Ever since there have been cars, guys wanted to put a bigger engine in it. This is especially true for smaller cars. In the same vein of the triple cheese burgers, wedging huge engines into small cars have a long a storied history in the high performance world.
Who can forget the blown, big block powered Anglia’s of drag racing’s past? A more recent example is the Prolong Metro. Another smallish vehicle that is perfect for the huge engine treatment is the Henry J.
Produced from 1950 to 1954, the Henry J was the brainchild of the famed industrialist Henry J. Kaiser. Kaiser, of Kaiser Steel – and who’s liberty ships kept the Allies stocked with supplies in WWII – figured that he could produce a small, inexpensive car that would sell.
The problem was, it didn’t. While he was doing everything he could think of, including the fact that you could buy one at your local Sears store, Kaisers share of the automotive market declined steadily and the run came to an end in 1954.
The 1954 model was actually a 1953 model that had an upgraded serial number. They practically had to give them away just to get rid of the inventory. But that doesn’t mean that the car doesn’t hold a loving place in the hearts of many, it does.
One of those who look upon the Henry J with love is Ted Dzus. If that name seems familiar, it should. It was Ted’s grandfather who invented the iconic quarter turn fastener (must be nice!) in the 1930’s. Made from aluminum, the flush fit, self-retaining fasteners were a revolutionary idea and have adorned everything from WWII fighter planes to Indy winners to NASA spacecraft. It’s not out of the question to think that Kaiser used plenty of them on the many ship and manufacturing projects he was involved with.
While the 70-year-old West Islip, New York, resident jokes that with the harsh Northeast weather, cars seems to dissolve away in a few years, he found this particular 1951 Henry J languishing in the Great State of Texas. That meant that with the dry Texas weather, at least the steel body would be in good shape and relatively rust free.
Once the car was in his possession, he sent that body to Media Clean Specialties of Stowe, PA, where it was put on a rotisserie and thoroughly media blasted.
At the same time though, the crew at S&W Race Cars of Spring City, Pennsylvania, was busy fabricating a custom box tube chassis that featured a round tube cage. The IRS suspension uses Ride Tech ShockWave shocks, S&W spindles and relies on the Flaming River rack and pinion to supply precise steering. Providing precise stopping are the Baer Brakes that feature 6-piston calipers to go with the drilled and slotted rotors.
To get the planned on huge horsepower to the ground, S&W fabricated a trick 3-point suspension system to hold the Currie Enterprises 9-inch rearend aloft. Currie axles join with the Yukon posi and Randy’s Ring and Pinion gears, and the pumpkin is filled with Royal Purple gear oil. As with the front end, Baer brakes are used, and again, Air Ride Technologies ShockWave’s provide damping and that perfect ride height.
Weld Racing RT-S wheels (Front: 17X8, Rear: 18X12) that Dzus chose for his car. Shod with Mickey Thompson tires (Front: 205/40R17, Rear: 345/35R18) the combination of the MT’s and Weld Racing Wheels are a racing staple, and the classic 5-spoke wheel is a look that belongs on the classic.Giving the Henry J the look and strength of a real quarter mile car are the
We said that Dzus wanted his Henry J to have a big engine, and there aren’t many bigger than a Bill Mitchell Products 528ci. Dzus worked closely with Paul Kaufman, who did the engine work, in tailoring the power and presentation of the engine.
They began with the Mitchell block and added sturdy K1 Technologies crank and rods. To those went a set of Wiseco Performance Products pistons that have been wrapped with Total Seal rings. Capping things off are a set of Marsh Performance Products aluminum HEMI heads that have been equipped with beautiful billet aluminum Moroso valve covers. Comp Cams is represented with both the valve train and the timing chain and ARP fasteners keep everything together. Keeping everything moving in time is the March Performance serpentine belt system while the TCI Rattler balancer keeps it running smooth.
A 528ci engine needs a lot of everything to make it run at its optimum, so Dzus decided that he’d force the issue with a huge Vortech V-4 supercharger. That supercharged air, which is cleansed with a K&N air filter, is fed into the sweet Hogan’s Racing Manifolds Bad Ass intake manifold via a set of custom made air ducts. Hand fabricated by Vibrant Performance, the aluminum inlet system was engineered using PVC pipe, of all things.
The fuel intake is perfectly metered thanks to the F.A.S.T. XFI electronic fuel injection system while an MSD ignition system provides plenty of juice to get the big engine fired and running strong. To get all of these various pieces working at their optimum, Dzus contacted some guys who know a lot about computers and EFI systems: M&S Performance of Deerpark, New York, and Induction Performance of Tampa, Florida. These shops did the complex chassis dyno and EFI tuning work needed to get the engine management system working at its ultimate.
Not surprisingly, Dzus was left to his own devices when it came to the exhaust system, so a KOOKS do-it-yourself kit was used to build the headers and related exhaust system. Using the supplied 90s, 45s 180s and straights, the headers took shape and the result is nothing short of works of art. A set of Kooks mufflers ends the madness and lets the engine roar.
Cooling is a potential problem with any engine this size, so a full court press of cooling was implemented. Firstly, to keep engine friction at bay, it runs on Royal Purple engine oil.
Water-wise, an AFCO aluminum radiator is helped by the addition of the Maradyne high performance fans while a Meziere Enterprises electric water pump and coolant expansion tank makes sure that coolant is readily available. Hoses from Goodridge Fluid Transfer Systems are used extensively throughout the engine bay.
Spinning the MT’s requires big power, which this Henry J certainly has; it also required a strong transmission, so Dzus went with a TCI 4L80E transmission and a TCI converter. Running through the transmission is Royal Purple transmission fluid, which is chilled with a Mocal oil control trans cooler. To ensure that no wobbles occurred the crew at Dynotech Drive Shafts out of Troy, Michigan, spun up a perfectly balanced, though short (not much room between the tranny and the pumpkin) driveshaft.
With the frame done and the engine coming together, the body was blasted and put on a rotisserie at Higbie Collision of West Islip, New York. Thanks to the Texas weather rust wasn’t a problem and really liking the basic shape of the car, Dzus only did a few modifications, one of those being a roll pan for the rear and the other a chin spoiler in front.
Andrew Rigert, who works at Higbie Collision, applied the PPG School Bus Yellow paint. The paint has a touch of red pearl to give a little added pop. Dzus uses Mother’s polishes, waxes and cleaners to keep the paint looking good.
Being used to the finer things, Dzus wanted the inside of the Henry J to be nice as well and the boys at Phoenix Auto Interiors of Franklin Square, New york, didn’t let him down. First down was the DEI (Design Engineering, Inc) sound damping and heat barrier then fittingly, a pair of seats out of a Jeep Grand Cherokee (Kaiser owned Jeep for a time, as well) was chosen.
There was almost more bodywork performed inside than out, as the dash is the stock unit, but it has been extended to reach full width. Into that dash went a compliment of Auto Meter Custom Shop Instruments, while behind it resides the Vintage Air air-conditioning unit.
Lokar is well represented with their gas pedal and LED shift indicator mating up with he TCI floor shifter. The steering wheel is the stock unit that has been refurbished to perfection. Using the stock wheel is one thing, electrics is another, so Dzus used a Painless Performance Products wiring system to connect those particular dots which includes a Watson Streetworks 3rd brake light, Specialty Power Windows power window system and the rest of the interiors many lights and switches.
Dzus is working feverishly to get the car done for the 2013 Hot Rod Power Tour, which starts in just a few weeks. He plans on having a great time touring the country and giving everyone a good look at his latest creation. Dzus acknowledges that this creation took the help of many a creative and knowledgeable folks to get the Henry J to this state. He cites Marsh Performance Products as a main sponsor and Fred Kobasiuk of S & W Race Cars of Spring City, Pennsylvania, for a big hand in his build.
We’re hoping that Ted takes a little time to keep us up to date while he’s on the tour. He says that he’ll send pictures, and if he does we’ll post those for all to see, so stay tuned. Oh, and there’s one thing that Ted wanted us to know about this car: he said, “I don’t own a trailer. I drive this car.” That makes this build even better, don’t you agree? Tell us below what you think of this cool ride.