pix
Share
pix
pix
pix
FORDMUSCLE.com FordMuscle Nav
Page
1
3 4
 


It's been nearly forty years since the first 289 and 302's made their debut in Ford automobiles. Legends like Carrol Shelby immediately went to work in search of more power out of these engines. However back then the aftermarket availability for "bolt on" induction parts was in its infancy. Squeezing more power out of the induction system meant experimenting with different cam profiles, designing and modifying intake and exhaust manifolds, and of course, porting the stock heads. The factory 289,302,351 heads were identified as being of poor design. The ports were small and restrictive, even for a stock engine. The transitions from the runners to the bowls were not conducive to smooth flow and optimum atomization of the air/fuel mixture. Anybody that was serious about racing their small block ford knew that the heads needed significant port work to increase their flow capabilities. Even Ford accepted this fact for their own race endeavors; eventually hybridizing the solid small block bottom end with the well breathing Cleveland heads to create the BOSS 302 and BOSS 351.

That was then. Decades of research, experience, and of course a good economy, have created an immensely robust aftermarket for small block Ford induction parts. There are no less than a dozen different companies producing twice as many varieties of small block Ford heads. No longer is iron the only choice, but in fact it is downright out of style. Lightweight aluminum is in, and at affordable prices. In fact the selection is so vast that the consumer is presented with a series of dilemmas; Which head is right for my combination? How much can you really gain with a home ported head? How much better are the brand name aluminum heads?

Companies like Holley and Edelbrock have attempted to offer a "complete solution", offering a total induction package of heads, cam, and intakes. Seeing that 90% of the heads on the market fall into a price range of $1000 to $1500 per pair, it seems as if selecting a cylinder head for your 302 is a can't lose proposition. The fact is that there is quite a bit of difference in the offerings, and getting the right head for your combination ultimately means getting the most horsepower for your hard earneddollar. The question of which head to go with has plagued us at FORDMUSCLE for quite some time. In fact we simply grew tired of all the conflicting data presented in the magazines, on the web, and even on TV. Depending on who is paying the bills that month, their head seemed to be the best flowing, or the head of choice for all 302's. We got frustrated with that line of approach, and decided it was time to do our own independent "study". Don't get us wrong, we aren't saying that everything we've ever read or seen is a lie or embellishment. We simply don't know what to believe, so we wanted to get results for ourselves, and offer them as a collective, independent source of information.

Our goal was to provide you the reader with an independent source of information that you could use to make your head selection decision. Of course we needed an objective way to compare the heads. That is where the flow bench comes in. But we should make some disclaimers. Simply looking at flowbench numbers doesn't mean much of anything. Like a dyno or any other piece of test equipment, there are margins of error and confidence levels. Comparing flow numbers from manufacturer to those from another is not a sound comparison, since the heads were not tested at the same time, by the same operator, on the same machine, etc. That is why we wanted to get all the heads under one roof and test them under the same conditions. This way you can be assured the differences in flow numbers between the heads is accurate and reliable. However don't expect to see our numbers to be dead on with what the manufacturer's catalogs state.

The point of this article isn't to simply find the highest flowing head and proclaim a "winner". Rather, the point is to compare and contrast the different heads, and compile a buyers guide that will assist you- the consumer -in your selection. The bottom line is that every head in our test has seen varying levels of success..and failure, so it would be foolish for us to say Brand A is the best head, since on the wrong engine the results could be terrible.

Getting the Heads
The first step was to obtain and flow test virtually every small block Ford head on the market. If it sounds like a tough task, trust us... it was. So much so that several times we contemplated canceling the project. The hardest part was to obtain all the heads. We contacted every major manufacturer and invited them to participate by loaning us an off the shelf head. We would test it, photograph it, and return it when we were finished. The manufacturers of course would receive product exposure via this article in exchange. Keep in mind none of the manufacturers paid us to include their head. Furthermore none of the manufacturers pay for advertising on this site. In the end we ended up a large selection of heads, covering the majority of the market, however we did not get every head out there. We excluded the really exotic stuff, like the Brodix Neal, and Edelbrock Victor. Anyone really in the market for a head of that caliber is beyond the knowledge presented in this article! This article focuses primarily on heads which are offered complete, and can be bolted on a 289, 302, or 351 without serious modifications.

Needless to say some companies declined to participate, others only sent one model eventhough they offer several, and some still tell us they are planning to send us heads...some eight months after we first contacted them... uh huh, right. Nevertheless, we did get a critical mass to do our study. One important lesson learned here was regarding customer service. The companies that immediately followed up with our invitation, whether it was to participate or decline, gave us the impression that they would be good to deal with if you had any problems or tech needs after purchasing their products. On the other hand the manufacturers that kept yanking our chain, breaking promises, and holding up our schedule, in our opinion may do the same when you have a problem with their product.

Air Flow Research (AFR) did not submit either of their two highly touted 5.0 heads. Ironically, this whole project idea was kicked off back in September 1999 when we met AFR at the SEMA show. At the time they had been promising their new 5.0 heads to the public for nearly a year. They promised to deliver us heads for the article by Thanksgiving of that year. To make a long story short, we waited and waited, but they never came through and thus the delay in getting this article to you the readers. Canfield respectfully declined, stating that they no longer have any desire to work with the media, because they recently had been burned by a magazine article that printed a competitors flow numbers even though the editor of that magazine knew the heads had been modified. Whatever, we tried. Of course we could have spent our own money and bought the heads we didn't get, but again we don't have the budget, and we aren't about to get stuck with heads we don't need.

(Flow Testing Continued)
 
Page
1
3 4
In This Article:
We obtain and flowbench test just about every small block Ford cylinder head available. Our heads include most of the popular aftermarket aluminum heads, as well as the common factory iron heads. We even see how home ported stock heads measure up.
pixblue
pixblue
Share
All content © FordMuscle, LLC. | Ford® is a registered trademark of the Ford Motor Company. | FordMuscle.com is not affiliated with the Ford Motor Company.
Tech Archives Project Cars Readers Cars Forums SOMING SOON Feature Cars