Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
April 1, 2009
Properly detailing your engine compartment is no easy task, but the results are well worth it. After removing all of the wiring and components from the four walls of the bay, you can wash and degrease them, and then sand them with 600-grit sandpaper. We actually used some red flexible sanding pads from the local parts store.

Unfortunately for most late-model Mustang owners, the factory didn't do a great job with the paint in the engine compartment. And while we spend most of our resources on go-fast parts and the exterior of the car, sooner or later we turn to the engine compartment, which is often left in disarray. In this article, we're going to show you how to tidy up the engine bay of a Fox-body Mustang so it looks as good under the hood as it does on the outside.

The first thing you'll need to do is lay out some goals of what you want to accomplish and what you can do within your budget. It's easy to get carried away under the hood, but you'll want to realistically figure out what you can afford to put into the makeover, and equally important is how much time you're willing to spend keeping it clean and shiny once the transformation is complete, as well as how much time you have to complete the job.

Our subject vehicle has graced the pages of MM&FF on numerous occasions in tech articles of all sorts. The ProCharged Pony put out 580 rwhp, and a repaint several years ago had it looking great in its Twilight Blue Metallic and Argent hues. The problem was that the engine compartment didn't look any better than your average daily driver. As it happened, we had to pull the cylinder heads to change the head gaskets, and decided that it would be a great time to give the engine bay a full detail.

Having the engine down to the short-block makes it a lot easier to get to the framerails, firewall, and transmission tunnel to sand them and shoot some paint on them. With all of the accessory brackets off of the engine, it was also a good time to paint and polish them as well. Having the motor apart or out of the car is not necessary to painting the engine bay, as we have seen firsthand, but it sure makes it easier. If you're planning on welding up all of the factory holes in the fender aprons, we highly recommend pulling the motor to do so.

We opted not to fill the holes in the aprons, but we did want to hide the engine harnesses as much as we could. With the relatively dark color that we'd be using, the holes don't stand out nearly as much as they do on a brightly colored car. Plus, we expected our polished supercharger and other components to garner the most attention.

As with any paint job, there are varying degrees of perfection that can be attained, so consider how much you drive the car, where you drive it, and how much time you plan on spending under the hood cleaning things, before you start laying on the primer and paint. Our car, while a recreational third vehicle, was driven often on the highways and always treated as a regular street car, but we wanted to be able to open the hood at the local cruise-in and not be ashamed.

After the engine had been torn down to the short-block, we removed all of the wiring harnesses from the fenders and removed the associated components that were mounted to the fender aprons. With the engine bay down to just the sheetmetal, we picked up a bunch of red Scotchbrite sanding pads at the local auto parts store, degreased the engine compartment, and went to work sanding.

We retained the services of Mark Johnson to lay down the primer, sealer, and basecoat/clearcoats. Johnson is a collision specialist by trade, and he was also the guy who painted ProCharged Pony's exterior, which was still looking great after 10 years. After Johnson set the paint gun down, we left the freshly painted engine bay to dry for about a week, as we didn't have the opportunity to let it bake in an oven. After that, we started hiding the left- and righthand wiring harnesses up under the fenders.