Engine Bay Detailing & Restoration-A guide for the serious enthusiast on achieving perfection-  

by Anthony P. Palmieri


This is one of a series of books that are related to automobile shows and presenting your vehicle the best way to be successful with these events. This specific book provides tips and hints on making your engine bay become an eye catcher.

Engine Bay Detailing & Restoration -A guide for the serious enthusiast on achieving perfection-

Introduction At a public car show spectators see the end result of many painstaking hours, weeks and even years required to get a vehicle to the highest levels of perfection. Attention is paid to every detail from the shine on the paint, to making sure that the tires do not have any dirt on them. This e-book will provide some guidelines on how to take your vehicle from a daily cruiser that looks nice, to the next level. The main focus of this guide is on the engine bay and drive train, however, other helpful tips on other areas are included as well. There are many aftermarket products as well as creative ideas that will open the door for you to make your engine bay unique. This guide will present a variety of ideas from those that are inexpensive and easy to do, to those that are very time consuming and expensive. You decide what it is that best fits your needs.

For the seasoned show car owner, some of this information may be obvious to you, but there are some not so obvious tips that could help you beat out the competition! Have they already read this book? You should read this guide to make sure that you are maximizing your car show winning experience! The companion book, "Peoples Choice Judging Guide To Car Shows-A guide for the serious enthusiast on judging and showing your car" talks about the complete car show experience and getting your overall car ready. This book focuses on taking it to the next level with the attention to specific areas. That book also includes a handy checklist that you can use making it even easier not to overlook any details complemented with numerous color photographs an examples of what is described. .

5. Start By Looking Under The Hood

Opening the hood should bring a smile to your face and you should be proud to share your hard work with others leaving them with a lasting impression. The main question is, what makes one engine bay stand out from another and leave that lasting impression? This is key to understanding what will get you the additional point or points. At a car show, how a vehicle is displayed and presented is the key to differentiate one from another, and attract more attention. In this authors opinion, when I have the opportunity to judge a car show, even if it is a "People Choice Show", if the hood is not open exposing the engine bay, I usually overlook that vehicle. The first thing that goes through my mind, as well as many others is, what are they hiding? Lets open up your hood and see what potential lies there.

Depending upon the class that the vehicle is entered into, there are different approaches to dressing up the engine bay. In the case of a concours show, the key is that the engine bay is based upon its original look and condition when it rolled off the assembly line. If it did not come from the factory with chrome valve covers, there should not be any there now. This limits how much customization can be done. For many other classes, customization and uniqueness is the goal. The owners' vehicle is an extension of their personality, and there are many steps that they take to personalize it

As a starting point you need to keep an objective opinion, along with a realistic view of what can be done with your budget and time. Unless you are going to do a complete engine removal and strip the entire bay you may want to see what you can do in a more time and cost efficient manner. This guide will provide three approaches to refreshing your engine bay, starting from a general freshening, to a more detailed approach with some disassembly, to a full restoration with the engine removed.

5.2 General Freshening As A Starting Point - Look Under the Hood

This section will focus on what can be done with what you have for minimal time and cost. The success of this is based upon what it is you are trying to achieve, as well as what condition everything is to start with. If your daily driver is covered with mud and has 200k miles on it, do not expect to make it a show car with just a basic cleaning.

Step back and assess the following:

?Is the overall engine compartment clean? -A basic steam cleaning and degreasing may be a good starting point to see what you have to work with. Depending how dirty it is, you may be able to just use a mild cleaner and low pressure water to minimize the mess. This is often a good approach for a clean bay with minimal dirt from driving to car shows, or getting caught in that rainstorm. -Some of the orange based biodegradable sprays are a good mild cleaning solution that will remove the dirt and oil while minimizing any damage to the component finishes or discoloring the decals. -Make sure to clean the underside of the hood. -CAUTION - Be cautious when cleaning a hot engine. Some cleaners can be over activated when sprayed on a hot block and remove the engine paint making more of a mess.

The book includes examples of common corrugated tubing and nylon expandable tubing. Both of these items can be found at most automotive supply houses and come in a variety of colors and diameters. One advantage of the corrugated tubing is that it is sliced/split along its entire length making it easy to have wires enter and exit the bundles. When pulling wires through the expandable tubing, plan in advance for all of the wires that will need to be pulled. It is best to hold the wire bundle together and tape all the ends together with electrical tape to make it easier to thread through the tubing. The tight mesh does make it difficult to have wires exit the tubing in the middle, but it can be carefully done. To pull a wire through the side make sure that there is sufficient slack in the wire inside of the tube, then use a nail of other small probe to pull the wire through the holes in the mesh. Do not use a knife or tool that will cut the mesh, or it will fray.

?Is the radiator clean and free of bugs and other debris? -A light brushing with a "soft bristle" hand brush may help here to remove bugs, and other road debris. -A quick removal of the radiator and a paint job can do wonders. Often the top areas look bad from hot antifreeze boiling over. Removing the radiator, cleaning it and painting it with high quality radiator paint will make it stand out. Be sure to use paint that is designed for radiators so you do not impact the cooling efficiency. Standard engine paints are too thick for use on a radiator, thus reducing heat transfer (i.e. cooling efficiency). The thicker paints could also fill and block the air flow between the tight fins. Always try to use the minimal amount of paint to cover the surfaces.

HELPFUL HINTS: ?For that quick clean and shine, a good wipe down with WD-40 on a rag will make all rubber hoses and wires look like new. ?Firewalls and fender aprons can also be wiped down with a WD-40 rag to clean and make those areas shine. This does wonders for a dull and faded black engine bay. ?For some of the hard to reach spots, such as the rear firewall, you can spray a vinyl dressing on the engine bay paint, hoses and wiring in those areas and let dry overnight. This will give a nice shiny black finish. Be careful not to get it on the body paint, or other areas.. .

?Brake cleaner "if used cautiously" can be a great cleaner for cleaning metal suspension and drive line components that are NOT, and I repeat NOT painted. Brake cleaner sprayed on a cast aluminum transmission will loosen and make oil and dirt run off exposing the clean metal. DO NOT get this fluid on any painted areas or the paint will be damaged.

Another one of the least expensive improvements in the engine bay is wire dressing. Of course you can go to an extreme with custom tailored sleeves, but black electrical tape can go a long way. Every wire should look neat and well organized. Attention to every detail, such as the wire terminations adds points. In the next picture yellow and red heat shrink tubing just looks sloppy and has no theme, including the wires having an unorganized appearance. Black tape in many cases will provide a more factory look tying it to the overall theme and draw less negative attention. It's purely the preference of the owner and the look they are trying to get. Most of this engine is aftermarket with chrome and other performance products including a reproduction original battery adding a bit of nostalgia. It does not have to be done 100% as concours to look good.

5.5 Passing The Eye Appeal Test

Now that your engine bay is clean and you can see what you have to work with. The next step is to look for the obvious things that stick out and take away from the overall look. The thought to keep in the back of your head is, do the pieces (and colors) go together and is there a common theme, or does it look like an auto swap clutter of different things.

This book contains examples of many things "not" to do. Examples are presented to show how everything looks cluttered, and making it difficult to distinguish the various components since there is little contrast between the stainless steel braided hoses and the other chrome components. The focus here needs to be on dressing and placing the hoses and wires in a more organized fashion making it look less cluttered. This is not an easy task given the space limitations for the large engine in this example. Custom plug wires will eliminate excess wire loops, and wire retainers and wire looms will hold wires in place giving a cleaner appearance.

Complementary examples show same engine compartment with as little as what as in the 40 hours can do to transform it back to a more stock look. Note that most of the chrome has been removed including, the braided hoses and air cleaner. The wires along the firewall and fender areas have been re-dressed with black tape, heat shrink tubing, and wire ties providing a neater appearance. In addition the firewall areas and inside fender areas have been painted and all of the decals were replaced.

5.6 Detailing To The Next level

Taking your engine bay to the next level requires extensive labor and painstaking attention to detail above and beyond what many owners do. The optimum approach is to remove the engine and all components from the engine bay area. This section is intended to give a general understanding as an introduction to this full level of restoration.

Even if you are going to purchase a new power steering pump, or other component, most come from the manufacturer with an okay everyday finish. If you want that show room look, follow the steps outlined will help get you there.

In some cases the owner may wish to use as many original parts as possible and therefore rebuild and refinish them to look like new. An example is shown taking a power steering pump from a 1969 Mustang that started off as a rusty, and decent condition unit that was a working. The unit was completely sandblasted to remove rust, loose paint and debris, primed and sanded as outlined above. The steps show how this was made to look new, and the technique can be applied to many other components.

6. From Stock To Fully Modified - Examples To Make Your Mind Wander

Each and every owner has a preference on how they wish to modify or maintain their car. The examples in this section will provide some references from a stock look to some of the wildest engine bays around.

Examples are show where the owner wanted to keep the engine as close as possible to the original factory style to completely modified along with information about concours classes and Unrestored classes. Once you have a great looking engine bay everyone musty be able to see it. One extreme in engine bay display is a completely detailed engine compartment with additional lighting to enhance the key details. Why spend hours and hours, as well as many dollars and not be able to see the results. Indoor shows often do not have sufficient lighting along with shadowing. In this example the hood is on stands along with the air cleaner to provide added viewing. Accessory lighting ensures that everything is visible and enhances the shine and colors. This is a combination of a great looking car that is well presented. An orange and white theme is carried throughout enhancing the overall look.

No matter how old or how new the vehicle is, there is always a way to personalize it. To give you an idea of what we are talking about a 1995 Impala is used. The original factory engine was mostly black, and most of the engine could not be seen with all of the rubber and hoses. This is a very good example of what chrome and a bit of added color can do to catch the spectators and judges eye. Some enthusiasts take chroming to the extreme. One classic street rod is presented with absolutely everything chromed except for the engine block. You can see this engine sticking out of the hood from 100 feet away, and in sunlight, its blinding. This is truly a trailer queen where there are no fluids in this engine, and does not get driven.

7. Final Remarks On Detailing Your Engine Bay

Even though we are only presetting a few excerpts form the book, by now you realize that every engine bay is an extension of the owners personality and there is no right or wrong way, as long as there is attention to the details, and a theme is carried through. Presentation is the key to differentiate one vehicle from another, and attract more attention to yours. Your specific vehicle is an extension of your personality, and if you have more than one vehicle you may express it differently given the vehicle type. Look at what others have done and open your imagination and embark on the first step to personalize yours. By utilizing the tips here you are one step closer.

So to get started, take what you have learned here, find a local car show and most of all just have fun

For additional information on how to make an outstanding display and have it stand out even more, visit Palmieri Concepts at www.PalmieriConcepts.com. There are many examples that have helped enthusiasts like you become the talk of the show and hold that trophy high.

About the Author

Anthony Palmieri founded Palmieri Concepts after 20 years of creating custom artwork for his own pleasure and enjoyment along with 30 years as a car enthusiast. This business initially grew out of a love for motor vehicles and was started to share with others what began as a hobby.