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Engine of the Week

440 LS Dirt Late-Model Engine

Fans of Jeff Baldwin’s engines have said his power plants rev with a signature sound known by many as the ‘Baldwin sound.’ This 440 LS dirt late-model engine carries that signature roar as well. Find out what went into this unique build heading down under to Australia.

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Anyone who’s ever had an interest in cars and engines has likely had a love affair with the rumble of an engine. That symphony of sounds created by the engine’s parts humming in harmony. In many ways, that sound is like a fingerprint. It is the character of the car hiding under the hood. How could you not love it?

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Many engines have similar rev notes, but some are very distinct, and that’s what Baldwin Racing Engines in Friedheim, MO is known for. Just like your favorite band, you can pick up that signature sound with only a few notes or lyrics. Well, so too can fans of Jeff Baldwin’s engines.

“The ‘Baldwin sound’ is something that people have said about our engines over the years,” Jeff says. “They say that from circle track to truck pulling to demolition derby, they are always able to tell that it is one of our engines because of the ‘Baldwin sound.’”

Jeff owns Baldwin Racing Engines and runs the shop along with his wife, DeAnna, and four other full-time employees. The shop, which opened in 2002, specializes in LS engine work for dirt track racing, demolition derby, drag racing, truck and tractor pulling, street stuff, diesel, and really a little bit of everything. Jeff first started Baldwin Racing Engines as a part time endeavor.

From Left to right: Travis Moore (no longer with Baldwin), DeAnna Baldwin, Jason Pohlman, Will Simmons, Jeff Baldwin
Front row: Nick Brown, Rick Johnson

“At the time, I was a service manager at one of my buddy’s tire centers called Jackson Tire Center, and we basically would get up at 6:00 am, go to the tire center and get to the engine shop at 7:00 pm and work until 2:00 in the morning and do that every day of the week,” he says. “We kept adding equipment and we kept getting busier and busier to where it was time to make the plunge full time. We went full time in 2006.”

Jeff’s brother had been involved in racing, and that’s when and where Jeff got his feet wet. He started in 1992 and hasn’t left the dirt track since.

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“We have a huge, huge following there, and basically got engines from California to New York and from Canada to Iceland and Saudi Arabia, and now Australia,” he says. “Our international stuff isn’t huge. It’s a small market but it’s growing. We actually got a series over in Australia wanting to adopt our LS stuff into one of their circuits over there.”

Baldwin Racing Engines is a full machine shop capable of doing everything in-house with the exception of crank grinding.

“We’ve got a Super Flow flow bench and we hand port stuff still,” he says. “We have a Rottler blueprinting block center, a CWT 5500 balancer, a Serdi seat and guide machine, a Rottler surfacer, and a Land & Sea engine dyno and Land & Sea chassis dyno. The shop has 8,500 sq. ft. of space that includes a dedicated clean room for doing assemblies and another room for doing pre stage work.”

Life has been good for Jeff and his team at Baldwin Racing Engines, and that’s not just because his engines sound good. The engines perform well too, keeping customers knocking at the shop door.

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Recently, he had a customer in Georgia who runs a Baldwin dirt late-model LS engine, refer his buddy in Australia to Baldwin Racing Engines because he’s had such good luck with his engine.

“It’s a very nice piece,” Jeff says. “It’s a 440 LS dirt late-model engine. The build started with a Dart LS Next aluminum block, which has a much better oiling system in it than the factory block. We didn’t have to really do a whole lot there, just some standard block work. This is going to be a dry sump engine.”

The block work consisted of deck plate honing and correcting the deck height. The block was already stroker notched for the 4.100˝ stroke Jeff was putting in it, so the shop didn’t have to do any clearance work there.

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“We balanced everything in-house,” he says. “For the cylinder heads, we went with a Mast 315 Black Label because of the alcohol set up and the large cubic inch. The heads have all custom, titanium Del West valves. We also have a solid roller custom COMP Cam in it with a set of Jesel rockers sitting on top of it.”

According to Jeff, he has used Mast intakes and some of the bigger Edelbrock intakes in the past, but on this engine he went with a CID intake, which is a little bit larger intake and should work really well.

“We’ve got a Willy’s Alcohol Super Bowl system sitting on top of it, so we’ve got no floats and no needles,” he says. “Dan Olson built a custom oil pan for us for that Dart LS Next block. He does a really good job on those.The engine also has a Callies Magnum crank and Ultra rod and custom Diamond pistons built for an alcohol setup.”

Since this LS engine is going to Australia, it can’t have coil packs and must be distributor driven. Jeff selected a MSD distributor. The bearings in the engine are Daido. Jeff used PSI springs and Cometic for the head gaskets.

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“We’re trying to make 900 hp with this one, and it should make 770 lb.-ft. of torque with a compression ratio of 14:1,” he says.

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]

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