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Choosing A Replacement Camshaft
A number of cam suppliers we interviewed for this article say they can make a custom cam for virtually any engine – provided the engine builder provides them with technically accurate specifications as well as detailed information as to what exactly they want the engine to do.
Unless you are doing a totally stock rebuild and reusing the original camshaft, selecting a camshaft depends on what kind of engine you are building and how that engine will be used. A stock engine for a daily driver is obviously an entirely different application than an big stroker motor for a Pro Stock racer. So how do you navigate the daunting process of selecting the “best” camshaft for a particular engine?
One approach is to stick with what works. If you’ve used a particular cam grind before that delivers good torque and horsepower for a certain kind of application, you might want to play it safe and stick with a tried-and-true grind that has worked well in the past. But in today’s highly competitive world of professional racing, the hot cam, cylinder head and valvetrain combination that worked well last season may not be the best choice for this season.
Technology is constantly changing, and to stay competitive you have to be on the cutting edge (or not far behind it). New aftermarket cylinder heads are proliferating like crazy, as are cylinder head port configurations. Small blocks are now becoming big blocks with longer and longer stroke crankshafts. Intake manifold manufacturers have had to redesign many of their manifold plenums and runners to flow more air for these stroker motors. Aftermarket engine blocks with larger cylinder bores and bore spacing are adding more and more cubic inches of displacement.
All of these different cylinder head, manifold and engine combinations mean new camshaft profiles have to be developed to fill the gaps not covered by currently available cams. This makes it much more difficult for an engine builder to pick an off-the-shelf cam that will deliver the best possible performance for a given combination of engine parts, gearing and usage. But it is good news for cam suppliers who can create custom camshafts for engine builders.
A number of cam suppliers we interviewed for this article say they can make a custom cam for virtually any engine provided the engine builder provides them with technically accurate specifications as well as detailed information as to what exactly they want the engine to do.
Chase Knight of Crane Cams said the more information he can get from a cam customer, the better. “Detailed information helps us help them pick the best cam for their application,” he said. He stressed the fact that the information the customer gives him has to be as accurate as possible, not guesstimates or approximations or vague statements. “I need to know the exact compression ratio of the engine, the exact ratio of the rock...