Freshening Up Your Classic Car Engine Appearances
By Tom Benford
Over time the engine of your classic car will acquire a coating of dirt, dust, road grime and grease and some parts will become discolored due to oxidation or gasoline/oil seepage. An hour or two (or three or four, if it's really bad) is time well-spent with the improvement you'll see when the job is done. So roll up your sleeves and let's get started.
It looks like it's been really neglected, doesn't it? But, in truth, this vintage Midyear Corvette sees only a couple of hundred miles a year, since it spends most of the time in a trailer. However, dampness, humidity and time all take their toll on metal in such conditions.
Upon removing the air cleaner, the carburetor is the obvious place to start our freshening. It's always a good idea to work top-to-bottom, since any dirt and debris will fall downward, getting cleaned away when you get to the lower portions of the freshening. Be sure to tape over the venturi openings so no crud gets into the carburetor and enters your engine. A wire brush does the trick for the heavy cleaning of the carb body.
A smaller conical wire brush comes in handy for working around the linkage and other hard-to-reach areas.
A blower nozzle attached to your compressor hose or a can of compressed air is great for blowing away dust, dirt and debris as you're cleaning so you can see what still needs to be done.
You can use some steel wool to get the heavy stuff off, as in the case of this chrome alternator; there's really nothing that can be done about the pitting aside from replacing the unit altogether, though.
I certainly didn't need a quart of "Chevy orange" engine paint for this detailing job, so I cut the bottom off an empty Poland Springs water bottle, dried it thoroughly, then sprayed a little puddle of aerosol automotive orange paint into it, which was plenty for my needs.
A cheap disposable 1/2" paint brush is great for touching up spots on the manifold. I've found that bristle brushes work better and last longer than the sponge foam brushes for this job.
The chrome-plated valve covers are not correct, but they look nice. However, the originals (one of them is at the top) have seen better days, so a new set was ordered and installed on the engine to give it a little more bling.
And here's what we have about four hours later. Other tasks that were performed, although not shown, included wiping down all the hoses with WD-40, touching up the master cylinder and carb mounting bolts/studs with black paint and polishing up some of the chrome. Elbow grease and time were the principal components for this project.