When it comes to bragging rights on the street, few speed parts have the allure of serious hardware like a solid roller cam setup. After all, when it comes to the camshafts, the solid roller is at the top of the lineup, and all of the serious racers use them. So, does that make it the correct choice for a hot street application? For years, the definitive answer was “no,” since the longevity in a street application can be compromised, and when a failure occurs the results aren’t pretty. Failure usually occurs at the lifter, with the tiny needle bearings supporting the rollers giving up, filling the engine with damaging debris.

So, with that potential for disaster, why are solid rollers seemingly more popular than ever in street engines? The same characteristics that make a solid roller setup favored in racing carries over to the street—the ability to make more power and turn higher rpm. In fact, in today’s high-performance world, the temptation to run a solid roller is greater than ever.

With advances in cylinder head design, modern performance engines make more and more power as the valve lift is increased. Add air-hungry big-inch stroker combinations and bulletproof bottom end parts capable of serious engine speed, and it becomes pretty hard to leave the available power potential on the table. To take advantage of the high-lift flow of modern cylinder heads, you need to actually open the valve deep enough to tap into the flow capacity of the head. This drives lift to a much higher range than what was common on the engines of yesterday. Coping with that high lift, and aggressive, fast-acting lobe designs, as well as the rpm requirements, points to the load-handling capabilities of a solid roller.

Typically, a flat-tappet design is going to be limited in its ability to handle the high valvespring loads demanded of very high lift and rpm, while maintaining valvetrain control. Another option is a hydraulic roller, but for serious high-rpm, big-power applications, these too have definite limitations, especially in rpm capabilities. That leaves the solid roller as the lone option, along with its attendant longevity shortcomings. For many, it is well worth the risk for the power gained. To hedge your bet here, a set of premium roller lifters serves as an insurance policy. Solid roller lifters are definitely not an item you’d want to cut corners on.

We had a chance to review some of the premium solid roller lifters from COMP, Lunati, and Isky, and although each has their unique features, the common theme is to improve durability in any application. Much of the effort comes down to premium materials, as well as improved oiling. If a solid roller is going to be your choice for a street-bound muscle motor, one of these lifters will greatly improve the odds of survival. None of the manufacturers we spoke to implied that an aggressive solid roller would provide OEM durability in a daily driver street application, however, with routine maintenance and inspection, and premium lifters, a solid roller will get the most out of your street bruiser.

Lunati Pressurized Solid Roller Lifters

Lunati’s top-of-the-line solid roller lifters are built with premium materials, including a polished tool steel body, with tool steel axle and wheels. The machining tolerances, rigorous quality control inspection, and heat-treat specifications all add up to a high-quality part. The step up in terms of longevity comes via pressure-fed oiling via a drilling straight from the oil gallery relief, down to the roller wheel and bearings. This ensures a continuous supply of lubricating oil where it is needed most.