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Henry Ford’s X-8 among topics covered by 2018 Gilmore Museum lecture series

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Photos courtesy The Henry Ford.

One of Henry Ford’s odder inventions—and one that certainly challenges the notion he only ever wanted to build Model Ts into perpetuity—will get its moment in the spotlight next year as the subject of a talk in the Gilmore Museum lecture series, which for 2018 will include more automotive topics than in years past.

Ford’s interests in the X-shape engine, which essentially uses two 90-degree V-8s V-4s turned on their side and mated on a common crankshaft, dated to about 1920, when he filed for his first patent on the design, noting its compactness, relatively high power-to-weight ratio, and suitability for air-cooling as its advantages. Indeed, according to The Henry Ford’s page on the X-8 in its collections, pictured above, it measures just 17-inches wide, 17-inches tall, and 14-inches deep.

The L-head example above, however, is far from the only X-8 engine configuration Ford experimented with. As pointed out in a 1973 Special Interest Autos article, it was one of seven experimental X-8 engines—and 58 experimental engines total—once left to sit in a sugar beet mill building on the Greenfield Village campus. While records for the experimental engines were incomplete, the seven X-8 engines include both air-cooled and water-cooled L-heads as well as at least one aluminum air-cooled overhead-camshaft version.

Ford might have conceived the X-8 concept, but he trusted development of the engine to Eugene Farkas, who worked on it for the next six or seven years, until it became evident to those surrounding Ford—and eventually to Ford himself—that the X-8 would never replace the Model T’s four-cylinder engine (due in no small part to reports that the lower spark plugs fouled often). Ford instead turned his attention to developing an inexpensive V-8 and abandoned the X-8 altogether.

Auto historian Don LaCombe will expand on the X-8’s history late next month as part of the 2018 Gilmore lecture series. Other lectures in the series will focus on the Can-Am racing series; art, architecture, and the automobile; Jaguar, slot cars, dune buggies, and abandoned gas stations.

The 2018 Gilmore lecture series will run from January 7 to April 29. For more information, visit