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In a car engine, the cylinder head sits above the cylinders, and consists of a platform containing part of the combustion chamber and the location of the valves and spark plugs. In a flathead engine, the mechanical parts of the valve train are all contained within the block, and the head is essentially a flat plate of metal bolted to the top of the cylinder bank with a head gasket in between. This configuration was easy to maintain but restricted air flow, limiting rpm as a result, and was replaced by the Overhead Valve head design.
The cylinder head is key to the performance of an automobile (car) engine, as the shape of the combustion chamber, inlet passages and ports (and to a lesser extent the exhaust) determines a key amount of the volumetric efficiency and compression ratio of the engine.
The number of cylinder heads in an engine is a function of the engine configuration. A straight engine has one cylinder head. A V engine usually has two cylinder heads, one at each end of the V. A boxer engine has two heads.