The French flathead V8 is the result of one of the Ford Motor Company’s many licensing and joint-venture agreements with foreign countries in the first half of the 20th Century. Ford, in collaboration with the French company Mathis, operating as Matford, produced a car called the Matford Vedette which in its late form was powered with a Ford V8-60. In 1954 Ford merged their entire French operations with Simca and retained a 15 percent share until 1958 when they sold even that. Simca continued to build the V8-60 powered cars until 1960 when they were acquired by Chrysler who subsequently moved production of the Vedette to Brazil.
Full-size Ford flatheads (239 cid and 255 cid) were manufactured by the Ford-Simca operation beginning in the early ‘50s for use in French military vehicles, and most usually in a 4 x 4 truck known as the SUMB (Simca Unic Marmon Bocquet), Simca Unic for short. It was a very strong H-D platform that was built in a number of forms, including a troop transport truck, fuel tanker, airfield fire truck, mobile communications center – a true general-purpose vehicle that would serve the French military well for nearly four decades by the time it was decommissioned in the ‘90s..
Much of the long-term success of the Simca Unic must be credited to the stout simplicity of its Ford-derived F-head V8. Not content to continue with the existing tooling, the Ford-Simca effort created new patterns based on the combined architecture of the 59AB block and that of the 8BA. The cylinder decks and improved water jacketing from the later 8BA were incorporated with the cast-in-place bell housing of the earlier Ford that incorporated provisions for an engine-speed governor and a vehicle hydraulic system.
The casting quality of the French block is markedly better than that of the Ford blocks from which it was derived, a direct result of advances in metallurgy and foundry technology since the Ford blocks were last cast.