The small-block Chevy is without a doubt the most popular engine in the world. Over the years, we have seen some wild variations come from these. Amazingly, the evolution continues some 55 years after it was introduced, with better cylinder heads, intake manifolds, engine blocks, and everything in between still arriving on a regular basis. These newly-designed parts have enabled our beloved Mouse to make ridiculous horsepower and live successful lives both on the street and the track, with up to 2,000 horses in forced induction combinations.
While those numbers certainly impress even the most hard-core folks, the price of glory typically comes with a big price tag. For enthusiasts that have a more restrictive budget, the aftermarket has plenty of affordable heads and intake manifolds to build a variety of powerful combinations. The catch has always been the stock block, of which GM produced millions over the years. One of these would have to be used in order to keep the buildup at a reasonable cost. The Gen I 350 blocks are still plentiful, thanks to the millions produced, but the supply of the larger 400ci Gen I small-block is depleting at a rapid pace.
Dart Machinery is staying ahead of the curve and released its Special High-Performance (SHP) Chevy block last year. It's aimed towards the more affordable side of the hobby, but without compromising quality. This new block is a high quality product that eliminates days at a junkyard searching for a suitable block. The SHP block is a lower-cost solution to enthusiasts who want to build a healthy street-machine without breaking the bank. It allows them to start with a brand-new chunk of iron for the foundation of their high performance engines.
Dart might have kept the cost down, but its latest still includes a lot of great features not available in stock blocks. The company claims the SHP block can handle up to 600 hp, but we have heard stories of power levels just north of there in the 700 range, without any problems. The SHP block is available by itself, but Dart also offers complete top-end kits to complement it. Of course, one of its dealers can design a turn-key engine using all of Dart's components if one chooses that route.
Some of the highlights of the SHP block include a priority-main oiling system, Siamese bores (4.000 or 4.125-inch bores), 350 main journals (so it accepts commonly-available cranks), splayed four-bolt main caps (center three caps), a two-piece rear main seal, and provisions for OE roller lifters and cams. It uses the '81-85 stock-style oil pan and dipstick, as well as all bolt holes for accessories like starter and clutch ball.
Dart engineers reworked the cooling system for a more efficient design as well. The engine block can handle a roller-style valvetrain, but that doesn't prevent the use of flat-tappet cams if that is what you have on the shelf in your garage. Both style camshafts fit easily and nicely. The face of the block includes the hydraulic roller cam retainer plate bosses, but Dart designed the block so a standard timing chain cover would still fit. The SHP offers the best of both worlds in the valvetrain department, no matter your budget or intended use.
Hot on the heels of the SHP engine block release is a new line of assembled short-blocks offered directly through Dart's dealers. The company is probably more known for its in-house Pro Stock engine building program, but Dart does build short-blocks and long-blocks for retail (street) purposes. In fact, the same in-house department that builds the Pro Stock engines handles the SHP line-its credentials include three NHRA Pro Stock championships and over 60 national event wins. All this is under the watchful eye and direction of Dart's founder, Richard Maskin, a veteran Pro Stock racer and storied engine builder.