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Engine Compartment Detailing Anyone Can Do

Paint it, brush it, buff it, rub on it, and put a little thought into it, and you've got engine compartment detailing anyone can do

Photography by , Steve Strope

Engine Paint
Strope gave us a few hints on how to make the paint last. We've all seen engines that look as if they have some skin disease with the paint peeling in huge sheets. According to Strope, that's all due to prep. "Clean, clean, clean, and clean it again. Hit the block with acetone, carburetor cleaner, and hot soapy water, and do it several times."

In the past, most recommendations involved professional spray guns and some kind of etching primer. But once the block and heads are absolutely clean, Strope takes the low-buck approach and uses Dupli-Color's Engine Primer, which must be applied in several light coats. It's critical to read the directions on the can-Strope says the primer must be followed with a topcoat within an hour or you'll have to wait five days before the color can be applied. The Dupli-Color primer puts a death grip on the surface, allowing the topcoat to adhere and making a semi-permanent bond with the metal.

Plus, Dupli-Color offers tons of factory original colors as well as dozens of alternatives. The Dupli-Color Ford Red is what Strope used to paint George Poteet's Hemi. You might be tempted to use a clear to give the paint a little depth, but you may want to experiment first on something less important; Strope says that some of the clears can yellow after exposure to repeated heat cycles.

Brushing Aluminum
Strope says he learned the brushed-aluminum trick from Scott Sullivan. The technique is simple: Merely use a red Scotch-Brite pad on an aluminum surface to create a simple and interesting look that you don't see too often. Aluminum surfaces respond the best, and Strope says you can also use wet/dry sandpaper starting with 800-grit to get the desired effect. Less aggressive grit gives a smoother surface, while the grittier stuff makes the surface less reflective.

Always make your brushstrokes in the same direction on a long, straight surface like a valve cover, while for an aluminum air-cleaner lid, the best approach would be circular. Stainless steel can also be brush-finished, but because this material is harder than aluminum, it will require a more aggressive medium-and be forewarned that the surface finish will not be exactly the same as that of aluminum.

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