Heads do more than just supply oxygen to the combustion chamber. They also define airflow pathways for exhaust gases as well as direct coolant flow through the two-valve per cylinder design of stock castings. So, upgrading is typically the single best way to get power without resorting to a more expensive aftermarket camshaft.
Having the best aluminum heads for small block Chevy is a great way to get the most power out of the classic Small Block Chevrolet engine, and we encourage you to try them.
Best Aluminum Heads for Small Block Chevy
Best SBC Heads – Top Alternative Products
A good set of aluminum heads can improve the overall appearance of your engine compartment. Whether you’re building an authentic daily driver or a high-performance street motor, they are an attractive choice.
Having researched several aftermarket options, we’ve discovered a few brands that perform amazingly well for most folks. The best one for each category has been given in the table.
However, you may not get any or more of those on the table due to unavailability or for being market out, therefore, we’ve arranged a list of alternative products with identical features and quality.
We may often update this list based on the new arrival and performance of potential products. If you see the list below containing no product, consider either table is enough and/or we’ve found no product worthy enough to compete with the products in the table.
Best for Torque – Dart 127121 SHP
Best Stock – Edelbrock 5073
Best for Racing – Edelbrock 5089
Best Premium – Edelbrock 5087 E-Series
Best for Big Block Chevy – Speedmaster’s PCE281.2031
Chevrolet’s Small Block Chevy Engine – Short History
The Chevrolet small-block engine is a technological marvel and immediately recognizable to car fans across the world. It was the backbone of General Motors’ (GM) performance offerings during the muscle car era of the 1960s and 1970s. The Small Block family line was produced from 1955 through 1999, and since its successors have replaced its discontinuation.
There have been four basic incarnations of small-block Chevy, commonly referred to as second, third, fourth, and recently, fifth-generation (AEB or L76). However, many aftermarket manufacturers continue to use fourth & fifth-gen block castings because they are easy to work with, available in sufficient quantities, and produce excellent power.
How to Choose SBC Heads – Buying Considerations
With various types of small block Chevrolet cylinder heads out there, it can be somewhat difficult to figure out which one is right for you. We give you some guidelines that will help you make those decisions, so let’s jump right in:
- New or remanufactured heads: When buying any performance parts for your engine, it’s important to replace them with brand new OEM factory replacement parts instead of used or aftermarket cores.
- Aluminum vs. Iron: For street applications, a set of iron heads can work fine with good bolt-on performance parts. However, if you’re building an all-out racing small block, aluminum options offer more power and durability under high boost levels or heavy nitrous usage.
- Single plane vs. Dual plane designs: Single planes are designed to increase torque, whereas dual planes are designed to increase horsepower.
- Port styles: There are three different types of ports the D-Port, Ram Air Port, and Notch port designs.
- Lifter size: The right size lifter can help keep your valve train longevity in check with less friction and less wear on your camshaft components.
- Compression ratio: If you run a higher compression ratio in your SBC engine it will produce more horsepower and torque, but it also runs the risk of detonation under heavy loads.
- Cams & Lifter sizes: The kind of camshaft profile you’re running determines how much lift and duration you should be looking at.
When choosing, decide if these pieces are going into a street rod or race automobile. It is best for street use to go with individual runner/quench style chambers rather than one piece flow-through type.
Why? Well, the main issue here is cost vs. benefit. To make room for multiple intake and exhaust ports, the manufacturer will have to use thicker metal while keeping costs down. Thicker material requires more heat and time to machine out, which means more cost for the end-user.
The flow-through design allows for a cheaper material to be used but will have a limited amount of port volume and shape capability. Most flow-through style heads are best suited for drag racing, emphasizing top-end speed over low-end torque.
Depending on your engine’s overall configuration, factors such as valve spacing, combustion chamber size/shape and deck height may play into what head you decide to go with. For example: if you have a turbo setup or nitrous system set up in the plan, Small Block Chevy heads with smaller chambers might be a better choice since this allows room for these added components.
350 Chevy Head – the Best and Worst
What heads should I put on my 350?
The best Chevy 350 head is the 461 casting design with hydraulic lifters. It has unique valve sizes, and it’s a great street performer.
The worst is just about any 350 or 400 head with mechanical lifters. There are different combinations, so you will have to look closely at your application’s requirements when choosing the right cylinder head.
The 041 is not bad casting, and it can achieve good power on the right application but will tend to have an on/off switch at high rpm.
The biggest mistake is going for flat-out power. Cylinder heads can make the difference between a safe, reliable engine and one that vibrates to pieces or doesn’t run at all!
Are Aluminum Chevy Heads Worth the Money?
When talking about performance cylinder heads, you’ll hear aluminum and cast iron being thrown around. For many race engines, these materials are chosen for specific properties that make them desirable.
Most racers feel that aluminum is better due to its greater thermal capacity, lower weight, ease of machining, less warping, and the fact it doesn’t need to be chamfered like Iron heads.
Aluminum vs. Cast Iron SBC Head
The main difference between Aluminum heads and cast iron heads is their thermal conductivity. Aluminum conducts heat about six times faster than cast iron, which means you can run your intake air temp hotter or have extra total airflow capacity given the same combustion chamber volume. A JEGS 514080 cast iron is designed to add horsepower and torque to your engine.
But on the downside, aluminum also has just over 1/3 the thermal mass of cast iron. The net result is that aluminum heads will give better performance in high-flow, low-RPM applications, while cast iron heads work best when there’s a lot of airflows.
How To Install and Tighten Heads On Chevy 350?
Use a ratcheting or socket wrench and follow this procedure. Install the first bolt by hand until you feel resistance; then use your ratchet/socket wrench to turn it down 3-turn. Tighten the second bolt in the same way, but only do 2 1/2 turns this time.
Then go back to the first bolt again and finish tightening it down. It will take some fiddling around to find out how many turns each of them should be tightened down for the best results, but an easy way to remember is that if you tightened them down, 2 1/2 turns each, then when they are all done, the heads will be pushed down halfway.
High-End Torque vs. Low-End Torque
A motor with more torque propels you faster off the line, but it won’t be as efficient at slower speeds. The motors with higher KV ratings are usually geared lower than their lower KV counterparts. This means that they will run slower and produce less maximum torques than their higher KV counterparts.
But the lower KV motors can reach their maximum torques at these lower speeds and therefore feel more efficient even though they are not as fast off the start line.
What’s the Best Intake Manifold for SBC?
The best Intake Manifold is one that offers excellent entry flow to minimize throttle lag. It depends on many things: your budget, driving habits, and intended use.
The Edelbrock 2701 Performer comes complete with sturdy mounting hardware, including gaskets and installation instructions.
The Edelbrock 2925 Super Victor intake offers the best low-speed torque.
What’s the Best Aluminum Head for Big Block Chevy?
Specifically designed for use with big block heads, Speedmaster’s PCE281.2031 has been used by countless numbers of NHRA Pro Stock and Super Comp teams as well as many bracket racers to achieve their goals in racing.
It’s built to last using Speedmasters exclusive SpeedStep technology, providing the ultimate balance between power production and valve-train stability.
When it comes to Small Block Chevy aluminum heads, numerous choices are there, and now you shouldn’t have any problem finding one that meets your needs.
If you have any doubt and need help, let us do the hard work for you. Feel free to contact us for consultation, and we’ll give you recommendations.