The answer is yes, well more specifically they can be installed upside down. And I guess they do seal for a while, but let loose earlier than they should.
I pulled the driver's side manifold today. Found that the gasket for #5 was in upside down, which allowed the metal ring of the gasket to burn through. It sat right at the very edge of the manifold. #'s 6,7, and 8 all looked ok.
While I had the manifold in my lap I played with positioning of the gaskets and found that the first went one direction and the others went 180* opposite. Just had to keep things in order as the gaskets and manifold went back in.
All better now, no ticking, no exhaust leak and no CO in the cabin.
'73 280SEL 4.5 (9/72)- RIP
Only 8,173 units built from 5/71 thru 11/72
'02 CLK320 Cabriolet - wifey's mid-life crisis
2012 VW Jetta Sportwagon TDI...at least its a diesel
Non illegitemae carborundum.