Gen III/Gen IV Cylinder Head Buyers' Guide

What's Out There For our LS1,LS2,LS6,5.3, LQ9 or Other Late Model Motor.

In the market for a huge power increase? Then you're probably looking at getting a set of ported aluminum heads on your GM car or truck. Here's a sampling of what's available from the aftermarket community. Note that each head is just an example of what that company has to offer, so check their Web sites for a myriad of other heads available as well as possible options for the head listed (such as combustion chamber cc). Compression ratios quoted are for an otherwise-stock 5.7 LS1.

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AFR LS1 Mongoose Street Head
Company: Air Flow Research
Intake cc: 205
Chamber cc: 66
Approximate Compression: 10.2:1

AFR's heads are its own casting, and the Mongoose Street head is no exception. This fully CNC-ported head features the same intake port cc as the stock LS1 head, yet outflows it by over 70 cfm. Fully emissions-legal, this direct bolt-on head features the same .75-inch deck as all other AFR heads for reliable sealing, and also features thick port walls and reinforced rocker stud bosses. Add in AFR's new double-quench pad area combustion chamber, and you have a winner hands-down. AFR's suggested retail price is $2,499. A 76cc version is also available for lower compression applications. If you like to "port your own," an as-cast version of this head is also available and comes without valvetrain parts.

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Edelbrock/Lingenfelter CNC-Ported LS1 Head
Company: Edelbrock
Intake cc: 205
Chamber cc: 65
Approximate Compression: 10.3:1

Relying on Lingenfelter's many years of CNC experience, Edelbrock now offers a new head--its own casting, mind you--that is a bolt-on replacement for all '97-and-later GM V-8s. After being ported by Lingenfelter it is shipped fully assembled, and it includes titanium retainers and COMP Cams valvesprings as well as Edelbrock proprietary valve guides. This head is brand-new, so emissions legality is pending, as is pricing. If you want to do your own porting, an unported version featuring stock dimensions so that any LS1 or LS6 CNC program can be run on it also available.

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ET Performance CNC-Ported LS1 4.8/5.3 Head
Company: ET Performance
Intake cc: 230
Chamber cc: 64
Approximate Compression: 10.5:1

ETP pours its own casting that is different in several ways from other heads on the market. A raised valve cover rail as well as an 11-degree valve angle (versus the factory 15-degree) make for a serious head for serious applications. Intake runners from 215cc up to--get this--255cc in volume are also available, as well as killer C5R heads, all on ETP's own aftermarket castings. Any kind of porting you want is available; you name it, ETP will do it. Check with the company for the latest pricing.

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Patriot LS6-style CNC Heads
Company: Patriot Performance
Intake cc: 227
Chamber cc: 59
Approximate Compression: 11.1:1

Patriot says there are several things that set its heads apart. First, it offers combustion chamber sizes from 59cc to 72cc while maintaining the stock deck height. In addition, these sizes are offered for any bore in the range of 3.90 to 4.125 inches. A choice of valve sizes is available, ranging between 2.02 and 2.08 inches, and the heads come out the door fully assembled with goodies such as titanium retainers, viton rubber seals, and Patriot's own Gold Dual valvesprings. Pricing is $1,195 per pair, assembled.

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GMPP CNC-Ported Gen III Aluminum Racing Cylinder Head
Company: GM Performance Parts
Intake cc: 250
Chamber cc: 44
Approximate Compression: 13.9 to 1

This particular item is a fully machined and CNC-ported C5R head with 2.18-inch intake valves and 1.625-inch exhaust valves. You may as well just ignore the above-quoted LS1 compression ratio because with valves that big, you're going to need a bigger-bore block to bolt these heads to! Call your local GM dealer for pricing on this and other heads available from GM Performance Parts. If you have several-thousand dollars lying around, pick up a C5R block while you're at it.

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HPE Stage 3 4.8/5.3 LS1 head
Company: Horsepower Engineering
Intake cc: 230
Chamber cc: 64
Approximate Compression: 10.5:1

Optimal power and torque is the name of the game with HPE's Stage 3 4.8/5.3 head. Featuring a high-velocity port to maintain good drivability, 40-50 rwhp over stock can be had with these heads. Full Rev valvetrain hardware, such as valvesprings good to well over 0.600-inch lift are included, all for the price of $2,195. Horsepower Engineering also offers a Stage 2 head package for the best "bang for the buck."

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Lingenfelter CNC-Ported LS1 Cylinder Heads
Company: Lingenfelter Performance Engineering
Intake cc: Customer-specified
Chamber cc: Customer-specified
Approximate Compression: Customer-specified

Precision CNC-machined in-house, Lingenfelter offers ported LS1 heads designed to yield improved port velocity as well as high-flow capabilities. This combination gives a strong torque curve as well as high horsepower. Lingenfelter claims that the elimination of hand-porting each and every head provides more consistency from port to port. However, the CNC program itself is derived from an LS1 head that was hand-ported by Lingenfelter, so in effect, you do get a "hand-ported" CNC head that Lingenfelter put many hours into perfecting. Pricing is $1,595 for the above-described units, not including refundable core charge.

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Precision Porting and Coatings Stage 3 LS-series Heads
Company: Precision Porting and Coatings
Intake cc: Customer-specified
Chamber cc: 58
Approximate Compression: 11.3:1

PP&C says its $1,499 Stage 3 head package offers the best possible setup for a street/strip vehicle. Hand-porting gives balanced runners matched to the customers' camshaft profile and driving style. All of Precision's heads (or any head you wish to send in) get their valve faces and combustion chamber coated with their thermal barrier coating, which reduces hot spots and helps to prevent detonation. Precision says customers can expect oil and coolant temperatures to drop significantly thanks to these coatings, particularly during hard driving. A range of combustion chamber sizes is available and 6.0L castings can be used to lower the compression for forced-induction applications.

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FLP Stage 3 LS6 heads
Company: Finish Line Performance
Intake cc: 236
Chamber cc: 65
Approximate Compression: 10.3:1

Ported by Scott Fulkerson of Midwest Engine Tech in Mokena, Illinois, FLP's Stage 3 LS6 heads flow 317 cfm on the intake and 217 cfm on the exhaust, and feature a 2.10-inch intake and 1.60-inch exhaust valves. Pricing for a set of these particular heads is $2,299. You can supply your own head cores or FLP can use its own to minimize your ride's downtime. All of FLP's heads can be milled to achieve a higher compression ratio for a nominal charge. In addition to the LS6ers, LS1 and 5.3 heads can also be used.

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TPIS Stage 2 Ported LS1 Cylinder Heads
Company: Tuned Port Induction Specialties
Intake cc: 218
Chamber cc: 64
Approximate Compression: 10.5:1

TPIS starts off this package with a set of 5.7 LS1 heads and fully CNC ports the chambers and runners, installs 2.02 and 1.56-inch lightweight stainless valves, and puts on titanium retainers and springs appropriate to the customer's camshaft selection. A full three-angle valve job is also performed. The going rate on a set of these heads is $1,700 on an exchange basis. Even larger valves are available if desired, as are porting work on 5.3 and 6.0L cylinder heads.

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PRC Stage 2.5 5.3L Heads
Company: Precision Race Components
(Texas Speed & Performance)
Intake cc: Customer-specified
Chamber cc: 62
Approximate Compression: 10.7:1

Precision Race Components and Texas Speed and Performance are two faces of the same company, so don't get confused. This particular 5.3 head package goes for $1,529 and includes 2.04- and 1.575-inch stainless steel valves. Large valves are available if the customer wishes to upgrade to the Stage 3 package. This company's heads are sold outright as new castings, so no core swap is involved, though Precision Race Components will gladly port castings a customer supplies as well. All heads are hand-finished, bowl-blended, assembled, decked, and flow-tested by a full-time cylinder-head specialist trained by the School of Automotive Machinists.