Back in the early days, choosing cylinder heads for your small-block Mopar engine used to be a no-brainer. If you were on a budget, you'd simply freshen the factory steel heads and, perhaps, perform some port and bowl work, top them off with stiffer springs matched to the camshaft you chose, and try to be happy with the power the heads made. If your wallet was a little thicker, you'd search the boneyards for a set of X or J castings, perform the same work, and be a little happier with the output of the engine. For die-hard racers with deep pockets, the Direct Connection W-2 casting was the cylinder head of choice, but it came with baggage. The W-2 needed special valvetrain components, a special intake, and the exhaust ports required either special custom-built headers or adapter plates, so this option was really only feasible if you were professionally racing your Mopar. Well, times have changed and in the last decade or so the aftermarket has become flush with cylinder heads for your small-block Mopar. There are so many cylinder heads, in fact, that choosing the right one for your application has become a confusing proposition.

We at Mopar Muscle are here to help. If there's one thing we hate to see it's a nice car that doesn't run up to its potential due to improper matching of parts. If you're building a stock street motor for weekend cruises, it just doesn't make sense to use a large port, giant valve race head. In fact, too much head for an application will nearly always equate to poor performance and decreased economy. Matching the cylinder heads to your combination is equally important in a race engine. There's just no way that a factory production head will flow enough air to support a high cubic-inch small-block at high rpm no matter how big the cam or how extensive the port job. Actually, the cylinder head choices for bone stock or full race applications probably require less thought than for your application as there are fewer cylinder head choices at those ends of the spectrum. Chances are your project falls somewhere in between a stock engine and a full race application, which gives you dozens of cylinder head choices. Careful planning and setting a performance and budget goal for your build are the first steps to making the proper cylinder head choice. You may find the heads you already have will achieve your performance goal, but your budget will allow an aluminum head saving weight and giving you additional performance. On the other hand, your budget may dictate the race heads you desire are out of reach, requiring that you make the best of your factory units. Either way, this article should help you make your choice.

We'll outline small-block cylinder heads and their performance potential to help make your decision easier. We'll begin with the factory production heads and work our way to the higher flowing, more exotic (and more expensive) race units. Remember that more than one cylinder head may meet all your requirements, so then the choice is up to your personal preference. Some heads are also cast in both steel and aluminum, so weight versus cost could be the determining factor in your decision. If you're a racer, be sure to consult the rules of your sanctioning body as they may dictate one or more cylinder heads that are legal for the class you race.