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.

To make life more interesting, Jim had Tony fit electrically operated exhaust cut-outs at the end of the headers. Jim can flip a switch and go loud whenever the spirit moves him. He says that never fails to attract a crowd right away.

Tony also rigged up a serpentine beltdrive for the front of the Cammer. It conserves engine length and accommodates the air-conditioning system retained from the new Mustang. The remaining S197 computers didn't know what to do regarding the air conditioning with the engine-management computer missing so much input, so Jim and Tony couldn't get the A/C to start. The problem was fixed by running a toggle switch to the A/C relay.

Atop the Cammer, the dual four-barrels needed an air filter that would clear the hood. Jim made one by modifying an existing dual-four FE filter.

It should be no surprise that Jim is a manual-transmission sort of fellow. It's also no surprise that there was no way the stock Mustang GT five-speed was going to last five minutes behind a Cammer. Instead, a Tremec T56 gearbox and associated bellhousing, McLeod twin-disc clutch, Hurst shifter, and aluminum driveshaft were sourced in a package deal for about $5,600 "from some place Tony found in Detroit." Interestingly, the shifter sprouted right through the stock hole in the transmission tunnel, so no butchery was involved in fitting the new driveline. The rear axle was left completely unchanged.

The only change to the chassis has been Eibach Pro System lowering springs in the rear. The front springs remain stock, as they compressed under the weight of the Cammer sufficiently to give the desired lowered look. The lower rear springs were substituted to bring the rear down to match the front.

Short of a Ford Racing tachometer, eyeballing the interior doesn't give a clue to this car's Cammer power. Jim says it drives similar to a stock late-model, with an enjoyable light whine from the Cammer's timing chain. It's the authenticating Cammer characteristic.

If the project seems too easy so far, it's because the real problems were with the engine. Jim contracted with an engine builder for the all-aluminum 427 SOHC seen in the photos. This is a pricey item to say the least, considering we've heard of tariffs ranging from $20,000 to $35,000 for all-original Cammers. Rolling your own lightweight from a $6,000 Shelby aluminum block, compared to what can be up to $9,000 in dressed- and prepped-aluminum Cammer heads, doesn't seem to be such a crazy alternative.

Jim's sad story is that the first engine blew up in the car almost immediately. It was removed, repaired, and then blew up on the dyno. Jim decided the next thing was to break out the lawsuit hammer. In the meantime, he contracted a new builder, Bob Chenoweth, for a second Cammer.

The first engine, the one we're looking at in the photos, sported custom camshafts and dual-quad, 780-cfm Holleys. As shown, this engine posted 662 hp at 6,900 rpm and 545 lb-ft of torque before letting loose on the Superflow dyno. It has also run long enough in the car for Jim to get some good impressions on what the finished product will be like-fast.

Because Jim believes all the available aluminum cylinder heads are "junk, just junk," he's going with a different aluminum block and original iron heads on the new engine. A billet crank and good rods are planned, so it's an all-out effort. It will likely wear the same pair of rare, Cammer-specific Holley carburetors and easily break the 700hp barrier after the porting and camming Bob is building into it. We'll be curious to see how the dissimilar coefficients of expansion between the block and heads get along in such a performance engine.

As we went to press, Jim was waiting for his new camshafts to get back from heat treating, but he could brief us on his unique Mustangs personality.

It's fast. Just how quick, no one knows-it has never run against a clock or done any sort of track driving. We thought wheelspin would be an issue, but Jim says it's not. "The Cammer really doesn't make any power until 3,400 rpm, so it can be driven around town without constant worry of wheelspin from every light." He says the 245/40-18 Goodyear Eagle F1 tires on the Ford Racing wheels do a surprisingly good job of holding on to the power, but will instantly go up in smoke if he's abrupt on the clutch or slaps the throttle with any rpm on the clock. Be careful going into second gear and still mindful selecting third, "or you're going sideways."

As for top end, Tony says the big unit easily pulls 4,000 rpm in Fourth, which is 140 mph. Jim would do such testing himself, but says, "I'm too old; that top end scares me." Smart man.

The only teething problem was the water temp. The engine would run hot, belch coolant, then run coolly for awhile before overheating again. Jim cured this by substituting a 427 FE thermostat in place of the Three-Valve's, as well as drilling two 1/8-inch bypass holes in the thermostat for good measure. The coolant temperature has run perfectly ever since.

Dual four-barrels are as exotic today as they were in the '60s. Jim's 427 SOHC uses a stock aluminum intake manifold and custom-mounted oval K&N air filter to mount his brace of rare 780-cfm Holley carbs. While Ford never installed Cammers in cars, the company did build a variety of single- and dual-carb intake manifolds for them.

Jim says the Cammer S197 drives great. The carbureted engine has no driveability issues, and even with a soft power curve below 3,400 rpm, there is still plenty of torque for driving with a big-block. The all-aluminum engine is a bit heavier than the Three-Valve it replaced, so the handling is the same, which is a plus. Also, his air conditioning and quiet cockpit are interrupted only by a distant, characteristic Cammer whine from the timing chain. When he opens the hood, the Cammer looks as though it grew there. The installation has a factory patina that makes this May-December swap work.

Another enjoyment Jim has is all the money he saved, if you can wrap your mind in circuitous logic as well as a Cammer timing chain snakes from head to head. In fact, building the Cammer in a late-model chassis is less expensive than resurrecting a 40-year-old Mustang and having to cut out its shock towers and reinforce its unibody-among other things-to end up with a car that's not as fast or refined as the new one.

You'll be happy to know that Jim is using some of the money he saved for a second Cammer project. This one is a full-race, all-aluminum engine being built by Jim Varillaro in Knoxville, Tennessee. It's destined for Jim's Falcon Sprint and ought to be a wild ride. It's a factor in keeping the Mustang off the track and an exciting street driver that looks great and drives hard.

For a guy "who likes stuff different," Jim's Cammer S197 must be a deeply satisfying ride. Even with the problems associated with getting the engine sorted, Jim says this is easily his favorite car in his stable of collectibles.

Just don't fall for his phony window sticker. "I've had more fun with that window sticker than I've had with the car," he says. That's saying something.

5.0 Tech Specs
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAINGauges
Block{{{Ford}}} Racing tachometer
Aluminum 427 SOHC Cammer 
DisplacementSUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
N/AFront Suspension
CrankK-member
N/AAnthony Jones tubular
RodsControl Arms
N/AStock
PistonsSprings
N/AEibach Pro Kit
Cylinder HeadsStruts
427 SOHC CammerStock
CamsBrakes
N/AStock
Intake ManifoldWheels
Stock 427 SOHC 18-in Ford Racing
CarburetorsTires
Holley 780sGoodyear {{{Eagle}}} F1 245/40-18
Fuel SystemRear Suspension
Stock pump, stock fuel lines,Springs
Aeromotive regulatorEibach Pro Kit
ExhaustShocks
Kromer Craft headers andStock
Flowmaster mufflersControl Arms
TransmissionStock
Tremec T-56 six-speed w/HurstBrakes
short-throw shifterStock
RearendWheels
Stock18-in Ford Racing
 Tires
ELECTRONICSGoodyear Eagle F1 245/40-18
IgnitionChassis Stiffening
MSD 6AL, MSD coil, MSDN/A
spark plug wires