Nick Hibben - February 12, 2018
Stromberg-97.com reproduction carbs are built to original Stromberg blueprint specs, with key improvements
Modern fuel injection systems do a terrific job of producing horsepower and controlling emissions, but they don't have much style. For getting the gearhead's blood flowing not much compares with the look and sound of three Stromberg 97 carburetors atop a hot rod's motor.
Stromberg was a carburetor company founded in the early years of the 20th century. After winning a major patent infringement lawsuit against Detroit rival Zenith they incorporated in Chicago in 1916. Thirteen years later the company was acquired by Bendix and relocated to South Bend, IN.
After the move they continued supplying the burgeoning Detroit auto industry, but also expanded into aviation. Over the years Stromberg developed progressively more sophisticated carburetors for aircraft engines, and it might be argued, played a big part in allied air superiority during WWII.
1932 saw the launch of the now famous "flathead" Ford V8. By 1934 it was using a 170 cfm Stromberg Model 40 two barrel carburetor to produce an impressive for the time 85 hp. A year later the Model 48 came out, also flowing 170 cfm, quickly followed in 1936 by the 155 cfm Model 97. This last carb was standard equipment on flatheads through early 1938 and is the model most sought after by hot rodders today.
This naming strategy did have some logic. Model 48 carbs took their name from the 0.048" jet diameter. They are, however, identified by a 1 1/32 stamped on the side of the fuel bowl that indicates the size of the venturi in inches. Following the same strategy, 81's are marked as such on the bowl, where they also indicate their 13/16" or 0.812" venturi.
The venturi on the Model 97 measures 31/32" or 0.969" which is where the 97 comes from. While most 97's are clearly marked as such on the side of the bowl, a few were not. These can be identified by the venturi numbers. (For the curious, L carburetors had a venturi of 1.000".)
One point to note is that the 48 and 97 use the same base, identified by the EE-1 marking, so are interchangeable. (The base on the 81 is smaller.) Some carburetors were built by Bendix in their Elmira, NY facility and are recognizable by a "1-1" rather than EE-1 cast into the base.
Around the same time that the business with Ford was growing Stromberg began producing a replacement for the Holley 94's. These were known as Stromberg 97's Type 1. Their advantage over the Holley was that the former used a vacuum-actuated power valve while that on the Stromberg was mechanical.
Used as a pair, the 47's, 97's and 81's work well on smaller displacement engines. Obviously they were intended for the Ford flathead motor but today there are a number of aftermarket manifolds designed for the three bolt base. Edelbrock, Offenhauser and Weiand are three manufacturers with products. In addition, there are many plates and adapters that allow various combinations such as three carbs in what's called a three-deuce setup.
Hot rods, where Stromergs are mostly used today, look and sound better with velocity stacks on the carburetor intake. These are widely available from companies such as Muroc in heights from 4" to 11". Just don't forget to use an air filter of some kind! Alternatively, various designs of air filter housings are available from a number of companies including Speedway.
Finding original Stromberg bodies is getting harder, and they tend to fetch quite high prices. They can be rebuilt and there are a number of aftermarket kits available. There's also a company in the UK manufacturing new Strombergs. They go by the name of Stromberg 97.
Whether you're restoring a Ford V8 or building a hot rod, Stromberg double barrel carburetors finish the job. While the Stromberg 97 is the best known, the 48, 81 and L have their fans too. Whichever you use, they will look and sound amazing. And if they're going in your 'rod don't forget to complete them with chrome velocity stacks!