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Gold Smuggler

“Gold smuggling was the genesis of the ARDUN cylinder head, an overhead valve conversion for the flathead V8 Ford.” (Biblio #1,2)

As a 28-year-old recent graduate of automotive engineering in 1937 Europe, Zora needed money.  Coincidentally that year, the French government enacted a policy to combat the Gold Scare by requiring French citizens to turn in their gold.  Knowing that Belgium had no such policy, French citizens began utilizing gold smugglers to cross the border with their gold and valuables to deposit in various Brussels banks. (Biblio #3)  Zora, smelling an opportunity, started illegally smuggling gold from Paris. (Biblio #3)


To accomplish this risky task, he would make the 2-hour trips about three times a week in a Ford coupe with a hopped-up Flathead V8 and a frame crossmember near the rear axle modified with a cover to hide the smuggled gold. (Biblio #2,3) 

“While smuggling gold in a Flathead V8 Ford, Zora reached downhill speeds of 100 mph.  It occurred to him that with an efficient cylinder head, such speeds could also be achieved on level ground.”

--Jerry Burton, Zora Arkus-Duntov: The Legend Behind Corvette (Biblio #2)

It’s no surprise Zora chose a Flathead Ford as his smuggling vehicle of choice: it was lightweight and could routinely outrun more expensive and powerful automobiles.  This was due to the fact that the 95-hp Ford Flathead V8 (produced 1932 - 1953) provided rugged torque and neck-snapping acceleration.  Even the infamous bank robber, Clyde Barrow, knew this and wrote to Henry Ford three years earlier in 1934 praising him for producing a car built for, “sustained speed and freedom from trouble.”  That same year, John Dillinger also wrote to Ford: “Your slogan should be, drive a Ford and watch the other cars fall behind you.”


The speed potential living inside Zora’s Ford Flathead was discovered during his clandestine travels. (Biblio #9)  During his high-speed runs under cover of darkness, there was a long downhill section where he claimed the lively little sedan would reach a top speed of 100 mph.  Zora was impressed by the 5000-rpm revving capability that his engineering mind calculated the Flathead needed in order to reach such a speed and imagined the engine’s potential if it could only breathe a little more freely. (Biblio #2)

“At the time I felt with the addition of overhead valves it would be something.”

--Arkus-Duntov as quoted in HOT ROD Magazine, September 1978 (Biblio #1)

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