PRI 2019: Erson Cams Talks Rich History And Power-Making Future

If you’re an old school hot rodder you know the name Erson Cams. They led the way in performance camshaft technology when flat tappets were the only option that made sense. Nowadays, things are a bit different. We stopped by the Erson Cams booth at PRI 2019 and caught up with Jack McInnis.

Jack touched on the history of Erson, “Erson Cams was founded in 1964, and has a rich history, including a lot of land speed records, top fuel and funny car championships, circle track, and street performance. In the early days, they were one of the only companies you could get a really well-performing cam from. Upgrading to an Erson cam would enable your valvetrain to survive, which was a big thing in those days.”

We asked Jack to expound upon some of the most popular offerings they have for enthusiasts. “We have always done a lot of street performance and racing camshafts. There’s still a lot of market for the flat tappet stuff, but we’re seeing more and more customers looking for roller cams.”

“We have off-the-shelf cams that are good for certain racing classes where things are more fixed with track sizes and engine combinations. We have cam lobes and profiles that work really well for those applications. So, I’d say we have a pretty broad offering.”

We’ll get a custom order and the next day, that cam will ship – I don’t think anyone else is doing that.”-Jack McInnis, Erson Cams

Jack also told us about some of the wild applications Erson caters to – specifically tractor pull and diesel applications. “It’s kinda fun because some of those engines are diesel engines that have been converted for alcohol and some of them have sequential turbochargers, so they have cylinder and manifold pressures of maybe 100-pounds – it’s like a top fuel engine. So, the cams have to be very robust to open the valves against that kind of cylinder pressure. In many cases, there are no cores available so we have to grind a cam from round bar stock of premium steel.”

As if the custom tractor pull and diesel applications weren’t enough, Erson also offers late-model Hemi and LS options. “We’ve been doing a lot of LS and late-model Hemi as well as 5.4 and 4.6 modular Ford applications. Some of those applications – especially the Ford and Hemi – there’s not a lot of room in those engines for big valve spring packages. So, the cams have to be designed with lower lift and greater duration (fast opening ) to get those engines to breathe and make a lot of power”

Perhaps the thing Erson is most well-known for, though, is its custom grinds. “We really specialize in custom cams. whether that’s for a traditional small-block Chevy, the LS, or late Hemi stuff, we do a lot of custom work. We prioritize our custom cams, so you don’t wait for six-weeks or whatever. Often times, we turn them around in a day. We’ll get a custom order and the next day, that cam will ship – I don’t think anyone else is doing that.”

If you’d like to find out more about Erson Cams or any of the full line of valvetrain components that accompany its cams, check out its website at pbm-emerson.com. They also have a great tech line with very knowledgable personnel that can walk you through what will work best for your application.

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About the author

Vinny Costa

Fast cars, motorcycles, and loud music are what get Vinny’s blood pumping. Catch him behind the wheel of his ’68 Firebird. Chances are, Black Sabbath will be playing in the background.
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