Selecting a camshaft is a difficult decision for even the most veteran enthusiast. We all want to get that perfect cam which meets our goals for peak horsepower, broad torque, smooth idle quality, or a variety of other criteria. So how does one ensure he selects the right cam? Perhaps you're tempted to consult the friend of a friend. You know the one. The self-proclaimed cam guru that everyone seems to go to for cam suggestions, yet no one is quite comfortable actually going with his choice for their motor. Many of us opt to make our own decisions by trial and error. We read the catalog descriptions, ponder the marketing hype, and make our best educated guess before ordering up the perfect grind. If it turns out to idle a bit too rough, or not pull as hard as we expected, well we run with it for a while and then go through the process again. Most of us don't get too distraught over this practice, after all, weekend cam swaps are the essence of this hobby. However, sooner or later the time comes when you don't want to screw around pretending to understand intake centerlines and lobe separation. This time you'd rather take comfort knowing your cam was selected by guys who do cams for a living. That is when you pick up the phone and spend the afternoon dialing the cam manufacturer's tech lines.

FordMuscle Undercover
Just about all of the major camshaft companies offer technical support via telephone. Most of the companies very well realize that the tech line can be a great sales tool for their camshaft lines because of the difficulties people have in selecting the proper cam. Call a tech line, tell them your combination and goals, and get the part number for a recommended cam. Seems like a win-win situation for the company and the gearhead.

FordMuscle went incognito to find out just how well the tech lines operate. We called up the tech lines for six major camshaft companies. All calls were anonymous, we did not reveal that we were a publication. All tech lines were called twice, once during their peak hours and then again on a different day during off-peak times. To mix things up a bit and to eliminate bias we created two different hypothetical engines. On one day we asked for a cam recommendation for a small block Ford stroker. On day two the same cam companies were asked to help us pick a cam for a 460 Ford.

Hypothetical Engine & Car Combinations
SBF 347 Stroker: 1989 302 roller block, AFR 165cc Comp Heads, 10:1 Compression, Weiand Stealth intake, 750cfm Holley with mechanical secondaries, full-length headers and dual 3" exhaust. 6500 RPM max.

3200lbs, 4-spd manual transmission, 3.79:1 Axle Ratio, 26" Tire

BBF 460: 1979 460 flat-tappet block, Edelbrock RPM Heads, 9.5:1 Compression, Weiand Stealth intake, 850cfm Holley with mechanical secondaries, full-length headers and dual 3" exhaust. 5500 RPM max.

Car: 4000lbs, C6 automatic transmission, 2500 RPM stall converter, 3.55:1 Axle Ratio, 26" Tire

While this methodology is in no way scientific, we figured by calling on two different days, at different times, with different engines, would reduce the chance of getting a tech operator who perhaps hates small block Fords or loves big block Fords. Of course, we can't do anything about the tech operator who may hate all Fords equally.

Standardizing the Calls
With the test case laid out we started making calls. We obtained the tech line phone numbers from the company websites, catalogs or ads. We called Crane Cams, Competition Cams, Lunati (Holley), Crower, Ultradyne, and Isky. As you can see these are bonifide camshaft and valvetrain companies with a full line-up of camshafts. We deliberatly pick big guns, mid-sized companies, and smaller names. For each call we started with the same statement...

"Hi, I am building a 347 Ford stroker (or 460 Ford) and would like a camshaft recommendation."

In order not to lead the responses we did not offer up additional information until asked by the tech line operator. When asked for information on the engine or vehicle we would answer with the appropriate specifications as listed above.

Our objective would be to not just obtain a cam recommendation, but more so to see what the overall experience is like. We evaluated hold time, technician hospitality, and the overall experience of dealing with that companies cam tech line. So let's see what we encountered.

Crane Cams
It is fitting that first up should be legendary Crane Cams in Daytona Beach, Florida. The company founded in the 1950's by Harvey Crane (see side bar) actually supplies the steel cores to many of the other companies mentioned here. We called them on a Monday afternoon as well as Tuesday morning. For a big cam company, Crane had the best phone response time. That is good because without a toll-free number our call to Florida from California would get costly. We also appreciate the 12-hour operating time, as nothing is more irritating than calling an east coast company at 2pm Pacific time to find they are gone for the day.

Crane Cams Tech Line Evaluation
Tech Line Number: (386) 258-6174    Hours: M-F 8am-8pm EST
Hypothetical Engine
Time of Call Monday, 1:46pm PST Tuesday, 9:05am PST
On Hold Duration 4 min < 1 min
Tech Operator
Hospitality Rank*
2 2

PN: 449651
Type: Hyd. Roller.
[email protected]: 226/232
valve lift: .544/.559*
LSA: 114 deg.
(*with 1.7:1 rocker)

PN: 354551
Type: Hyd. Flat Tappet
[email protected]: 226/230
valve lift: .522/.530
LSA: 112
Remarks Quick response time. Good information on website.

Rushed feeling. Single cam recommendation, no other valve train advise offered.
*Hospitality Scale: Junkyard Dog 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 Good 'ol Boy

Unfortunately the pleasantries of calling Crane end when the phone is answered by the tech operator. If Crane Cams were a hospital, then we'd have to say the cam doctors there have no bedside manner. Neither of the two techs we dealt with introduced themselves, gave us their names, or seemed thrilled about talking cams. The process was like getting a physical, except rather than asking you to turn your head and cough, we were asked in rapid fire succession "what gear? what weight? what rpm? what transmission? and what tire height?" After answering the questions we were given a part number for a single catalog cam, followed by awkward silence as if we were supposed to magically know the cam specs. We had to ask the tech to read us the specs on both calls. We assume the techs at Crane are plugging our answers into Cranes cam selector software, rather than really listening to our specs and trying to use their presumed experience to select a cam. As a manufacturer of a complete line up of valvetrain products we would also expect Crane's top brass to have trained tech line operators in suggesting matching springs, lifters, and retainers. We got no such advice. Overall, talk time with the Crane techs was the shortest of any of the companies we surveyed.


(Comp Cams, Lunati, Ultradyne, Isky and Crower)

In This Article:
We place anonymous calls to the major cam company tech lines in order to see what sort of service and recommendations one can expect to receive.












Cam Pioneers - Harvey Crane
Harvey Crane founded the Crane Engineering Company in 1953. A few of his feats: Helped conceive the Berco cam grinder; patented the roller tappet design; first to publish at 0.050" cam duration.

The subsequent founders of the major cam companies listed in this article all were in some way or another influenced by Harvey Crane's cam pioneering.

Crane Cam's executive committee voted him out in 1989 due to financial reason. Naturally Harvey wasn't pleased that the company which bore his name wanted to move on without him. Harvey, in his 70's now, still teaches and practices his cam secrets: harveycrane.com


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