The Most Preferred Aluminum heads


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Apr 23, 2008
Hey everyone, how's it going, I know this has been a forever on going topic, but really would like some advice/help on a decision that I'm currently progressing with my build.

- Quick recap, the bottom end of my 306 in my Fox is more or less on its way out, (burning oil, carbon burn plugs, smoking moderately, signs of piston rings) etc.

So I picked up a 302 shortblock (from a 2001 Ford Explorer 5.0) that I sent out to a machine shop and to have it honed / freshen up, with new components.

everything is great, It's just now I'm somewhat stuck on what to decide on which heads to go with my motor, which is still a stock OEM bottom end, ( just a new fresh rebuild)

Also noted I also have a Trickflow Stage 2 cam that I have to go with it, just now debating to go with either AFR -165, Trickflow 170s or maybe Promaxx or GT40 (If I were to go on a budget) but most important know what would most likely work with my stock piston ( definitely checking the PTV clearance beforehand)

I'm basically putting my old setup on the new shortblock, just with the added on new cam (TFS Stage 2) and the aluminum heads that I'm debating on getting.

My setup is primarily this
- 650 Holley Carb ( have a spare 750 carb to use If necessary )
- Ford racing dual plane Intake
- headers /2.5 inch off road exhaust / 10 series Flows)
- aluminum Heads / Cam
- T5 5speed
- 3: 73 gears (May go with 4.10s or 4.30 but still on the fence)

Main goal is to have a nice stout 302 that will either hit between 280- 320rwhp, or have the Ingredients to hit high 12s and I'll be happy for the most part.

What would be your preferred Aluminum head setup to go with a basic 302 build, AFR, Trickflow, Brodix, Promaxx? I greatly appreciate any input/advice.
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What is the budget? we need to know what you are capable of spending before we can give advice.

I run the proxaxx 190cc heads and like them, however AFR has recently released the defender series heads that flow near identical numbers as the promaxx at a similar price.
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A 750 carb will not help power or driveability. Even at 7000 RPM, a NA 302 will not be choked by a 650 carb. Nitrous, a turbo or blower will change the VE, but with awesome heads and a carb, it will not go over 100%. 90% is not a bad figure for a streetable, prepped engine. Have fun playing with the calculator.



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I've got the TF twisted wedge 170s but my pistons aren't stock. Trick flow is proven but the Promax is showing to be a great bang for the buck. Guess you want to know what heads people have with stock pistons ?
My old motor that's in it right now was from another guy, which had the Proform 750 carb on it, at one point was running a 100-150 shot nitrous on it from what I'm told, and I figured it would be too much for a given street driven 302., probably wash the rings if anything, took that off and put the holley 650 on it, just saying I have it as spare just in case, but highly doubt I'll need for this setup.

Budget wise, I'm looking anywhere from 1K- 2k for heads, I'm in a position where I can grab a decent set I hope for in that range that will work with my stock bottom end and cam.

Only thing is, it seems that past months the most heads on different sites (Trickflow, AFR) are back ordered at the moment so I'm taking that in account as well to see which would be available soonest, or heck, go order the heads from FTI, but still not sure on availability as well.

Yes I heard great results on the Promax 180 heads, even talk to a guy that ran a 11.80 on it with his 86 Fox, he has a custom cam in his motor

Yes exactly, mainly who had success with which heads that worked with their stock pistons.
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How do they perform?
Quite well, there's a video on the web of a 306 w a E274 cam 1.6 rockers making 406 HP, I know my 19 lb inj. are currently too small and driving it conservatively until they get upgraded. But at half throttle, it def goes MUCH better than before with mildly ported E7's, I'm running a E264 cam w 1.7 rockers
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Nice, I'm not exactly trying to set records or anything, but my motor in my car is an 86 5.0 with the crappy E6 heads with the lower tier comp cams, runs alright all things considered, but I feel anything would be a nice improvement over the E6s lol, just want to make it a nice stout 302 weekend toy.

From what I'm looking at it far as options/availability is.

AFR 165 - Available but low stock, seems to be the closest to restocking soon
Trickflow 170, - Not available, back order til April/May.
Promaxx 180 - build to order, should be sent out in a few weeks.
GT40 heads - definitely available, but not sure its worth the hassle/gain over the other options

I haven't really looked at the Blueprint heads, but something definitely to consider, what size are the intake valves? from my understanding once you get up to 2.02 valve size , that you tend to have issues with clearances, reason why I was leaning towards AFR or Trickflow.
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I have an older set of Trick Flow 170s on my Cobra II, it sounds like our cars may be set up similarly. I also have a set of ProMaxx that I bought for my convertible project that I've yet to really do anything with, but the Trick Flows work well with the setup in my Cobra. I looked up and compared specs to the cam I'm running to the TF Stage 2 cam, my cam looks like it's a little bit smaller. If you're curious as to what your engine could put out with Trick Flows, a 650 Holley DP, dual plane, T5, and 3.55s, you can check out the dyno videos in the thread link in my sig. I don't think you'll go wrong with either set of heads though.
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A stock bottom end 302 with AFR 165s will run HARD. If it's just a street car that's what I would go with. With the right cam will be a punchy street engine.
Yeah that’s were I’m leaning more towards, the AFR 165 I mean, it’s mainly going to be a weekend street toy to take out occasionally.

If I can get it close to 300whp mark or have the ingredients (motor/drivetrain wise) to click off a 12 second slip, I’ll be content with it.

side note, what do you guys recommend for 1.6 roller rockers & lifters, just wanted what your input would be?
Yeah that’s were I’m leaning more towards, the AFR 165 I mean, it’s mainly going to be a weekend street toy to take out occasionally.

If I can get it close to 300whp mark or have the ingredients (motor/drivetrain wise) to click off a 12 second slip, I’ll be content with it.

side note, what do you guys recommend for 1.6 roller rockers & lifters, just wanted what your input would be?
With a sticky tire,a healthy 302 with HCI can run low 12's with ease. Assuming driver is capable. I went with the comp cam short travel lifters, and run 20yr old SVO 1.6s. I've seen failures of the cheap Ford replacement roller lifters,so I'd be wary of those.
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Yeah that’s what I’ve been hearing lately, so I wasn’t sure on what to decide far as lifters go lol, budget wise I have a little wiggle room but nothing crazy, so just trying to pieces the right components so I can do it right the 1st time and not have to back track.

my new motor is already at the machine shop, so just gathering the most ideal parts for it as I go,

I also have a new never been use sets of valve guide retainer that off the Explorer motor, and was considering using those instead of the dog bone style sets.
Without a doubt i will say afr 165's are the best 302/306 head out there.
I've personally seen them make 359rwhp on a stock bottom end all motor.
Kinda hurts to say since i'm a big Twisted wedge fan, but it is what it is (and that's what i ran).
Drivability is also a function of the cam, you can go wild (which i have done with some negative affects) or mild and give up some top end for mid range.
Edit: 280rwhp is pretty easy, 320rwhp is going to take a little effort (and money).

There are a few more brands out there now, but it doesn't seem anyone ever offers up any definitive proof of how effective they really are. You can stuff boost through most heads, but it skews the numbers. Would love to see rear wheel dyno sheets from people with NA 302's with these other heads. It's almost impossible to compare them any other way.
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Some may disagree but these are the best roller rockers I ever ran. The same set was installed in several engine combos over the years in a pedestal mount version. They never gave an issue in 20+ years. I sold them to a guy 7 or 8 years ago and he's still using them. Neither of us are using huge spring pressure rates. Just mild to slightly aggressive cams and proper set up.


I'm running comp cam stud mount 1.6 rockers but they are from when quality control mattered.
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