Skip White Performance is one of the bigger engine builders in the industry. The Kingsport, TN shop focuses on performance engines and pumps out an average of 900-1,000 engines a year.
Owner Skip White says the shop keeps $800,000 in pistons on hand at all times to avoid the six to eight-week waiting period, $250,000 in Scat cranks and connecting rods and puts together 3,000 rotating assemblies a year, all balanced on the shop’s three CWT balancing machines. Skip White Performance (SWP) keeps busy, to say the least.
“Our shop is filled with knowledgeable craftsmen and the most advanced machinery available on the market,” White says. “Our seven staff machinists and engine builders have many years of experience building racing engines and have been in this line of work for their entire careers.”
One of the more popular engines SWP builds is its 434 small block Chevy with the All Out package.
“This motor has a Dart racing block,” White says. “We do all the machining in-house and do the boring on our Centroid CNC machine. The honing we do on our Sunnen SV10 diamond hone machine. We deck the block, bore the block, hone the block and we block prep it. We do a lot of work on that block.”
SWP decks the block to an Ra finish of approximately 15 or better, and is within .001˝ accuracy from end to end. All the parts in the 434 Chevy engine are also top shelf and the engine gets balanced in-house as well.
“We use a Scat 4340 forged crankshaft and Scat Competition Series rods,” he says. “We use the best pistons money can buy – Wiseco 2618 aircraft alloy pistons. We also use AFR fully CNC’d cylinder heads, a COMP Cams camshaft, Howards Cams & Racing Components tie bar lifters and pushrods, a Quickfuel carburetor, and Scorpion race series rockers.”
A lot of engine builders sell these 427/434 small block motors, but it’s the parts SWP uses that put this engine a cut above the rest, White says.
“That includes the little things like the timing components,” he says. “We use race timing components from Cloyes. On the oil pump, we don’t just put a Melling oil pump in there like a lot of others do. We put a M-Select Melling oil pump in there. Believe me when I tell you, there’s a lot of people putting motors together who use cheap timing components and oil pumps. They weren’t intended to go in motors like this, but a lot of people do it. Even our damper now on these motors is an ATI super damper.”
The oil pan SWP uses is a U.S.-made Champ oil pan with a windage tray and trap doors. All the hardware is ARP and the engine uses Clevite bearings.
“This 434 engine features the All Out package, which has the biggest cam and intake, so you better not put this in a heavy vehicle,” White says. “This is for a medium to light car with a good gear and a decent stall converter. This also isn’t the setup that you would choose if you’re going to be driving across the country with your wife.”
The 434 can be detuned to give it better street manners, but White warns that you wouldn’t want to be putting this engine in a heavy vehicle with an overdrive transmission and a desire for it to cruise at 1,600 rpm on the highway.
“People don’t understand that the more you build that motor up in power, the worse the bottom end power becomes,” he says. “Gear ratios, stall speed and how the car is set up can make up for all that. Everybody sells horsepower. We sell horsepower too, but it’s got to go in the right application.”
Put into the right application with the All Out package this 434 small block Chevy engine makes 625 horsepower.
“We use good parts and we’ve learned our lessons the hard way,” White says. “Other people who don’t do a lot of the things we do, you’re asking for trouble. You end up just damaging the motor and killing power. You’ve got to put the right stuff in and a lot of builders out there are not doing it.”
SWP sells so many engines that if the shop were to get a bunch of engines back for failures it would kill the company on warranties.
“Why we build a motor a little better than we have to is because we’re an online seller,” White says. “We have a two-year warranty on there. This motor has got to operate. It’s got to hold up for a long, long time. Otherwise it’s going to cost a ton of money and then when it gets back here it’s a ton of work. It becomes a horrific nightmare if this motor fails, even if it’s a minor failure.”
Thankfully for customers and for Skip White Performance, the attention to detail, use of quality parts and equipment and skilled engine work mean engines like this 434 small block Chevy rarely come back with issues.
The Engine of the Week eNewsletter is sponsored by Cometic Gasket.
If you have an engine you would like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder magazine’s managing editor, Greg Jones at [email protected]