When it comes to engines, I appreciate factory performance options that deliver outstanding power straight from the factory. However, that’s just a jumping-off point for hot-rodders and tuners, so I really love aftermarket speed parts. Valve covers themselves have a simple job: keep the oil inside and debris outside. Aside from providing more room for larger rockers or a stud girdle, they are almost totally cosmetic. Why not pick some that lend the right tone to your engine bay? Here are five of my favorite styles of aftermarket valve covers for domestic V-8 engines.
M/T finned aluminum valve covers are appropriate on all kinds of engines as Mickey Thompson himself was involved in road racing, off-road racing, drag racing, land speed racing, and boat racing. They look great on just about any ’60s-style build and any engine, although they look particularly good on Mickey Thompson Pontiac Hemi heads. Some of the more desirable M/T valve covers are the earlier versions with “Thompson” instead of “M/T” and those that lack the flat portion on top that gave engine shops a place for their name or logo. Production of the M/T valve cover line transferred to Holley in the early ’70s.
If you’re going to match your intake manifold to a set of valve covers, you’ve got plenty of choices besides Mickey Thompson. Holley, Edelbrock, and Weiand all made attractive options with their names cast proudly in the middle. All of them look good, but for early hot rods with log-ram intakes bristling with six or even eight two-barrel carbs, Offenhauser valve covers seem the most fitting.
Lots of companies made simple aluminum valve covers with varying numbers of fins depending on just how wide the valve cover needs to be. You could choose to have fins on just the top or perhaps a set that had the fins curve down toward the mounting flange. Holley and Mr. Gasket both still make classic style valve covers in this vein, but my money is on the original Cal Custom valve covers. I don’t mind that the company’s small logo, debossed in aluminum, breaks up the continuity of the fins a bit.
If you want to show that your 302 is packing some track-bred power, a set of Shelby valve covers is not a bad plan. The racetrack CS logo hints at the racing potential of a hot-rodded Ford small-block and, like most of our favorite valve covers here, it’s got fins. What’s not to love? Equally cool are the Cobra valve covers proclaiming “Powered by Ford.”
For a ’70s or ’80s-style street machine build, nothing sets an engine off quite like gold anodized Moroso valve covers. These almost have to have tall wingnuts. After all, if you’re running a solid lifter cam and you’re lashing your valves in the pits every weekend, time is of the essence.
There are plenty of other styles, of course. Please let us know about your favorite aftermarket valve covers in the comments below.