Bay Watch - Engine Compartment Detailing - Pontiac Enthusiast January, 2010

This may look like a freshly restored engine bay, but it's not. It's amazing what a thorough, careful detailing can accomplish.

When bringing your car to the next level there is a pecking order – outer body comes first and the interior is second, next is the engine compartment and last is the trunk and underside. You can always display your car with the hood and trunk closed and not many will get on the ground to look under it. But at a car show we all want to know what is under the hood and the closed hood makes us assume it has the wrong engine or it is not up to speed.

The engine compartment is also a dangerous restoration step and big decisions have to be made. Once you start you have to have a stopping point in mind or before you know it the engine is out, the core support is out the fenders are only a few bolts away from the rest and with a closer look the front brakes could easily come off and a engine compartment clean up has turned into a firewall forward restoration. At this point it is overwhelming and the tools are put down and the car is apart for years. Once a paint blemish turns into a soft spot then a hole it is hard not to see it and look past it. Now it may require outside help or welding and months can drag on. It is hard to know when to stop when you want a car nice. Every rust spot takes you to the next bolt. So for this process to work the car has to be a dry, rust free car that just needs some detail work without a full restoration.

This car was a very clean 1969 GTO with little rust and lots of grease and bad paint. It had an 80’s resto that had no detail but lots of black paint on everything. It was still hard not to keep going and take the inner fenders out and move on to the core support. It is of course much easier to work on pieces once they are all taken apart but the more that comes apart could draw you to the point or no return line and an unfinished project. When it is all apart it is apparent to see all the flaws but once it is together those small flaws seem to disappear in the big picture. Getting caught up in one detail or an incorrect part can also derail a deadline. Today there are many reproduction parts available so your project can proceed forward and the parts are not an issue. Spending time in the garage is the harder battle and it gets harder with a demanding career or wife and kids. So we are not going to bite off too much and are going to stay within the goal of the engine bay and surrounding areas.

Set your limits at the start: We committed to pulling the engine, but not dismantling the front clip or suspension (not yet, anyway). The hood comes off in minutes; the engine is out in a few hours, leaving a pile of old greasy parts on the floor to deal with later. We then got out the power washer, soap and water. After a nice bake in the sun we started to sand every surface we could reach. 220 grit will cut the paint fast but will need to be gone over with 320, 400 then 600 if you want the paint surface to come out with no sand scratches. To minimize the mess in the garage we used all wet sand paper to this point.

Now a good inspection is preformed looking for dents or unwanted holes in the sheet metal. We pound them out the best we can and weld and grid a few holes shut and it is ready for a coat of body filler in these areas. The body filler must be sanded and coated with a thick primer to fill any sanding scratches. The fire wall and inner fenders are dimpled and wavy from the factory so you do not have to be an expert to do the minor filling required to fix a few dents. These are the primer areas in the photo.

The engine bay is now all black and some of the plastic already removed. At the factory the cars were dipped in a black dye / paint up to the trunk floor level and this material drained out all the body plug locations. Everything that was still bare metal was sprayed. The interior of many cars is red primer that can be seen on the dash area and the rear package tray area as well as the roof area. The top of the cowl and the firewall got black spray, and if there was a color interior the front dash and rear packager tray got a stripe of interior color. Many times the gun was facing down and the lip of the fire wall to cowl got no paint and that is what we duplicated in this picture. This was done with a spray can after the black was applied and is bare steel gray color.

We had made this car into a heater delete car with the correct metal covers that go over the openings in the firewall. We installed the cover bare and it was paint black with the rest of the compartment. The cover should be gloss black so we spray caned the center with Dupli- color gloss black and used 3M undercoating in a can to finish the edge. All openings from the factory had a undercoating type sealer around them. This coating is around the blower motor seal, AC grommets, heater boxes, wiring fuse block and accessory grommets.

We are ready to tape off the car and surroundings. With a large roll of plastic and green 3m tape we first tape the edges of every panel and then apply the plastic to the edge and tape over the plastic and the first layer of tape.  The entire car must be taped off from the paint overspray.  Now a very light coat of primer is applied and the final black paint. From the factory there was no primer on the inner fenders, core support or the body it was paint with black paint only.  We used a light coat of primer to cover all the fixed areas and the bare metal spots. We started spraying at the top of the cowl and quickly worked to the front of the car. The semi gloss paint we used is SEM Rustshield, it comes in flat, semi and gloss black sold by the gallon in any local paint store.

Items that were not removed from the firewall must be detailed while in the car. The steering column end was sanded and taped off and painted gloss black and the control arm Dupli-color cast gray. We had the end metal cover and snap ring plated the original silver zinc with Bob at bobsboosters. A new column foam gasket is inserted and the column looks factory fresh without removing it from the car. The brake booster studs are painted silver to duplicate the factory zinc finish.

Other parts that we have detailed off the car are now starting to go back on. We bought a new engine wiring harness from M&H Electrical, and the wiring clips and firewall blue hose and green clips came from Inline Tube. We sent the wiper motor out to Wiper Works to be rebuilt and a few weeks later it arrived ready to bolt on. The Hide –A-Way green stripe hose is poking through the accessory grommet and ready to be connected to the front harness. The hood tach pink wire is also hanging ready to be connected.

This is a close up of the firewall showing the new parts installed. This is a new horn relay, and our rebuild wiper motor and you can see the close up of the blue striped vacuum hose and the new olive green clips that hold it to the firewall lip. The new vinyl coated wire clips come with the screws. All this small hardware came from Inline Tube and for the low price of new parts can save lots of time and expense trying to make the old stuff look like new.

The cowl seal is back in place with the wiper arms and cowl chrome trim that was polished by pat mai here in Detroit.  We dusted the wiper arms in the glass bead cabinet with the pressure turned way down. This cleans the dirt and stains off without harming the stainless finish. The wiper blades were cleaned with fine steel wool mixed with rubbing compound and fitted with new rubber refills. The cowl chicken wire screen was painted gloss black and held in with Inline Tube new screws. The new wiper hose was routed and waiting to be connected to the hood.

We have also got these parts from Inline Tube and they are ready to install. The booster is gold cad and we applied the WK detail sticker to the center of it, and the paper tag to the vacuum check valve. The master we had to paint black and also added the bail strap EA sticker. The lines are preformed tin coated steel with the correct color coded fitting on the ends. The fittings are red, purple, green and blue at the master cylinder. It was also more cost effective to buy a new frame distribution block and the mounting clips than it was to restore the old ones. The frame clips are green and the booster clip is black and the booster to firewall nuts are silver.

Here the inline booster is installed making sure the back rod is installed to the brake pedal upper hole. The master cylinder and hold off valve is installed loosely until all the lines are started. The master cylinder lines are snapped into the booster clip and the system tightened up. We are using line wrenches so there is no chance we will slip off the fitting. Since these are all new components there is very little chance to have a leak. When installing lines make sure the cone of the tube is lined up with the brass seat in the component.  Off center lines can cause a leak. The tube nut does not seal the line the union between the cone of the tube and the brass seat is what seals them together.

The Inline Tube booster, master cylinder, valves and lines are all in place. The right and left front lines on the frame were also replaced but the brake hoses were in good shape and beyond our scope but we did replace the hose frame brackets and the hose clips.

The engine was finished weeks ago and ready to go in the car. The Clutch assembly is bolted on before the engine is installed to save a little time of having to work around the firewall of the car.

Now you can see that the core support has the front wiring harness installed. This harness was in great shape so we crimp fixed one loose end and cleaned it up and re-taped it. They were taped with friction tape from the factory, which has no adhesive on it. We got the same tape from Inline Tube and once it was done looked new again. The hide-a-way hoses were taped into the front harness and again re-used. The steering box was painted black, while the cover is aluminum and the front steering linkage was bare steel or Dupli-color cast paint.

The steering shaft is painted black and the rag joint is new GM. A few parts are still available from the GM dealer. The motor mount is bare steel but you have to paint every part or it will rust so they are painted cast grey. Inline Tube supplied all new suspension hardware, although we did not paint the frame and control arms we cleaned them up and touched them up with a spray can and the new hardware brought them back to life. The fuel lines are poking through the frame with the red and green pinch clips. These are printed hoses that say GAS on them that were made with the inline stampers and white ink pad.

From here the engine that was featured in a past article is dropped in and the trans from another article bolted up and the nose from yet another article bolted on to make this a complete car again. The faint KK55 on the fire wall is a fisher body marking that was found under the black paint. The KK55 is the paint color of the car.  It is common to have these marks on the firewall but sometimes they are just a shadow because they were applied to the bare body and the firewall painted black, others are applied over the black paint.

The engine gets dropped in in minutes with the use of a cherry picker. The engine mount bolts are lined up and the engine slowly set into place.

Once the engine is in place we can’t help but put the air cleaner on to see what it will look like as a finished car. There are still some big items we are waiting on. The radiator is being rebuilt and the fan shroud has to be detailed and installed. Once the front end is all finished there are ram air cables from the cowl to the hood and a few under dash items that need to be connected. Don’t forget although it looks finished the brakes must also be bleed and engine fluids added.

This is the finished engine compartment and although a few pictures back it looked like a sea of black paint, once the engine is installed it now becomes the focal point of the space. There are plenty of flaws and areas that were hard to get black paint in to but once it is all together it is hard to find them and this car was only apart for the winter and back on the road in the spring. Remember if you cross the point of no return line it could be years to get back to this point.