You may be asking yourself why all this machine work is necessary if we're using new parts. We'll show you. While this engine can basically be bolted together, the cylinders need to be honed to their final size based on the diameter of the piston. We'll first measure the pistons, then hone the cylinders for precise piston-to-cylinder clearance. Also, because the Dart aluminum block is customarily used with dry-sump oiling, we'll need to machine some drain holes, so the oil can find its way back to the pan. For maximum quench area in the combustion chamber, we'll mill the deck of the block so that the piston is truly at the top of the cylinder at top dead center. We'll also cut deeper valve pockets in our Mahle forged pistons, then angle-mill the Dart heads. This will allow us to achieve a compression ratio of just over 11:1 with plenty of piston-to-valve clearance-even if we use our Jesel beltdrive to advance or retard camshaft timing.
Knowing how critical the machining process is, and the complicated nature of what we wanted to achieve, we elected to use what we believe to be the best high-performance machine shop in central Florida, Auto Performance Engines. While the shop is not the least expensive in our area, owner Kevin Willis knows his stuff, replaces tooling regularly, and isn't scared to tell us if something isn't correct. Follow along now as APE performs the necessary steps to get our engine pieces ready for final assembly. And be sure to tune in to a future issue, as we put our LS7-killer small-block together, bolt it to the dyno, and see if we've achieved our goal of exceeding the LS7's 505hp rating.