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This is a report of my cam weld experience which took place about 2 months ago.
To recap just a bit, I found out about the cam failure problem in April when I stumbled upon V8SHO.com while looking for repair information. At the time, my biggest concern was needing to repair a coolant leak somewhere down under the intake runners that made it impossible to travel more than about 10 miles before running low on coolant. But after reviewing the info on the V8SHO web site, I realized I had a bigger problem than just the coolant leak: likely cam failure. My '97 SHO had 120,000 miles on it. Thus far, it hadn't shown any symptoms of severe engine-related problems, but I could tell that it looked like I was running on borrowed time (and miles). I figured that if I had to tear it down to fix the leak, I should also get the cams welded.
I lived in the greater Treasure Valley area of Idaho (near Boise, in the southwestern part of the state). All of the V8SHO.com listings for places that would do welding were over 500 miles away. I knew that my coolant leak and weak transmission were not up to making that kind of trip. I felt confident in doing the mechanical work, but lacked the skills and equipment to perform the actual welding. With only a few weeks till the scheduled work, I finally decided I would just find someone in the yellow pages and hope for the best.
Then, with just 10 days before the scheduled start of this project, an amazing thing happened. Someone else was also subscribed to this list that also lived in the Treasure Valley area, also had a SHO, and also wanted to get his cams welded. This person was James Johnson, from Mountain Home AFB, about an hour from my home. He is an avid car buff, as well as an experienced mechanic and welder. He volunteered to MIG weld my cams for me if I couldn't find anyone else. He also mentioned that that a colleague he knew was a professional aircraft welder who had TIG equipment and might be willing to do the welding. We met in person a few days later to ensure that both of us felt comfortable with the arrangements. I agreed that I would disassemble my SHO and have it fully prepared for welding at my home. Then I'd car-dolly it down to the auto shop he was able to use at the AFB, where we'd do the actual welding.
I let everyone on this list know what was happening and asked for any helpful information anyone was willing to provide, including how to perform good practice welds on some other material before doing the cams themselves. True to form, the V8SHO list members offered lots of helpful advice. Many folks gave good recommendations on the correct tear down procedures, whether or not to reuse the intake gaskets, how to find a good welder, how to clean the runners, IMRC, torque values and sequences, etc. I also did a Google search on the web site for 'cam weld', saving the results for future reference. Out of this sharing of ideas and suggestions, another truly amazing thing happened: someone I had never before met (Eric) disassembled a broken SHO engine and shipped me (across the country) one of the cams to perform the practice welds with. I was (and continue to be) overwhelmed with the helpfulness of everyone involved.
The day finally came to perform the teardown. I started the work, taking my time, enjoying each step of the process. The coolant leak turned out to be a hose slipping off of a nipple that extended from the cylinder head—as simple repair. After the engine was disassembled, I rented a tow dolly and took the car to the welder’s (Dan) house in Mountain Home. Dan performed a test weld on the bad cam we had brought down with us, which worked well and gave us confidence. He then took the time to carefully clean each location to be welded and then ‘tack weld’ each cam to ensure there’d be no movement when he did the longer bead welds. He then did the primary welds on all the cams. After about 2 hours, it was all done, and it looked great (photos available on request)! I thanked both James and Dan for their help and then took the car back home.
I then proceed to reassemble the engine, cleaning everything as went. I also insulated the wiring harnesses as recommended. When all assembled, I changed the oil and fired it up. It started and ran great, as it has to this day. I also did the AT and PS flushes at the same time, plus the other 100,000 mile service items.
Thanks again to everyone on this list for all their help!