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Technical Are heads worth the cost on a flathead?

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by Machwon169, Apr 27, 2019.

  1. Absolutely Classic!

    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    Blues4U likes this.
  2. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 15,862


    You will always spend more when you are in a hurry. Some guys spend years (decades for me personally) finding and collecting flathead parts. Three months is the blink of an eye. You need to do some networking and find other guys in your area who have this stuff.
    Atwater Mike and town sedan like this.
  3. G-son
    Joined: Dec 19, 2012
    Posts: 664

    from Sweden

    Looks like people only think of horsepower. More peak power is nice, but you probably only get to use the extra power a few percent of the time you drive - and that may be a high guess. Fuel economy will be in effect 100% of the time the engine is running, and higher compression ratio should mean better fuel economy.
    If replacement performance heads are expensive you may never save that much money by using them, but machining the stock heads could save you money in the long run.
    town sedan and RMR&C like this.
  4. patterg2003
    Joined: Sep 21, 2014
    Posts: 620


    Here are a couple of charts that show engine displacements and compression ratios for a wide range of heads. This will allow you to compare stock, Ford's EAB heads and aftermarket heads. If you see a set at a swap meet or in classifieds somewhere then you can see what they may do for your engine.

    Attached Files:

    Bursonaw and j hansen like this.
  5. Squablow
    Joined: Apr 26, 2005
    Posts: 14,541


    The aluminum heads often have a bigger water capacity, and the aluminum is a heat sink, so they can be good for cooling, they also save weight, those iron heads are heavy. Modest power gain with increased compression, although that can be achieved through milling of the iron heads.

    As for if it's worth the money, that more depends on your budget. For some, $800 is a huge chunk of the budget, for others, that's pocket change. I've found that good used ones are hard to come by, and they're all suspect if they're not brand new.

    Flatheads are never the low-budget option.
  6. Blue One
    Joined: Feb 6, 2010
    Posts: 10,676

    Blue One
    from Alberta

    You could just buy one head and save some money :D

  7. banjorear
    Joined: Jul 30, 2004
    Posts: 3,795


    With anything, total performance gain is the sum of all the other parts and work done. Just throwing a set a heads on a stock rebuild, you may see 5%-10% gain depending. Where you start to see real numbers of improvement are with: heads+intake+cam+porting+larger and better valves+3 ring pistons with metric rings=real horse power gains.

    We are talking a flathead, so it's all relative. I am in the process of building a big flatty. It will be a 297 (3 3/8th +.030 X4"). The Ross pistons with metric ring pack were $700 alone. When it's all said and done, I hope to have 180+-ish HP and it will cost in the $7K range to get there.

    I've been collecting a lot of the parts over the years, so I did alright with some of the other parts that I plan to use.

    Purpose of my post is this: Do they look cool? Yes. Will you see performance gains by putting them on? Maybe depends on the condition of your engine currently. Do flatheads cost money to build? Yep.

    Also, you need to consider the following. Are you using heads bolts or studs? If studs, stock or aftermarket?

    Why this is important is only a few heads use the stock length studs. I think Navarro, Fentons, and maybe Edmunds.

    I believe Offy and Edelbrock need long studs all the way around. Maybe Edelbrock offers a set that doesn't, not sure.

    Anyway, if you don't have the studs out yet, that is a big job. Sometimes they come out real easy. Sometimes not so much. Last tear down it took my 18 hours to remove the studs. I had to keep heating and working them to get them out. Total ball buster of a job.
    leon bee, town sedan and Bursonaw like this.
  8. Machwon169
    Joined: Apr 26, 2019
    Posts: 13


    Thanks everyone. I will most likely keep my eyes open for a used set in good shape....

    Also just found out my block is cracked between valve and cylinder so now it’s less of a problem and back to
    Finding another engine
  9. Bursonaw
    Joined: Jun 19, 2011
    Posts: 117


    Getting back to your original question about heads for looks or performance? I have had similar questions about intake manifolds and other speed equipment options and have gotten varying opinions. The book “Flathead Facts” covers most of these questions and backs them up with scientific testing to prove the performance differences. If you were to ask this question on the Ford Barn forum you might also get some different reply’s, as it’s roots are in the flathead.

    1. Will after market heads give you a performance increase? The answer is yes. however what you really want to ask is, 2. Will you feel it in the gas peddle? That is also a yes. You won’t see a tire burning increase but you will notice the difference in accelerating when you get on the highway or when passing cars.

    There are several ways to increase engine compression but let me just focus on the heads. You can mill a set of heads or if you can find a set of stock Ford EAB heads they will give you about the same increase. You can also use a set of after market finned heads and get a little more performance than just milling. What you wont feel in the gas peddle, from a finned set of heads is an increase in engine efficiency. Better engine cooling, gas mileage and the engine just not working as hard.

    There is nothing like the looks and sound of an old flathead that is at the roots of the original hotrod. When your all said and done what you will have is something that will keep up with today’s traffic and will turns heads when you go by.

    Years ago these options were designed to be put on as weekend projects for daily driven cars. If you are struggling with the cost you can always put them on later. At least you will have a baseline of feeling the improvements in the gas peddle.

    Hope this helps


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    Atwater Mike and town sedan like this.
  10. Vanness
    Joined: Aug 5, 2017
    Posts: 410


    637BA8E0-FF68-4251-9EFE-8102F27B4327.jpeg Not worth the hassle on stock motor. Good advantage is more water capacity in heads and more comp. bad news is weeping and attached hardware. It’s a $ and a preference thing.
    town sedan likes this.
  11. Save your money & spend it elsewhere in your build unless you want looks. Get some reading material & do your homework. One quote will not cover every one. Basically it is the same as everything . Make a program & stick to it,changes cost money.
    Atwater Mike and Vanness like this.
  12. Petejoe
    Joined: Nov 27, 2002
    Posts: 10,575

    from Zoar, Ohio

    Want cheap effective good looking heads?
    Smooth the surface of a pair of trimmed heads.
    Powder coat them.

    Ziggster, Hotrodmyk, chop job and 3 others like this.
  13. Bandit Billy
    Joined: Sep 16, 2014
    Posts: 6,867

    Bandit Billy

    Flatheads are overrated, I'd put something cheap and common in. Save your money for a nice stereo and some rims.
    RustyDogg, blowby and Brian Penrod like this.
  14. Machwon169
    Joined: Apr 26, 2019
    Posts: 13


    I’m trying to stay 1950s period correct so it was either flat head, hemi, or nail head
    Bandit Billy likes this.
  15. As long as these things have been around, you would think that they would be about as cheap as a Chevy head.
  16. Squablow
    Joined: Apr 26, 2005
    Posts: 14,541


    This is terrifying to me, I've got two sets of aluminum heads for my engine but it already is a good runner and I'm afraid if I try to take the studs out I'm going to wreck something. I'd love to have them on there but I fear snapping a few studs off and running into trouble. During the buildup of the engine seems like the best time to swap heads.
    41rodderz likes this.
  17. 2935ford
    Joined: Jan 6, 2006
    Posts: 3,405


    To help with your question, I suggest reading this:
    Flathead Facts by John W Lawson
    I did and decided on stock 221 heads on my 59A motor. Fancy no, does the job, yes, very well.
    engine 002a.jpg
    Surfcityrocker, chop job and Vanness like this.
  18. Machwon169
    Joined: Apr 26, 2019
    Posts: 13


    Sell me a set lol
  19. J. A. Miller
    Joined: Dec 30, 2010
    Posts: 1,408

    J. A. Miller
    from Central NY

    Don't Forget Cadillac and Olds.
  20. banjorear
    Joined: Jul 30, 2004
    Posts: 3,795


    Yes, there is that possibly of breaking one off for sure.

    If you're engine has studs, just get a pair of Navarro heads. They are designed to be used with the stock stud heights.
    kadillackid likes this.
  21. solidaxle
    Joined: Jan 6, 2011
    Posts: 481

    from Upstate,NY

    Do a search on locknstitch, it may help you for cracks.
    Be careful buying used aluminum heads, many have heavy corrosion in the water jackets and could be warped.
    I'm running the EAB's and do not suffer from head envy.
    BTW welcome to HAMB.
  22. There was a time when flatheads had first lost their popularity that you could pick up a good set of heads at the junk yard cheap. I picked up a set of Offenhauser heads intake with twin pots, and an aluminium distributer relocator (is that a word?) for less than 3o bucks for my jail bar pickup when I was a kid. I did not pick up enough zot to fell it in the seat of my pants. But it looked cool.

    Today if I was going to spend mucho dinero on heads for a flatty I would look for a pair of Rocky Mountain heads or a pair of the Canadian smooth heads (both ford products). The rocky mountain heads are already higher compression and the Canadians are aluminum (or the ones I have seen are).

    Otherwise I would just mill my originals and relieve the block and call it good.
  23. Bandit Billy
    Joined: Sep 16, 2014
    Posts: 6,867

    Bandit Billy

    I was being ironical for the benefit of our SBC friends who jump on a post about flatheads and talk crap. :cool: I bought my Navarro heads from H&H. True I spent more on main caps than most guys do on their small blocks but I wanted something special...and fast.

  24. I don't like blue cars. But I like yours.:p:confused:o_O:D:D:D

    I am one of those small block guys, also 413 and 426 max wedge guys, but my budget is usually small block. I have had to actually dig deep into my flathead archives because the young man I have taken under my wing is a flathead guy. I like the look of a well dressed flathead, nut I am also a realist. When I was a kid we could find that original flathead stuff cheap and even back then we would more likely shave a pair of original heads.

    I think the price of repop heads is a little high for what you are actually getting. But if that is what you have to work with that is what you have to do, right? One of my pet peeves is a flathead running all the old original stuff all crappy looking because whomever wants you to know that is it 50+ years old, if it is going to be glitched out make it glitzed out. Like @Bandit Billy 's car here. If it Is going to perform (like a full house flathead) then at least have the pride to make it look like it is going to perform.
    Bandit Billy and jimgoetz like this.
  25. jimgoetz
    Joined: Sep 6, 2013
    Posts: 401


    50's ? If your talking about the late 50's there was a lot of rods with (dare I say it) SBC's and Y blocks starting to show up too. But then again there's nothing looks or sounds better than a flathead.
  26. And don't forget Pontiac, or Packard. LOL

    Prior to the 50s and the valve in head V8s you were pretty much stuck with a flatty, but the '50s was like the old west. Everyone was a fast gun and used whatever they could lay their grubby little hands on, and there were lots of choices.

    BTW the reason I traded for my jail bar pickup was because it had a V8. I wanted a pickup real bad and everything that I could get was a 6 cylinder truck. The flathead was an easy choice for me, no engine swap just a quick hop up and drive it like I stole it.
    jimgoetz likes this.
  27. On a budget build you probably wont see any noticeable HP change. That being said, A cool set of aluminum heads on a flat head can give you up to 100 more Visual HP, add a 2 or 3 carb intake another 75 Visual HP, cool plug wire holders another 25 Visual HP, and top it off with a set of Chrome lakes Headers you get another 150 Visual HP. Add it all up and you got a flat head with 350 Visual HP!!!
    jimgoetz likes this.
  28. Forget the steo & listen to you pipes & the wind. Way mo better
    badvolvo and Clay Belt like this.
  29. Beaner the 270 jimmy with some help was damn good in my 50 chebby vert.
  30. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,682

    Bruce Lancaster
    Member Emeritus

    Several loose thoughts...
    1. Spend a few bucks, read Flathead facts (selective coverage, but all he says is proven on the dyno) and reads Ron Holleran's Nostalgia...a real desert island book, you can build the whole motor out of it!
    2. A flathead is a little bit here and a little bit more in about 20 other place, probably more than most can afford.
    You will likely be limited by displacement the most! The differences between 250 and 286 and 307 are huge, not even counting the divorce!
    The first things you skip are the things you can reasonably do later! Heads are a weekend whenever, so do the stuff you take the motor apart for now.
    A small motor will probably like high compression heads when you can, build a bigger one and you can build HC with stock heads that may well breath better and lose less power to water.
    Do what you can and enjoy it! They run OK as stockers, and think torque rather than HP. HP is a mathematical construct, and the formula rules out rael HP below 5200ish RPM.
    Moriarity, joel, Ric Dean and 2 others like this.

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