Papa putting me in my place! Ha!
Yeah I would be willing to bet it was running without a head gasket that did you in. Some folks run with out them but they end up using a copper spray to make it seal.
I do not use studs on my exhaust or intake. I remove them if I can or do not install them on new kits. I use standard m6 bolts, the black hardened ones are the best. Just be 100% certain you get the bolt in straight and you will be golden.