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With no intrusive pushrods, the overhead camshaft cylinder head design can use straighter ports of more advantageous cross-section and length.
The OHC design allows for higher engine speeds than comparable cam-in-block designs, as a result of having lower valvetrain mass.
In earlier OHC systems, including inter-war Morrises and Wolseleys, oil leaks in the lubrication systems were also an issue.
In an inline engine, this means there is one camshaft in the head, whilst in an engine with more than one cylinder head, such as a V engine or a horizontally-opposed engine (boxer; flat engine) – there are two camshafts, one per cylinder bank.
The terms "multivalve" and "DOHC" do not refer to the same thing: not all multivalve engines are DOHC and not all DOHC engines are multivalve.
In the SOHC design, the camshaft operates the valves directly, traditionally via a bucket tappet; or via an intermediary rocker arm.
SOHC cylinder heads are generally less expensive to manufacture than double overhead camshaft (DOHC) cylinder heads.
An example of an SOHC design using shim and bucket valve adjustment was the engine installed in the Hillman Imp (four cylinder, eight valve), a small, early-1960s two-door saloon car (sedan) with a rear-mounted aluminium-alloy engine based on the Coventry Climax FWMA race engines.
Exhaust and inlet manifolds were both on the same side of the engine block (thus not a crossflow cylinder head design).
More than two overhead camshafts are not known to have been tried in a production engine.