Building a Dart SHP 363ci Short Block and Top End for a Fox Body

Those of you who regularly read our site might get the impression that we’re all about priceless engine builds, and it’s true that we go absolutely nuts for CNC billet parts and shaft mount rockers every now and then. But we’re also regular guys who understand that getting the most bang for the buck is the number one concern for most of you reading what we’re writing. Performance on a budget doesn’t necessarily mean cutting corners, and to prove it we’re going to show you how we put together a bulletproof 450 horsepower 363ci small block Ford based on Dart’s SHP short block and heads.

The premise of the project was to take a tired Fox body daily driver and turn it into something that can still be driven every day, as well as flogged regularly at the track.  Previously we had equipped the Mustang with a full suspension kit from Granatelli Motorsports that dramatically increased the handling.  The engine on the other hand is a tired 5.0 with a few mild bolt-ons.  Though the engine is showing its age, it still managed to net 205 horsepower on our chassis dyno.  With help from partners Dart, BBK, Comp Cams and Canton – our dream of nearly 400 naturally aspirated horsepower was going to become a reality.

The 5-liter Windsor Ford is a classic engine, and there’s a limitless variety of aftermarket parts and accessories for the pushrod 302.  Our Dart build is going to take advantage of that fact – the fresh new engine will fit right in with a lot of performance hardware we already have, saving some coin in the process.

The Short Block – Dart 363ci

The SHP short blocks come pre-assembled by Dart's Pro Stock engine building techs. Here you can see we started our build with our COMP camshaft and retaining plate.

While there’s an infinite number of ways to put together a small-block Ford, we wanted to do it with as little hassle as possible, and come up with a properly-matched combination that will reliably make 400 horsepower at the motor. Dart had the perfect solution – an assembled SHP 363ci short block, capped off with a Dart top end kit.

With an as-optioned price of $3,940 for the 363 short block (the 347 is about $465 less expensive), and around two grand for the top end kit, this particular combination makes a lot of sense both from a financial and time-saving perspective. “The SHP combinations are pre-engineered and dyno tested, built by Pro Stock engine builders,” said Dart’s Jack McInnis. “We eliminate all of the guesswork, and you can count on your short blocks and top end kits to perform great in your street or track car.” Dart’s history of crafting race-winning engines is a good confidence-builder when it comes to laying out the cash for a new mill.

Our Dart SHP short block came loaded with 4.125-inch forged flat-top pistons with full floating pins.

Short block includes:

• Dart SHP block in 4.030 (347) or 4.125 (363) bore sizing
• 3.400 stroke cast steel crank (optional 4340 forged crank)
• Mahle forged flat top pistons – 9:1 compression
• Hastings moly rings – 1/16″, 1/16″, 3/16″
• Clevite H-Series main and rod bearings
• Coated cam bearings
• Forged I-beam 5.325″ length rods with 3/8-inch cap screws (optional H-beam)
• Externally balanced cast crank (internally balanced forged available)

Dart’s Pro 1 Top End Kit

When it comes to heads, Dart offers two different options for the small block Ford: the cast iron Iron Eagle kit, and the aluminum Pro 1 kit. Both are ready to make big power straight out of the box, but we went with the C355-T61 aircraft aluminum Pro 1 heads (part number 13211111) for reduced weight and better performance.  We went with their larger 195cc intake runner with a 2.02 intake and 1.60 exhaust valve and 1.250″ single valve springs with steel retainers.  The assembled set of heads flow a respectable 285 cfm at .700″ lift on the intake and 185 cfm at .600″ lift on the exhaust.

Dart's Pro 1 heads are available with 170 or 195cc intake ports, a choice of single or double valve springs, and 1/2 or 7/16 head bolts (for non-Dart blocks).

The Dart Top End Kit includes fully assembled aluminum cylinder heads, cast aluminum valve covers. A dual plane intake manifold, intake gaskets, head gaskets, exhaust manifold gaskets, spark plugs and head bolts. Having all of these parts shipped to our door eliminated the sometimes daunting task of component matching.

The aluminum Pro 1 heads offer Dart's Pro Stock experience and technology without anything close to a Pro Stock price.

Dart utilized their race-proven Wet Flow Technology on the the ports and chambers for superior fuel atomization and airflow characteristics. The standard SBF valve angle and spacing is retained for bolt-on compatibility for any combination, and the exhaust runners are raised .135" for improved flow. Dart utilizes manganese-bronze valve guides and hardened valve seats for added strength and durability.

Dart’s Horsepower in a Box

Designing an engine for optimal performance can be difficult. Different engine combinations like different parts, and selecting components from your local performance shop without knowledge of what you are buying can be taxing on the horsepower the engine will produce. When it comes to buying an assembled crate engine, it can take the fun out of building your own, unique engine combination.

For those looking to take the guesswork out of valvetrain selection, Dart offers a wide range of packages designed to match their top end kits. Through building many engines and customer feedback, Dart was able to put together a few camshaft options that suit a wide range of performance applications. Dart worked closely with valvetrain partner Comp Cams to ensure the cam selection would help validate the power potential of these engine packages. These include mechanical or roller, and mild to moderate camshaft profiles. The kit’s include lifters, COMP camshaft, timing set, and front cover gasket.

Comp Cams Valvetrain Parts

Hydraulic Roller Camshaft – PN# 35-425-8
• 230/236 degrees duration at .050
• .513 intake and .526 exhaust lift
• 110 degree lobe separation angle

Retrofit Hydraulic Roller Lifters – PN# 851-16
• Performance replacement for stock hydraulic roller lifters or retro-fit hydraulic roller lifters for non-roller blocks
• Decrease friction and increase longevity when directly compared to flat tappet lifters
• Accept much more aggressive cam profiles than flat tappet lifters will allow

Hi-Tech Pushrods – PN# 7768-16
• 5/16″ diameter, 6.550″ long
• One-piece construction from .080” wall, seamless chromemoly
• Heat-treated for extended durability & guide plate compatibility
• Precision formed & reinforced ends

Ultra Pro Magnum Roller Rockers PN# 1631-16
• 3/8th” stud, 1.6 rocker ratio
• 300% stronger than extruded 7075-T6 aluminum
• Weighs 5% less at the valve than most aluminum rocker arms
• Arms are proven to be 29% stiffer than the original Pro Magnum Rockers

Armed with our engine specs and information about our car, the Dart HP in a box kit came with a COMP hydraulic roller cam, part number 35-425-8. The specs are 230/236 degrees duration at .050, with .513 intake and .526 exhaust lift, with a 110 degree lobe separation angle.

With the cam installed, we attached our cam retainer and timing chain set provided by Dart in the Horsepower in a Box Kit. Next, we installed our COMP High Energy lifters.

The COMP hydraulic roller lifters dropped in, followed by the retainer, which was secured with the provided hardware.

Since there can be a variety of pushrod lengths in an engine build, the HP in a Box kit does not include them. Though, we still turned to COMP to provide a couple adjustable-length checker pushrods to help us dial in our pushrod length. We came up with a dimension of 6.570 inches, which is about .300 longer than the stock Ford 302 pushrod. COMP was gracious enough to send over the closest length of 6.550, which is pretty darn good for an off-the-shelf match and will ensure we've got the rocker arm geometry we want.

Speaking of rockers, COMP supplied their Ultra Pro Magnum arms. The new steel Ultra Pro Magnum Rocker Arms offer rigidity for maximum lift with limited flex. "Ultra Pro Magnum Rocker Arms weigh 5% less at the valve than most aluminum rocker arms," explained Chris Douglas at COMP Cams. "We used CAD software to design a lifter that has the rigidity of a solid steel rocker, yet is lighter in weight and can withstand a higher RPM range."

The heads bolted down to the block with the supplied ARP bolts fro the top end kit. The push rods were slid into place and the Ultra Pro Magnums were secured to the rocker studs. We finished off the front of the block by attaching the timing cover with ARP bolts.

Topping off the Oiling System

Canton stepped up to help us in the oiling department of our project. The 363 will see a wide range of street and track duty, so we needed a lubrication system that would be as versatile and reliable as possible. Here’s what they provided:

Front Sump Road-Race style oil pan PN# 15-630
• Diamond Shape Road Race Baffle Assembly With Four Trap Doors
• Crank Scraper
• Removable Windage/Anti-Slosh Baffle
• 1/2″ NPT Temperature Bung

Oil pickup tube – PN# 15-611
Louvered windage tray – PN# 20-931P

The pan has an extra-deep sump that gives this pan a total oil capacity of 7 quarts. One additional benefit of the wide, deep pan is that the extra surface area acts as a heat exchanger, cooling the oil in the sump as air passes over and around it while the car is in motion. The louvered windage tray keeps the crank from picking up excess oil by its rotating motion, further adding unneeded weight to the rotating assembly.

The front of the pan has a provision for a dipstick.

The provided oil pan studs were used to button up the bottom of the engine.

BBK SSI Intake Manifold and Fuel Rail Kit

To complete our 363, we turned to a company that will be familiar to anybody who’s ever put parts on a Fox – BBK. Though Dart had supplied a dual-plane intake with their kit, we wanted to retain the car’s EFI, and to do that we procured an intake manifold and fuel rails from BBK.

BBK’s SSI Intake Manifold for the small block Ford doesn’t look like anything else on the market for that engine, and for a good reason. Ken Murphy of BBK explains, “We looked at other intakes available for the 302 and took the R&D a step further to come up with an intake manifold that would have everything an enthusiast would want. ” The company has more than 15 years of experience with EFI Fords, so it’s no surprise that their intake design embodies some outside-the-box thinking.

The lower manifold features an open runner design for cooler intake air mixture and identical runner shapes for equal air flow distribution.  The upper manifold delivers a standard 75mm throttle opening that allows the use of any 65-75mm throttle body as well as high torque twin plenums for great street performance. The BBK SSI Intake manifold comes complete with a BBK high-flow billet aluminum fuel rail kit, which delivers maximum fuel flow and works with all performance ignition distributors at the front of the engine block with no clearance issues.

The SSI manifold was also designed with a removable baffle plate that reduces weight and allows easy installation of nitrous oxide jets into each runner. Another great feature is the air flow gap between each runner – this provides greater cooling for the upper to help reduce heat soak. This manifold was also designed with a built-in EGR mount.

86-93 SSI-Series Intake Manifold Kit – PN# 5002

• SSI Upper and Intake Manifold
• Blue Anodized Fuel Rail Kit
• 75mm Throttle Body
• All necessary hardware and gaskets to complete the installation

The upper manifold features a standard 75mm port that allows the use of any 65-75mm throttle body. The twin-plenum design increases torque without hampering flow.

The SSI intake manifold comes with a matching BBK high-flow billet aluminum fuel rail and regulator kit.

The stock 19lb injectors we had laying around weren't going to cut it on our 363, so based on a recommendation from Buy Ford Racing, we went with new 42lb squirters. These are direct OEM replacement injectors offered at a price not duplicated by knock offs.

To cap off our rotating assembly, we hung a harmonic balancer from TCI on the nose of the crank. This elastomer damper has a billet steel inertia ring and high-quality bonded rubber to eliminate the slip that plagues lesser balancers, and it's SFI 18.1 rated and tested up to 12,000 RPM. It's also nice to have a damper with clearly-etched timing marks, which will make tweaking up the ignition a whole lot easier.

The new 363 is nearly complete - we just need to hang a few accessories, drop the distributor, and do a little plumbing.

For a street price of around $7,500 we were able to assemble a fresh 363ci small block Ford for our fox body Mustang project.  Best part of all, the short block comes completely assembled from Dart.  With about five hours worth of work, we were able to assemble the top end of the engine as well as the oiling system.  Best part of all, the factory front drive accessories will bolt straight up to our newly built long block. In our next segment, we will be installing the engine into our Mustang and show you how we nearly doubled the horsepower while maintaining 100% street reliability.

About the author

Mark Gearhart

In 1995 Mark started photographing drag races at his once local track, Bradenton Motorsports Park. He became hooked and shot virtually every series at the track until 2007 until he moved to California and began working as a writer for Power Automedia. He was the founding editor for its first online magazines, and transitioned into the role of editorial director role in 2014. Retiring from the company in 2016, Mark continues to expand his career as a car builder, automotive enthusiast, and freelance journalist to provide featured content and technical expertise.
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