A camshaft is probably the best valve train modification for increased horsepower. Choosing the right cam for the Chevy owner with a small-block engine comes down to the type of application and operating characteristics.
I’ve lined up the best cams for small block Chevy with long exhaust duration and optimum overlap. Now, you can pick from hard-hitters to those that idle smoothly for various purposes.
Read on to find out the top industry picks.
Table of Contents
Best SBC Cams Comparison Chart
|Model||RPM Operating Range||Torque Curve||Lobe Separation Angle||Duration||Lifter Types (Flat or Roller) (Hydraulic or Solid)||Compatibility||Perfect Choice for (Street, Truck, Sound, etc.)||Action|
COMP Cams 12-242-2
|1,600 – 5,800 RPM||Broad||110°||224° Intake 230° Exhaust (at .050”)||Hydraulic Flat||Chevrolet 262-400 (1958-1998)||Street||Check Price
COMP Cams CL12-212-2
|2,000 – 6,000 RPM||Broad||110°||230° Intake 230° Exhaust (at .050”)||Hydraulic Flat||Chevrolet 262-400 (1958-1998)||Street, Street/Strip||Check Price
COMP Cams 12-600-8
|1,900 – 5600 RPM||Broad||107°||227° Intake 241° Exhaust (at .050”)||Hydraulic Roller||Vehicle-specific||High-performance street & heavy exhaust sound||Check Price
Stock Cam & Lifter Kit
|1,500 to 4,000||Broad||112°||202° Intake 269° Exhaust (advertised)||Hydraulic Flat||Stock Chevy 350||Street, & Light towing||Check Price
Monroe 58654 Rear Shocks
|2,000 – 5,800 RPM||Broad||107°||227° Intake 241° Exhaust||Hydraulic Flat||262 – 400 ci. SBC||Racy exhaust||Check Price
Monroe 58654 Rear Shocks
|2,200 – 6,100 RPM||Broad||107°||235° Intake 249° Exhaust||Hydraulic Flat||262 – 400 ci. SBC||Street & rough idle||Check Price
Monroe 58654 Rear Shocks
|2,500 – 6,400 RPM||Broad||107°||243° Intake 257° Exhaust||Hydraulic Flat||262 – 400 ci. SBC||Street, muscle cars, drag race cars, & heavy exhaust sound||Check Price
Monroe 58654 Rear Shocks
|2,500 – 6,800||Specific||108°||232° Intake||Hydraulic Flat||1957 – 1987 SBC||High-performance street and Racing||Check Price
Best Cams for Small Block Chevy
1. COMP Cams 12-242-2 Xtreme Energy 224/230 Hydraulic Flat Cam
COMP Cams 12-242-2 Xtreme Energy is the ideal pick for street performance vehicles. It boasts the latest cam technology with quicker opening lobe profiles that increase responsiveness. The aggressive lobe profile also provides excellent top-end horsepower and throttle response.
This cam has its torque curve and peak power in the 1,600 to 5,800 RPM range. While you won’t miss the high side of 5,500 RPM, this cam’s more vacuum offers a step up in duration without sacrificing creature comforts or drivability.
COMP Cams 12-242-2 also delivers adequate vacuum for the power brakes and accessories. You may want to pair it with lower gear ratios, aftermarket intake manifolds, headers, and free-flowing exhaust. These parts allow it to breathe well since it can handle more airflow.
Being a hydraulic flat cam, you’ll like that it does not suffer from slow acceleration off its seat, but the trade-off is slower ramp acceleration. Nonetheless, the overlap is less due to the duration and 110° lobe separation, so it will not result in a rumpy-rump-rump idle.
The hydraulic mechanism and the low RPM range are good combinations that prevent insufficient spring control and deflection in the valvetrain, among other instabilities. Overall, it’s an excellent option for a stock 350, and it produces just enough horsepower for the street runner.
- Smooth idle
- Offered in four variations
- Good for daily use
- Sufficient vacuum for braking
- Smooth power and response
- No assembly lubricant
- Isolated complaint about receiving a used cam
Grab the COMP Cams 12-242-2 Xtreme Energy cam for high-powered open-road service. According to its intended street use, this cam ticks all the right boxes regarding duration, LSA, and hydraulic mechanism.
Read more: SBC BBC V6 Chevy Engines Specs and Sizes
2. COMP Cams CL12-212-12 Magnum 224/224 Hydraulic Flat Cam
Here’s another cam for street performance, but it’s made to operate at higher RPMs. The COMP Cams CL12-212-12 Magnum boasts 230/230 durations at .050 inches. The wide 110 degrees lobe separation angle means that the intake and exhaust open later, so the cam does not exhibit a nasty idle with more lope.
Thanks to the high RPM range between 2,000 and 6,000 RPM, the Magnum CL12-212-2 is easy on the valve train parts. You can also use it with conventional performance valve springs and mild ratio rocker arms. It needs at least 9.5:1 compression available in most Gen 1 small-block Chevys.
Nevertheless, this hydraulic flat cam idles rough and sometimes affects power accessories. It is the largest cam you can use with air conditioning and power-assisted brakes. In addition, it needs a 2500-stall converter, but a 3000 is recommended. Most stock components are incompatible, so you’ll also need headers and rear end gear ratios.
When using it in the Chevy small-block engine, you need to add a vacuum canister because of your power accessories. Otherwise, this cam can hit the race tracks on weekends or be driven heavily on the street.
- Perfect for street machines
- Adds up to 48 hp and 20 lb.-ft torque
- Broad, usable power curve
- Aggressive profile for max top-end performance
- Includes with a lifter kit
- Only a tiny amount of lube in the package
- low ramp rates for casual races
COMP Cams CL12-212-12 Magnum is for those that want a beast of a car without worrying about getting beat at a traffic light. It gives you street-ability while also providing you more power to punch it on the weekends.
3. COMP Cams 12-600-8 Thumpr 227/241 Hydraulic Roller Cam
From the Thumpr line, you will like the COMP Cams 12-600-8 if you want authentic high-performance engine sound. The lobe separation on this cam is tighter to create more overlap between the intake and exhaust vents; thus, you get the cool performance sound.
This cam is a hydraulic roller type that you can use in an engine that originally used a flat tappet camshaft. It delivers considerable power increase over identical hydraulic flat tappet cams. All the while, it does not compromise ease of maintenance or reliability.
This cam boasts a comfortable low-end response with the lobe separation at 107 degrees and the intake centerline at 102 degrees. At the same time, the early opening of the exhaust and long exhaust duration provide significant gains in torque and horsepower.
This cam operates at the 1,900 to 5,600 RPM range. This range allows you to enhance the power and the torque at the highest. It’s designed to work at a high compression ratio of 9:1 to eliminate the chance of incomplete combustion, which means that you’ll need less fuel than you did to cover the same number of miles.
The COMP Cams 12-600-8 offers a 0.511/0.497 valve lift which comes in handy to help the engine get a rich air supply. It helps your exhaust get loud as it boosts your engine needs.
- Produces good power and torque
- High-performance sound
- Wild camshaft idle
- Opens valves for longer
- Costly than flat-tappet configuration cams
- Lumpy idle is not for everyone
COMP Cams 12-600-8 is an excellent pick for tremendous high-performance sound. It’s rated for street/strip applications, and the hard-hitting exhaust note is sure to turn heads whenever you punch it.
4. Guardian Engine Kits Stock Cam & Lifter Kit
This stock cam and lifter kit by Guardian Engine Kits is an excellent OEM replacement option for the 1968 to 1979 Chevrolet. It is compatible with 283, 305, 327, 350, and 400 engines with either Elgin E-274S or Melling CCS-2 stock camshaft and Elgin HL-1817S lifters.
The cam matches your engine requirements, including the economy, horsepower, and torque. It is precision-engineered to provide the perfect fit and function on top of construction from high-grade materials for consistent durability.
A wide lobe separation of 112 degrees offers a smooth idle for everyday driving. In addition, it has an exhaust valve lift of 0.409 inches and an intake valve lift of 0.390 inches. More air enters the engine, and it can also burn fuel more efficiently. The result is power and torque gains over your stock numbers.
This cam enhances the torque and horsepower in the 1,500 to 4,000 RPM range. Combined with the excellent fuel economy, it makes for a good cam to add to a light-towing truck. Not to mention, it has quick-opening lobes that improve responsiveness, especially when hauling.
- Excellent street and towing performance
- Considerably cheaper than most OEM replacements
- Increases horsepower output
- Reduces acceleration delay
- Only a small number of compatible engines
- Lubricant is runny instead of a thick paste
The Guardian Engine Kits Stock Cam & Lifter Kit is a quality cam ideal for trucks that perform light towing. With a good high flowing intake and exhaust, you can be sure of a smooth drive plus increased torque and power to a considerable level.
5. COMP Cams K12-600-4 Thumpr 227/241 Hydraulic Flat Cam
Looking for a simple to install cam for a big cam sound? It’s got to be the COMP Cams K12-600-4 Thumpr 227/241 Hydraulic Flat Cam. You can already tell that being a Thumpr, it’s a heavy hitter that will give you a rich exhaust sound.
This model is a hydraulic flat cam that’s easy on the valve train parts. It employs a long exhaust duration, early intake valve opening, and plentiful exhaust and intake overlap similar to sports and endurance cars. This design, again, contributes to the all-out exhaust note.
COMP Cams K12-600-4 works best with more rear gear and aftermarket converters for best performance. In particular, you’ll need to grab a 2000+ converter to allow the engine to convert more power at the operating range of 2,000 to 5,800 RPM. Additionally, it issues a choppy idle, making the engine sound like a race car.
You will like the 107° lobe separation angle since it improves airflow, increasing the horsepower and torque. Plus, the 0.497″/0.465″ valve lift is reasonably good. The kit includes all the relevant installation pieces for fast and easy installation.
Given that this camshaft is not overly expensive and comes with the lifters, you won’t be going back to the store for anything.
- Saves on fuel
- Broad compatibility for SBC engines
- Choppy idle similar to a race car
- Includes a lifter kit
- Dyno-matched with heads and intake
- Lifters vary in durability
- Not a great option for low-end torque
For the guy or gal who wants maximum horsepower, torque, and thumping engine sound, you’ll like the COMP Cams K12-600-4 cam. This model makes your engine sound meaner than its capacity earning you a place alongside drag racers.
6. COMP Cams 12-601-4 Mutha’ Thumpr 235/249 Hydraulic Flat Cam
Give your engine a muscular sound that’s meaner than ever with the COMP Cams 12-601-4 Mutha’ Thumpr. This cam boasts a long exhaust duration and early exhaust valve opening to maximize the rough idle. Its high intake and exhaust overlap contributes to the racy exhaust note without negatively impacting your power output and street-ability.
Expect high horsepower gains since it engages the valves for a long time. The cam also delivers a broad torque curve to boost your motor’s needs. Furthermore, it has a high torque range from 2,200 to 6,100 RPM. These specs provide excellent everyday drivability, and the cam can also be of use in street rods and muscle cars.
COMP Cams 12-601-4 Mutha’ Thumpr requires a 2,500+ stall converter, 9:1 compression, aftermarket intake, headers, and gears. The 107 degrees lobe separation allows your engine to perform well in the upper Rev range. COMP Cams 12-601-4 Mutha’ Thumpr also uses its superior cylinder to ensure solid and stable airflow between cams.
This cam offers a 0.489″/0.476″ valve lift to provide lots of air supply to the engine. Again, this set-up allows proper combustion resulting in better fuel economy.
- Works with high performance 2,500+ converters
- High RPM range 2,200 – 6,100
- Manufactured in the USA
- Long exhaust duration and early intake valve opening
- Operates at a high compression
- Requires vacuum canister
- Needs high idle
Get all the positives of a big cam without massive power gains to keep your vehicle on the street. The COMP Cams 12-601-4 Mutha’ Thumpr gives you better fuel economy and a boost in power and torque at an affordable price.
7. COMP Cams 12-602-4 Big Mutha’ Thumpr 243/257 Hydraulic Flat Cam
For the fan of a rough idle, and aggressive sound, you will like the COMP Cams 12-602-4 Big Mutha’ Thumpr. All you need is to combine this cam with the right muffler and carburetor, and you have a part to beat in your muscle or drag race car.
This cam’s RPM reaches 6,400, greatly improving your engine’s horsepower. It does not suffer from incomplete combustion thanks to its 9.5:1 compression ratio. Furthermore, it has a wide lobe separation at 107 degrees to provide ample room for fuel intake. The cam extends the exhaust’s duration to prevent detonation in the low-to-mid-range.
The actual duration at .050″ measures 243/257, which is preferable. Further, the valve lift is 0.5″/0.486 to provide lots of air supply and cleaner combustion. You will be driving further with this cam than you would on your stock parts.
Nevertheless, this cam requires a 2,800+ stall converter, gears, headers, and intake. Also, include valve springs that can handle the lift since your stock springs probably won’t take the increased output.
Meanwhile, you can expect a noticeable increase in your car’s horsepower and torque once you install this cam. It also provides extended durability owing to its cast-iron construction, and hence, it can take on a beating even in long races.
- Available as a kit with lifters
- Impressive value for money
- No incomplete combustion
- Increases torque curve and horsepower
- Good fuel intake
- Needs high vacuum pressure canister
- Faulty lifters in some kits
COMP Cams 12-602-4 Big Mutha’ Thumpr means improved performance and incredible RPM range for street and muscle cars. The cam enjoys broad compatibility, so it’s likely the right size for any small-block Chevy.
8. Isky Racing Cams CL201281
The Isky Racing Cams CL201281 is from Isky’s Mega-Cam line, producing more power over a broad RPM range. It’s a multi-purpose cam that boosts power and torque for fast starts at the race tracks and maintains street drivability.
Isky Racing Cams CL201281 has a billet-iron construction for outstanding durability. In addition, the hydraulic flat tappet cams are super-finished and flame-hardened, plus it utilizes Parko Lubrite coating for long life. Therefore, it is water, heat, and weather-resistant.
This cam’s basic operating RPM is in the 2,500 to 6,800 RPM range. It’s a middling range but still a good choice for race tracks. Moreover, its duration at 0.50″ stands at 232/232, making it highly functional for smooth operation.
This flat tappet cam has its valve lift at 0.485 inches for ample air supply, allowing consistent cam rotation. Further, this cam does not lose any compression; hence you’ll never experience interference in the air to fuel ratio. It’s a thrill once you install it.
- Durable construction
- Ideal for performance-oriented street and drag racers
- High-grade cast-iron billets
- Latest technology features
- Not compatible with computer control
- Most accompanying components need buying separately
High stability is inherent in the Isky Racing Cams CL201281 for race cars. It’s a great racing companion to reach the end in minimum time, but it still meets the needs of the street driver. You can’t go wrong if you want efficiency over effectiveness.
COMP Cams CL12-212-2 – Best Street Cam for Small Block Chevy
COMP Cams CL12-212-2
Top-notch performance and an excellent design give you a tremendous cam for high-street performance and weekend racing power. You get to increase your engine’s performance on a budget with the COMP Cams CL12-212-2.
COMP Cams 12-600-8 – Best Roller Cam for Chevy Small Block
Comp Cams 12-600-8
Enjoy increased tappet velocity with this cam. It equates to more horsepower and an aggressive ramp rate while offering durable performance.
Stock Cam & Lifter Kit – Best Cam for Stock 350 Chevy
Stock Cam & Lifter Kit
Don’t go mixing and matching parts while you can get an exact fit for your Chevy 350 in this Stock Cam & Lifter Kit.
COMP Cams 12-242-2 – Best Cam for Chevy 350 4×4
COMP Cams 12-242-2
Have a Chevy 4×4; you bet it will benefit from more lift and duration with this cam. This hydraulic cam requires minimum engine disassembly to enhance power significantly.
COMP Cams 12-600-4 – Best Sounding SBC Camshaft
COMP Cams K12-600-4
You’d be forgiven to think it’s a roller, but the COMP Cams 12-600-4 hydraulic flat design has a mean idle that doesn’t beg for attention. It’s sound rules; that’s all!
COMP Cams 12-601-4 – Best SBC Cam for Low-End Torque
COMP Cams 12-601-4
Access more engine power on a lower gear with the COMP Cams 12-601-4. Relax behind the wheel and say goodbye to constant downshifting when accelerating from a low speed.