The least expensive swap is to grab a used roller cam, followers and lifters from a 1989-92 Ranger or 91 and up Mustang if you have a hydraulic cam. The Ranger cam provides very good low end torque starting at 800 rpm and up to about 4500 rpm.
Ranger Roller Cam
Inexpensive Hot Cam Setup
Looking at the cam and rocker arm (cam follower) specs, there's basically 3 versions:
Stock Roller Camshaft Pattern
Lobe Center Separation: 112 deg Intake @ 0.050: - Open: 14.5 deg BTDC - Centerline: 108 deg - Closed: 21.5 ABDC - Duration: 187 deg Intake @ 0.00 lift: - Duration: 248 deg - Lift: 0.390" Exhaust @ 0.050: - Open: 30.5 deg BBDC - Centerline: 116 deg - Closed: 21.5 ATDC - Duration: 189 deg Exhaust @ 0.00 lift: - Duration: 250 deg - Lift: 0.390"
It Gets Interesting!
The hot setup is to use a 95+ Rocker Arm (1.86" ratio) with a 89-94 Roller Cam (0.2381" lobe lift). This will give you a valve lift of 0.443" which is pretty dam hot! If you have an 89-94 2.3L, you will have to widen the valve stem ends (0.2750") of the 95+ rockers to fit the 0.343" valve stems.
Ranger Roller Rocker - arrow points to valve stem end (underneath).
Bottom View: end needs to be widened for the wider valve stems of the 89-94 engines.
If you have a 95+ (94+ in Calif) 2.3L engine, it may not be just as easy to replace your cam with a 89-94 roller cam as the 95+ cam has a position sensor. Maybe someone with a picture of the 95+ cam can send one in so we can check the differences?
I had a chance to hit the wreckers and picked up a set of eight 1997 rockers for $16! I've just measured the rockers and they have a clearance of 0.010" (measured 0.285") over the valve stem (0.275"). It looks like you need to widen them to 0.343" to fit the 94 and earlier engines. 0.343" - 0.285" = 0.058" overall which is 0.029" each side.
I did some calculations and figured that changing to the higher ratio rockers will increase the duration of the intake and exhaust by 4 degree overall (2 degrees for the rise and 2 for the fall). The overlap will decrease proportionally by 4 degrees. Putting the new cam specs into DynoSim (engine simulator), it comes out to about 12 hp increase at 4500 rpm and 10 ftlb of torque. Can't wait to find the time to swap in the higher ratio rockers!
Pre 95 Roller Cam with 95+ 1.86 rockers compared to stock 1.64 rockers.
Note: With any cam/lifter upgrade, you should check for piston to valve clearance and for valve spring bind at full lift. I don't expect any clearance problems but it is always good to check.
Otherwise there's a lot of cams available for the hydraulic lifter but very little performance cams for the roller cam. Pretty much all of the other roller performance cams trade low end torque for high end power and start working above 3000 rpm which is okay for racing but sucks for daily driving street use.
For performance cams, I did find that Crane Cams makes a good series of Powermax performance cams for the 88 to 98 2.3l with my choice being the #199501 for street/strip:
Here's a performance roller cam from the Ford Motorsports catalog:M-6250-A237 for a decent price of $275. Unfortunately has been out of stock for the past 5 years. Some aftermarket suppliers carry similar cam grinds (0.420" lift) but they are around US$450 each.
Advancing the camshaft timing - Advancing or retarding the camshaft timing in relation to the crankshaft will change the power curve range on your engine. You can dial in the performance depending on your application. I finally installed an adjustable cam gear and put it at 6 degree advance. Very nice improvement in the bottom end!
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