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SOHC 427 - The Mightiest of the Mighty
A brief history of the Cammer
Weighing in at a hefty 680 pounds, the new engine served notice that the competition had something to fear when dynamometer numbers revealed that the single four-barrel version produced 616 hp at 7,000 rpm and 515 lb-ft of torque at 3,800 rpm. And as if it couldn't get any better, the addition of the dual four-barrel carburetors stepped the horsepower up to 657 at 7,500, and torque numbers jumped to a stump-pulling 575 lb-ft at 4,200 rpm. All that was left was to homologate this beast with NASCAR and unleash it upon the unsuspecting Hemi Chrysler drivers. But the politics of the sanctioning body (yes, it even happened back in the '60s) became involved and for the first time in history, NASCAR banned an engine from competition. The circle track boys' loss turned into a windfall for drag racers as the company made the new powerplant available for quarter-mile competition in 1965 and it quickly took Ford products to the top in that arena. Don't feel too bad for the Ford NASCAR teams, however, as they ended the 1964 season with 30 wins (not counting those by Mercury teams) to 14 by Dodge and 12 for Plymouth.
Even with a very limited number of the new engines available early in 1965, Ford's factory drag racing teams started rolling up the victories and for the first time in years, Ford-powered Top Fuel Dragsters found their way back into the winner's circle with Connie Kalitta's SOHC 427 Bounty Hunter. For the remainder of the decade, SOHC 427-powered vehicles, from dragsters to funny cars and later Pro/Stock, continued to set records and win races on dragstrips from coast to coast, even after factory support of racing was discontinued. The final major NHRA National Event win for an SOHC 427-powered Ford product came with Don Nicholson's win in the Pro/Stock class at the 1971 Summer Nationals.
Fast forwarding to 2011, the mighty SOHC 427 is more than four decades old, yet it remains as popular as ever with Ford fans. And the recent resurgence in interest in this impressive engine, as power for everything from kit Cobra's to street rods, has led to a select group of individuals becoming involved in manufacturing new pieces for the old engine. Riding the crest of this wave of Cammer popularity is Randy Ritchey, son of legendary Ford factory drag team member Les Ritchey. Randy has continued the business founded by his late father in 1958, known as Performance Associates, in San Dimas, California. Here in his state-of-the-art facility, Ritchey has embarked on a program to develop a series of entirely new and improved SOHC 427 engines. This will give new life to the legendary powerplant in various configurations that will provide massive amounts of horsepower and modern day reliability for the discerning customer's needs.
Was the SOHC 427 ever made available in a production car?
The immediate answer to this question would be no. However, it's well documented that at least a few Ford Galaxies stuffed with Cammers were observed in and around the Detroit area during 1964 and 1965. These were most likely manufacturers' test vehicles and should not be counted as actually being available to the public. That doesn't account for the fact that Ford shop manuals for 1965 and 1966 listed an engine code designation for the SOHC 427 apart from the standard 427 Wedge. This could also be discounted as Ford's attempt to create the illusion that the Cammer was a production engine for the purpose of homologation.
That brings us to a photo and accompanying article that appeared in a 1966 issue of the racing publication, Drag News. The photo depicts astronaut Gordon Cooper with Ford Special Vehicles manager Jacque Passino examining an SOHC 427 engine under the hood of a '66 Galaxie with the explanation that Cooper was "The first person to purchase one of the new SOHC 427 engines that Ford is now offering as an option in it's Galaxie line." The Drag News text that follows contains a quote from the Ford Vice President indicating that the engine option was being made available to the general public in order to qualify it for competition on the stock car circuits. So, until other proofs are forthcoming, it appears that the answer to the question will have to remain no.