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I'm kind of stuck here.
As my backwards head gasket ordeal continues, I got the new Edelbrock Performer RPM heads installed, new distributor, new intake. Old carb.
Pushrod length checked and is good.
Rockers are Crower stainless endurance rockers.
Cam is CompCams hydraulic roller.
Valves adjusted to zero+half turn, and then zero+3/4 turn.
Valves are very noisy, sounds like a diesel running.
Pulled valve covers, and surprised how dry they were.
Ran engine briefly with paper towels on top of rockers and got very little oil.
Pulled dist. and spun oil pump. 50PSI at back of block.
Pulled pushrod and put a borescoped down the hole, lifter seems to pump up but spinning the pump with a cordless drill for an entire minute i get just a few drops of oil out of the pushrods.

Any suggestions?

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This is not going to end well. That noise you hear could be wiping the cam lobes off. At this point it appears the engine has to come apart. We installed a 'Nascar built' Cleveland the Pantera customer provided this year. NO oil up top. NONE after 20 seconds. Nascar nothing. It was put together in a shed somewhere. Pulling the pan, the oil pump was hanging on one bolt. An oil galley plug was MIA.

Yes you are correct our oil pressure like yours was 70 psi at the time. Means nothing if the oil isn't getting up top. Oil is fed to the cam bearings and main bearings from the front of the block, lifters are last. Don't run it any more. Put a dial indicator on and measure lift across the board but again, don't run the engine.  It's not going to self correct.

You can look at the location of the oiling ports in the lifters and make sure they are clearing the lifter bore.

Did anyone measure your pistons?

Pull the intake and look at the bottom of the lifters, run a magnet over your oil and cut your filter.

Edit:  That's out of order...  run a magnet over your oil, cut the filter and if you see bad news, check the lifters.

Last edited by plt-1

If those are real Comp lifters, I have nothing to add. But counterfeit chinese lifters are everywhere these days and sometimes the oiling valve inside is MIA. After your few minutes of running  I see a bit of galling just above the wheel- maybe not tool steel but coat-hanger steel? Or just lack of oil? If you do decide on a rebuild by a competent Ford engine shop, send Comp the cam & lifters for a forensic. Sometimes you get lucky and find the whole world is not all bad people.

Someone went overboard on oiling restrictors. You can't get at them without disassembling the block.

They are threaded up into the oil passages rising off of the main bearings.

This is likely a case of "a little knowledge can be dangerous" in the case of this engine "builder"

The damage is likely just limited to what you see on the cam and the lifters now.

The valve train often gets way too much oil anyway.

Pull a couple of rocker arms. Look for oiling issues with them. They are kind of expensive and you don't want them wrecked.

I still say that "roller camshafts" are just not worth it. I stay with solid lifter cams.

The Ford system isn't like the early Chevys that refused to keep the adjustments for long. The Fords maybe need to be checked in the 30,000 mile range presuming that you did it right to begin with.

The Cleveland was never designed for a roller lifter cam. EVERYTHING is adapted to it. The quality of that depends on who designed the adaption and that was not Ford.

Last edited by panteradoug

Thanks guys.
Doug, I'm afraid I don't understand what you're saying about the amount of oil flow I'm getting. Does it look like too much or not enough.

Current thinking based on some advice from trusted builder are to try a set of Howard's hydraulic roller lifters, re-install the pushrods (which probably won't be the right length anymore )and rockers and spin up the oil pump and see if they flow properly to the top of the head. If yes, drive the thing, if no, engine coming out.

Last edited by jmardy

Not enough oil.

There may be (should be) oil restrictors installed in the block for high performance use. They get installed in the oil passages that come from the bottom of the engine.

I haven't done them in a while but the oil passages are either 1/4" or 5/16". Might even be 3/8". Can't exactly remember right now?

Those are over generous and the restrictors, which are allen socket set screws have something like a .100" hole drilled in them.

In addition for "high performance use" it is recommended that lifter sleeves be installed in the block which further reduce oil to the valve train.

In the original Boss 351 with solid lifters, Ford used a special lifter, referred to as the Johnson lifter, with a much smaller oil orifice to reduce the oil to the top end.

There are ALSO oil restrictor push rods with smaller oil passages as well. Having an engine with all of these unknowns is an issue.

Having a "builder" who doesn't know WTF I'm talking about is also a BIG issue.

You use them even if you use lifter sleeves (which I don't see in your video) and the Johnson small orifice solid lifters, so exactly how much oil should get to the valve train, I'm not sure?

Now since I don't use them, I don't know what you do with a hydraulic roller lifter but I'm thinking that oil restrictors down below may be wrong to do with any hydraulic lifter because that design relies on a quantity of oil to operate properly?

So there could in fact be a contradiction here with a hydraulic lifter cam intended for high performance use in a Cleveland block?

You are getting nothing to the rocker arms? You need to talk to the cam tech guy but I wouldn't count on them to know what a Cleveland needs, but they should know the amount of oil the lifter needs.

Your engine needs serious help. There are specific items of knowledge that are necessary for building a Cleveland. Some things cross over from the Chevys but many don't.

The problem with dealing with Chevy guys is they think they know everything about everything which is the farthest thing from the truth.

Unfortunately they don't even know what they don't know.

Thanks Doug. I think I already know the answer to this but should I cut my losses (?) and pull the engine and have someone who actually knows what they're doing build it?

Really sucks to spend what I spent on this car that was sold as 100% perfect, restored and rebuilt to find all these problems after driving the car a couple times. I bought it in July and drove it a couple times before the head gasket problem became evident. It's been downhill ever since.

Wow! I forgot about the head gasket?

I know what I would do. I would pull out the engine and disassemble the bottom end for inspection.

Even so if that is over your head, you may not need anything new but gaskets. Last time I was involved in something like this, the engine shop wanted 1500 to go through it for labor.

I agree with Sharky. It won't correct itself. The lifters should look new and they are showing signs of galling.

I think that the only solution is obvious but it's your call.

Many of us here understand disappointment and frustration. We are not trying to spend your money for you.

I would want to see what the main and rod journals and bearings look like with any kind of an oiling issue.

This could be a very small fix but it's best to pull the engine and put it up on a stand and do a thourough exam. Otherwise you will always be waiting for a major failure whenever you drive it.

These engines are not fragile primadonnas. They just need to be assembled right with the correct parts.

Before you decide, call Compcams. Explain what you think is an issue and send them the pictures and videos.

Ask THEM if they recommend oil restrictors with that set up.

I have to agree with Doug. It's just too hard to get to the bottom of something like this with the engine in the car. Hopefully, you'll find something obvious. At least you'll have a better idea of what you're dealing with. Then you'll need to decide whether to proceed on your own or send it to a reputable engine builder.  If you decide to hire an engine builder, just make sure you use one with 351C specific knowledge. That isn't as easy as it sounds.

Look at the bright side; now you can remove your gas tank and have a bung welded to the top for a future return line!

JC, a 'crate engine' off the Web will very likely be a 351-W, not the original Cleveland, since rebuildable 351-Cs are in very short supply these days. Swapping in a Windsor might open up a fresh can of trouble with things not bolting up right. I vote for reworking what you have whether you do it or someone else. As Doug said, ALL these engines have their specific quirks and knowledge doesn't translate one to another.

I haven't completely given up. There are 2 reviews on Summit about these lifters that mention no oil flow.
So I re-installed the lifters, pushrods and rockers and with an 850rpm corded drill this time, here's the flow I'm getting with one lifter removed (oil is Royal Purple, it's not dirty):

And one removed from other side (note crank position causing less flow but residual pressure):

Thinking about trying some other retrofit lifters such as Howards 91260...

With the limited info here and being remote it’s difficult to diagnose. Keep in mind that upper end oiling is not only for lube, it also cools the value springs.

While developing one of our race engines we experienced value spring issues. The engine had titanium valves, shaft rockers and solid roller lifters. The geometry was quite good. We suspected insufficient upper end oiling. We had adequate pushrod hole area and the rocker oiling was correct. We suspected that it was a lifter issue. The lifter manufacturer insisted they were not the problem. After a couple of valve spring failures and a DNF, ultimately I insisted that we change something to increase upper end oiling. At first I was going to add valve spring oiler jets to the valve covers. While discussing the plan with the lifter-cam manufacturer he suggested that we machine a flat on the side of the lifters from the hole to the relief. That created direct oiling to the rocker. Problem solved. I never had a valve spring problem again with that engine program.

From your videos it looks like you are getting plenty of oil around the lifters but not enough at the top end but that’s just my guess. I had more upper end oiling at low engine speed than you show before I increase it to fix my problem.

The noisy top end could be a combo of not enough oiling and geometry or something else.

Keep very detailed records of your tests, JM. All the major lifter mfgrs have several models of rather similar lifters, often made in different countries to various designs, made from different spec steels & selling for different prices. Your very question has been driving established pro engine shops nuts for over a decade. And once we get definitive answers, it seems like someone goes bankrupt or there's a death or a 'merger' and we start over. I suspect Ford went to OHC decades ago for exactly this reason.

It eventually boils down to cost vs price. Someone recently said, 'racing runs on money, not on driver skill or horsepower'. That's true in the speed industry as well. Not trying to discourage your effort but you're not alone; realize the supplier you order your lifters from has the exact same problem. They literally cannot always get the same product twice in a row from big manufacturers, despite spending many thousands of dollars per year with them. And counterfeiters are everywhere. Some have fooled NASA with substandard parts that cost our space program millions. There are entire factories in the far-east that duplicate iconic shipping boxes and brand labels, to order!

There are only 2 (maybe 3) blank camshaft makers in the U.S. Guess how many specialize in the now-52-yr-old 351-C?  EXAMPLE: mfgrs are advised of a 'break-through' in heat treating that allows them to do something desirable cheaper/quicker/better and under pressure from their stockholders, quietly change their product but not its p/n. End users slowly find while it once 'cured cancer', now the magic only works on Chevy cams but not Ford, or in iron blocks but not aluminum, or it depends on a particular oil or additive that itself regularly changes without notice due to constant gov't (pollution) decree.

Join <> (free- only takes seconds). Like the DeTomaso forums, this is a series of engine builder forums populated by tech-reps from major cam grinders, piston mfgrs, NASCAR race engineers and pro engine builders as well as one-motor-per-year street builders like you and I. Some are in Germany, Sweden or England. Drag racers, roadracers, motorcycle builders- all have questions. Lurkers are welcome. Many of the guys on the forums participate in yearly public dynomometer 'engine master' contests that are reprinted in popular magazines. At least two regular posters are judges of such contests.

These forums also post pertinate engine news and have enormous archival sources for new people (and pros) to ask questions and get real answers. I get many of my own tech answers here; sometimes I find there really IS no answer. But all us go-fasters still have hopes for doing better tomorrow. Good luck.

Somewhat to what bosswrench said it's probably a good idea to verify that all the valve-train parts are designed to work together and are correct for that engine so enough oil is passed from the block to the lifters, to the push-rods and ultimately to the rockers. A little too much oil to the upper end in a street engine with enough drainage is harmless, not enough is.

Hi guys. A little update on my very slow progress.
I ordered and received the Howard's 91168 link bar lifters.
The oil port in Howard's is lower than the ones in the Comp lifters and based on some (crude?) measurements I took, they weren't engaging the oil galley all the time. The Howard's do.
I installed them (with yet another set of $180 pushrods). Set lifter preload and spun the pump. Got very nice oil flow out 15 lifters, a full puddle in the top of the rockers and fast dripping or steady stream down the valve springs out of all but one. Moved suspect lifter to different bore. Problem followed the lifter. Called Howard's and they said to try a new one, so I've ordered a pair of replacements.
Now, more waiting.

Oh, I also did a leakdown test and was amazed how good it was. All 8 at the edge of green (on the good side).
So I'm encouraged, and anxious.
And really, really want to drive my new car!


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Last edited by jmardy

modern hyd-rollers don't seem to care for the heavy syrup but if you can find a 20-50 with a cSt of 15 or less it'll work. it's no secret the industry has been moving toward lighter grade more importantly more easily flowing oils for decades. it should come as no surprise that the lifter manufacturers have answered the OEM's demand for lifters that work with their lighter thinner more easily flowing oils for better performance and fuel economy.

as George might say, Not Your Grandfather's Hydraulic Lifter

Last edited by 4vandproud

I'd say that all the components need to be matched to the application, including the oil.

In an engine that came originally with a 20-50 oil from Ford (Boss 351) and a recommended fully grooved maim bearing, mixing a lower viscosity oil better be right on.

There still are little quirkies unique pretty much to a performance Cleveland and a Chevy knowledge basis is just a starting point.

Lower viscosity oils are a result of manufacturers needing to increase their fleet fuel averages as are hydraulic roller lifters since in the volumes they build in, every little bit helps.

However just like in translating a word from one language to another, sometimes "things get lost in translation".

I personally would be concerned with running just a 10-30 in a Cleveland. Forget about anything thinner.

If that's a conflict with the lifters, go to a different product. It's not compatible.

Getting 99 out of a 100 right isn't enough.

As has been the case before, one problem was masking another. Yes, the oil flow through the original lifters was sub-optimal, I did test with 10w-30 and saw no noticeable improvement.

But the real problem was the pistons hitting the heads.
Lots of lessons learned here. Had I known to clay your pistons with your new heads, it would have saved me a LOT of time, money and effort. I believed the logo on the box that said "Bolt on and Go".

Fortunately I did have the original 4V iron heads reworked by the (good) machine shop - though at a staggering cost. So those go back on and we'll see how it goes.

And this all started with a backwards head gasket.



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Last edited by jmardy

You are stating a new issue here that (I have to review your previous posts) I haven't heard before.

Pistons hitting the heads are caused by to high of a piston height. From memory, you need a minimum of .020" clearance between the top of the piston and the cylinder head surface.

Sure, that gets checked with clay and then adjusted with head gasket thicknesses. There is a selection of head gaskets available that will fix the issue.

The only "problem" with thickening the head gasket is you are reducing the nominal compression ratio.

Unless you are building an all out race engine, that's not an issue.

You are at most dropping the actual c/r .5.

All manufacturers use an "advertised" compression ratio and I know of NO engines that actually measure what they are advertised at.

An advertised (from Ford) 351 with a 10.5:1 will never measure out to that. It's more like 9.8:1. Now in the "olden days" right after Noah's Arch landed from the flood, we used "shim head gaskets" (thinner then stock) to raised the c/r about .5. That is provided you had the .020" clearance between the pistons and heads. That's how much the connecting rods stretch while running.

I just did this on my 347 with AFR heads. We had to shave the heads .025" to get the chambers to 54cc's and use a thin head gasket. That resulted in this case with a .023" clearance (few...close but clear!) and an actual measure 9.8:1 so that's good with pump premium.

I still have some clay. Want some? You can actually do it with a feeler gauge measuring how far down in the hole the piston is.

Last edited by panteradoug

Thanks @panteradoug. Definitely a new issue and just discovered yesterday.
My original problem was misdiagnosed. It's been a learning experience for me - I guess I know just enough to be dangerous.
I didn't realize (or think to check) that the pistons were proud of the deck.
It's obvious to me now...
I was asked at one point if they were domed or flat and I said "flat", because to me, a domed piston to me looks like this:
Ross Pistons 86062R - Ross Racing Forged Pistons
Here is #5 at TDC:



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@jmardy posted:

Thanks @panteradoug. Definitely a new issue and just discovered yesterday.
My original problem was misdiagnosed. It's been a learning experience for me - I guess I know just enough to be dangerous.
I didn't realize (or think to check) that the pistons were proud of the deck.
It's obvious to me now...
I was asked at one point if they were domed or flat and I said "flat", because to me, a domed piston to me looks like this:
Ross Pistons 86062R - Ross Racing Forged Pistons
Here is #5 at TDC:


The dome is designed to fit into the combustion chamber so that isn't normally relevant.

You take the depth measurement where the flat of the piston is at the edge in relation to the top of the bore. That can be measured with a feeler gauge. Now the pistons normally rock in the bore so the best place to do that if you can would be at the center line of the piston directly above the pin.

If you can't there then you can average the front and the back.

MJ will probably tell you to use a depth gauge with a dial indicator but that isn't necessary unless you positively have to be within .001" because everything is that close.

Looking at that pic it looks like you have zero clearance. Did that block get decked?

Even if the piston is above the block, all isn't lost there though. Even IF you are at plus (above the block) you can space the head up with a thicker head gasket. As long as it's less the .010". Stock, the gasket is probably .035 which would give you enough clearance. That's even a Felpro which is an inexpensive gasket.

This wasn't a mistake by the builder. He just set it up differently and you missed it when you changed the heads and gaskets.

Here's the thing though. You need to plastic gauge the rod bearings because it's possible you pounded them with the pistons hitting the heads. It's best to know that now rather then throw a rod because of crunched bearings.

Do all of the pistons have that mark on the edge of the point of the dome? Are any of the spark plug electrodes pushed closed? If they are and the plugs weren't indexed, those marks could be from the plug electrodes...maybe.

I'd expect any kind of a dome to have a fire slot machined in it for the spark plug. Look at the first picture you posted. See the notch for the plug?

Relax. This will all work out. You are just learning via the school of hard knocks and you'll be smarter AND wiser.

Last edited by panteradoug

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