At this time we're going to take a short break from looking at vintage kit cars and instead take 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.