Wayne Cook
July 13, 2010

Tech | Small Block Engine Bay Restoration
On any classic Ford project there are three areas of major concern from a visual standpoint; the exterior, interior, and the engine bay. Because we sometimes have to ask an owner to pop the hood, that is often the order in which we see them. On many cars we see that the paint and body is nice, with the interior not far behind. It seems that often the engine bay is last on the list of priorities. This was certainly the case with the nice '68 Torino GT that we recently acquired.

Careful maintenance over the years had preserved the original paintjob on the car while the vehicle's interior has had some tender loving care as well. Under the hood the car was also in original condition. However, it was clear that there had been very little in the way of care or maintenance to keep it looking nice. Perhaps the previous owner wasn't a car show or cruise night type of person and didn't care what the underhood appearance of the car was. On our car, the engine bay was the major glaring deficiency and we definitely wanted to do something about it.

Before we began with the underhood refurbishment on our car, we wanted to look at some examples of what other people are doing to enhance their classic Ford engine bays. For our field study we toured several area car shows as well as the annual Fabulous Fords Forever show held at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California, because we knew that some of the best examples of what we're looking for would be there. In addition, we spoke to several different professional car builders to discover what procedures they use to create the ultimate engine bay on some of their project vehicles. We knew going in that the range of options would be wide, with some vehicles sporting a cleaned up look that used the stock appearance as a basis while other projects would be far more customized with colorfully painted engine bays featuring carefully concealed wiring, and coolant and air conditioning hoses. We also expected to see many elaborate induction setups that added to the car's visual appeal as much as to its performance.

While we all know it's easier to achieve a nice result when money is no object we also knew that, because of our presently modest means, we'd have to undertake our engine bay project on a fairly limited budget. We also wanted a result that was appropriate to the rest of the vehicle so you won't find any bug catchers sticking out through the hood, not that we don't like bug catchers. Although we plan to remove the engine in our car in the future to do a complete and proper detailing, we wanted to achieve a result that would keep us from being too embarrassed on cruise night without having to pull the engine for cosmetic purposes only.

Join us as we take a look at just a small percentage of what was on hand at Knott's Berry Farm in the way of great engine bays, and we'll also visit a professional installation to see what is done when the demand for underhood elegance is high. Finally, we'll have a look under the hood on our Torino and see what can be done to spruce things up a bit for just a couple hundred bucks.

Sema Show Level Detailinga You might wonder just what goes into some of the higher-end results we saw. For a closer look at the construction of a show car engine bay we dug up these photos we took during the build of a 2007 SEMA vehicle at Autoworks International in Lakeside, California. Autoworks International works on classic Ford vehicles including many SEMA show exhibits. Let's look into its shop while it prepares the Dynacorn-based Phantom show car for Dynacorn's SEMA exhibit.

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