Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
June 28, 2013
Photos By: The Manufacturers

Top-End Tidbits

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While the majority of a top-end package is simple remove and replace labor with general hand tools, perhaps the most technical aspect of the job is properly setting up the valvetrain. Once again, following the instructions is crucial to getting the valve-tip-to-rocker-arm relationship right and not having any issues at start up.

As you can see by scanning the specs of each manufacturer, each brand's top-end package differs in hardware with accompanying price points to match. The Trick Flow packages include rocker arms and pushrods, but have a bit of a premium to their pricing to be able to do so. On the other hand, the Dart Machinery offerings leave the cam and timing components off the list. It could be to keep pricing down, or could be because these parts are not typically part of the “top” of the engine (without getting literal of course). Whatever package you feel fits your needs, none of them are going to be 100-percent ready to bolt on out of the box. Some are more than others, but you should consider the following when installing a top-end kit of any manufacturer.

• Gaskets, sealants, and lubes: You'll need fresh oil and filter, silicone sealer for gaskets, and miscellaneous gaskets like carburetor base, thermostat housing, and so on.

• Additional hard parts: Depending upon the kit you order, you'll need to pick up rocker arms, pushrods, and possibly lifters (especially if converting to a roller cam). Thoroughly inspect surrounding hard parts like the water pump, carburetor, and more, and plan to purchase replacements to install at the time of your top-end upgrade.

• Read the instructions before you start: Depending upon the design of the parts, we've seen additional installation steps such as drilling the block deck for matching steam holes, machining the cam thrust plate for cam gear fit, and others. While the majority of the parts truly bolt right on, it is always wise to read up in advance and be prepared for possible additional labor steps.

• Flat tappet break-in: We try to encourage everyone to upgrade to a hydraulic roller cam, but if the budget doesn't allow it, be certain you add a break-in concentrate or special break-in oil to prevent cam lobe and lifter wear due to modern oil's lack of zinc.

• Proper distributor gear for your new cam: You don't want to bolt on all your new parts and then end up on the side of the road scratching your head at a no-start situation a couple of thousand miles later. Verify with the manufacturer what the cam is made out of and what distributor gear it requires. If you don't know what your distributor has call the manufacturer or simply play it safe and order the right gear.