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I kinda get tired of reading all the negative viewpoints against the "traditional" flat tappet cam that has been, and still are, used in many engine builds. I really get insulted when the flat tappet cam choice is associated with my age and the generation that I grew up in - as if roller cams are a recent phenomenon of the millennium and later generation. Duh?

Roller cam followers (also called lifters, valve tappets, lash adjusters) have been around since the late 1800's. They were solid wheels that followed the cam lobe required regular adjustments. Early tappets had rollers to reduce wear from the rotating camshaft, but it was found that the roller pivots wore even faster and that the small radius of the rollers also tended to accelerate wear on the expensive camshaft. Tappets then developed plain flat ends, although these were slightly radiused as 'mushroom' tappets, since a perfectly flat end led to 'slamming' against a steep camshaft face and to reduce wear from the rotating camshaft, the tappets were usually circular and allowed, or even encouraged, to rotate.

In 1910, a French car builder near Le Mans, France named Amedee Bollee invented the first self-adjusting valve tappets. Bollee’s two-piece tappets consisted of an upper and lower piston held slightly apart by a small spring. A port in the side of the lifter bore allowed oil to enter the cavity between the two pistons. Development of the self-adjusting lifter continued and in the 1930s, General Motors developed its own “zero lash” tappets first used on the Cadillac V16 engine. By the 1950s, hydraulic lifters were common in most engines. But roller type lifters were still in use, they didn't fade away. Aircraft engines used them and race car engines used them, becoming popular with the Super Stock racing era.

Flat Tappet
Price - Cam & Lifters - Approximately $260.00 - No need to change the distributor gear, purchase new pushrods, or possibly install an aftermarket valley pan. New valve springs, valve retainers, and valve locks are optional on a flat tappet cam depending on cam lift - not on a roller. You don't have to use a double roller timing gear set-up, but you do on a roller cam.

With any flat tappet cam, hydraulic or solid, you will need to break your cam in upon initial start-up. Flat tappet cams are more sensitive to stiff springs than roller cams. This typically means if you have performance heads that use and take advantage of heavier spring pressures provided by dual valve springs, the inner springs MUST be removed before the cam break-in process can begin, and then they have to get re-installed afterwards, which means the whole valve train needs to be taken apart and put back together. Again, this is only on performance engines that use dual valve springs, and most performance engines WILL have dual valve springs. “The biggest mistake is not appreciating the fact that a flat-tappet does need a break-in,” warns Steve Slavnik of Lunati Cams. “Light springs used to be the standard in the industry for break-in. If you’re not an engine builder and don’t have the facilities, it’s a pain to change the springs.”

So the typical car hobbiest may look at the cost savings of running a flat tappet cam and think it's the way to go, BUT, if you can't do this operation yourself, you may have to pay your machine shop or another auto repair shop to have your inner springs removed, then break the cam in, and then remove the springs again to re-install the inner springs. This is going to cost a little additional money for this operation, which might have been offset by going with a roller cam that does not require the extra work, but many shops have an engine break-in stand

Date: 2013 Tech Tip courtesy of Crane Cams - Reasons and Causes for Camshaft Failure

Of all the damaged cams that Crane Cams has checked over the years, it says more than 99.99 percent have been manufactured correctly. Some people have the misconception that it is common for a cast iron flat tappet cam to occasionally have a soft lobe. Crane says they have yet to see a cast iron flat tappet cam that had a soft lobe.

When the cast core is made at the casting foundry, all the lobes are flame hardened. That process hardens all the lobes to a depth below the barrel of the core. That depth of hardness allows the finish cam grinder to finish grind the cam lobes with a Rockwell hardness above 50Rc. The generally accepted hardness on a finished cast cam should be between 48Rc to 58Rc.

Lobe wear, incorrect break-in lubricant. Use only the moly paste that is included with the cam from the manufacturer. For extra protection, an anti-wear additive should be added, such as Crane Super Lube.

Do not use synthetic oil during the break-in period. It is not recommended to use any type of oil restrictors to the lifter galley, or use windage trays, baffles, or plug any oil return holes in the valley. Oil has a two-fold purpose, not only to lubricate, but also to draw the heat away from whatever it comes in contact with. The cam needs oil splash from the crankcase and oil run-back from the top of the engine to help draw the heat away. Without this oil flow, all the heat generated at the cam is transferred to the lifter, which can contribute to its early demise.
Correct break-in procedure. After the correct break-in lubricant is applied to the cam and lifters, fill the crankcase with fresh non-synthetic oil. Prime the oil system with a priming tool and an electric drill so that all oil passages and the oil filter are full of oil. Preset the ignition timing and prime the fuel system. Fill the cooling system. Start the engine. The engine should start quickly and run between 1,500 and 3,000 rpm.

If the engine will not start, don’t continue to crank for long periods, as that is very detrimental to the life of the cam. Check for the cause and correct. The engine should quickly start and be run between 1,500 to 3,000 rpm. Vary the rpm up and down in this rpm range during the first 15 to 20 minutes, (do not run the engine at a steady rpm). During this break-in time, verify that the pushrods are rotating, as this will show that the lifters are also rotating. Increased spring pressure and/or increased valve lift through the use of higher ratio rocker arms can hinder lifter rotation during cam break-in. If the lifters don’t rotate, the cam lobe and lifter will fail. Sometimes you may need to help spin the pushrod to start the rotation process during this break-in procedure.

Spring pressure. Normal recommended spring seat pressure for most mild street-type flat tappet cams is between 85 to 105 lbs. More radical street and race applications may use valve spring seat pressure between 105 to 130 lbs. . Mechanical and hydraulic flat tappet cams and their lifters gain performance and durability with lower spring pressures. They also favor lighter valvetrain components, stiffer pushrods to minimize deflection, and stable rocker assemblies that promote smooth operation.

The use of stiffer, lighter valvetrain components cannot be overstated. Valvetrain designers pay close attention to the moment of inertia required to activate the rocker arm and the component stiffness necessary to transfer cam motion accurately. The top half of the spring travels a much greater distance than the bottom half and that’s where control problems and spring surge initiate. A lighter retainer minimizes the force the spring has to control allowing it to function more effectively. Mismatching of parts by an individual or an engine builder can set the cam & lifters up for failure.

Spring coil bind: It is recommended that the spring you are using be capable of traveling at least .060″ more than the valve lift of the cam from its assembled height.

Retainer to seal/ valve guide boss interference. You need at least .060″ clearance between the bottom of the retainer and the seal or the top of the valve guide when the valve is at full lift.
Valve to piston interference: Minimum recommended clearance: .080″ intake and .100″ exhaust.

Rocker arm slot-to-stud interference: The slot in the bottom of the rocker arm must be able to travel at least .060″ more than the full lift of the valve.

Oil Viscosity. Another critical consideration that few consider is oil viscosity. Heavier oils tend to hinder hydraulic lifter function. The oil must be able to hold pressure within the tight internal lifter clearances and navigate the passage in the refill valve effectively to maintain control of the internal piston. If the oil viscosity is too heavy, the bleed down rate of the lifter may be too slow and the lifters may retain too much oil - they can pump up at higher RPM's and over extend the valves. You can end up with valve float, misfiring, loss of power, or even engine damage if the piston strikes the valve. Each manufacturer uses different tolerances between the lifter body and plunger, so it is best to consult the manufacturer for oil viscosity recommendations. They may state: "Do not use oil heavier than 10W30." Do not fill or pump up hydraulic lifters before assembly. They may hold the valves open causing difficult starting and/or engine damage.

Distributor gear wear. The main cause for distributor gear wear is the use of high volume or high-pressure oil pumps. We don’t recommend the use of these types of oil pumps. If you do run these types of oil pumps, you can expect short life of the cam and distributor gears, especially for low speed running, in street type applications. If you must run these types of oil pumps, you can increase the life of the gears by adding more oil flow over the gear area to help cool off the point of contact. Distributors that have end play adjustment (up and down movement of distributor shaft and gear) should maintain a maximum of .010″ end play to help prevent premature wear.

Camshaft end play. Pontiac engines use the thrust plate and cam gear to control the forward and backward movement of the cam. The cam is held forward against the thrust plate if you are using the OEM set-up.

Broken cam. A broken cam is usually caused by the cam being hit by a connecting rod, or other rotating parts of the engine coming loose and hitting the cam.
Another possible cause for cam and/or lifter failure are changes in engine dimensions. If you mill your heads or deck the block .010" or more (and sometimes you may not know how much has been milled by a previous owner if the engine has been rebuilt), you may want to check engine components just to make sure there are no manifold-to-port/bolt alignment problems, piston/valve clearance issues, or changes in valve train geometry. Add to this thinner head gaskets that some of us use, and the prementioned considerations can be compounded. If the head is brought closer to the cam by either milling it, decking the block, or using thinner head gaskets, you may need to shorten up your pushrod length. Having a pushrod too long can possibly cause coil binding, hold a valve open, or force the pushrod deeper into a hydraulic lifter causing damage to the lifter or putting excessive pressure on the lifter face-to-cam contact which you do not want on cam break-in. Verify pushrod length with a pushrod checking tool to compensate for any changes in engine dimensions other than stock and get your rocker arm geometry back in line.

ROLLER CAMS
Price: Cam & Lifter - Approximately $800.00 or more with all needed parts.

Although the roller tappets are intended to reduce friction, the rollers themselves place higher loads on the lobes since the actual contact patch between the two is smaller than that of a flat tappet setup. This load is then intensified by the fast opening rates, higher valve spring pressures, and extra tappet weight. They can also experience valve float in higher rpm applications such as 6,000 rpms or more.

Hyd. Roller lifters used in a Pontiac engine may require an aftermarket valley pan.
Roller tappets are usually taller than their flat tappet counterparts, and this extra height is accommodated by the pushrods, which need to be made shorter to compensate. So you will need to purchase pushrods.

Installing a roller cam/lifters in a non-roller designed factory engine requires that each pair of lifters be linked with some form of tie-bar so they do not turn sideways on the cam lobe.
The higher loads associated with roller cams also mean that higher-grade timing sets must be employed with these systems. Usually, this means a double-roller-type chain and sprockets.

Racing roller valvetrains typically go through springs and retainers faster than comparable flat tappet setups. Despite this, many racers consider the increased cost of roller valvetrains a small price to pay for the increased performance they provide.

A common issue with mechanical roller lifters is the impact loading on the tiny roller bearings during each valve cycle. One or more of the small rollers takes a pounding every cycle and over time they take quite a beating. This is caused by valve lash clearance that slams the rollers during each cycle. The problem plagues some race engines with excessive spring pressure too, but race engines have far fewer cycles than a hot street engine. Mechanical roller lifters on the street often suffer greater distress than race engines because racing lifters are more frequently examined and replaced if necessary.

The harder steel material of the cam itself means the distributor gear must also be made from a material compatible with the steel of the camshaft. Bronze is often the material of choice. A bronze distributor gear, which is very soft and will bear the brunt of the wear between the cam and the distributor gears are relatively cheap and easy to replace, so this compromise has been accepted for some time.

Roller cams with high lift and spring pressure are generally not recommended for street use, because of a lack of oil splash onto the cam at low speed running to help cool the cam and lubricate the lifters. This high spring pressure causes the heat created at the cam to be transferred to the roller wheel, resulting in its early failure.

Any springs that may be used must be assembled to the manufacturer’s recommended height. Never install springs without verifying the correct assembled height and pressures.

Photo 1 shows the relationship of the lifter base-to-cam. Notice how it is not flat and the cam has a built in taper so as to spin the lifter.

Photo 2 shows a couple of cam shapes. The 2 on the left are flat tappet with one having a straight ramp for faster rate of lift while the other has a more rounded ramp. The faster ramp can sometimes be the cause of valve bounce if you don't have a stiff enough spring rate to keep the lifter on the face of the cam or hold the valves closed when they slam shut. Note the shape of the roller lobe. Practically straight up, longer period at maximum lift, then straight down - Bam! The straight up ramp puts extra side loading on the thrust side of the lifter bores and can bust them if you go with a super high lift needing heavy spring pressures. This is the purpose of the Megabrace that can be installed in the Pontiac lifter galley.

Photo 3 clearly shows the side thrust difference between a flat tappet cam lifter and roller cam lifter.

Photo 4 is the Pontiac roller lifter set. Long, big, & heavy which means more weight pounding up and down and you better get matching valve springs, valve retainers, & valve locks. If the tie-bar ever let's go, you could take out an engine as the roller lifters go sideways in their bores. Not an issue ever with a flat tappet cam.
 

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"...You don't have to use a double roller timing gear set-up, but you do on a roller cam..."


And your reason for that is ???

Cliff Ruggles has posted that he uses the stock replacement Melling timing set. He has built lots of engines, and his car runs low 11's, plus some street driving. He says the stock type link-belt chains are plenty strong for racing engines. I've never seen one broke. And, after trying a double roller set, I discovered that the DR chain stretched just as quickly as the stock type chain.

Since the stock type chains are plenty strong & lots of 'em lasted over 100K street miles, I see no reason why they are not good enuff to use with a roller cam.

BUT, for those who insist, they can buy super duper big name true roller sets, with 9 keyways, for well over $100.

I used the cheap TRW stock replacement sets in all my 455 bracket engines. Never had a single problem. I kept some extra chains, and put in a new one, if I had the timing cover off, for some reason. The cheap Cloyes set is part # C-3007K.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Engine-Timing-Set-Cloyes-Gear-Product-C-3007K/273829665059?epid=75483691&hash=item3fc1851923:g:8A4AAOSwHxxcppaZ

The cheap Melling set is # 3-350S. You can buy 2 & 4° offset keys, for camshaft degreeing, if needed. I always used at least a 2° key, to offset chain stretch. But, some cams today have 4° advance ground in.

https://www.ebay.com/p/Engine-Timing-Set-Stock-Melling-3-350S/75561005?iid=391090209082

Butler has a few options above & below $100.

https://butlerperformance.com/c-1234831-camshaft-valvetrain-components-timing-chains-and-sets.html

Here's a few options from Summit.

https://www.summitracing.com/search/part-type/timing-chain-and-gear-sets/make/pontiac/engine-size/7-5l-455/engine-family/pontiac-v8/timing-chain-style/double-roller?N=timing-chain-style:double-roller&SortBy=BestKeywordMatch&SortOrder=Ascending&keyword=roller timing sets
 

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Ugh Jim!!!! Just when I thought roller was the way to go, you have to go and post something educational!!! LOL. Thank you....

So this goes back to my post :) and the thought of just installing a flat tappet cam setup (known entity vs what I have today which is most likely stock) vs heads and cam.....
 

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Nothing inherently wrong with flat tappet systems, provided you're able to get quality parts with good metallurgy. One thing that's a consequence of that wide flat lifter square bottom edge though is that it limits how steep the opening and closing ramps can be on the cam lobes. There's a point at which the ramps can't be made any steeper because the edge of the lifter would dig into the ramp. This makes it not possible to achieve lots of duration without also getting significant valve overlap along with it, and really impacting low RPM performance. Overlap is what causes that rough lumpy idle. Roller systems can deliver more duration without forcing a lot more overlap, so you can get more aggressive on duration with a roller on the street without having to sacrifice as much bottom end. However really aggressive ramps also impart significant side loading to the lifter bores, making adding bore braces to a Pontiac advisable.

Bear
 

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Great write up, Jim. Roller cams and valvetrains have their place on high HP applications, but I agree with you on flat tappet cams. As you know, I am all about reliability and longevity of an engine, and therefore, run flat tappet camshafts. The Sig Erson has been in my '65 engine since 1981 without a single valve adjustment and zero issues (about 50,000 miles) and the Melling SP7 has been in my '67 since the late '80's-early '90's and has close to 90,000 miles on it without issue. I run Cloyes double roller chains, but would run stock steel chains by Melling or TRW in the future....the Cloyes stretch a bunch initially, but after that, stay put for the rest of the duration. Have never seen one fail or jump time, though.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
bigD: "Since the stock type chains are plenty strong & lots of 'em lasted over 100K street miles, I see no reason why they are not good enuff to use with a roller cam."

PJ: If you are talking factory new "stock," most did not last 100,000 miles. The factory cam gear was aluminum with nylon coated gears (which I think Ponitac stopped using around 1971). The teeth deteriorated and the factory chains stretched. Two of my cars, 1967 GTO/1968 GTO, had to be replaced. The '67 chain was so sloppy I don't know how it stayed on. The '68 chain broke and put the car on the side of the road. I don't recall mileage, but they were not near 100,000 miles cars, but were abused for sure. The factor gears/chains in my experience and others were in need of a change around 70,000 miles for the most part. If you had a low performance "grandma" car and did your regular oil/filter changes...... I might agree on 100,000 for a factory set-up.

Now the replacement iron gears & chain we all bought at the parts store to replace the factory set-up was better and yes, will last longer. Never had a problem with any. I have also run the double roller set-up which in my opinion is a better set-up. Will it last forever? Nope. Does the chain ever stretch? Yep, they all will eventually. Here is a quick note off the internet from Cloyes:


Single Row Versus Double Row

In the roller chain realm, there are two widths available for many applications: a single row and double row. Single row chains have one row of rollers and links connected end-to-end. Double row chains have a second set of links and rollers adjacent to the first set. The additional row of rollers adds an extra layer of durability. While the single row may be suitable for a stock engine, performance applications need to be upgraded to a double row chain.

Upgrading to the double row is recommended when a performance camshaft or other power enhancement is installed. The aggressive lobe profiles of performance camshafts require heavier valve springs in order to maintain control of the valve events.

The additional spring pressure and power increases strain on the timing chain. A double row chain disperses the additional load across both sets of links keeping chain fatigue in check. However, there are design limitations that may require a single row chain to be used in certain applications.

Roller chains provide reduced friction and wear over the link chains, offering better performance and longevity in comparison. Upgrading to a double roller chain is a must in performance applications. Dual rollers provide the extra strength that is required for the increased power and valve spring pressures."

Could you get away using a single roller? Probably if spring pressures and high RPM's are kept in check. But, the real questions is, "Do I want to take a chance of a timing chain letting go and possibly do some damage to the engine?" At the cost of a roller cam set-up, I would not install anything less than a double roller set-up and would most likely spend the extra $$$ on a billet set-up: https://butlerperformance.com/c-1234831-camshaft-valvetrain-components-timing-chains-and-sets.html
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Ugh Jim!!!! Just when I thought roller was the way to go, you have to go and post something educational!!! LOL. Thank you....

So this goes back to my post :) and the thought of just installing a flat tappet cam setup (known entity vs what I have today which is most likely stock) vs heads and cam.....

Now don't get me wrong, I am not against using a roller cam, BUT, it had better be one heck of an engine build where I am essentially building a race engine.

My personal opinion on this is that if you are building a street/strip engine you can enjoy and make dependable, then I feel any thing under .550" lift can use a flat tappet cam and I would go with a solid cam at that. As most know, I am also a firm supporter of iron heads - again, up to a point. Next head choice would be the Edelbrocks or KRE depending on cubes and required CFM's for those cubes.

I also look at budgets and who is going to build the engine. It also ties into your use of the car and then expected HP/TQ or 1/4 mile times. There is the guy who wants the car to smoke tires and can be driven as wanted, and brought to local shows. Then there is the guy who wants to smoke every car out there on the road and go racing on occasion. And of course, everything in between.

I like HP. I like smoking tires. I want to be able to leave most any car in the dust. BUT, I also want a car that doesn't require towing a trailer behind it having a 250 gallon tank of gasoline plumbed into my car's tank so I can go to a car show 4 hours away - and no, I won't trailer a car either as that is stupid in my book, why own it? And most likely a car built up to those kinda HP/TQ numbers may not be as dependable as I care it to be even though I can climb under the hood to work on it. Is that what I really want to do on the way to a long distance show anyway?

So I have learned in my old age that there is a balance between - budget, HP/TQ, dependability, gas mileage.

My point of this "bitch" above is simply that a flat tappet cam is a viable answer in many builds and that the bad rap that seems to surround a flat tappet cam is like many bad raps, over blown and cropped up because some yahoo did not do what he/she was supposed to do in selecting matching parts, using the proper break-in lubes, and not breaking the cam/engine in correctly. Heck, I have watched YouTube video's titled "First Start Up" on a new engine and they just let the engine idle upon fire up. Could be the reason the cam/lifters died an early death (but could have been a roller cam).

So, in my opinion, and defense of the flat tappet cam, they are still a very good & cost effective way to go on the "average" build and then some, but at some point when you begin to transpose that engine into more of a street brawler or race engine, then there is no doubt you also have to step up the build and dig deep into that wallet to reach that desired status. Me, I'm comfortable with a dependable 400-450HP and 450-500 Ft.Lbs of TQ on a street car that can deliver a hard punch to the competitors and still get a little gas mileage so I can live with if taking that long car show drive - and that is very doable with a well thought out 461 stroker that does not break the bank and uses a flat tappet cam. BUT, even at those levels, I know I am also going to have to $invest in some driveline upgrades to handle that need for speed. :thumbsup:
 

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Excellent write up PJ!!

I'm going to add to a part of what you said in hopes this will alleviate some cost concern with using flat tapped lifters and break-in on an engine equipped with dual springs.

Some of the cost for breaking in an engine with flat lifters and dual valve springs can be offset by a little DIY... It's not nearly as difficult as one might think and there are a couple things you can do to ensure you don't accidentally drop a valve into your cylinder.

[/url]Untitled by paradox_69_666, on Flickr[/IMG]

Basically I made my own valve spring compressor from a $4 Harbor Freight pry-bar and modified it. It had the perfect angle for my heads, I've read that Pontiac's have odd valve angles and therefore off-the-shelf valve spring compressors have the wrong geometry and can damage valves. I always rotated the cylinder I was working on to TDC so if a valve dropped it wouldn't go far and I used a telescoping magnet for added reassurance; the magnet also helped keep the retainers from falling into a chasm. The most difficult part was the tension, since the pry-bar was so short, and needing a third hand but once I did a couple I got into a rhythm and I was done in no time at all. Having a set of picks helps getting the retainers out and as far as releasing the retainers... They were almost always stuck and needed some persuasion. I simply took a deep well socket and placed it on top of the valve spring and gave it few light wraps with a hammer. This usually knocked them loose and instantly reset them so when I compressed the spring they would then pop right out...
 

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I'll add: in virtually ALL of the television programs I've watched where engines are assembled with stock flat tappet camshafts, the distributor is installed incorrectly at first for the fireball effect out the intake, and NONE of them have their camshafts broken in. They are started up (after fiddling around and fixing the firing order), revved to the moon a couple of times, and left to idle. Bad ju-ju for a flat tappet engine!!!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Excellent write up PJ!!

I'm going to add to a part of what you said in hopes this will alleviate some cost concern with using flat tapped lifters and break-in on an engine equipped with dual springs.

Some of the cost for breaking in an engine with flat lifters and dual valve springs can be offset by a little DIY... It's not nearly as difficult as one might think and there are a couple things you can do to ensure you don't accidentally drop a valve into your cylinder.

[/url]Untitled by paradox_69_666, on Flickr[/IMG]

Basically I made my own valve spring compressor from a $4 Harbor Freight pry-bar and modified it. It had the perfect angle for my heads, I've read that Pontiac's have odd valve angles and therefore off-the-shelf valve spring compressors have the wrong geometry and can damage valves. I always rotated the cylinder I was working on to TDC so if a valve dropped it wouldn't go far and I used a telescoping magnet for added reassurance; the magnet also helped keep the retainers from falling into a chasm. The most difficult part was the tension, since the pry-bar was so short, and needing a third hand but once I did a couple I got into a rhythm and I was done in no time at all. Having a set of picks helps getting the retainers out and as far as releasing the retainers... They were almost always stuck and needed some persuasion. I simply took a deep well socket and placed it on top of the valve spring and gave it few light wraps with a hammer. This usually knocked them loose and instantly reset them so when I compressed the spring they would then pop right out...


Nice use of an inexpensive home made tool - I like it. I have a spring compressor that goes over the spring, clips onto the spring, and you tighten the handle to draw it together, kinda like a coil spring compressor. I brazed an old socket onto the round handle so I can use my ratchet to draw it up.

I also have a compressor so to keep the valves in place, I pull the spark plug and use a spark plug fitting made for such use, and plug it up to the compressor to pressurize the cylinder and keep the valves up and closed.

The other method which I have read about, but never used, is to snake a piece of rope in the cylinder when it is at TDC until no more can be pushed in. This will keep the valve from dropping down.

Like you said, not too bad of a job with the correct tools and if you work on your car, you should be able to handle the job.

On the Edelbrock heads shown, they use bronze valve guides and Viton/Teflon valve guide seals. But on factory stock heads I would suggest using some new O-Ring seals just to make sure none have any tears or cuts that you might not see - they are cheap. If stock valves, you will see a second grooved ring on the valve stem. The spring gets compressed, the small o-ring seal installed, then the spring retainer, then the split locks.

If aftermarket valves are used, most do not have the second groove so you cannot use the o-ring seals. This means that the Viton (preferred) or Teflon type seals be used - which also means that the valve guides will have to be machined for them and you want to install bronze valve guides. The factory Pontiac head and its cast iron valve guide requires some oil to lubricate the valve stem otherwise the valve could seize - so factory clearances need to be followed. The Viton and Teflon seals are fairly tight and don't allow oil to pass by. So if used on a stock head with cast iron valve guides, they could cause the valve to seize. Bronze valve guides by design are self lubricating, so Viton or Teflon seals can be used.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
My personal opinion on this is that if you are building a street/strip engine you can enjoy and make dependable, then I feel any thing under .550" lift can use a flat tappet cam and I would go with a solid cam at that. As most know, I am also a firm supporter of iron heads.

I also wanted to clarify a bit on this statement. If using factory iron heads and the stock type valve length, and not the longer RA IV valves, you want to check the retainer to valve guide boss clearances. Pushing your lift near .500" may be close. You don't want that spring retainer slamming into the top of the valve guide.

Longer valves can provide more clearance for higher lift cams as well as machining down the valve guide (which lowers it) for Viton valve seals. On my 455 build, I went with the longer Ferrea RA IV stainless steel valves as well as bronze valve guides and machined the guides for Viton valve seals. My machinist said I was good for at least .600" lift - but I am not going anywhere near that. :thumbsup:
 

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"My personal opinion on this is that if you are building a street/strip engine you can enjoy and make dependable, then I feel any thing under .550" lift can use a flat tappet cam and I would go with a solid cam at that. As most know, I am also a firm supporter of iron heads."
Jim - just curious why solid lifter vs hydraulic lifters? I always thought solid lifters were really only needed in high rpm race motors.
 

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Jim - just curious why solid lifter vs hydraulic lifters? I always thought solid lifters were really only needed in high rpm race motors.
I'm also interested in the answer to that question, since some HFT lifters are good to well past the power range of most Pontiac engines, plus the advantages of being maintenance free and quieter.
 

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Interesting....so I just called Butler to inquire about camshafts options for my motor and the recommendation was for a roller...either would work fine, but the roller would have no issue with cam break in and not need high ZDDP oil....The most surprising comment though was that I should not expect much gain from just the cam and the real opportunity was headwork / aluminum heads ..??... I explained I had a low compression #14 head 400 cu inch motor and the sale person / technician said the heads did not flow well ??? Sigh....back to my KRE heads and roller post lol....Thanks Jim & BigD
 

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"...Butler...camshafts options...the recommendation was for a roller...the roller would have no issue with cam break in and not need high ZDDP oil....The most surprising comment though was that I should not expect much gain from just the cam and the real opportunity was headwork / aluminum heads...back to my KRE heads and roller post lol..."


Yeah, there is no doubt about it. You can make more power with big flowing heads & the correct roller cam set-up. If not, the Super Stock racers would not go that route. You're also talkin about $4,000 +. You have that much to spend on heads/cam ?

It's also easier to make big power, with more stroke & cubes. So, a 400 block can make easy HP & torque gains by going with a 4.21 or longer stroker assembly. There's another $3k-$5k. Hey, all it takes to make big power is money.

Butler is in the business of makin money. They're gonna recommend what'll make the most power, so they can make the most money. They're not gonna recommend some small HFT cam, so that you can just putter around the streets, burning rubber occasionally. They wanna sell you something that'll put up big numbers, not just an average performance street build. And, I suppose you can't really blame them. They have a BIG name now, in the Pontiac community. And they have a big backlog of machine shop business. So, they can afford to charge more, & possibly lose customers. There are plenty of guys waiting in line to buy a Butler engine or ported heads. I'm not against the Butlers. They've done a lot for the Pontiac community. Just giving a little perspective on their head/cam recommendation.
 

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To All, from my post #11 , "My personal opinion on this is that if you are building a street/strip engine you can enjoy and make dependable, then I feel any thing under .550" lift can use a flat tappet cam and I would go with a solid cam at that."

Re-read folks, My personal opinion......

I like hydraulic cams/lifters. I like the Rhodes lifters and their advantages AND used a set in my brother's 360 Mopar build which I have spoken of in the past with good results. However, for me, I feel as you get up near/over the .500" lift number, that the solid lifter is a better choice. And, yes, I like the sound! LOL

The basic advantages/pro's of hydraulic lifters are:

Quieter valve train.
Lower maintenance.
An automatic ability to adjust for thermal expansion of the engine.
Built in shock absorber, eases stress on valve train.

The con's of hydraulic lifters are:

At high rpm's the lifter gets too much pressure and can cause valve float and are typically not recommend for high rpm applications - but most of our Pontiac engines don't see those kind of high RPM's, but they may see high oil pressures.
Small particles/dirt can cause problems within the valve body. Regular oil/filter changes will keep fresh & clean oil in the engine and this should not be a problem.

The above works well for most engines at reasonable valve lifts and RPM ranges. Make a few changes like going to a bigger lift/longer duration cam that is generally selected for more power and higher RPM's means you will need good valve spring pressure - not crazy, but strong, and certainly more than the factory pressures. So things to consider that could affect the lifters & engine are listed next, and most of you will never have any issues with the key being to select a high quality brand hydraulic lifter right from the start.

The lifter bleed down rate is directly related to the speed at which the lifter can adjust itself and is probably the most important factor in hydraulic lifter design. Factors such as RPM, oil pressures, oil viscosity and the engine heat that effects it, valve spring pressures, and valve train component weights, all contribute to the collapse and/or operations of the lifter plunger and the opening & closing of the valves.

“Both oil temperature and aeration play major factors in the effective stiffness of the lifter. As the oil generally becomes more aerated at higher RPM, and the inertial pushrod loads increase dramatically, we do see the hydraulic lifters ‘act’ like they have more lash with RPM,” reveals Godbold. As oil temperature changes, so does it’s actual viscosity. “The effective duration decreases with temperature. People would be shocked to see just how much the effective lash on a hydraulic lifter changes with these conditions."

Bleed down rates of hydraulic lifters change dynamic duration, and it changes based on RPM and all kinds of other influences. The RA IV engines used a hydraulic lifter having a higher bleed down rate to prevent lifter pump up at the higher RPM's that those engines turned. Hydraulic lifters with a higher bleed down rate are designed for higher RPM's - from the Crane website,"The bleed rate on Anti-pump up lifters is carefully maintained my micro-tolerance internal valving, allowing the engine to reach its full RPM potential while getting the most out of the camshaft design."

Like the Rhodes lifters, Crane offers their version called Hi Intensity Hydraulic Lifters for street applications and are designed to produce a “variable duration effect” by bleeding down rapidly at lower RPM ranges to reduce the effective running duration by 6-10° and decease valve lift by .020-.030”to restore engine vacuum , cylinder pressure, and low-end performance. At higher RPM levels (typically about 3,000 RPM's) they will produce the full duration and lift of the cam.

Moving on to my personal choice for high lift flat tappet cam choice is the solid lifter.

One of the best features of a solid-lifter setup is its simplicity with no internal moving parts to foul up the valvetrain operation and once set up correctly they are as solid and reliable as a brick. They are designed for reliable operation at engine speeds up to 8500 RPM. The stability of a solid lifter offers consistency and strength to survive extended periods of high-RPM and heavy loading on the valvetrain. The valve lash adjustment must be tight enough to take maximum advantage of the cam profile, but loose enough to provide clearance when the engine is hot and parts expand - which means that the mechanical-lifter valve adjustment is at its optimum at only one engine temperature whereas hydraulic lifters stay at their optimum adjustment from the second they fill at start-up to engine shut-off. But, how long does it really take the engine to get up to temperature?

Solid lifters will require an adjustable valvetrain to set the required manufacturer's valve lash gaps. Not much of a problem when using screw-in rocker arm studs.

Solids have the advantage of setting the lash plus/minus on one or both valves to adjust every thousandth of an inch of lift and every degree of duration that would be delivered to every valve - lash adjustment becomes an engine tuning tool. Cam lift/duration can also be adjusted by trying 1.65 & 1.5 ratio rockers along with lash adjustments to find the perfect power/torque performance combination that the cam offers the engine.

A solid cam/lifter when compared to a matching hydraulic cam/lifters spec can improve HP/TQ over the hydraulic choice. Two examples I found showed a gain in HP over the RPM range and more HP at the top end - one being 20HP more and the other being 30 HP more. So the solid cam with a similar grind as a hydraulic cam will provide a little more HP - and for me, anything that gives me a little more HP is what I am after.

One argument will of course be the sound of the noisy solid lifters, and the other will be the constant lash adjustments needed. My answer - on the noise, yep, you may hear lifter ticking, but as you get older and deafer like me, you won't hear it. :yesnod: With regards to lash adjustments, with the use of polylocks, and the low miles most of us drive, you may only have to adjust the lash once a year. Me, I don't have a problem getting under the hood and adjusting them once a month if I had to. Not a big deal. :nonod:

With all this said, I repeat, this post is essentially my response to everyone as to why I personally feel that solid lifters should be used in the .500"- .550"ish lift range, and hydraulics are better served in the under .500" lift range unless you are hard core like me and just gotta have the old school solids (along with my gear drive & headers & cut-out's). I smell tickets & blue light specials all over this build whenever I get it up and running. :thumbsup:

.
 

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"...solid-lifter setup...They are designed for reliable operation at engine speeds up to 8500 RPM..."


Wow PJ ! Are you planning an 8500 rpm Pontiac engine build ? 8000 ? 7500 ? 7000 ? OR ???

It CAN be done. There are a few Pontiac Stockers going past 8000 rpm, & running mid to low 10's. And that's with iron heads and a flat tappet cam.

Here's one of 'em. As far as I know, this is the quickest Pontiac powered Stocker ever built. It turned some 10-teens at NHRA events, & even dipped into the 9's at a test & tune, according to another Pontiac Stocker racer's eye witness account.

https://www.hotrod.com/articles/hppp-1301-1970-pontiac-firebird/

Another is Randi Lyn Shipp's '67 Bird. I think I remember her car turning some 10.40's. And, it must run 670 D-port heads & a much lower lift cam. NHRA sets the max cam lift, at the valve, with the factory rocker ratio. But racers can have any duration they choose, and any valve spring pressure. That's one of the big reasons why Stockers can now turn so many rpm & go so quick.

EngineSpecs

Another was Leo Glasbrenner's '68 Bird. I think it ran a Ram Air 2 engine.(not sure tho) Since that engine came with only 1.5 rockers, that's what must be run. So, NHRA limits the total valve lift to 491/.486, which is a bit lower than for the RAIV engine, which had 1.65 rockers, but the same 041 cam. I don't have a clue as to how NHRA comes up with some of the weird engine specs they allow.

EngineSpecs

EngineSpecs

3 more 10 sec, high rpm '68 Bird Stockers are driven by Julie Biermann, Chris Stephenson, & Adam Strang. I think they all run the 330hp D-port engine. And, keep in mind that all these cars I've mentioned must run a 750 Q-jet & the correct factory intake.

EngineSpecs

Hey, I realize that most here are not interested in race cars. But, for those few who are, some of you may find some of this info interesting.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
bigD: "Wow PJ ! Are you planning an 8500 rpm Pontiac engine build ? 8000 ? 7500 ? 7000 ? OR ???"

PJ: LOL, no. The money it would most likely require to spin those kinds of RPM's would be out of my budget range. LOL Now I like to spin those high RPM's because there is a "sound" that goes along with it and banging that next gear has the "right" feel - and that's what a good street race is all about.

I would like to build a high rev engine, maybe 6,800-7,000 RPM's, but my base engine would be the smaller 350 fitted with worked iron heads (2.11/1.77), roller cam on this build, and I think I would experiment with a dual quad set-up and a pair of 750 AFB's - this not being an all out competition race engine, just a high revving, screaming, old school type street brawler. Back it up with an M-22 Rock Crusher and 4.33 gearing and I think it would be a force to reckon with and be fun.

Sadly, those days of street racing are gone.

I enjoy the racing Pontiacs. I do read your posts in the "Lounge." The Tri-Power Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio is a great event for Pontiac racers, whether racing or as a bystander. I think anyone with a Pontiac car should attend at least once in their lifetime and take a stab at racing down the strip as either a hard running competitor, or just a good ole' have fun run for others to watch - whether a built up car or simply a stocker. Of course the car show and swap meet is another reason to attend. :thumbsup:

I just wanna be in that lineup someday! LOL
 
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