Sooner or later, every “performance-oriented” car enthusiast gets around to thinking about performance modifications. Whether or not he or she actually goes forward to make changes in the way an engine is equipped, two key elements of making power come from controlling the delivery of the air / fuel mixture and creating a well-timed and powerful spark.

Once the performance ambition arrives in combination with tinkering with the hardware — whether with today’s NOs, modified processor performance “chips,” or post-catalytic-converter exhaust systems — camshaft profiles still make the decisions about “when” and “how long” the valves open. And in any one vehicle / engine combination you may want to experiment with different camshaft profilericks to suit not only power output, but you’re own driving-style preferences. Unless, of course, your vehicle is a strictly “off-road” race car … in which case wide-open throttle is your main driving style.

During the free-time years of my high-school days, it was a natural to swap out cams to see how each varied profile — and even manufacturer’s “grind” — affected the engine characteristics. Names like Sig Erson, Crane, Iskenderian, Racer Brown and Crower were among the typical “parts counter” requests.

Corresponding attention has also gone to hot ignition performance. And just prior to the inevitable shift in both original equipment manufacturers and the aftermarket moving to “electronic” ignitions, the trick set up for maximum coil saturation (and, of course, resulting spark voltage) was the “dual-point distributor” — like the one pictured above in the center of all of the distributors. Waiting to be dropped into a motor I was building, along with the fresh camshaft lying below it, this distributor was going to work in harmony with the new cam to orchestrate a “symphony” of explosions that we call “horsepower.” And hopefully, it would do so with “open” headers!

By the way, if you glance at the VERY top of the photo you can see the edge of some freshly ported- and-polished cylinder heads waiting for “showtime,” too!

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