Thank you, Mose Nowland, for the Gift to Formula Ford

Retired Ford Performance engines wizard Mose Nowland’s death last week at age 87 opened a floodgate of memories, with all eyes on the Aug. 21-22 running of the Le Mans 24 Hour, 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.

Photo: Scott Paceley (Vintage Motorsport)

“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.

(Interestingly, only after the decision to proceed was made did Nowland make the connection that the retired dyno operator he had worked with for many years at Ford, Bill Ivey, was Jay’s uncle.)

The sweet 3D-printed sample block was shipped to Ivey in March 2010 — right on schedule. Next came tooling, final casting sign-off and final machining by Roush in Dearborn.

The first two new blocks (Ford Performance parts catalog number P/N M-6010-16K) were shipped to Ivey Engines in July 2010, one for the dyno, one for display at the Portland Historics — the fastest turnaround from drawing to production of any block in Ford history, Ivey observed. The new one has been modified and strengthened in several key areas, and is made of a new alloy — not a weight or performance advantage (at 95 lbs, it’s slightly heavier), but more reliable.

(NOTE: Unfortunately, a sudden change of foundries in 2019 and COVID-19-related slowdown halted production after more than 700 new blocks had been produced. Nowland’s successor, Ford Engines engineer Tom Detloff, though, has been in constant communication with Ivey, and it seems certain that production will resume in late 2021.)

Nowland will be long-remembered in a grateful Formula Ford community, whose members come together in extending sincere condolences to his surviving family members.