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SOHC 427 - The Mightiest of the Mighty
A brief history of the Cammer
Writing for Hot Rod magazine in 1965, Eric Dahlquist dubbed it "Ford's 90-day wonder," with the accompanying claim, "From drawing board to dyno in just three months with the magic of space-age computers." The wonder that Mr. Dahlquist wrote of was perhaps the most legendary Ford racing engine of all time, the SOHC 427, affectionately known as The Cammer.
While the three months from drawing board to dyno claim would be a bit of a stretch even with today's technology, the SOHC 427 was not an entirely new engine design to start with. Rather, it was a conversion of the already successful 427ci FE series. First introduced in 1958, the FE series engines had grown from 332 to 427 cubic inches by 1963, with dedicated high-performance versions of the series having carried over since 1960. In 1963, Ford engineers, taking from hard-earned lessons on America's circle tracks and dragstrips, developed the now legendary 427, which delivered Ford dominance in the NASCAR stock car racing series.
After pretty much having their own way for an entire year, the folks at Ford received a nasty surprise at the NASCAR series-opening race for 1964, the Daytona 500. It seems that Detroit rival Chrysler Corporation had somehow convinced NASCAR that it had every intention to make available to the average man on the street its midsize Plymouth Belvedere and Dodge Polara vehicles stuffed full of the new 426ci race Hemi engine. The results at Daytona were predictable, as the Hemi-powered cars routed the Ford entries. The folks at Ford needed to respond to this threat, and fast. Even those in management at FoMoCo who didn't support the racing program had come to recognize by 1964 that racetrack victories resulted in showroom sales of their products.
Taking a page from its recent foray into Indy car racing--a small-block V-8 engine sporting specially cast cylinder heads with four camshafts (DOHC) and 32 valves that screamed like a Banshee while making tons of horsepower--Ford engineers set out to modify the 427 along the same lines. From the drawing board came a newly cast 427 block with modifications to it's oiling system that included a gallery cast and machined into the lower left side to feed the engine's main bearings directly instead of via the camshaft journals. This configuration was to become known as the 427 Side Oiler.
The increase in horsepower needed to put the Ford's back out in front came in the form of newly designed cylinder heads, which featured not only hemispherical combustion chambers and improved port design, but it also converted the conventional single-camshaft FE engine into a single overhead camshaft monster by mounting a camshaft in each cylinder head. This, in turn, eliminated the need for the standard friction-creating, horsepower-robbing, pushrod-operated valvetrain. Further modifications to accommodate the new design consisted of two bosses cast and machined into the deck surface at the back of the block to facilitate oil draining back from the cylinder heads.
And since the camshafts would now be located on top of the cylinder heads, the oil passages feeding the back three camshaft journals were plugged. Since the engine's oil pump and distributor ran off a gear at the front end of the conventional camshaft, a stub cam, utilizing the standard timing chain and gears, was designed to fulfill this function. The cylinder-head-mounted camshafts would be actuated by 6 feet of double roller chain running off the crankshaft with an idler and tension arm mounted to the front of the heads, all of which was encased behind a one-of-a-kind cast-aluminum cover. Along with the new cylinder heads came the need for new intake manifolds and two cast-aluminum versions, mounting either one or a pair of Holley four-barrel carburetors. A redesigned water pump was also fitted to the new engine.