The dust has settled on the 11th Annual AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge, and if you peeked ahead, you already know that four-cam Ford Mod motors made a clean sweep of First, Second, and Third Place. Kind of like Ford with the GT40 at LeMans in 1966. The complete dominance of the four-valve Mod motor should come as no surprise to engine experts—it's a simple matter of doing the math, and building the engine that the math demands. The superior ratio of unshrouded valve curtain area to displacement gives a four-valve V-8 a specific output advantage over a traditional two-valve engine. And because the AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge is essentially a gussied-up yardstick for specific output, the four-cammer wins. It has to.

Before I launch into things, let's back up the bus a second. "Specific output" is a measure of the power density of an engine. Simply put, it is power per cubic inch. Let's talk about what this is not. An engine with high specific output isn't necessarily the one that's going to win races, and that's because it does not take into consideration weight, size, fuel consumption, or simplicity of design. Moreover, specific output does not take into account the cost to build or the cost per horsepower. Finally, high specific output is not about the engine's efficiency as measured by brake specific fuel consumption—or said another way, fuel economy.

The AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge rewards performance in only two areas: power density and power bandwidth. In the past, we've had a wide variety of winners including Ford, Chevy, and Mopar. The Engine Master has come from all vintages too, with engines from the early 1950s even placing in the top of past fields. The thing that's different about this year's competition is that we decided to open Pandora's box and let in domestic four-valve engines (code for the Ford four-cam Mod motors). Since the beginning, we've known—or at least suspected—that these motors would dominate if placed in the right hands. Our thought was simple: We were simply curious as to how good these engines are, and we wanted to see them compete in order to find out.

Some will say four-valvers in competition aren't fair, while others will say it wasn't fair to ban them this whole time. Fortunately, that decision is above my pay grade. I can only represent to the rest of the members on the rules committee the deeply held opinions of PHR readers and let the cards fall where they may. I suppose it doesn't matter to many folks, as long as we keep putting a variety of great performing engines in PHR. Pontiacs. Mopars. Buicks. Chevys. Other Fords. But the AMSOIL EMC is a competition, and if no other engine stands a chance at winning or placing, it could devolve into a handful of builders and sponsors that specialize in Ford four-cam Mod motors. Bottom line: We can't do stories on the engines that builders don't bring. Maybe I'm missing something here, or the issue isn't as grim as it seems, but it's something we'll need to address.

My main point, however, is that there are many criteria on which you can judge an engine. Just because we crown one team leader as the Engine Master based on power density and power bandwidth doesn't mean you can't crown a different one based on your own criteria. This is why we give you all the specs and dyno data from our competitors. Let's look at the different ways we can slice and dice this year's field.

Looks: It sounds sappy, but looks do matter. Right from the hit, you'll see there are no dirty-looking Top Five finishers. In 11 years of competition, there never have been. Cleanliness might be close to godliness, but apparently it's also close to powerfulness. Street racers aside, nobody wants something that looks like a junkyard reject under their hood. For my money, nobody builds a sexier-looking engine than Jesse Robinson. Year-in, year-out, Jesse's engines look dynamite and run great.

Raw Power: When it comes to laying down the smack on the street, nothing beats cubic inches and pavement-pounding torque from the hit. Freelander's big-block Ford and Weingartner's big-block Chevy get the power party in high gear in a hurry in this department. Engines like these, however, are becoming increasingly rare in competition as the rules don't really favor them. Nevertheless, they are the bread and butter of PHR readers, and many consider mills like these the true winners.

The thing that's different about this year's competition is that we decided to open Pandora's box...

Value: When you look at power per dollar spent, it brings an entirely new dimension to the field of engines in competition. Almost none of the top value performers are in the top half of the field, let alone the Top Five. Case in point, Randy Malik's B-series Mopar wedge. If Randy has more than $4,500 in this engine, I'd be amazed. Yet it pounded out 676 hp, enough to make all but the baddest street car cry for its mama. And it's all due to lots of elbow grease and creative machine work.

Adversity: Not all engine families make power as easy or are as well supported by the aftermarket as the Chevy LS. Some engines have almost zero support, or their aftermarket offerings are so out of date that it hardly matters. I give high kudos to a guy who works with an engine just because he likes it. As an example, I offer up Lynn Peterson's 401ci AMC, which finished a very respectable mid-pack with 657 peak horsepower. In terms of accomplishment, this ranks right up there with the top guys. And although Brad Wise had technical problems with his Olds, I give him high marks as well.

Shock value: Some engines just have "wow" factor. Over the years we've had SOHC Fords, Chrysler Hemis, Ford Shotguns, Cadillacs, and even OHC small-block Fords. Some engines just make your jaw drop with not only their cleanliness, but their physical beauty. I don't think there's anybody who attended this year's AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge who would disagree that Jon Kaase's four-cam Mod motor was the toast of the town. Even if Jon's four-cammer hadn't won, it would still be the most talked-about motor on the planet with its gorgeous valve covers, its forest of header pipes, and its controversial air inlet tract.

Forthwith, I present to you the 11th Annual AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge!