The Cammer was the ultimate solution to the problem nobody was having.
It was developed for NASCAR where the pushrod engines of the day were singing along at 7000 RPM for 500 miles at a clip, using basic valvetrains that were essentially identical to the ones in engines sold off the showroom floor.
In a stroke of inspirational genius, Ford engineers decided to adapt Hemi heads to their FE wedge block (more on that in a minute)…then, because Ford engineers are known for taking simple things and complicating them in ways no rational person could fathom, they added an overhead cam to each head…thus eliminating the pushrods nobody was having any problems with.
The only trade off? A six foot long timing chain that would stretch, flex, twist and contort enough through the entire RPM range so that accurate and consistent cam timing would be an impossibility.
In an act that was probably the biggest favor ever done for an auto maker by any sanctioning body, NASCAR banned overhead cam engines, thus saving FoMoCo racers untold cost and frustration in trying to sort these things out.
So what does Ford do with their stock of suddenly obsolete SOHC engines? Dumps them on unsuspecting Drag Racers with offers too good to pass up.
And this is where the Cammers real weakness shined like a diamond stuck in the side of poop mountain…the FE block.
To know the FE is to hate the FE. The oiling system is something you can’t describe to someone who has never encountered it, without them thinking you’re telling a joke. It literally oils the main bearings through gaps, gouged into the block behind the cam bearings.
The oil holes that reach from the bottom of the cam bearings to the mains are tiny diameter, and actually drilled into the block in such a way that they don’t quite line up with the oil holes in the bearings.
Ford addressed this by adding a giant oil passage to the side of the block for racing engines, but that did nothing to address the main problem Drag Racers were having with them.
Even with cross bolted main bearing caps, and every support and modification racers could dream up, the FE’s undersized main webs gave the block the structural integrity of a potato chip. Under a good load, with some traction, the Cammer would literally throw chunks of its reciprocating assembly down into the strip with a fury unmatched by any other engine seriously considered for use on Nitro.
Racers like Don Prudhomme and Connie Kalitta blew through their Cammer inventory quickly and returned to Chrysler power, and like FOMOCO itself tried to pretend the debacle never happened.
Kalitta had more success than most with the engine, and he summed up his experience in three words…”It Was Shit”
But, it did look good, and it was rare and exotic. The Cammer proved to the automotive world that those are not necessarily good qualities.
…and then, there was the Boss 9…..

8 comments

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  • Wow…what an awful artical. Let’s see just about every modern engine uses overhead cams these days…I wonder if Ford was on to something? The way this guy makes it sounds , we should be tripping over these junk engines….wonder why everyone I’ve seen is $20-$30-$40 grand. What a joke.

    • What you’re saying is all well and good, but the materials and architecture that Ford was working with in 1965 weren’t what we have today.
      The Cammer’s shortcomings are well documented, we just call it like we see it.

      • I’m 50, I’ve owned and still own FE engines and this is the first time I have ever heard this about an FE. In my experience I have never seen what was stated here ever happen. Drag racing, power boats, truck pulling and street cars. Why have I not heard this in the past 35 years Ive been running them?

        • People race all sorts of engines, from, Flatheads and Model B’s on up. In light duty applications, the FE can be made to hold up, but the cost and complication can’t be denied. If that were not the case, why would so much emphasis be placed on Windsor/Cleveland based engines when the FE and Lima variants are rare in any form of racing.
          That said, I’m glad that you love your FE’s. Shoot us a little video and tell us why we’re wrong. We’d be happy to post it on our Youtube page.

      • Tony Defeo what color is the sun in your world? 427 Cammers dominated in top fuel until 1971 when Ford pulled their sponsorship. Connie Kallita, Pete Robinson, Don Prodhomme and Tom McEwen all ran 427 SOHC engines. So the bottom end blew out every once in a while. This engine was initially designed for the 1958 small Edsels not for top fuel racing. Good grief….

        • Not sure which sport you’re referring to, but in Drag Racing, the Cammer only produced one NHRA World Championship. Pete Robinson in 1966.
          1967 Bennie Osborn 392 Chrysler
          1968 Bennie Osborn 392 Chrysler
          1969 Steve Carbone 392 Chrysler
          1970 Ronnie Martin 426 Chrysler
          1971 Gerry Glenn 392 Chrysler
          In 1971 Pete Robinson was the only guy still competitive with the Cammer, and only because of a gear drive he had developed for it. He was killed in Pomona in 71 while testing a ground effects system.Ford stopped backing/supplying racers with SOHC engines and parts in 1968. Kalitta went back to Chrysler, and then back again to Ford in 1970 with a Boss 9…which he couldn’t keep head gaskets in. My own personal experience with the Cammer? I spent an entire winter studying one for a potential Nostalgia Top Fuel deal I had lined up. I walked away from it after realizing it had no hope of holding up against the Early Chrysler based engines

    • The only reason Ford did well in stuff like that, is because they were the only one of the Big Three to actually spend any time and energy on it.
      What happens in France, has zero bearing on the traditional American performance market.
      Besides the point, their women don’t shave their pits, and Jerry Lewis was a God to them. Perfect place for the FE to shine.
      P.S. I happen to like Y Blocks.