What did it take to be a successful bootlegger during Prohibition? A quick trip in the Way-Back machine reveals the three most important elements required to successfully run shine, the first of which was swagger. Roaring through the backwoods at full throttle with lights and sirens in hot pursuit was not for the faint of heart. A successful run took talent behind the wheel, but it was the attitude that put a bootlegger there in the first place.
Even the most steely-eyed moonshiner needed the right car, something with a cavernous trunk capable of swallowing endless cases of liquid refreshment. Introduced in 1920, the 18th Amendment covered the manufacturing, sale, and transportation, but stopped short of making the consumption of alcohol illegal. A trunk full of hooch made for lots of happy customers.
The third and final element was performance. The extra weight of the combustible cargo required plenty of power to keep one step ahead of the boys in blue. Back then, a bootlegger’s secret weapon came delivered in a long wooden box, and no, it wasn’t a Tommy Gun.
Just as true today as it was back in the day, the camshaft is the heart and soul of any performance engine. The cam determines not just the respective power and torque curves, but the overall attitude of the engine. For many, the sound that accompanies the power is every bit as important as the power that accompanies the sound. Recognizing the fact that any engine will benefit from an attitude adjustment, Lunati recently introduced the new Bootlegger series of cams. According to Lunati, the new series was designed for hot rodders that play by their own set of rules. More than just a cool name (the cams come wrapped in faux wooden box no less), the Bootlegger bumpsticks are attitude wrapped in technology. The modern lobe designs allow the Bootlegger series to provide all that glorious muscle-car sound with enhanced power and driveability. That the cams were offered in hydraulic flat tappet and hydraulic roller configurations meant installation and adjustment was an easy, set-it-and-forget-it affair. The only time you should be lifting the hood is to show off the engine.
How does the Bootlegger cam simultaneously offer the power, driveability and aural gratification, you ask? The answer is technology. Cam technology has come a long way since the Duntov 30-30s of yesteryear, to say nothing of those cams that came delivered to bootleggers in wooden boxes. Starting from the already powerful Voodoo cam lineup, the Bootlegger grinds combined faster opening rates with controlled closing rates and a tight 108-degree lobe separation angle (and 104-degree intake centerline) to maximize area under the lift curve. It is average and not peak lift that is responsible for power production.
Of course you still have to choose the right Bootlegger cam for the intended application, which is what we did for our Bootlegger 383 stroker. Since the late-model Chevrolet Performance stroker short-block was destined to run as a daily driver, we chose the mildest of the hydraulic roller grinds available. The XXX12224HRK cam kit offered 0.554-inch lift, a 224/236-degree duration, and powerful 108-degree lobe separation angle. Wilder cam profiles were available but this mild hydraulic roller seemed ideal for our daily driven stroker buildup.
We also needed other components to complete the buildup. The cam kit included hydraulic roller lifters, a double roller timing chain, and even valvespring upgrade to go with the high-lift Bootlegger cam. These components were combined with a complete Holley induction system that included aluminum heads, a dual-plane intake, and Ultra Street HP carburetor. The Holley SysteMax II heads featured 184cc intake ports, 68cc combustion chambers, and a 2.02/1.60 valve package making them ideal for our mild street stroker.
Topping off the heads was a dual-plane Street Dominator intake designed to optimize power production below 6,000 rpm. Feeding the Bootlegger cam, Holley heads, and intake was a Holley 650 Ultra Street HP carburetor. Sure, a 750 cfm carb might make a few extra ponies, but we liked the response and power production of the 650 on this application. It is important for the cam, heads, and intake to all work together to optimize power production in the same rpm range.
With our heads, cam, and induction system in place, we finished off the Bootlegger 383 with an MSD billet distributor, 1.5-ratio roller rockers, and five quarts of Driven 30W break-in oil. After running through a pair of computer-controlled break-in cycles, we changed the oil and proceeded with timing and jet changes.
After the minor tuning session, the Bootlegger 383 produced peak numbers of 439 hp at 5,800 rpm and 469 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm. At idle the Bootlegger 383 rumbled with just the right amount of old-school attitude and the extra exhaust duration made itself known as the engine roared toward the power peak at full song.
The broad torque curve exceeded 450 lb-ft from 3,300 rpm to 4,800, dipping slightly to 445 lb-ft down at our starting point of 3,000 rpm. This was one dog whose bite will back up the bark. For this Bootlegger 383, our cam selection was spot on, as the engine will spend much more of its life in the low and middle portion of the meaty torque curve than revved up to redline. If you are looking to give your Chevy an attitude adjustment, check out the new Bootlegger cams from Lunati.
01. Lunati’s new Bootlegger cams—we’ll drink to that!
02. The buildup of the Bootlegger 383 started with a solid foundation in the form of a Chevrolet Performance stroker short-block. Equipped with a 4.0-inch bore and 3.8-inch stroke, the 383 was equipped with dished pistons that offered a static compression ratio of 9.6:1.
03. The highlight of the buildup was obviously the new Bootlegger cam from Lunati. We liked the trick wood-look box that mimicked the wooden shipping boxes used back in the day.
04. After applying plenty of assembly lube, Westech’s Steve Brule installed the Bootlegger cam in the awaiting short-block. Designed for a performance street application, the hydraulic roller cam offered 0.554-inch lift, a 224/236-degree duration split, and tight 108-degree LSA.
05. Lunati supplied a complete kit with the cam that included a multi-index, double roller timing chain.
06. Lunati offered the Bootlegger cams in hydraulic flat tappet, retro fit, and standard hydraulic roller applications. Our late-model block was designed to accept a standard hydraulic roller, including the factory retainers and spyder holddown assembly.
07. The complete cam kit also featured a valvespring upgrade to work with the high-lift, hydraulic roller cam profile. The Holley aluminum heads used on this engine were equipped with a valvespring package designed for a (low-lift) flat-tappet cam.
08. The Holley aluminum heads were installed on the awaiting short block using Fel Pro head gaskets and ARP head bolts.
09. After installation, the Holley heads were torqued in sequence. We also took the liberty of torqing the rocker studs.
10. No self respecting stroker build up is complete without a rocker upgrade. To ensure accurate geometry, we installed these 1.5 ratio roller rockers.
11. Given the street application for the buildup, we chose a dual-plane intake and properly sized Holley carburetor. The dual-plane Holley Street Dominator intake was teamed with a Holley 650 Ultra Street HP carb.
12. Driven supplied the BR30 break-in oil for our testing. Less critical on our hydraulic roller application, the proper break-in oil and procedure are paramount with flat-tappet cams.
13. After installation of the Driven oil and K&N filter, the engine was primed using a drill and priming tool. We made sure to get oil to all the lifters and rockers prior to the final valve adjust and startup.
14. After the break-in procedure and minor adjustments to jetting and timing, the Bootlegger 383 pumped out 439 hp and 469 lb-ft of torque. Best of all, the new cam profile offered a broad torque curve and authoritative exhaust note that rumbled like the muscle engines of yesteryear. The engine not only made good power, but sounded like every bit of 440 hp.
15. The dyno graph tells only part of the story as the Bootlegger 383 thumped out not just impressive peak numbers of 439 hp and 469 lb-ft, but a broad torque curve that exceeded 450 lb-ft from 3,300 rpm to 4,800 rpm. What the curve doesn’t tell you is how great the engine sounded while doing it. The Bootlegger provided just enough rumble to let everyone know it was cammed, but not enough to hurt idle quality or driveability. The extra exhaust duration made this stroker roar at wide open throttle.