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“Gold smuggling was the genesis of the ARDUN hemi cylinder head, an overhead valve conversion for the Flathead V8 Ford.”

--Jerry Burton, Author

Within the elite community of automotive icons, few would disagree that Zora Arkus-Duntov belongs within the top tier.  This brilliant, brazen, and driven engineer has hundreds of patented automotive innovations to his credit.  Although best known as the Father of the Corvette, few people know his roots lie in more humble beginnings: the Ford Flathead and a gold smuggling career in Europe.


As a 28-year-old recent graduate of automotive engineering in pre-WWII Europe, Zora needed money.  The French government began requiring its citizens to turn in their gold in 1937.  In response, French citizens turned to smugglers to hide their gold in Belgian banks.  Ever resourceful, Zora started illegally smuggling gold from Paris to Brussels.


It was no coincidence that Zora chose a fast, hopped-up Flathead Ford as opposed to a European vehicle for his gold smuggling.  And like the well-known bank robbers of the time, Bonnie and Clyde, he chose a Ford Flathead Coupe for its reputation of being light-weight with significant torque and its neck-snapping speed.  To conceal the gold he was smuggling, Zora created a secret compartment within the car’s frame near the rear axle.


Zora’s experience during high-speed runs with the 95-hp Flathead challenged the automotive engineer in him to ponder ways to improve the engine.  This ultimately led to the 1947 development and production of the ARDUN OHV hemi cylinder head racing kit for the Flathead.


Many other innovations followed.  He was instrumental in the development or promotion of the following innovations that have been incorporated into The Smuggler:

  • Vintage ARDUN hemi OHV engine

  • High-lift camshaft with solid lifters

  • Forged pistons

  • Vintage Italmeccanica Supercharger

  • Fuel injection

  • All-wheel independent suspension

  • All-wheel disc brakes

  • Halibrand-style magnesium Indy racing wheels

  • Secret frame crossmember compartment for smuggled gold


Like its muse, The Smuggler is bold, brazen, and unique.  It was inspired by the automotive innovations of Zora Arkus-Duntov.  Through this tribute, we hoped to create a memorable and unique example of the hot rodders’ art by applying some of Zora’s most important automotive breakthroughs to create what might have been his ultimate ARDUN supercharged gold smuggling Flathead Ford, but with a touch of European elegance.

Owners of The Smuggler:    Dennis, Beth, and Hannah Kilpatrick

Builder:   Nathan Tanquary at Nate's Hot Rod Garage

Dennis Hannah Beth.jpg
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Owners Dennis, Hannah, and Beth Kilpatrick
(Looking for smuggled gold?)

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