We were able to adjust cam timing with our Comp Cams beltdrive. Not nearly as expensive as you might think, this was an extremely valuable tuning tool. We were able to move our cam as much as 8 degrees advanced before the power output started to decline. We ended up backing up the cam to 7 degrees, and it was probably a good choice as there were witness marks on each of the pistons from the intake valves kissing them! Probably the most common time in a tight-tolerance race engine's life to expire is at the top end of the track or dyno pull, just as the throttle is slammed shut and the engine decelerates rapidly. This creates a scenario where the rpm is still peaked, but instead of the piston being under load from compression or exhaust as it approaches TDC, the load is suddenly removed and the piston is allowed to travel farther towards the cylinder head and with a greater G-force, due to the lack of opposing pressure. Most timing chains have more slack than a beltdrive, allowing the cam to advance during this deceleration. This "extra" advance, coupled with the piston being closer to the head, greatly increases the chances of a piston-to-intake-valve collision, with disastrous results. Lightweight pistons and the Comp Cams beltdrive likely prevented a catastrophic ending to our engine in testing.

With every jet and cam timing change, we maximized our ignition timing as well. Small-stroke engines like our 337 prefer a good amount of lead, and ours was happiest with 38 degrees. The ICE 10-amp setup was overkill for our pump-gas guzzler, but like ICE owner Michael Konstandinou says, "The worst that can happen is you won't lose any power. The best that can happen is that you'll gain some."

Tuning didn't end with changes to the cam, carb, and spark. We spent a good amount of time running our combination through a software program called Pipemax. It's a great simulator of engine dynamics, and we were able to use the information it gave us to build a set of headers and collectors tuned for the engine and rpm range given. Opening our three-inch collectors into the beautiful Magnaflow mufflers produced a great sound without hurting power a bit.

Once the clock struck midnight in this Cinderella story, the little Chevy twisted the dials to a whopping 529 horsepower, and 481 ft-lb of torque. Had I said last December that I knew we could make that kind of power with such a short stroke, surely my nose would have grown an inch. As it was, when the Challenge had ended and we loaded up our mini-mouse, we couldn't help but happily go whee whee whee all the way home.

Comp Cams BeltDrive: The Tuner's Advantage
Lurking behind the 327's water pump and Powerbond harmonic damper is one of the least known members of the Comp Cams family. Calling up Jegs to order PN 6100 will get you this beltdrive timing set that makes assembling and tuning a high-performance engine a breeze. Beltdrives are often thought to be reserved for ultra-high-dollar endeavors, but with a price under $500, there are few reasons not to pick one up.

The main advantage of a beltdrive is adjustability. During dyno or track testing, it takes literally just a few minutes to move the camshaft a degree or two, reset the ignition timing, and make another pull or pass. In most cases, this can be done without removing the water pump or damper-way better than having to tear down the whole front of the engine to try different cam settings.

Another great advantage of the Comp beltdrive is the ease with which you can set the camshaft endplay. Flat-tappet cams use tapers ground into the cam lobes to force the cam toward the rear of the engine; however, all hydraulic and solid-roller cams are ground with no taper in the lobes, and require some method of keeping the cam from walking back and forth. Cam buttons are typically used, but they rely on flimsy timing covers that tend to flex. The Comp beltdrive uses an adapter mounted to the front of the camshaft as well as brass shims on either side of the adapter to keep the cam consistently located. End play is easily adjusted with various shims (included).

Unlike other aftermarket timing covers, we've had zero issues with oil leaks, and nobody can dispute the added bling factor a beltdrive adds. It costs a little more, but one thing I've learned in years of building engines is that it's better to spend a few dollars up front than to waste precious time and performance down the line.