Inside Dart’s new SHP Small Block Ford

Ford’s 302 small block has had a strong performance following since its official debut in 1967 and during the last decade, the Ford small block has become a major player in all performance circles. A number of companies, including Ford Racing, World Products, and Dart, have developed stronger racing and street blocks to match enthusiasts’ tremendous thirst for power.

However, with the release of the Dart SHP Small Block Ford Block, Dart is attempting to take the small block Ford to new levels of performance for street-worthy prices. We recently had the opportunity to personally check out Dart’s SHP Ford block at their Troy, Michigan facility and we were so impressed with the product, that we ordered one for an upcoming project!


With over ninety million having been built, the Chevy small block is still the king of the hill and dominates the aftermarket, but the Ford small block has been gathering momentum. The late model Mustang has been a major contributor to both the 302 small block Ford’s popularity and marketability. Once labeled “too expensive” to build (as compared to a Chevy), prices on quality, go-fast Ford parts have become more affordable.

Pro Stock Technology in Every SHP Block

Troy, Michigan-based Dart Machinery is a leader in the industry, and offers a full line of Ford small blocks to both the entry-level enthusiast and the professional racer alike. Dart’s owner and longtime race engine builder, Richard Maskin, works hard to keep his company on the radar of Ford enthusiasts. Walk through any NMRA event and ask competitors what block they are running, and you’ll find that Dart is well represented in the push rod classes. Maskin has been the engine builder and tuner behind three NHRA Pro Stock championships. In addition to his success on the track, he consults with the best Ford engine builders in the country for feedback and new ideas in block technology.


All SHP Ford blocks are made in the USA. Castings are done in Mid-West foundries and machined at Dart’s Detroit facilities.

Dart’s latest SHP (Special High Performance) Ford small block shows how serious they are about being the source for high performance engine blocks, cylinder heads, and now complete short block assemblies.

SHP an Alternative to Mass Produced, Factory Crate Engines

The need for an entry-level performance Dart block reared its head at the PRI show several years ago. A longtime Dart customer brought Maskin one of the big “Detroit Three” performance catalogs and had a discussion about the expanding number of performance crate engines available. “Performance” crate engines, whose components are often produced using offshore foundries, offshore machining operations, and are assembled on high-volume assembly lines.


Dart realized that 302 and 351 blocks were becoming rare and other so-called “performance blocks” were lacking in content, so they created the SHP block.

This farming out/mass production process by the OEMs is necessary to attain competitive prices, but there are tradeoffs that arise when exchanging quality for quantity. After additional research and customer feedback, Maskin saw the need for a high quality, affordable American-built Ford block that would serve multiple customers’ needs.

Dart’s main goal with the new SHP block was to help local performance engine shops retake a share of the crate engine market, which has been taken over by the mail order madness that’s swept through the performance industry. Back in the day, before the Internet and mail order giants, local engine shops were the experts on performance engine builds.

Dart, ever the performance patriot, is leading the charge to offer a quality block, in order to help the “mom and pop” engine builder develop crate engines. That way, small shops will be able compete with the factory built, mass produced units.

In addition to crate engines, Dart saw the market potential for a high quality Ford cast iron small block that would provide a better option than junkyard blocks. Realizing salvaged 302 and 351 blocks were becoming rare and other so called “performance blocks” were lacking in content, Dart created the SHP block.

After years of research and development, the SHP Ford small block is an affordable foundation for any Ford enthusiast. The SHP block eliminates the time and expense of finding, cleaning, machining and prepping a junkyard Ford small block (which may turn out to be a boat anchor after machine shop preparation). Even if you can find a usable core, the cost of rebuilding and blueprinting a junkyard block doesn’t make sense.

By the time a customer buys a used block and has it cleaned, pressure checked, decked, bored, and honed with a torque plate, the cost is higher than a brand-new SHP block that’s already been machined to precise tolerances. With the SHP block, you simply unpack it from the shipping box, finish hone the cylinders, and it’s ready to assemble.


The new Dart Ford SHP block is a performance upgrade from a factory Ford small block, and features many Dart race block updates.

Dart’s new Ford SHP small block is intended for the street/strip enthusiast and is capable of producing 600 – 700 horsepower. Its affordable $1,700 price tag (hundreds of dollars less than a full race block) and high-performance features make it an ideal block for a street machine, weekend bracket racer, oval track engine, off road truck, or performance marine application.

The new Dart Ford SHP block fits in between an original factory Ford 302 small block and a dedicated race block like Dart’s Iron Eagle Sportsman block.

• The SHP block is stronger than a stock piece, and has thicker cylinder walls that can safely accommodate up to a 4.185″ bore.

• Dart SHP block features scalloped water jackets around each cylinder barrel, so there is excellent coolant flow around the cylinders.

• While the block has street/strip credentials, it’s not intended for applications over 700 horsepower and is not designed to be a true race block. So don’t go throwing three stages of nitrous or 40 pounds of boost at it and expect it to live a long life.

SHP Block Engineered to Save You Money

Developed by Maskin and the Dart engineering team, the SHP block combines the traditional dimensions of the Ford small block with advanced technology developed after years of competition at the track. The SHP block is compatible with all stock Ford small block components – but it’s far superior to any OEM engine block. The SHP block incorporates advanced performance features that are not available in any mass produced production casting.

The Ford SHP block is designed to fit the most popular Ford small block performance applications, with an optional 8.200” (302 cubic inches) or 9.500” (351 cubic inches) deck height. You also have a choice of 4.00” or 4.125” siamesed cylinder bores. The bores can safely be bored to 4.185” for large cubic inch projects.


Billet splayed 4-bolt main caps and thick main webs are stronger than anything the Ford factory offers.

On the bottom end of the SHP Ford block, 4-bolt splayed billet steel main caps are used on the center three main journals. The inner main cap bolts are 1/2 inch diameter, while the outer main cap bolts are 7/16 inch diameter. The outer bolts are splayed to anchor the caps securely to the strongest part of the block. The end caps feature 2-bolt billet steel caps with beefy 1/2 inch bolts, and will clear the majority of Ford small block oil pans. Given the strength and rigidity of the bottom end, you’ll have no problem with the crankshaft walking around during high loads or rapid acceleration / deceleration.

For those who want to build a big cubic inch Ford small block, Dart has set the maximum recommended stroke at 3.500”. The maximum stroke, combined with a maximum bore of 4.185”, equals 385 maximum cubic inches on the 302-based SHP block.


Extended cylinder bores accommodate stroked cranks up to 3.500″ and provide piston support at the bottom stroke.

The SHP block was also designed with extended cylinder bores to accommodate long crankshaft strokes, and offers more piston support during bottom stroke of the piston. This is a feature that you won’t find in so-called performance factory blocks. For those weight conscious car builders, the Dart SHP 4.000” bore block weighs approximately 175 lbs, and the 4.125” bore block weighs 165 lbs.

When designing the SHP, Dart included many high-end features that will benefit a performance engine build, and omitted features that are more specific to an all-out race engine:

The SHP block has a true priority main oiling system. With the true priority main oiling design, engine oil is pumped to the main bearings first, then routed to the camshaft and on to the top of the motor. In a production block, the main oil gallery is above the camshaft, however in the SHP block, it’s relocated to the side of the camshaft tunnel. In the SHP block, pressurized oil is sent directly from the oil gallery to the main bearings, rather than being routed around the cam bearings like a production block.

It does not have a front oil crossover or provisions for a dry sump system – that’s only required for a dedicated race engine.


SHP block uses OE style lifters, guides and retainers. Aftermarket lifters may also be used.

In addition to oiling updates, the SHP block has provisions for OEM-style roller lifters, as well as OEM tie bar retainers and retainer plate. The OE lifter compatibility can save a customer hundreds of dollars on an engine build. The OEM-type lifters are much less expensive than aftermarket conversion hydraulic roller lifters, and they work well with a high-performance camshaft profile.

If your application requires aftermarket lifters, the block is designed to accommodate most aftermarket lifter designs. Another top end feature is the blind 1/2 inch head bolts that don’t extend into the water jackets. This stiffens the deck surface, increases the clamping load on the head gasket, and eliminates coolant seepage around the head bolts. You don’t need sealer on the bolt threads – just lubricant.


SHP blocks are machined and finished by the same experts that work on Dart’s Pro Stock race blocks.

All SHP blocks are made in America, using Dart’s proprietary tooling and casting techniques. The blocks are cast by one of Dart’s Mid-West foundry contractors, and then machined in Dart’s own Detroit area machining facility. After the block returns to Dart from the foundry, it’s precision machined to exact tolerances in Dart’s dedicated CNC machining center. The same technicians and tooling that machines Dart’s high-dollar Pro Stock race blocks are used on every SHP Ford small block. Dart uses the same Makino CNC machining centers and machinists to produce all blocks. This is a quality control process most manufactures cannot brag about.

The SHP Ford block is shipped from Dart’s Troy, Michigan facility, ready to assemble right out of the box (after a light honing of the cylinder bores for piston clearance).

SHP Short Block Assemblies

In addition to the base SHP Ford block, Dart is now offering a complete SHP short block assembly in a variety of options. The basic Ford SHP short block retails for around $3,500 and is competitively priced, considering the experts at Dart are assembling the parts. These SHP short blocks feature individually balanced crankshafts, connecting rods, pistons, file-fit moly rings and coated cam bearings.

The standard Ford SHP short block utilizes a cast steel 3.400-inch crankshaft, and a forged 4340 steel crankshaft is available as an upgrade. For connecting rods, the base SHP Ford short block is shipped with forged 4340 steel I-beam rods, with an optional high performance H-beam rod available for an additional cost. For pistons, the SHP short-block features hypereutectic slugs, with an optional forged piston for nitrous or boosted applications.


SHP short blocks are assembled in Dart’s own engine assembly room, by the same team that assembles Dart’s race engines.


Dart supplies and assembles the block, crankshaft, pistons, rods, and rings for the SHP short block. All of the components are designed to work together so there aren’t any surprises.

All Dart SHP Ford Short Blocks are assembled by the same engine team that builds Dart’s championship winning Pro Stock engines – no mass produced assembly line units here.

The SHP Ford short block assemblies are a great alternative to mass produced crate motors, because they keep the local speed shops and engine builders in the business. Dart supplies and assembles the basic SHP short block components – the block, crankshaft, pistons, rods, and rings. Because Dart buys the parts in quantity, the price is very reasonable, and all of the components are designed to work together so there aren’t any surprises. A local shop can finish the engine with a Dart top end kit that includes the cylinder heads, intake manifold and valve covers, or select their own components. To complete the build, the engine builder or customer supplies the camshaft and valvetrain that’s best suited to their application.

If you’re in the market for an affordable Ford small block and don’t want to gamble on a junkyard find or low-tech factory block, take a look at Dart’s SHP block. Its race block features and very competitive pricing make it tops on our list of best buys for 2009.

Our New Dart SHP Engine!

After touring the Dart facilities in Michigan, we were sold on the new Ford SHP short block and had a project back home that would be a perfect fit for the new engine. Jeff Garrison is one of the video editors at PowerTV, and he owns a 1986 Mustang with a high mileage, worn out factory 5.0. He recently had the suspension updated and the car is ready for some serious power. Our goal with this engine project is to assemble a hot street combination that will pass California Emissions Testing. The project is also on a tight budget, so a high dollar custom build is not in the cards.


Jeff Garrison’s 1986 notchback was the perfect project for our Dart SHP Shortblock build-up.

With that goal in mind, we selected the assembled Dart Ford SHP short block, Dart Pro 1 aluminum cylinder heads, and a Dart valvetrain kit that includes a hydraulic roller camshaft, timing set and lifters.

When the 4.125 bore, 363 cubic inch version of the Ford SHP short block arrived, it was like Christmas for Jeff and the build crew. As delivered, the new SHP block had the cast-steel crankshaft, I-beam connecting rods and forged pistons. Not only did the Dart SHP short block have everything we needed to begin the build, we also had confidence in knowing that the short block was hand assembled by one of Dart’s master engine builders. If you are not bent on building your own short block, and don’t want the hassle of trying to match parts for the rotating assembly, it’s great to have the experts at Dart do it for you. And they do it for a very competitive rate when you figure in their years and years of experience.


Dart shipped us the basic SHP short block for Jeff’s new engine project – we plan to add Dart Pro 1 heads and their valvetrain kit.

In the next few months, we will cover the Dart SHP short block build-out for Jeff’s car. Check back for more updates.

For more information about the SHP Ford block or short block assembly, or to find your local Dart SHP dealer, visit Dart’s SHP site.

Article Sources

About the author

James Lawrence

James started working on a Nostalgia Top Fuel drag racing team in 1992, and the rest has been history. A life-long automotive enthusiast, James is in fierce competition to see whether he can collect more cars or cats. Right now, the cars are winning. James co-founded the NMRA and NMCA Drag Racing Series in 1998 and continues to be an avid and passionate fan on everything 1320. He also thinks he can drive. Thinks, is the key word.
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