Donnell Sullivan *

Inducted into the Michigan Motor Sports Hall of Fame in 1986


(1904 – 1996)

His name is Donnell E. Sullivan, to some Pop Sullivan or Sully.

Born June 20, 1904 in Port Huron, he moved to the Dearborn area in the early twenties and became a confidante and personal engineer to the late Henry Ford Sr.

He had been active in Ford Engine Engineering program for 57 years retiring in 1969 because of the mandatory retirement policy. Then returning under contract, he is very active at this time designing the next generation of race engines, the Ford V6 for NASCAR racing.

Sully had made many achievements designing race car engines. He developed a Ford flat head race engine that started out with 85 horsepower, and he was able to get 300 horsepower out of the basic engine. These engines were in competition from 1949 to 1955 in powerboats.

He was also well noted for the famous Ford multi-intake manifold and the Hotton Sullivan cylinder heads for the Ford flat head engine that was around the racing circuits for many years.

Sully also developed the following Ford competition engines with cubic inch displacements of 292, 312, 351, 360, 390, 406, and the ever winning 427 Ford engine plus the Ford 429 HEMI.

He was very active in the development of the Ford 289 push rod Indy engine that Jimmy Clark, Bobby Marshman, and many other Indy drivers drove to victory lane.

He designed camshafts for A. J. Foyt that took him to his 3rd and 4th Indy win.

Sully had been a contributor and competitor from short tracks, paved and dirt, near and far, to world famous super speedways such as: the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, the Sands of Daytona Beach, and all other NASCAR, A.A.A. U.S.A.C. including the LeMans Grand Prix and other European grids.

Sully also designed and engineered cars and parts for many drag racers, including cars and parts that ran on the Bonneville Salt Flats and the Flying Mile at Daytona Beach Florida.

He was also well noted for the Henry Ford Miller Tucker V8 Special Indy 500 entry, which he designed and engineered a stock block engine that ran at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1935.

He developed the model 48 V8-60 that were used in midget race cars that won races at every race there was in their era.

Sully has made many achievements in motor racing from designing parts for motorcycles that he never saw. But they won championships.

I could write a book on the achievements that Sully has contributed to the racing world.

I wish to quote the words of Bill Stroppe, a world known racer, “If there was ever a Gold Medal given out for racing, Sully should be the one who gets it.”

Donnell died at the age of 91 on February 24, 1996.