It’s happened to nearly all of us. We go to the track and watch someone rip off an astonishing time. After we see that amazing pass we make a bee line to the pits to find the car and interrogate the driver and hopefully get a peak under the hood.
Then you go home with all kinds of wild new ideas for your project. After you’ve slept on it, told everyone on your favorite forum of your new master plan and started your search for the parts the truth of the matter sets in. For a variety of reasons, most of us who aren’t building a dedicated race car aren’t going to be able to put race-only parts on our street/strip/weekend machines.
You also have to wonder — who’s going to put all these miracle parts you’re buying together? Basic engine assembly may be familiar to the average enthusiast but many of us lack access to a machine shop or to one that can be trusted to put together a high performance engine. If it’s a mail order part, you have to wonder as well how qualified was the guy on the assembly line as an engine builder?
This conundrum presents a unique market for not only affordable components that deliver many of the same elements and benefits of high-end race-only parts, but assembled short blocks and top end kits utilizing said parts, straight from a respected and trusted engine builder. And that’s exactly what Dart Machinery has done with the their Special High Performance (SHP) line of products. In this feature piece, we’ll introduce you to Dart’s popular SHP line and even take a look at some of the products that comprise this great offering from Dart.
The single biggest reason most of us typically don’t put high-end race parts in our street cars is budget. Unless you make your living racing, putting race-bred parts into a car that sees occasional weekend track duty or spends more time cruising around town and less of its life making full throttle passes just doesn’t always make financial sense. However most of us still long for those higher quality parts and desperately seek a way to keep our outlay of cash low, while still getting the quality we demand.
In 2008, Dart Machinery introduced the SHP line of products that are manufactured and assembled right alongside Dart’s hardcore race parts. They are held to the same high standards as those famous race parts but are designed with the weekend warrior or street/strip guy in mind instead of strictly the all-out racer.
“SHP is the newest line from Dart. It consists of cylinder heads, engine blocks, top end kits, and assembled short blocks, all designed to make engine building easier and more affordable for the enthusiast,” according to Dart’s Jack McInnis.
The Small Block Chevy — Where it All Began
Dart’s first SHP product was their all new small block Chevy. This block is about half the cost of their famous Iron Eagle and provided a much needed solution. Rather than refreshing old cores and bringing them up to Dart’s high standards, they simply start with a new block of their design and manufacture. By doing this, Dart keeps quality control in-house and under close watch.
Dart has also engineered their SHP line for priority main oiling. What this means is the oiling system directs oil to the main bores before sending oil to the cam. This is crucial for longevity in a high performance engine — especially those seeing high RPMs. All SHP blocks feature siamese bores and extra thick decks for better head gasket sealing.
Following the success for the SHP small block Chevy, Dart also began offering an SHP version of the small block Ford engine in both of the popular 8.2” and 9.5” deck heights. These blocks also feature priority main oiling, and all the same key features that made the SHP small block Chevy a great value.
All SHP blocks come with 4-bolt mains in the middle and 2-bolt outer main caps. However, Dart also offers a Pro version of the small block Chevy targeted at higher RPM applications. This Pro version features 4-bolt mains throughout, a big block Chevy cam bore, larger lifter bores (.904”) and ARP studs on the mains instead of bolts.
Engineered, Manufactured and Assembled in the USA
Browse any auto parts web site or open any magazine or parts catalog and you can find plenty of “budget” friendly parts, including crate engines, rotating assemblies and blocks. The problem is that until you read the fine print (if there is any) you may not know where those parts are coming from, how or where they were manufactured or made, and who — in the case of an engine — assembled it.
The fact is we can afford to put together an assembly that competes price wise with the OE offerings and yet is a premium package with all good, aftermarket, brand new components.
Dart does not build complete crate engines but they do offer a large number of short blocks in the SHP line. Each short block is assembled by one engine builder. This means that when you order an SHP short block, you’re not getting a product that came down an assembly line with hundreds of others like it that day. You are getting a hand-assembled, American-built, quality product. From machine work to final assembly and packing, it’s all done at the Troy, MI facility.
It’s What’s Inside that Matters
All SHP products come standard with cast components, though upgrading to higher-end, fully forged components is always an option. All rotating assemblies are internally balanced. You get molly rings from Hastings and Clevite bearings.
SHP Engine Block Key Features
- Brand new block, not a refurbished OEM block
- Priority Main Oiling in all SHP blocks for better longevity especially at higher RPM
- Siamese Bores
- Extra thick deck for better head gasket sealing
- Blind tapped for head bolts, don’t pass through water jackets
- Four bolt mains on center caps, two bolt on outters (optional 4 bolt pro version on small block Chevy)
- Splayed center mains for added strength to prevent cracking
- Available in 4.00” or 4.125” bore
SHP Product Overview
Top End Kits
If you’re looking to round out your package with parts designed to work with your short block Dart also offers a variety of SHP top end kits that include cast iron or aluminum cylinder heads. Dart also offers a selection of small block Chevy intake manifolds.
Cylinder heads are manufactured to the highest standards as well and feature quality parts throughout. Aluminum heads are manufactured from A356-T6 aluminum. The small block Chevy heads are a direct bolt on from nearly any project since they feature stock valve angles that won’t require special pistons to accommodate them.
McInnis tells us of the top end kits and heads they are “…fully assembled with stainless steel valves, springs and retainers, they come with bolts, gaskets, valve covers and even spark plugs. Everything you need to complete the top end of the engine.”