What are the most important parts for a car show quality engine bay?
1. Mustang Engine DegreaserRight, what is the absolute cheapest thing you can do to get your Foxbody’s engine and engine bay looking a little nicer? Give it a good clean of course! What does a cleaning consist of? A good quality engine degreaser, some water, and a very careful eye. Carefully following the directions on any brand name engine cleaner/degreaser can cause years of grime and grease to wash off. But, as mentioned, be sure to read the instructions, and then read them again. A good clean is the cheapest way to start things off, but can get expensive real quick if you accidentally shoot some water onto (or into) the wrong components!
2. Air cleaner, upper intake manifoldAnother easy and Benjamin conscious way to add some underhood zing is to clean and polish the stock air cleaner cap, or replace it with a tricked out shinier version. Of course, this is for carbureted cars only. If you have an EFI Fox, no worries. Pick up a good polishing compound and polish the heck out of that 5.0 plate, located on the upper intake manifold. An hours’ worth of time will make it shine! (it’s real easy to remove, 4 Torx bolts)
3. Accessory brackets & filler capsA final way to add a little pizzazz is to lace the engine with some polished accessory brackets, filler caps and a radiator cover. The filler caps are of course very easy to do, just rotate the old one off and replace with a chromed or aluminum version. The brackets, while not super hard to get at, will require a more hands-on and in-depth approach, as, obviously, to get access to them, you’ll need to first remove the resident accessory. Alternators, power steering pumps, AC unit – all of these are a prime candidate for a gleaming bracket.
Advanced parts for a trophy winning Fox Body
The next few items require a little more cash and effort to install, but once done, are sure to make that engine look real ‘perdy. In some cases, removing the engine may be required.
1. Plug WiresAnother relatively inexpensive way to brighten up your engine bay is to swap in some new plug wires. Many manufacturers offer them in a nice blue, red, or even yellow! Any of which will instantly catch the attention of any onlooker.
2. Mustang Valve CoversSwapping the stock valve covers with a fancier aftermarket version is a surefire way to dressup the motor. Ford Racing offers a plethora of choices. Foxbody valve covers are available in matte black (described as wrinkled black by Ford), chrome or polished aluminum, and either with the iconic ‘Ford Racing’ or ‘Cobra’ stamped into them. All finishes are very durable (and are all aluminum covers), lightweight and a direct fit. Be sure to pick up some new gaskets if ordering a new set of covers, and also be aware of potential clearance issues, depending on what heads and valvetrain lay beneath the covers (it would be mighty embarrassing to receive a new set and realize they aren’t tall enough to fit!).
Another instantly noticeable feature in the engine bay are the headers. The stock iron headers work ok, but leave a lot on the table in terms of looks and performance. Also, after many heat cycles, they begin to look like pickled prunes, which are definitely not visually appealing! To counter act this, a set of chrome or ceramic headers really look great. Whether you go with shorties or longtubes, and what size is of course up to you and the goals of the vehicle, but swapping to aftermarket headers not only increases the gleam under the hood, but might just free up a few extra horses.
4. Engine BlockThe engine block is perhaps the motherload in terms of engine dressup. The largest, singular part of the engine itself, it is also the most work-intensive to dressup. Dressup, in this case, means quite simply to paint the block! Top show Foxbody Mustangs all have one thing in common – immaculate engine bays that start with an engine block so clean and nicely painted you could practically eat off one! Unfortunately, properly painting the block requires removing it from the engine and taking it apart. It is work intensive, but once it is all said and done, it really will separate the show cars from the daily drivers!
Really, the key to a gorgeous engine and engine bay is to have everything very clean. Whether you want everything chromed or polished is simply a matter of taste, but for any Foxbody show car, having a clean and nicely painted engine is a must!