Compression can be increased or deceased through proper cylinder head selection. It becomes imperative then to know how to identify Pontiac heads in order to pick the right one for your engine. There are d-port heads and round port heads. That characteristic difference is apparent by looking at the exhaust port openings. If you stumble across a round port head...you've got something special. Most Pontiac heads are d-ports. Very few are round ports and those are automatically considered performance heads.

Another thing to look at when examining a head is to see if the head has push in studs or is equipped with screw in studs. Generally, Pontiac heads that are considered high performance by PMD (and by enthusiasts) which have screw in studs and push rod guide plates. There are many d-port heads... some have screw in studs some do not. Any d-port head having pressed in studs may be improved to accept screw in studs. Any quality machine shop can perform the service for you, so keep that in mind. Most importantly, all d-port heads can be ported to provide increased air flow. Air flow is one of the keys to making more power in any combustion engine. Improved air flow will make a difference on your Pontiac engine. The degree of porting (how much metal should be removed) depends on the vehicle's usage. There is no ideal air flow that will work on all engines. [Porting is a subject unto itself.]

What else to look for you ask? Well, every Pontiac head has a casting identifier on the head. I say casting identifier because some have a long string of numbers, some have 2 or 3 numbers, and yet others (low compression, large chambered from the '70s) are alphanumeric...a number or two and a letter cast into the head. With few exceptions, most casting identifiers are on the two center exhaust ports. What I've noticed is that many Pontiac engines are seemingly missing the casting numbers on the two center exhaust ports. My belief is that owners are not removing them, but the disappearance is attributed to age and rust. I have personally examined dozens of engines and found the casting identifiers obliterated, especially so with heads believed to between 1966 and 1970. I believe time has taken it's toll on them. Those heads from the '70s through '79 are in pretty good shape...most of those are alphanumeric.

A casting date is also important to locate. The head casting date is usually found on the exhaust side of the head just below the valve cover rail. If you must, scrape away some of the grime to find the information. A letter is usually followed by three numbers. The letter stands for the month. A=January, B=February and so on. Keep in mind that the month of the year may fall into the next year's production. The numbers that follow the letter is the day of the month. The last number is the calendar year. For example: A109 is probably a casing from January 10, 1969; a head casting with E248 is a casting from 1968 or 1978. If the casting identifier on the center exhaust ports is visible and it's alphanumeric (E.g. 6x) then it's from 1978. If there are two numbers, say 16, or 62 or 48, it's a 1968 casting. The casting date and the casting identifier are critical to identifying a Pontiac head.

What other information is found on heads you ask? There's information cast that appears like a clock face with a triangle pointing to one of the 12 positions (little casting bumps). There is also GM and letters following that which indicate the foundry where the head was cast. This information, however, is not relevant to identifying a head.

Okay, so you've spotted the casting identifier (casting number) and the casting date. Unless you've done a lot of study and logged the info you've found, you still don't know what you've got. Well, some enthusiasts like myself have gleaned info from personal observations over the years and by relying on someone else's hard work. Perhaps the bible that most people look to n is Pete McCarthy's book entitled "Pontiac Musclecar Performance 1955-1979." The book is a cornucopia of information. There are other sources out there too. The bottom line is that if you don't wish to invest in Pete's book and are simply trying to get some quick information, a good place to get your answer is through one of the Pontiac message boards. Performance Years, Classical Pontiac and Pontiac Street Performance's (PSP) board are all worthwhile...and there are others.

One other thing...never rely on the purported chamber size of any Pontiac head. Too much time has passed. Many heads have been milled and the chamber size altered. The best way to know chamber size is to measure their volume (CC the heads).


Comments or ideas--email me at bboyle@boyleworks.com

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