There’s a parable in the bible about what happens to the foolish man who builds his house on a foundation of sand and is washed away in the rain and floods. The wiser man (who obviously is also a hot-rodder) built his house on a foundation of solid rock that survives the weather.
The engine builder’s equivalent of a solid foundation is nothing less than a quality cylinder block. It’s no secret that we’re living in the golden age of horsepower. But, one of the caveats of this horsepower escalation is that a casting that was happy at 400 horsepower may be the equivalent of quicksand when subjected to loads of 700 horsepower or more.
Before we get into the individual details, there are a few overall points worth investigating. Both Dart blocks are available in either Sportsman or Pro versions. The main difference between these options is the Pro blocks are equipped with steel main caps while the Sportsman caps are ductile-iron. Both versions are available in multiple bore diameters and deck heights. Taller deck heights will accommodate longer stroke cranks for those big-inch builds.
Constantly Improving Design
Perhaps the most important difference between all Dart blocks and a production piece is the addition of a dedicated priority-main oiling system. Chevy production blocks route oil from the oil pump through the filter and then to a galley that first lubes the lifters while pushing oil around the outside of the cam bearings before it arrives at the main bearings.
Dart directs oil from the main galley to the main bearings first, then the oil turns the corner to feed the cam and lifters. This is called priority-main lubrication. While not necessary for an engine loafing down the freeway, it is essential when pushing four-digit power out of a race engine at 8,000 rpm.
Raising the vertical position of the cam housing bore is also an option for the new M2 blocks. This creates additional clearance for connecting rods, while also shortening the distance between the lifters and the rocker arms. The shortened pushrod length makes them inherently stronger.
Dart M2 blocks also feature thicker deck surfaces for increased overall strength. The deck height values stated in the charts will be delivered at roughly 0.005-inch taller than the stated value to allow room for minor machining to establish proper deck height with custom pistons.
Cylinder wall-thickness is another major feature of Dart’s M2 block lineup. Production bore spacing of 4.400-inch limits the largest bore size on a small-block Chevy to 4.185-inch. But even at this point, the Dart M2 blocks guarantee a wall thickness of 0.275-inch. Big-block foundations in either the Pro or Sportsman option deliver a 0.300-inch minimum figure at maximum bore size.
The most important wall-thickness is always at the thrust side of each bank. The piston thrust surface is the inboard side of the left (driver) side of the block with the outboard side as the major thrust surface for the right or passenger side of the block.
Better Ingredients, Better Block
Among the reasons these blocks are so good is that they are cast using an enhanced 32B iron, which offers a higher 32,000 psi tensile strength rating, combined with a Brinell hardness rating of 207 to 255 compared to grey cast iron’s 187-241. This also necessitates changes to the honing process used for cylinder-wall preparation compared to production blocks.
An additional option for those operating on the maximum power side of things, is the option of choosing compacted-graphite iron (CGI) which offers even greater strength and hardness advantages over even the enhanced 32B iron.
Now let’s get into some specifics with the Big M2 blocks. Today, a big-inch street motor starts at 540ci and escalates the displacement from there. This demands larger bore-diameters and perhaps a taller deck-height to satisfy the demand. The new Big M2 offers a variety of options listed in an accompanying chart that outlines the available bore diameters and deck heights. In fact, there are 15 new part numbers for the M2 which are a direct result of customer input.
Available Bore Diameters and Deck Heights
|Small-Block M2||Big-Block M2|
|Bore Diameter||Deck Height||Bore Diameter||Deck Height|
The Dart X program moves the lifter locations to straighten the pushrod angles when used with a Dart Big Chief head. This option is available for both the Big M2 with steel billet caps as well as the Big M2 Sportsman. Of course, this revised lifter bore area can also accommodate larger lifter diameters, as well.
Moving over to the small-block side, the Pro Little M2 version offers similar upgrades with steel caps and four bolts for all five main caps. We’ve listed the bore diameters and deck height options in the chart above, along with a choice of either 350-style (2.45-inch) or 400-style (2.650-inch) main journal diameters. While smaller mains are very much in vogue, the larger main offers advantages when opting for longer crank strokes to increase strength by overlapping the main and rod journals.
Dart M2 Displacement Options
|Small-Block Chevy Options||Big Block Chevy Options|
|Displ. (ci)||Bore||Stroke||Displ. (ci)||Bore||Stroke|
*10.200-inch deck height
Longer strokes on small-blocks may require additional clearancing. However, Dart offers custom machining options where they will perform this modification to your new block right in the factory. We’ve included another chart that lists all the different custom machining options.
As the future of hot street and race engines becomes increasingly more specialized, these Dart blocks offer a widely populated path of cylinder blocks that offer benefits, which even 10 years ago were only available to professional race teams. The whole idea is to achieve your horsepower goal while increasing reliability. That plan always starts with a rock-solid foundation.
Dart Custom Cylinder Block Options
- Custom deck height
- Specific bore size
- Cam bore resizing
- Lifter bore sizing and relocating
- Bronze lifter bushings
- Stroker clearancing
- Block lightening
- Main stud kits
- Compacted-Graphite Iron (CGI)
- Piston oil squirters
- Block prep