Best aftermarket heads for a SBC


Hello all,

My 2019 Automotive goal is to finish my figure eight race car/derby car and get on track once again this year. Part of the build is assembling a new engine; I’m thinking mild build, torque more important than horsepower as all our tracks are small so 0-40mph is about the range I need.

For the engine I’m thinking a Small Block Chevy (SBC) build to make power from idle(1000 rpm) to around 5-5500 max. Running a 3.73 rear gear with a TH-350 or 400 transmission.

So onto the question, I’ve been looking at different options for cylinder heads. With my preferred power band, what experiences good and bad have you had with aftermarket heads versus stock/original?

I’ve been looking at heads featuring 170-180cc runners, so what would be recommended?
-Stock 86 and older
-96-98 Vortec series
-Dart Iron Eagle
-World S/R Torquer
-AFR “Street” series

Keep in mind, figure eight is full-contact racing, so radiator failures can mean running high temps for extended period as well.



Personally, I would run the stock Vortec heads. What you lose in performance (quite minimal, considering), you gain in replaceability. You cold likely have an extra set of heads for the price of a few of your other options.


For your application you will definitely want to use an iron head due to temps you will encounter. The Vortec heads are a good choice but will require you to use a Vortec intake as well. Another possibility would be a set of Summit Racing or Jegs brand heads, they are cheaper than the Vortec heads and use a std. intake.


I agree with the Vortec suggestions. They are the best stock Gen I SBC head out there and are still cheap and common. The only downside is they react badly to heat, overheat them and you will crack them in the divide between intake and exhaust valves. Second choice would be a set of Dart Iron Eagles. You can get them cheap-ish for an aftermarket brand and they’re good products. They should be heavier cast than the Vortecs so theoretically they should withstand cracking from heat better.

Older heads are good too, but you’ll want to avoid anything form the late 70s-80s like the plague. The flow is abysmal and the valves are typically very small. I’ve had good results simply swapping early smog era heads onto TBI injected engines. But you might find that you’ll have more money into these earlier heads than just buying Vortecs which flow better from the start.