Great article. I have had two cars, both 3.8 NA thunderbirds blow head gaskets. Neither one had the usual tell-tale symptoms of milkshake oil or coolant. What they DID do was run normal on the temp gauge and then suddenly spike over to hot for a couple of minutes only to return to normal. A compression test on both revealed the problem. Aside from that, no symptoms. No head cracks just a wet gasket. I did not refresh either head as they were within runout tolerances, and both cars ran on trouble free for yrs.
I just used the Felpro part number that was the stock replacement. I did take it as an opportunity to get out my grinder and open up the ports to match the gaskets. It may seem frivolous on a 3.8 Ford V6, but it did actually make a difference. That was especially true in the case of the '88.