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Butler Performance modifies Edelbrock aluminum D-...
Some of the latest out of the box designs include...
Heads do make horsepower, but not by themselves. ...
With most high-end performance heads, a raw casti...
Late Model Performance Cylinder Heads
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To find out what the latest cylinder head offerings are and what’s being done with some of these heads, we contacted various aftermarket head suppliers and engine builders for their input. Here’s what they said:
Tony Mamo of Air Flow Research said AFR has recently redesigned their entire line of small block Ford cylinder heads. “Our new Renegade line provides about a 20 cfm improvement over our previous Outlaw series of small block Ford cylinder heads. For example, our 185cc street head used to flow 270 cfm but now flows 300 cfm. That’s a gain of over 11 percent!”
Other new heads from AFR include a 15 degree small block Chevy CNC racing head that flows over 400 cfm with 285 to 305 cc port runners. Also new is a 13-1/2 degree SBC Chevy CNC racing head with taller intake ports that flows over 450 cfm. This head does require a custom fabricated intake manifold. Mamo said that eventually they will offer a matching cast manifold that will work with this head.
“We’re getting back into the high-end racing market with these heads and some other future projects we’re now working on,” said Mamo. “In the next 12 to 24 months, we will also have a square port Chevy LS6 head to add to our current line of cathedral port LS heads.”
A new line of “Head Hunter” series 23 degree SBC Chevy heads from Brodix features .400˝ raised oval intake ports with 225 or 234 cc intake runners. Jason Neugent of Brodix says the 225 heads flow over 335 cfm while the 234 heads deliver over 345 cfm. The heads do require offset rockers and use a steeper 52 degree angle on the intake valve seats and 55 degree angle on the exhaust seats with 2.150˝ diameter intake valves and 1.570˝ exhaust valves.
“The small block Chevy market has been good, and we’re seeing more demand for heads to fit blocks with 4.500˝ bore spacing that allow displacements of up to 500 cubic inches. We have some 13 degree siamese heads for these that flow over 380 cfm, and a symmetrical head that flows over 400 cfm.
“We’re also seeing more interest in big block Chevy heads for 600 cubic inch and larger motors,” said Neugent. For 496 to 600 cid engines, Brodix’s new BB-3 Xtra Series heads feature a two degree shallower intake valve angle for improved airflow. Available configurations include a choice of oval (332, 351 and 365 cc) or rectangular (366 and 380 cc) ports in “as cast” or fully CNC machined versions. Brodix says the CNC ported 338 cc heads flow over 440 cfm while the “as cast” heads are good for a 30 horsepower increase over standard BBC heads.
Butler Performance specializes in building traditional big block Pontiac engines for both drag race and high-end street performance customers. Dave Butler says he modifies Edelbrock aluminum D-port cylinder heads to match the cam, displacement and application his customers want. The heads fit 1962 to 1979 389, 400, 421, 428 and 455 V8 engines with 4.060 inch or larger cylinder bores. The same heads can also be used on 350 engines if 1.66 exhaust valves are use and the top of the block bores are chamfered for valve clearance.
Dave says much of his business has been building Pontiac engines for drag racers, but lately he’s doing more high-end street, large displacement pump gas engines. “I’ll get customers who want me to build them a 600 to 750 horsepower street engine for their muscle car. To get there, I’ll CNC machine the Edelbrock heads with a port profile that best matches their requirements.” Dave said he develops his port profiles on his flow bench, and then hand ports or CNC machines the heads as required. “The Edelbrock D-port head flows 260 to 270 cfm out of the box. After reworking the head, we can make it flow 330 to 340 cfm, which is what it takes to reach these kind of horsepower numbers,” says Butler.
Butler says he’s also building some LS engines for late model Pontiacs using a variety of aftermarket cylinder heads from AFR, Edelbrock and RHS. “We haven’t done any custom head work on the LS engines yet as we’re still building engines and learning what works best. But eventually we will probably be reworking LS heads too.”
Bud Keating says “Our market continues to be small block and big block Chevy cast iron and aluminum heads, and small block Ford cast iron and aluminum heads. We don’t have any new heads for Chevy LS or Ford modular engines. Our main market is primarily cast iron performance heads for street, circle track and drag racing Chevy and Ford engines.”
Keating said Dart heads are available in “as cast” or CNC ported versions, and billet aluminum heads are available for drag racing. “The demand for cast iron heads is strong because some race sanctioning bodies don’t allow aluminum heads. Our cast iron heads provide an affordable performance improvement over stock cast iron heads, and are stronger than the stock castings.”
Eric Blakely of Edelbrock says his company now has more cylinder head applications for NHRA Stock/Super Stock small block Chevy LSX style LS-R canted valve heads, big block Chevy race heads, and Big Victor 12 degree, 14-degree and Big Victor III heads. For circle track, there are new SB2 & ROX heads, and Pro-Port Raw cylinder heads for both drag racing and circle track.
Edelbrock’s new “E-Street” line is an affordable entry-level cylinder head for street motors with cam lifts up to .500˝. There is also an “E-CNC” line that is fully CNC ported for high performance street applications and entry-level race applications.
Some product improvements in various head designs include extra drain back holes, thicker walls for custom machining and/or porting, raised valve cover rails for added valve train clearance, relocating valves to fit the cylinder bores better and to reduce shrouding, and a special HIP casting process that reduces porosity and improves strength.
Goodwin Competition Racing Engines
Todd Goodwin’s performance engine shop is a full service facility with two engine dynos, a chassis dyno and CNC machining capabilities for doing raw castings and even custom pistons. Goodwin says most of his business is building engines for high end drag racing, truck pulls, off-road truck and also late model Mustangs, Camaros and other performance cars. “We work with all brands of aftermarket heads and can also do custom billet aluminum heads if that’s what a customer wants.”
When it comes to choosing or reworking cylinder heads, Goodwin says airflow numbers are only one piece of the puzzle. “You also have to look at port cross-sections, volumes, air velocity, valve sizes, the intake manifold, the design of the combustion chamber and even the tops of the pistons. It’s all about matching everything to get the right combination that delivers the kind of performance a customer wants. If we’re designing the ports and combustion chamber for a head, we also like to do the pistons because they are part of the combustion chamber, too.”
Chad Bowling says Patriot introduced their new Predator Head for Chevy LS engines about a year ago that features raised valve cover rails for extra rocker arm clearance. The head flows 303 cfm on the intakes at .600˝ lift, which is about 70 cfm better than the stock LS head. “This head will bolt up to the stock manifold but does require measuring and changing the pushrods.
“Our Freedom SBC 185 and 190 cc street performance heads are still our most popular products. The line includes cast and CNC ported versions with 195 to 225 cc intake runners for street and racing applications,” says Bowling.
The newest offerings from Pro-Filer Performance Products include a new 13 degree All American series head for small block Chevys in cast or CNC machined versions, a new splayed valve symmetrical port head with cast ports for small block Chevy engines, and a new Ford 460 canted valve cast aluminum head with oval Pro Stock style intake ports that flow over 520 cfm.
Michael Green of Pro-Filer says the shallower valve angle on the new 13 degree All American Chevy heads combined with the 300 cc fully CNC machined ports flows over 400 cfm. The heads also have a solid rocker bar for better valve train control.
According to Kevin Feeney of RHS, the new Pro Elite LS7 rectangular port aluminum head is a clean sheet of paper design. “These heads are compatible with RHS LS race blocks and GM LSX blocks. The heads are CNC machined and have a shaft style rocker system that can mount standard GM LS7 rockers, which allows the valves to be adjusted. The heads have a 12-degree valve angle, with intake ports that have been raised .220˝. But you can still bolt the heads up to a stock intake manifold. The exhaust ports are also raised .100˝ to improve flow. As a result of these changes, the new LS7 heads are good for a 35 horsepower improvement over the stock heads,” says Feeney.
Steve Schmidt Racing
At the recent Race EXPO show in St. Charles, IL, Steve Schmidt Racing unveiled a high unusual and unique two-piece hemi cylinder head for big block 18-bolt Chevy and Ford engines. The combustion chamber portion of the head is identical for both applications but the top half of the head can be swapped to make it fit a Chevy or Ford engine. The two halves are sealed together with copper o-rings.
“We’re currently running this head on a 648 cubic inch truck pull motor, but we also see a market for this head for Competition Eliminator, Top Sportsman and Top Eliminator drag race classes,” said Jeff Sams of Steve Schmidt Racing. “The intake ports can flow 640 cfm at 1.100˝ valve lift, which means this head is capable of making about 2.8 horsepower per cubic inch on a naturally aspirated engine. The head is machined from billet aluminum, and is available with or without water jackets. “The price: a mere $16,000 (yes, thousand!) per pair. Though expensive, the cost is still much less than high-end heads from some professional racing head suppliers.
Trick Flow’s newest product is their Twisted Wedge Race 195 cylinder head for modular Ford engines. The heads are fully CNC machines, and are available as bare or fully assembled heads.
“This head has been optimized for engines with 3.700˝ bores, not stock bores,” says Mike Downs. “The head likes lots of cam lift and also works well with a turbocharger or blower on the motor. On an otherwise stock 322 cid engine, these heads have made 520 horsepower with the stock manifolds.
“We are also finishing up work on a rectangular port head for Chevy LS applications that should be production ready by the 2nd quarter of this year. The LS market is one of the hottest markets today, so this new head will be a good addition to our cathedral port LS heads that we have now.” says Downs.
World Products continues to market their stock cast iron cylinder heads under the World brand name, but their performance heads and aluminum heads are now being marketed under the Bill Mitchell Products (BMP) name.
“We don’t have anything that’s brand new,” says Bill Mitchell, “But we have a broad selection of heads for small block and big block Chevy, Chevy LS and small block Ford engines. Products include their Mowtown cast iron and aluminum SBC heads, Merlin oval and rectangular cast iron and aluminum BBC heads, Warhawk 15 degree LS1, LS2 & LS6 aluminum heads, Warhawk 12 degree LS7 heads, Windsor Jr. an Sr. FSB cast iron heads and Man O’War 10 and 18 degree SBF aluminum heads.
What’s Mitchell’s advice for choosing cylinder heads? “Ignore all the BS about flow numbers. Heads that have great flow numbers don’t always run that great. We have heads that can make 1,000 horsepower on a 565 cid big block motor, but do you really need that much power on the street? You really have to match the head to the application and build the engine around the head and camshaft combination.”
For a complete list of performance cylinder head suppliers, visit our online High Performance Buyers Guide.
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