Flathead V8

A Sweet Sickness: This Flathead Movie Is Old School Gearhead Fun

A Sweet Sickness The Flathead Movie Cover
release date
September 2011
Brian Darwas
Vern Tardel
Mike Herman
Verne Hamond
English [CC]
57 min
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Hot rod builder and award-winning filmmaker Brian Darwas talks with the world’s top engine builders and fabricators in A Sweet Sickness: The Flathead Movie. In a relatively short film, Darwas introduces us to Ryan Cochran of the Jalopy Journal, along with Vern Hammond and Jack Carroll of The Burbank Choppers.

The Flathead Movie Overview

Before I get ahead of myself, there is the horrible possibility that some gearheads may not know about Ford’s iconic flathead V8, arguably the very first hot rod motor. Not only did it have enough power, but it was easy to modify with aftermarket equipment. If you don’t know the whole story or want a refresher, A Sweet Sickness: The Flathead Movie will do the job in under an hour. 

The only potential drawback is how the movie can seem somewhat disjointed, perhaps due to its short runtime. Most stories have a beginning, middle, and end. A Sweet Sickness: The Flathead Movie is mainly a big middle with a one-sentence ending. It just sort of starts when you hit play. There’s no background information or real explanation for why Ford made the engine. The film wanders from engine builder to hot rodder to machinist to a different engine builder to the next guy. All are seriously into flatheads.

Hanging With The Guys

A Sweet Sickness: The Flathead Movie plays out like you happened into a shop in the middle of the day. There are no introductions, no overall schemes, or pomp and circumstance. I find documentaries like this enjoyable. I love reality TV car shows, especially ones where people are working under the hood. It reminds me of being a kid, growing up, and hanging out in the garage with my dad and uncles. I would watch as they would disassemble this or that or fit a new such and such into its rightful home.

A Sweet Sickness: The Flathead Movie is similar, only with less explanation. You get to see inside one of history’s great engines and learn the differences between variations of flatheads. Despite the short runtime, some older assembly techniques are covered, along with some very nice hot rods.

A Sweet Sickness: The Flathead Movie.
This is what a typical Southern California ’32 Ford looked like. This one was photographed in 1962 at fifth-mile drags in Virginia Beach, Virginia, running 79.53 miles per hour in the 14s. Owned by Joe Montgomery, its power came from a 100-horsepower, 292-inch flathead with a single carb. From the book Ford Total Performance by Martyn L. Schorr, published by Motorbooks.

An Interesting Mix

The other interesting thing is the soundtrack. Two kinds of songs are used: straight-up roots rock or hardcore punk. Both of these work (they are fine genres), but there’s no real rhyme or reason; just boom, here’s another song. The roots stuff sounds like Drive-By Truckers, and the punk stuff sounds like 80s vintage SoCal hardcore, but it’s not. It’s good, but it’s puzzling.

Should You Watch The Flathead Movie?

While it’s not as entertaining as other popular car movies and far less outrageous than some racing documentariesA Sweet Sickness: The Flathead Movie is still a good pick if you are looking for some classic gearhead fun. If you have a long lunch break one day, consider watching it on your phone. It’s currently available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime. 

Longtime Automoblog writer Tony Borroz has worked on popular driving games as a content expert, in addition to working for aerospace companies, software giants, and as a movie stuntman. He lives in the northeast corner of the northwestern-most part of the Pacific Northwest.