After yapping to GTA390 last night at Vabys...............
When we saw this Wimbledon White '63 Galaxie at a Utah car show four years ago, it got our attention. It was a striking, slippery, stylish fastback massaged to perfection in Ford's design studios five decades ago. The '631/2 Galaxie fastback symbolized a new mindset at Ford that spring. The Galaxie's fastback roofline was the brainchild of Ford Division General Manager Lee Iacocca, who wanted more sportiness in all Ford car lines. The Falcon also got a fastback roofline and a sporty name--Sprint. Iacocca infused a totally new image into the Ford Division lineup called Total Performance. Showroom floors quaked; so did the racing world.
Closer inspection of this slippery Galaxie revealed the legendary crossed checkered flags and a portension of things to come--SOHC. This was a 427 Galaxie fastback born of Ford's new, aggressive attitude and the Total Performance era. When Jack hopped in the car and spun its FE big-block, it had a decidedly different sound beneath the teardrop hood. There was the whiz of timing chains and the chatter of 16 rocker arms. Jack goosed the throttle, and we felt a rush of adrenaline. We had discovered not only a lightweight Galaxie, but also one fitted with a N.O.S. 427 SOHC big-block screamer that had just roared up from the '60s.
Jack is passionate about old Ford factory drag racers, but that's getting ahead of ourselves. Jack's love of vintage Fords dates back to when these cars were new, and it has never faded. A friend of his purchased a '63 Galaxie XL convertible in 1986, and Jack fell in love with '63 Fords all over again. He just had to have one. Today, he has five of them--all in various forms with 390s and 427s. Jack found this '63 lightweight in Hemming's Motor News in August 1999. He traded a '97 Camaro SS LT4, plus some cash, to get his hands on this Galaxie lightweight. Jack's find wasn't your typical glass Galaxie. It was fitted with the rare 427 SOHC hemi-head big-block designed and built for NASCAR competition in the mid-'60s.
When NASCAR told Ford it could not compete with an overhead cam engine, Ford wound up with dozens of 427-inch cammers on its hands. Many of them wound up in drag racers. Others were installed in boats. Still others were installed in street drivers. This is one of the crate engines that went undiscovered for many years. When it was discovered, it was knocked down and thoroughly inspected before assembly and fire-up. Jack tells us he removed the original sodium-filled valves and opted for Manley stopcocks instead. When he spun the cammer on the dyno, it made 675 hp at 7,500 rpm. It's a scream still heard high in the stratosphere over Utah.
You couldn't imagine anything less than an adequate drivetrain behind a 700-horse FE big-block. Ford's Top Loader four-speed channels the ponies into a "N" case 9-inch Detroit Locker, sporting 4.11:1 gears for good measure. Jack built his cammer glasser much as you might have expected in the '60s: factory drum brakes at all four corners, American Torq-Thrust D wheels, Mickey Thompson tires, N.O.S. factory Autolite shock absorbers, a 17-inch steering wheel, lightweight bucket seats, and only the necessary instrumentation. The sun tach takes us on a time trip back to the smell of burning rubber and Sunoco 260.
Of course, the centerpiece of this ride is its beating heart from the Total Performance era. The FE-series, 427ci, single overhead cam big-block was born in 1964 for NASCAR competition. It was a corporate act of desperation because Ford was getting clobbered on the superspeedways by Chrysler power. The FE's architecture made it challenging to fit with hemispherical cylinder heads as Chrysler had done with its 426ci RB-block. Because Ford had experience with overhead cam technology in its high-revving Indy small-blocks, it seemed logical to apply this thinking to the FE big-block. What Ford didn't know was NASCAR's Bill France wasn't having any part of overhead cam power on his speedways. Ford would quickly learn there would be no SOHC racing, so they took their corporate ball and went home.
What made the 427 SOHC revolutionary at the time was the technology practiced by Ford engineers. The SOHC's bottom end wasn't much different than we find with the wedge variants. Outside of oil distribution to the unusual heads, the block is virtually the same. Down under is a 7.5-quart oil pan. The crank was a steel forging for obvious reasons. Where the SOHC differed greatly was in its hemispherical crossflow heads with 2.250-inch intake and 1.90-inch exhaust valves. The head gaskets certainly were unique with an asbestos/steel combination designed for extreme pressures and heat. Rocker arms were little more than a cast-iron construction supported by needle-bearing fulcrums. These engines were quite sophisticated for their day--fitted with dual timing chains that looped from the crank sprocket to the single overhead cams above. Chain slack could be adjusted via a single idler. Screw-in freeze plugs were incorporated due to the high cooling system pressures. Ford opted for a transistorized, dual-point ignition system for added measure to keep the fire lit at high rpm.
The most remarkable part of the 427 SOHC story is how quickly Ford went from concept to running test mules--just 90 days. When Ford took its cammer to the dyno labs in Dearborn, it witnessed more than 600 hp at 7,000 rpm with more than 500 lb-ft of torque.
And this brings us back to Jack, who fires his 427 SOHC once a month to keep the oil circulating, and parts nice and limber. For Jack, listening to the SOHC enables him to live a dream most of us will never experience. Because Jack lives out in the country, he's able to spin the twin cams as aggressively as he desires. We will leave the rest to your imagination, and Jack to the business of door slamming.
Side Note:427 SOHC "Cammer"
The Ford Single Overhead Cam (SOHC) 427 V8 engine, familiarly known as the "Cammer", was released in 1964 to recapture NASCAR dominance from the Chrysler 426 Hemi engine. The Chrysler 426 used extremely large block casting that dwarfed the earlier 392 Hemi. The Ford 427 block was closer dimensionally to the early Hemis than to the elephantine 426 hemi (Ford FE bore spacing: 4.63"; Chrysler 392 bore spacing: 4.5625"; Ford FE deck height: 10.17"; Chrysler 392 deck height: 10.87"...the 426 Hemi has a deck height of 10.72" and bore spacing of 4.8" by comparison --- both Chrysler hemis have decks more than a 1/2" taller than the FE).
The engine was based on the ultra high performance 427 side-oiler block, providing race-proven durability. The block and associated parts were largely unchanged, the main difference being use of an idler shaft instead of the camshaft in the block, which necessitated plugging the remaining camshaft bearing oiling holes.
The heads were newly-designed cast iron items with hemispherical combustion chambers and a single overhead camshaft on each head, operating shaft-mounted roller rocker arms. The valvetrain consisted of valves larger than those on Ford wedge head engines, made out of stainless steel and with sodium-filled exhaust valves to prevent the valve heads from burning, and dual valve springs. This design allowed for high volumetric efficiency at high engine speed.
The idler shaft in the block in place of the camshaft was driven by the timing chain and drove the distributor and oil pump in conventional fashion, with the same practical limit of about 7,000 rpm for the stock oil pump (a maximum of 20.5 US gallons (78 L) of SAE 40W per minute at 70 psi (480 kPa). An additional sprocket on this shaft drove a second, six foot long timing chain, which drove both overhead camshafts. The length of this chain made precision timing of the camshafts a problem at high rpm and necessitated a complex system of idlers.
The engine also had a dual-point distributor with a transistorized ignition amplifier system, running 12 amps of current through a high voltage ignition coil.
All these engines were essentially hand-built with racing in mind. Combustion chambers were fully machined to reduce variability. Nevertheless, Ford recommended blueprinting the engines before use in racing applications. They were rated at 615 hp (458 kW) at 7,000 rpm with a single four-barrel carburetor, and 657 hp (490 kW) at 7,500 rpm with dual four barrel carburetors. Ford sold them via the parts counter, the single four-barrel model as part C6AE-6007-363S, the dual carburetor model as part C6AE-6007-359J for $2350.00 (as of October, 1968). Weight of the engine was 680 lb (308 kg).
Ford's plan was cut short, however; although Ford sold enough to have the design homologated, NASCAR effectively legislated the SOHC engine out of competition (despite permitting the hemi), and the awaited 1965 SOHC vs. Hemi competition at the Daytona 500 season opener never occurred. This was the only engine ever banned from NASCAR. Nevertheless, the 427 found its niche in drag racing, powering many altered-wheelbase A/FX Mustangs (after NHRA banned it from stock classes), and becoming the basis for a few supercharged Top Fuel dragsters, including those of Connie Kalitta, Pete Robinson, and Lou Bany (driven by "Snake" Prudhomme).
Due to its 4.23" bore size, the 427 block was impractical to manufacture economically for street use; it required tighter tolerances during casting than Ford's regular engine plants could deliver at that time. Therefore, Ford combined attributes that had worked well in previous incarnations of the FE: a 3.98 inches (101.09 mm) stroke and a 4.13 inches (104.90 mm) bore, creating an easier-to-make engine with nearly identical displacement. The 428 cu in (7 L) engine used a cast nodular iron crankshaft and was externally balanced.
Standard 428 FE engines were fitted to Galaxies (badged simply as '7 Litre') and Thunderbirds in the 1966 and 1967 model years. it was also found in Mustangs, Mercury Cougars and various other Fords.
The 428 Engine is said to be more tractable and usable than its more famous and noted brother, the 427. This is due to the smaller bore size in ratio to compression stroke.A look at a legendary engine, one that was never installed in a production car, but makes a killer powerhouse for the Cobra clone crowd.
The Ford SOHC (single overhead cam) racing engine was built in the 1960s and developed a nasty reputation by far exceeding its numbers, and it has been shrouded in myth and legend ever since. Occasionally one is shoehorned into a Cobra, kit, or hot rod and it looks (and sounds) awesome. Nothing draws a crowd at a car show like popping the hood and revealing a Cammer, the nickname for the SOHC Ford.
The Ford FE family of engines was introduced in 1958, and has been made in a variety of sizes, from 332 to 428 ci. The 427, the basis for the Cammer, first came out in 1963, where they produced mixed results in NASCAR racing (the premier series for manufacturers). Joe Weatherly won the driver championship in a Pontiac, but Ford took the manufacturer's championship anyway. In 1964 Chrysler introduced the 426 Hemi, which outpaced the 427 Ford. Richard Petty swept the driver series, although Ford drivers picked up enough points to bring home the manufacturer's title again. However, winning the manufacturer's title didn't get much press, and Ford was desperate to take both sides of the title.
When the 426 Hemi was first introduced, Chrysler hadn't made enough to qualify it as a true "stock" engine. Contrary to myth, NASCAR did not require engines to be sold in factory-assembled cars, but they had to be available over the counter at dealerships. This point had been stretched many times by all parties involved!
Ford, not going to be outdone, immediately began development of single-overhead-cam heads that could be bolted to a mildly modified 427 block. The overhead cams required a different oiling system from the standard 427, so lube was routed through a gallery along the left side of the block and then fed to the mains, thus becoming known as the "side oiler" block.
The aluminum OHC heads took larger valves (2.25-inch intake, 1.95-inch exhaust) and breathed better due to hemispherical combustion chambers. The cams were driven by a 6-foot-long, double-row roller chain, with a short second chain to run the distributor, fuel pump and the primary drive gear. The new engine was heavy (680 lbs), but weighed a tad less than the Mopar Hemi.
On the minus side, the Cammer was much wider than the pushrod 427, would barely fit in the engine bay of many Ford products, and it was never going to make it as a street engine, both for practical and economic reasons. However, Chrysler was starting to offer the 426 Hemi in their hot street machines so Ford had to put on a good show to convince NASCAR that they really intended to market the new engine.
A few Cammers were installed in 1964 Galaxies, photo-graphed and paraded before journalists, but none actually rolled off the lines, which put NASCAR in a quandary. Chrysler had a double-overhead-cam Hemi waiting in the wings should the Ford SOHC prove dominant, and NASCAR's Bill France didn't want to start an engine war that could increase costs and top speeds (safety became a serious issue when the crude stock cars of the era topped 200 mph).
Faced with a political hot potato, NASCAR straddled the fence. In 1965 the Hemi and the Cammer were both banned, leading to a boycott by Chrysler. Late in the season (as more street Hemis were sold) the Hemi was allowed back on short tracks only. Ford stuck with the 427 pushrod engine and, with ace Ned Jarrett, won both NASCAR titles.
For 1966 NASCAR (hurt by lower attendance) allowed the Hemi to return on all tracks. They even welcomed the Cammer, but handed it a 427 lb penalty to discourage the use of overhead cams. It would have been dead meat for a Mopar so Ford took their toys and went home.
All this maneuvering left Ford with a great racing engine but no place to play. The engine was too bulky and heavy for the Ford GT program, so that left drag racing.
Top-line drag racing had been the domain of the Hemi since its introduction, with all the top fuel rails and most of the funnies and gas coupes packing Mopar muscle. That changed in 1965, when Mustang funny cars (A/FX class) dominated the season and took the NHRA Winternationals. Ten were built by stock-car wizards Holman Moody, and equipped with Hilborn-injected, nitro-burning Cammers. One was driven by Gaspar "Gas" Ronda, who made the first pass under nine seconds in an unblown funny.
Connie Kalitta built the first blown Cammer for his fuel rail, and found that the connecting rods, which were fine for normally aspirated engines, were not up to the job when the blower kicked in. Most drag racers switched to Mickey Thompson aluminum rods (a modified Chrysler Hemi design) that solved the problem. Kalitta was the first rail through the 200-mph barrier, and "Sneaky Pete" Robinson took the 1966 NHRA World Championship in his Cammer-powered rail.
Jack Chrisman ran a very quick Mercury Comet funny with a Cammer while "Ohio George" Montgomery stuffed a home-brewed Cammer into his '33 Willys gasser (and later a Mustang) with excellent results. Danny Ongias won almost every event he entered in 1969 with a Cammer Mustang owned by Mickey Thompson, and "Dyno Don" Nicholson took the 1971 Winternationals with a Cammer Maverick.
However, the reign of the Cammer was short. In the late 1960s Ford switched their development dollars to the 429 "Semi-Hemi," which could be built on a smaller budget and installed in many of their street cars. Drag racers, however, continued to use the Cammer into the early 1970s.
Ford actually sold some of the Cammer engines in race tune. A single-four-barrel version put out an advertised 616 hp at 7,000 rpm and retailed for $2,350 (if you could get one). Adding a second Holley 780 carb produced 658 hp. The hollow exhaust valves were filled with sodium, which was supposed to make them run cooler. This was not altogether successful and most Cammer builders replaced them with solid valves, and most street Cammers are detuned to around 600 hp.
Cobras And CammersOnce their racing days were over, Cammers started showing up on the street,and three were swapped into 427 Cobras by their owners. In the mid-'70s Jim Haynes slipped a twin-turbocharged Cammer (estimated to produce around 1,000 hp) into his original 427 Cobra (chassis CSX3331). At about the same time, CSX3305 received a Cammer that had been massaged by Holman Moody. About this same time CSX3150 also had a Cammer.
There are a few new Cobras and replicas that have had Cammer transplants. Peter Portante (General Manager at ERA) once installed one in an ERA and recalls it fondly. Wedging it through the stock hood opening was a tight fit, and the frame had to be notched at the front to allow the balancer to be removed. The footboxes and fender wells also needed some reshaping. Dee Walters has a cammer in his ERA, which sports a "Cammer" license plate. A 1996 KIT CAR article reviewed a Hi-Tech (now defunct) Cobra clone with the famed SOHC Ford. Texan Alan Sorkey had his new Shelby Cobra (CSX4083) built with a NOS Cammer to make it the only Shelby Cobra with an original SOHC engine. It wears four Webers on a one-off fabricated manifold.
The big downside to the Cammer is cost. Original engines seldom come on the market, but when they do, the price tag is usually north of 20 grand. Dove Manufacturing makes new SOHC heads from time to time, but they are bare and you must come up with the special cams, valves, and drivetrain yourself. Today you can get just as much (if not more) power from a pushrod FE or a blown small block. However, if you like legendary engines and can stand the ticket, the Cammer commands respect like no other!Sources: various on the internet.