If there are any two people in the history of high-performance who could truly be called the “godfathers” of hemi-chambered head performance and development, it’s the Duntov brothers, Zora Arkus and Yura Arkus. The Ardun, cast aluminum heads that the brothers developed first became legendary in the racing scene, but would eventually spill-over to the hot rod hobby.
Of course, the Ardun heads themselves were molds that went through several processes of refinement before they made a comeback during the mid ’90s, as a certain old-school rodding renaissance began to unfold. There was a renewed interest in early rodding as enthusiasts began to go back through the archive of hot rod literature for the sake of going back to the basics.
Needless to say, several mechanical imperfections associated with the hemispherical heads needed to be hammered-out before they could once again be revived on the auto performance market. For example, the original Ardun castings used cast steel push rods that were too heavy, and valve seats would often come loose due to expansion differences between aluminum and bronze.
The early Ardun valvetrain components were relatively crude; heavy stock valves and springs would prevent high-RPM gains. On top of this, the motor’s earliest exhaust manifolds were fairly constrictive, and the factory Ford ignition of that time was not entirely compatible with the platform as a whole.
Two men who were responsible for performing the first of many overhauls on the heads were Don Clark and Clem Tebow of C&T Automotive in North Hollywood, California.
Using full race configurations, Clark and Tebow proved that they could squeeze 300 horses out of their new-and-improved Ardun engines, mills that went on to propel many a dragster and lake bed racer, among those being the Safeway Sandblasting car and Lakewood Muffler Special.
Ron Bement of Denver, Colorado paid tribute to the Duntov brothers’ brilliant creation at last years’ Goodguys West Coast Nationals in Pleasanton, California with his 1/3-scale model of an Ardun engine. Though a small-scale reproduction, Bement’s model motor sounds like a real race mill, and Ron himself has invested over 5,000 man hours into the piece.
It’s an intricate model, but on top of this Ron Bement’s small-scale Ardun mill pays beautiful tribute to the earliest stages of the cylinder head design that changed America’s performance scene forever. If you want to see this, and other mini-engines on display, you’ll want to get out to this year’s West Coast Nationals presented by Flowmaster to see what’s in store!