Tom Wilson
June 8, 2007
Photos By: Steve Turner
Sitting 2 inches lower but otherwise visually stock, Jim's Mustang easily passes as factory-built. Thanks to Ford's huge modular V-8s, the massive Cammer big-block underhood doesn't give up the secret to many people even when they're staring at it.

Horse Sense: Progress in engine technology meant smaller, lighter, more powerful engines until we got to the current crop of Ford modular V-8s. Dumbfounded by their immense outer dimensions, we've always maintained that if a Cobra's 281ci Four-Valve would fit, one of the legendary behemoths from the musclecar era would, too. Now we have Jim Weigle's car as proof. He removed a 281-inch Three-Valve and dropped in a huge, almost 40-year-old 427ci Cammer with its mile-wide valve covers. He didn't have to touch the firewall, shock towers, or brake booster. While it's satisfying that such oddballs can be made so easily, it seems the modular V-8 engines waste space flagrantly.

People who bolt unobtanium vintage engines in new cars have a sense of humor. As a case in point, Jim Weigle of Parkersburg, West Virginia, generated a phony window sticker for his 427 SOHC-powered '05 Mustang. It lists the legendary engine as a specialty option on his Mustang and has confused casual observers ever since. If you're younger than 40 years old, even a blue-bleeding Ford fan such as yourself might think a Cammer is one of those puny 281ci Cobra engines that needs a blower to do much of anything. If so, school is in session.

Back in the '60s when big-blocks ruled the earth and Ford Motor Company built its own race engines, there was the big-block FE engine family. Blessed with strong cross-bolted main caps and available in a bewildering array of factory-produced performance configurations, the FE family will likely always be Ford's performance engine icon. That's not to say it's the best performance engine of all time; it most authentically symbolizes the peak of Ford's performance aspirations. It was dominant when Ford was trying hard during the Total Performance era. As a result, FEs won races in Galaxies, Cobras, GT40s, Cobra Jets, Fairlanes, and so on. It was also used as a street engine in everything from pickups to Mustangs to luxury Thunderbirds.

Of all the performance FEs, the single overhead cam 427, with its mile-long chain drive; single overhead cam per head; splayed shaft rockers; huge ports; and ripping, high-rpm personality is one of the most revered. It was born to race in NASCAR, yet denied its place by rulemakers. The 427 SOHC, similar to Marilyn Monroe-or Anna Nicole, if you must-died forever young, even shrouded in a bit of mystery. No one knows how many were made and none were installed in a car by Ford. Strictly an over-the-counter race motor, the Cammer has always been the epitome of Dearborn exotic.

It has also been a powerhouse. Rumors have put Cammer power anywhere from Podunk to Peoria. In the mid-'90s, our own deceased sister magazine, Super Ford, was privy to a dyno test of a pair of new, out-of-the-crate, single four-barrel Cammers. Each ran a couple of notches north of 615 hp, and the dual four-barrel versions should run even harder. That's good, as their expansive cast-iron cylinder heads weigh more than 100 pounds each, bare. As you can see, the '60s was a time of titans, at least automotively speaking.

Only drag racing was open to Cammers; they made their impressive mark in A F/X (precursors to today's Funny Cars) and laid a few passes in Top Fuel dragsters. They generally found their way onto the street inside nearly every chassis Ford has built, thanks to a keen following by the faithful.

Count Jim among the faithful. His idea was to build a '66 Mustang with a Cammer-something for street-bound amusement. He realized he'd have a better handling, nicer driving car if he put it in a current-production Mustang, so he went down and bought a new '05 GT for his project.

"Due to my age of 63 and the fact that I can't see or hear anymore and thinking hurts my head, I went on the search for a younger person to do the installation," Jim says. After meeting with Tony Lanesky, he agreed to take on the project because it had never been done before. Tony has a day job at a local West Virginia racing shop, but did the work on Jim's car-work that Jim has been pleased with-as a side job in his home garage.

Fitting the Cammer to the new Mustang proved surprisingly easy. Absolutely no sheetmetal work was required, as the huge Cammer is no larger than the modular engines designed to fit in the S197's engine bay. Even the brake booster cleared, and Tony didn't have to change Jim's brakes, which remain completely stock. The only fitment issue was the radiator, which was moved forward more than an inch. The radiator itself, however, remains unchanged. An Anthony Jones engine cradle was fitted under the car; this took care of the engine-mount issue while providing more header clearance and saving weight.

Getting the Cammer to work in the new chassis took a bit more doing. As a carbureted engine, there was little required to get it running in the car other than plumbing it for fuel and running a hot wire to the MSD ignition. The exhaust needed custom attention, and Tony turned to Kromer Kraft to weld a custom set of long-tube headers out of mild steel. "They were Jet Hot-coated inside and out," says Jim. While they were gorgeous when new, they now have so much oil spilled on them from the leaky engine, they'll have to be recoated. The remainder of the exhaust features no cats and Flowmaster mufflers with 4-inch stainless steel tips.