Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
June 28, 2013
Photos By: The Manufacturers

We'd all like to think that there's some sort of magic to making horsepower. It's not magic, it's simple math. OK, the math can get pretty complex, but the point is that for an engine to make more power, it has to be able to move more air. When you strip away all the fancy parts and terminology, the basic internal combustion engine is nothing more than an air pump. While an oft-used statement, it is the most truthful and accurate appraisal of what an engine does. Air is brought into the combustion chamber, mixed with fuel, and compressed. An ignition occurs, causing the mixture to ignite, and the subsequent gasses expand and push the piston down before exiting out of the combustion chamber. The engine's reciprocating assembly does this hundreds, and more often, thousands of times per minute. Getting more air into that combustion chamber is how more power is made. You can increase the cam's lift or duration, install larger valves in your cylinder heads, and even enlarge the airflow ports of the cylinder heads and intake manifold; but better yet, why not do all of that at the same time.

Over three decades of wrench turning, your author has seen plenty of people nickel and dime their engine upgrades. What eventually happens is you end up with a bunch of mismatched parts that are fighting each other. Generally, the labor is repeated two or three times as the same bolts are turned/removed to access parts for replacement as budget allows. In our experience, we've always found it better to let those with deeper pockets figure out what works and then follow their lead. Removing the inlet restriction of an engine with free-breathing induction parts should be a system's approach and what better way to find that horsepower than with a complete top end upgrade with proven parts that companies have spent countless hours on testing and refining. So instead of installing one part at a time, put that money away and save it. Have the personal restraint to keep saving those dollars. Then, once you've saved up the money you would have eventually spent anyway on mismatched upgrades, you can purchase one of these top-end kits that have been engineered to work out of the box on your engine.

Due to the installed base of small-block Fords, you'll generally only see top-end kits for 289/302/351W applications from the "big guys," which is what we're covering here. There are countless race shops, engine builders, and more that have devised their own "best of the best" top-end kits. Many of these shops offer intake and cylinder head porting (either hand-ported or CNC-based), custom cam grinds, and more. We feel these can be a bit too specific for the needs of this story, but in all fairness, they can make very good power with the right short-block. We stuck with the likes of Dart Machinery, Edelbrock, and Trick Flow because they are known brands whose products can be found from coast to coast, and they are usually nothing more than a call or Internet order away from landing on your doorstep in a few days. So check out these offerings and start saving (no more expensive coffee on the way to work!), and you'll be making some serious steam before you know it.

Iron Eagle Top-End Kits

Dart's Iron Eagle–based kits utilize cast-iron performance cylinder heads with a 180cc intake runner, or optional 200cc runner and a 58cc or 62cc combustion chamber. The heads feature bronze guides, stainless valves and 3⁄8-inch screw-in rocker studs. The 7⁄16-inch studs are an option, as are dual valvesprings for hydraulic roller cams. The valves are placed at the stock 20-degree angles. Dart recommends the 180cc heads for stock displacement and the 200cc head for stroker-based engines.

Due to the installed base of small-block Fords, you'll generally only see top-end kits for 289/302/351W applications from the "big guys," which is what we're covering here

Dart Machinery

The origins of Dart Machinery focus on hard-core drag racing, with some of the company's first engine components designed for NHRA Pro Stock drag racing. As the company grew, so did its product line, including Top Fuel and Funny Car "Hemi" style cylinder heads. As with most companies based off of hard-core product lines, Dart Machinery looked to high-performance street applications and the growing modern muscle car era. Dart Machinery's Ford product line has grown steadily in recent years, including its very popular performance engine blocks, and Dart now features a rather diverse line of top-end kits featuring both the company's Iron Eagle cast-iron cylinder heads as well as the more stout Pro 1 aluminum cylinder heads. Throw in the many options available, such as combustion chamber volume, valvespring height, and more, and Dart's top-end kit product line becomes quite impressive indeed.

Dart Machinery's top-end kits include offerings for 8.2-inch deck 302ci small-blocks and 9.5-inch deck 351 Windsors. Runner volume, chamber size, valve sizes, and spring packages are user-selectable when ordering through Dart Machinery's website or authorized dealer. Due to space constraints, we'll consolidate like kits in our listings here, calling out the available options as applicable. It should be noted that Dart's top-end kits do not include a camshaft (leaving the owner or engine builder to often spec a custom grind), or timing chain set, however its top-end kits do include fabricated aluminum valve covers and the proper spark plugs.

Kit Details (8.2-inch deck 302)
Intake Manifold Dual-plane aluminum, single-plane optional upgrade
Cylinder Heads Assembled Iron Eagle cast-iron heads, 180cc runner, 62cc chamber, 2.02-inch intake/1.60-inch exhaust valves, single spring, double spring optional upgrade, 3⁄8-inch stud mount rockers and 5⁄16-inch hardened pushrods required
Camshaft Not supplied
Timing Chain Not supplied
Head Bolts Yes, 7⁄16-inch black oxide chrome-moly with hardened washers, ½-inch bolts optional upgrade
Intake Bolts Not supplied
Gaskets Yes, cylinder heads, intake, exhaust, valve covers
PN/Pricing 01150111 (single spring)/$1,695.33, 01150112 (double spring)/$1,770.67 (via Summit Racing)

Kit Details (9.5-inch deck 351)
Intake Manifold Dual-plane aluminum, single-plane optional upgrade
Cylinder Heads Assembled Iron Eagle cast-iron heads, 180cc runner, 62cc chamber, 2.02-inch intake/1.60-inch exhaust valves, single spring, double spring optional upgrade, 3⁄8-inch stud mount rockers and 5⁄16-inch hardened pushrods required
Camshaft Not supplied
Timing Chain Not supplied
Head Bolts Yes, ½-inch black oxide chrome-moly with hardened washers
Intake Bolts Not supplied
Gaskets Yes, cylinder heads, intake, exhaust, valve covers
PN/Pricing 01151111 (single spring)/$1,740.53, 01151112 (double spring)/$1,815.88 (via Summit Racing)

Kit Details (8.2-inch deck 302)
Intake Manifold Dual-plane aluminum, single-plane optional upgrade
Cylinder Heads Assembled Iron Eagle cast-iron heads, 200cc runner, 58cc or 62cc chamber, 2.02-inch intake/1.60-inch exhaust valves, double springs, 3⁄8-inch stud mount rockers and 5⁄16-inch hardened pushrods required
Camshaft Not supplied
Timing Chain Not supplied
Head Bolts Yes, 7⁄16-inch black oxide chrome-moly with hardened washers, ½-inch bolts optional upgrade
Intake Bolts Not supplied
Gaskets Yes, cylinder heads, intake, exhaust, valve covers
PN/Pricing 01150122 (58cc chamber)/$1,695.33, 01150132 (62cc chamber)/$1,770.67 (via Summit Racing)

Kit Details (9.5-inch deck 351)
Intake Manifold Dual-plane aluminum, single-plane optional upgrade
Cylinder Heads Assembled Iron Eagle cast-iron heads, 200cc runner, 58cc or 62cc chamber, 2.02-inch intake/1.60-inch exhaust valves, double springs, 3⁄8-inch stud mount rockers and 5⁄16-inch hardened pushrods required
Camshaft Not supplied
Timing Chain Not supplied
Head Bolts Yes, ½-inch black oxide chrome-moly with hardened washers
Intake Bolts Not supplied
Gaskets Yes, cylinder heads, intake, exhaust, valve covers
PN/Pricing 01151121 (58cc chamber)/$1,740.53, 01151132 (62cc chamber)/$1,815.88 (via Summit Racing)

PRO1 Top-End Kits

Dart furthers its top-end kit offerings with the next step up in the company's performance cylinder head line for small-block Fords—the PRO1 aluminum head. The PRO1 is available as a 170cc intake runner design with an option to upgrade to a 195cc runner. The PRO1 heads feature high-flowing, as-cast ports that also utilize profiled valve guide bosses and a CNC-based bowl blending. Stock mounting/bolt-hole locations are used to ensure compatibility, even with a slightly raised exhaust runner (0.135-inch) for better airflow. Like its Iron Eagle counterparts, the PRO1 heads come with 3⁄8-inch studs and can be optioned with 7⁄16-inch studs. Valvespring packages include 1.250-inch single spring for flat tappet use and an optional 1.437-inch dual spring for hydraulic roller cams. The 195cc PRO1 also has an option for a 1.55-inch dual spring package for solid-roller cam use, allowing a maximum lift of 0.660-inch.

Kit Details (8.2-inch deck 302)
Intake Manifold Dual-plane aluminum, single-plane optional upgrade
Cylinder Heads Assembled PRO1 aluminum heads, 170cc runner, 62cc chamber, 1.94-inch intake/1.60-inch exhaust valves, single springs, double spring optional upgrade, 3⁄8-inch stud mount rockers and 5⁄16-inch hardened pushrods required
Camshaft Not supplied
Timing Chain Not supplied
Head Bolts Yes, 7⁄16-inch black oxide chrome-moly with hardened washers, ½-inch bolts optional upgrade
Intake Bolts Not supplied
Gaskets Yes, cylinder heads, intake, exhaust, valve covers
PN/Pricing 01250101 (single spring)/$2,026.86, 01250102 (double springs)/$2,102.20 (via Summit Racing)

Kit Details (9.5-inch deck 351)
Intake Manifold Dual-plane aluminum, single-plane optional upgrade
Cylinder Heads Assembled PRO1 aluminum heads, 170cc runner, 62cc chamber, 1.94-inch intake/1.60-inch exhaust valves, single springs, double spring optional upgrade, 3⁄8-inch stud mount rockers and 5⁄16-inch hardened pushrods required
Camshaft Not supplied
Timing Chain Not supplied
Head Bolts Yes, ½-inch black oxide chrome-moly with hardened washers
Intake Bolts Not supplied
Gaskets Yes, cylinder heads, intake, exhaust, valve covers
PN/Pricing 01251101 (single spring)/$2,072.07, 01251102 (double springs)/$2,147.41 (via Summit Racing)

Kit Details (9.5-inch deck 351)
Intake Manifold Dual-plane aluminum, single-plane optional upgrade
Cylinder Heads Assembled PRO1 aluminum heads, 195cc runner, 62cc chamber, 2.02-inch intake/1.60-inch exhaust valves, double springs, 3⁄8-inch stud mount rockers and 5⁄16-inch hardened pushrods required
Camshaft Not supplied
Timing Chain Not supplied
Head Bolts Yes, ½-inch black oxide chrome-moly with hardened washers
Intake Bolts Not supplied
Gaskets Yes, cylinder heads, intake, exhaust, valve covers
PN/Pricing 01251122 (1.437-inch double springs)/$2,102.20, 01251123 (1.55-inch double springs)/$2,147.21 (via Summit Racing)

Kit Details (8.2-inch deck 302)
Intake Manifold Single-plane aluminum
Cylinder Heads Assembled PRO1 aluminum heads, 195cc runner, 62cc chamber, 2.02-inch intake/1.60-inch exhaust valves, double springs, 3⁄8-inch stud mount rockers and 5⁄16-inch hardened pushrods required
Camshaft Not supplied
Timing Chain Not supplied
Head Bolts Yes, 7⁄16-inch black oxide chrome-moly with hardened washers, ½-inch bolts optional upgrade
Intake Bolts Not supplied
Gaskets Yes, cylinder heads, intake, exhaust, valve covers
PN/Pricing 01250023/$2,162.48 (via Summit Racing)

Edelbrock

Edelbrock may have started with Ford intake manifolds (for the flathead some 70-odd years ago), but today, the folks at the Big-E have added all of the bolt-on engine goodies you can think of to the catalog. Cylinder heads, camshafts, and more are all available from Edelbrock. Edelbrock has been at the forefront of the package concept for decades and has a healthy listing of parts that complement each other. The company's Performer, E-Street, and Performer RPM packages allow the end-user to pick from a selection of parts that work together to create "no-guesswork" performance. These packages have been successful; however, the folks at Edelbrock realized that buyers wanted dyno-proven parts with horsepower numbers that they can brag to their friends about.