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Hagerty Employee

The slippery slope of engine compartment cleanup

Last September, in the good old pre-virus days—when you could drop everything, borrow a truck, rent a U-Haul auto transporter, drive 5 1/2 hours each way to look at a car (so you’re prepared, just in case you want to pull the trigger on it), drag the car back, and spend hours in a garage breathing the same air with someone you’ve never met—I bought a 48,000-mile 1973 BMW 2002 from its original owner...


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Thank you. A timely article since the engine is out of my TR3B and I'm trying to decide how far to go.  Very similar situation with the present value of car Vs. Value with engine bay redone.  Guess I'll paint a couple rusty bolt on components and hand clean whatever I can get at.  Was astounded at price to have it totally redone first class professionally. Around 4500.  My body is in very good daily driver condition, not a big show winner, so not gonna invest that. 


Ha! I'm in the middle of exactly the same thing on my 73 MGB/GT. Pulled the engine to put in a new O/D trans and thought, "Why not do a detail on the engine compartment while everything is out?" Cleaning the **bleep** of 50 years away revealed original paint that had been damaged in places by leaking brake fluid (its British.) I did find a great place that sells exact match aerosol spray paint and upon application in the really bad areas it made the areas with good original paint look bad. So the debate: Do I paint the entire engine compartment? To do that properly requires taking all the pieces off, including the wiring harness. And while you're at it, let's get new harness clips, plated in the proper color. Oh, and the brake/clutch pedal box looks terrible - lets pull that and paint it. While the pedals are out, lets put in new pivot bushings - they're only $.80 each! And........ 


Most auto paint stores have a spectrophotometer to determine paint color and a computer to translate the match into a paint formula.  Stone Auto Body Supply, right down the street from you in Watertown, MA, makes up spray cans of exact match using a spectrophotomer and pretty exact match paints mixed to the car's paint code. I think I paid about $18 for a spray can of "not quite exact match" paint to use on a pickup truck plastic lower apron where the original paint did not quite match the original paint on the rest of the body when it left the factory.  As I recall, the exact match spray can version was about $40.


Most paint store spectrophotomers require a paint target larger than the size of a quarter so many body shops will remove and carry in the gas filler door for sampling to get an exact match.


When I removed the battery tray from a Mercedes-Benz I owned, I removed the rust and coated it with an epoxy paint to protect it from corrosion caused by future battery acid leaks. I think I used black POR 15 that was part of a small six-can sample kit that included several other colors. I'm willing to accept the trade-off of incorrect color match for improved corrosion protection. 

New Driver

Another great read, thanks Rob.


One can call this Project car Hell, or Making The World Better One Car At A Time; I prefer the latter, if only because it might legitimize, say, a complete restoration that started out as just replacing a sun-split rear seatback cover...As for the pints, quarts, and rattle-can paint library on my paint shelves, I could make that available locally and probably finish every touch-up-needy vehicle within miles...

Intermediate Driver

I feel your pain, Rob. This is exactly why all my "just clean up and recondition a bit" motorcycles wind up as  bare frames ready for paint or powdercoat. And then, of course, some assembly is required

Intermediate Driver

Another consideration, I would like to see a photo of the battery tray with the battery installed. I bet you can't even see it.

Plus, with the typical  car batteries of the 1970s you would expect to see that the original battery tray would either be rusted through, or repaired. Your repair was nicely done so "no points lost" ... Gary 


“Welcome to the hell that is my world.”  That about sums up every restoration project.

Pit Crew

And the underside of the hood drew my eyes . . . . . 

Intermediate Driver

Had a '72 El Camino that the engine needed regasketing.  Turned into a complete resto mod in no time at all.

New Driver

Don't make the mistake I did of selecting a paint color over the internet.  When I sent my paint-ready TR3 to the shop to be sprayed the original Silverstone Grey I included a list of all the paint codes for that color I could find.  The painter called the next day and said he couldn't match the codes - all were too old.  He sent me several choices from his supplier via email.  I picked one and told him.  He asked me if I would like a sprayout.  My lazy self said Nahhh, it's and hour's drive to see it.  Now it's obvious that the color he was seeing was not the color filtered through the internet to me.  In fact there were 2 internet filters - supplier to painter and painter to me.  The color was way too light.  Most people think it is white.  In the end, their work was good and there are so few Silverstone Grey cars, most people wouldn't even know and I'm happy with the job.

Intermediate Driver

Yeah...  Mine started with, "I just need to touch up the paint on heads" on my '48 Ford....  A year later and I am "almost done" under the hood!


Couple of observations: Even in the BMW world, it is acceptable to replace things like battery trays because even in the BMW world nothing lasts forever, particularly a battery tray. You could throw the scaly original in the trunk to impress a prospective buyer.

The slight "darkening" of the underhood paint: Was it uniform on both inner fenders? If so, it hadn't darkened. Think for just a second. How often would the car have been parked out in the sun with the hood open? And to get white paint in particular to darken noticeably, it has to be subjected to enough heat to nearly burn it. Everything made of plastic would have melted at the same time the paint changed color. The reality is that the exterior has faded to the point where the difference is noticeable. White paint gets whiter with exposure to the sun.

If you find yourself in the position of having to scrape crud off of things you don't want to scratch up, try using a hard plastic trim removal tool. They are inexpensive enough to be considered sacrificial but do a great job, and any slight marring of the surface can be polished out whether it's aluminum or paint.

Pit Crew

well, you could buy something for $45 and using all 4 cans, paint the item in the same rotation and timing, thereby creating a whole new item only investing $90. LOL. reminds me of something I always wanted, a 67 Chevy Pickup, maybe their best styling job ever. ONE PROBLEM; its a 3/4 ton, how hard could it be to change it to half ton..........................lets just say it would have been cheaper to buy a donor rustbucket except that they don't even exist anymore.