JV’s Corner August 2020

Why J.V. Chose Aluminum Cylinder Heads

I was born and raised in Fort Smith, Arkansas where there was very little hot rodding or hot rodders in those days.  My brother drove an ambulance for a local funeral home, and I rode in the back of the ambulance on Sunday afternoons to the local dirt track, Flying Saucer Speedway.  I became exposed to high performance cars and racing at a very early age and this was where the seed was planted.  The flathead Ford was dominant with aluminum heads, and I assumed that aluminum heads were the way to go. 

My only information was from reading tech articles in Hot Rod magazine.  Cylinder heads generally have been on the forefront of horsepower development.  That subject seemed to have more mystique and glamour there for a young hot rod mind. 

I married Paula whose father, Francis Dix, was a struggling foundryman.  He suggested we needed our own product to survive, and it was a natural progression to make cylinder heads.  That led us to BRODIX as it is today.  

After a failed Mopar Hemi head program we produced our first small block Chevy head.  Until that date, all efforts by the factories to produce aluminum heads had not been successful and actually had produced a culture that aluminum small block heads would fail – leaky castings, valve seat failures, warping, etc. If that were not enough, there was the myth that aluminum heads could not make as much horsepower because of heat loss in the combustion chambers.

All manufacturing was geared to cast iron as it was much easier to cast with initial lower cost.  Cast iron heads were totally dominant in racing because of all the above reasons.  When machined and ported too thin, the cast iron heads were very unreliable and not repairable.  They would also break and crack.  Cylinder head porters did not care about this if they could grind a little more power out of the heads.

After going through a very exhausting first year, we finally produced a dependable product, but could not sell it because of the old stigma associated with aluminum heads.  The single selling factor by far was the reliability and repairability of our heads.  This slowly became apparent, and an aluminum head was almost mandatory in very high-performance racing because of these two simple reasons.  Eventually through a steep learning curve and further development, we overcame the horsepower difference.