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Restoration Tips from the Pros

Look good and go fast with Car Craft's Ultimate Guide to Muscle Car Resto-Mods

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Engine Compartment Design

By Jeff Smith/ Photo: Wes Allison, courtesy of Mopar Muscle Magazine.

Steve Strope has a thing for Mopars. More importantly, he knows how he wants them to look. He can apply this vision to any kind of car, but he seems to be drawn to the Mopar side of the party. With this kind of insight into automotive image, it's no accident that he calls his business Pure Vision. When it came time for us to look into why some engine compartments have more visual impact than others, it took us about three seconds to consult Steve about his four-wheeled art forms. This Hemi engine compartment is the power point for one of his latest ventures, the Petrol Charger, a '70 Dodge Charger with this Mopar Performance 472ci Hemi crate engine. Steve says that the intention of any engine compartment should be to draw your eye directly to the engine while minimizing the distractions. Clutter and competing colors are diversions, so he reduced the number of colors in this engine compartment to three--Hemi Orange, silver, and black. The engine compartment's simplicity is also its strength, keeping the trickery to a minimum. One of Steve's strengths is using color, which often comes out of a spray can to its maximum advantage. It works here.

That's a Billet Specialties Tru Track serpentine belt system, but Steve thought the polished aluminum added too much flash, so he had the entire system powdercoated gloss black. He also painted part of the water pump black so it blended in with the water pump pulley. Both the A/C pump and alternator were treated to a brushed-aluminum finish, while the iron power steering pump was painted a matching silver to make it consistent with the aluminum parts.

How many car builders would paint an aftermarket aluminum radiator with Eastwood black radiator paint? Steve did, because he wanted that near-stock look but also the performance of an aftermarket aluminum radiator. If left in original aluminum finish, it would have detracted from the engine's visual impact.

That's an MSD billet aluminum distributor that Steve has treated to a brushed-aluminum finish. He also used DupliColor vinyl dye (after first wiping the cap down with acetone) to color the distributor cap black (MSD caps are red) so it wouldn't add another color to the engine compartment. Steve finished off the effort with a set of black MSD Super Conductor spark plug wires that MSD has just introduced for the Hemi.

Steve took a small risk with the Petrol Charger by painting the engine compartment a semigloss black rather than the gloss black body color like all Mopars from this era. Russ Stevenson from Gold Coast Customs did the color work using single-stage R-M Matte Black UNO HD mixed with a DH42 hardener and UR50 reducer. See "How to Black Out a Hood" in the Nov. '06 issue for the details.

All Mopar Performance 472 Hemi crate engines come with giant chrome valve covers that Steve thought did not help the engine's visual impact. So he removed the covers, scuffed them with 80-grit sandpaper to give the surface some bite, and then primed the covers with SEM self-etching primer (PN 39673). Then he squirted the covers with several coats of Mopar Performance Hemi Orange spray can paint. Once they cured, he then color-sanded the covers with 2,000-grit wet-dry and polished them until they shone. The effort is simple and extremely effective. "Now instead of all that chrome, it's like a big orange jewel in the middle of the engine compartment."

For the master cylinder and booster, Steve considered blacking them out as well, but went instead with dull silver for both pieces. Retaining the gold anodized booster or using cast-iron paint on the master would have added another color that would only interfere with the visual continuity. Also note that Steve took the time to run all the brake lines parallel to each other down into the engine compartment.

The power steering lines are also black fabric high- and low-pressure hoses from Orme Brothers with steel fittings created to reduce the clutter yet still be functional.

To minimize the look of the fuel line, Steve used Earl's Pro Lite 350 black hose with press-fit Ano-Tuff black anodized fittings and then tucked the hose behind the accessory drive to mount to the mechanical fuel pump. If the engine had been equipped with an electric pump, Steve would have routed the fuel line to the back of the engine instead of the front for a cleaner look.

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