How to Install a Performance Camshaft in a Classic Chevrolet Corvette?

Upgrading the engine of a classic Chevrolet Corvette is one of the many hobbies car enthusiasts enjoy. The process can be exciting and rewarding, especially when the end result is a noticeable increase in power and performance. One of the most effective ways of improving your Chevy’s engine performance is by installing a performance camshaft. This upgrade will not only enhance the car’s power but also its speed, fuel system efficiency, and overall driving experience.

However, for anyone unfamiliar with the inner workings of a car’s engine, this may seem like a daunting task. Fear not, as this detailed guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of installing a performance camshaft in a classic Chevrolet Corvette.

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Understand What a Camshaft Does

Before delving into the actual installation process, it’s crucial to have a basic understanding of what a camshaft does. A camshaft is a component of the car’s engine that controls the opening and closing of the valves in the cylinder block. These valves control the flow of air and fuel into the cylinders and the exit of exhaust gases out of them.

The camshaft, by controlling these valves, plays a vital role in the operation of the engine. The cam’s design directly influences the engine’s power and performance.

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Choose the Right Camshaft

Choosing the right camshaft for your Corvette is a critical step. The camshaft you select will depend on how you want your car to behave. If you want a high-performance Chevrolet, then you should go for a camshaft designed for high-speed operations.

When buying a camshaft, take note of its duration and lift. The duration of a cam is the amount of time (in degrees of the crankshaft rotation) that the valve is kept open. The lift of a cam, on the other hand, determines how much the valve will open. A cam with a high duration and lift will offer better performance but may not be suitable for everyday driving.

Preparing for Installation

Before installing the new camshaft, you’ll need to prepare your Corvette’s engine. This process involves draining the engine oil, removing the radiator and fan, disconnecting the fuel system, and taking out the existing camshaft.

Firstly, disconnect the battery and drain the engine oil by placing a pan under the oil pan and removing the plug. Next, remove the radiator and fan to provide you with enough space to work. Be sure to disconnect the hoses and electrical connectors carefully to prevent damage.

The fuel system also needs to be disconnected. This involves removing the fuel pump and disconnecting the fuel lines. After that, you’ll need to remove the front of the engine, including the timing chain and the existing camshaft.

Camshaft Installation

Now you’re ready to install your new performance camshaft. Start by applying engine oil to the camshaft’s lobes to prevent damage during the initial start-up. Insert the camshaft carefully, making sure not to damage the bearings. Align the timing marks on the camshaft and crankshaft, and then install the new timing chain.

Next, install the camshaft sprocket and bolt it onto the camshaft. Remember to apply thread-locking compound to the bolt threads before tightening.

Reassembling Your Corvette’s Engine

With the new camshaft installed, you can begin the process of reassembling the engine. This involves reinstalling the fuel pump, radiator, and fan, and reconnecting the fuel system and the battery. Once everything is back in place, refill the engine with new oil.

Post Installation Process

After successfully installing the camshaft, you’ll need to break in the cam. This involves running the engine at a moderate speed for about 20-30 minutes. This process allows the camshaft and the lifters to mate properly, ensuring optimum performance and longevity.

Remember to check the engine oil level regularly during the break-in process as the engine may consume more oil than usual. Also, keep an eye on the engine temperature to ensure it does not overheat.

Installing a performance camshaft in your classic Chevrolet Corvette can be a rewarding experience. It not only boosts the performance of your car but also gives you an intimate understanding of its workings.

Optimizing Performance with Additional Parts

To further enhance your Chevrolet performance, there are several other performance parts that you can consider installing along with your new camshaft. These additional parts can work in tandem with your camshaft to increase horsepower, torque, and overall engine efficiency.

One of these parts is the performance transmission. A performance transmission is modified to handle the increased power output from the upgraded engine. Depending upon your preferences and driving style, you might want to consider a manual or automatic performance transmission. Note that changing the transmission may require a more advanced mechanical skill set, so you might want to seek professional help if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself.

Another part to consider is upgrading the engine block. You have two options: a small block or big block. The small block engine is lighter and more compact, making it ideal for a balanced blend of speed and handling. However, the big block engine can offer greater power and torque. Keep in mind that a big block engine may not fit in all classic Corvette models, so check the specifications of your car before making a purchase.

Lastly, consider installing matched engine components. Matched engine components are parts that are designed to work together for optimal performance. This typically includes the camshaft, intake manifold, cylinder heads, and carburetor. Remember to fill out the mail rebate form when purchasing Chevrolet parts, as some offers might be valid.

By combining the right performance parts, you can significantly enhance your car’s performance and ensure that you get the most out of your classic Chevrolet Corvette.


Undertaking the task of installing a performance camshaft in a classic Chevrolet Corvette can be a truly rewarding experience for any car enthusiast. Not only does it offer an unprecedented boost in performance, it also provides a deeper understanding of the intricacies of your beloved vehicle.

Remember the importance of understanding the role of a camshaft and the impact of its duration and lift on your car’s behaviour. Prepare well for the installation process by carefully disconnecting and removing necessary parts and components. Pay special attention while installing the new camshaft and during the post-installation process.

Consider the option of adding performance parts, such as a performance transmission, a small or big block engine, and matched engine components. These additional upgrades can amplify the effects of a new camshaft and bring your Corvette’s performance to new heights.

In the end, whether you’re a seasoned car driver or a novice, the satisfaction that comes from successfully enhancing your Corvette’s engine transmission far outweighs the challenges of the process. As you ride your upgraded Corvette, each turn of the key, each rev of the engine, and each mile travelled will serve as a fulfilling testament to your hard work and dedication.

As originally posted on 11/04/2024, to all the Chevrolet Corvette owners and enthusiasts: Keep challenging your skills, keep exploring, and most importantly, enjoy the ride!

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