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    +1 on the plastic cover comments.  It’s an easy way to cover up slop.  I had a Nissan Frontier with the VG33 engine.  It looked like someone tossed in a taped-up harness and slammed the hood.   The bastardization of the VG from a DOHC to a SOHC truck engine was bad enough.
    The lack of a decent mass produced small displacement OHC engine by GM (until the development of the Ecotec) was laughable.  The Chevy Cavalier pushrod 4 mated to a three speed automatic was a sharp contrast to the OHC engines and 4-speed automatics available offshore.
     


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