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How to Customize an Engine Compartment

Body Shop Tips Index
Designing a new engine compartment allows you to reroute the wiring and brake lines, and hide the brake booster, battery tray and many other parts. For this project we are going to fabricate the engine compartment sheet metal in preparation to hide all those components.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 1 1. First we lined up the fenders, hood, core support, grill, etc. so that we had our all of the gaps to our 3/16th of an inch standard, and all panels fit properly. We built the fire wall before hand with 16 gauge flat sheet metal for structural integrity.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 2 2. To start, we cut off the old fender flanges and made paperboard templates that followed the natural arch set by the factory. Then we laid them out on 1/8th thick steel and made a matching pair for each side. Note the line-up pins (red arrows) to facilitate final assembly.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 3 3. This close up shows the two flanges with the line up pin installed. They are matching halves. As seen in caption #1 we welded one half to the fender and the other will be welded to the inner apron we will fabricate.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 4 4. We welded 5/16 nuts on the inside of the apron flanges so the bolts will draw the apron in from up under the front fenders. The bolts will be short enough to not hit the inner apron metal.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 5 5. This close-up shows the flange welded to the fender and ground smooth. You have to take your time and weld no more then 1/4 inch long beads before cooling to keep the fender from warping.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 6 6. Next we bolted on the apron flange and started running the 3/16th stainless steel support wires in the basic shape we want, tacking them in place. Stainless steel works better then regular carbon steel.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 7 7. We use a straight edge to make sure the wires are parallel to the fire wall. This is important to assure the driver and passenger sides come out parallel.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 8 8. Here you can see our basic shape laid out, including the radiator support cover. Once we make the paperboard templates we will be able to change the wires as needed before shaping any steel.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 9 9. Here is the view from the fire wall showing how we intend to enclose the fan shroud. We lowered the custom built radiator housing three inches so the filler cap will be below the surface of our sheet metal work.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 10 10. We made two brackets to weld to the radiator support so we can attach the new panels without visible fasteners.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 11 11. The brackets were tack welded in place. We will drill holes in them and weld 10/32 nuts (red arrow) to secure the radiator cover.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 12 12. Here we added a few smaller brackets with additional wires for added support of the radiator cover.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 13 13. We drilled 3/8 inch holes in the bottom side of the front grill to allow tool access to the radiator cover fasteners. This area of the grill will be blacked out in satin paint so the holes will be almost invisible.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 14 14. These two rods are for the upper and lower halves of the electric fan cover. We will tack on a piece of metal to hold the 1/8 inch gap, and then remove it once the panels are in place.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 15 15. Here you see the metal spacers (red arrows).
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 16 16. next we made paperboard templates to get an actual view of how the wires will work. If we find problems we will simply move the wires until everything looks good.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 17 17. We made the upper radiator cover first. This panel had several angles to deal with so we made it in several sections and welded them together. We cut out the paperboard templates in 18 gauge steel and then bent them on a metal brake.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 18 18. We used a stretcher/shrinker machine to improve the fit. You should only insert the panel in 3/4ths of the depth and keep the teeth free of metal dust to prevent slippage.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 19 19. The english wheel makes a nice transition from the sharp bend to the contoured side. Notice the rubber band on the upper wheel. This allows the material to stretch without marring the panel.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 20 20. And here we are checking the new panel for fit. It is important to check your fit on a regular basis to assure the tools are doing the job.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 21 21. We used a straight edge against the passenger side panel to check the contour.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 22 22. Once we were happy with the fit we tack welded the panel in place.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 23 23. The top fan covers were laid out, cut in flat sheets and tacked on with only minor manipulation. As mentioned in steps #14 and #15, there will be a 1/8th gap between this and the lower panel.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 24 24. Sometimes we use this adhesive heat resistant paper from 3M for our templates. Here we use a razor blade to trim off the excess against the wire frame. Then we simply peel it off and stick on a piece of sheet metal.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 25 25. Here is the template we made for the inner apron. The red arrow points to a cut out we made for the hood hinge.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 26 26. We laid out the metal from our mock ups, bent it on the brake and then tested the fit.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 27 27. This template shows us where to cut to achieve adequate clearance for the upper control arms. We also made the custom tubular control arms.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 28 28. We used a felt pen to mark the panel for cutting.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 29 29. We tack welded the inner apron to the top to the flange to prevent the fit from changing when we pulled the apron in and out during this process.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 30 30. Since the panel will no longer fit in a drill press, we use a round die punch to make a nice round inside corner cut.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 31 31. Now we will trim it on the line with a hand shear to finish up the cut.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 32 32. We tacked on 90 degree trim pieces to strengthen the apron ends and give us a place to attach them during assembly.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 33 33. We decided to ad a flange to the fan housing for rigidity.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 34 34. Another bracket was made to attach the lower cover to upper half. We will also add a lip (red arrow) to bolt this onto the radiator support for easy removal of the panel.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 35 35. Here we ad a small triangular piece to make the transition from the radiator cover to the inner apron.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 36 36. Here is a bottom view of the new radiator cover.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 37 37. Now we are ready to weld up the seams.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 38 38. This view shows how the lower fan cover mates against the upper cover. The thin wall tubing (red arrows) will get threaded rod bolts to keep the two pieces tightly together.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 39 39. Another view with the rod bolts installed.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 40 40. The special rod bolts will stick through the fan trim panel. We ground the ends to a point to make installation from underneath the car easier.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 41 41. Here is a view of the shorter rod bolt.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 42 42. This view shows where the upper radiator cover is attached to the apron. There will also be a fastener on the contoured flange (red arrow) with easy access from under the car for a smooth, no fastener, look.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your 3ntique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 43 43. This hole is for the hood latch to pass through. We welded an 1/8th stainless rod around the perimeter to create a soft edge.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your 3ntique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 44 44. Here is is from underneath.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your 3ntique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 44 45. And here is one of the attaching brackets we made for the apron.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your 3ntique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 44 46. We found a transition problem in the cowl area and will need to cut out a section so we can reshape it to our liking. So first we taped off the are to be modified and then cut it out.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your 3ntique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 44 47. This view from behind the hood hinge shows a pocket where the factory hood hinge went when the hood was down. It is not necessary and we do not like the look so we will cover it up.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your 3ntique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 44 48. And here you can see that we have an alignment problem where the inner apron hits the fire wall.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your 3ntique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 44 49. Here we are making the new panel and using a T-Dolly to put a bead on the edge that matches the factory cowling.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your 3ntique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 44 50. The new piece looks good so we will tack it on and continue.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your 3ntique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 44 51. This is the oval hole for the hood hinge. We laid it out and then traced it onto tape so we would have an exact match for both sides.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your 3ntique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 44 52. We started with a hole saw and then roughed it out with an air saw and finished it with a fine burr grinder on an angle drill.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your 3ntique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 44 53. And here is the finished hole.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your 3ntique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 44 54. We reinforced the hole with a ring of steel, tacked onto the bottom.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your 3ntique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 44 55. The end result looks good with the oval section attached to the hinge. A small 1/8th gap around the perimeter looks clean. The oval will simply go down and away from the apron and trim panel when the hood is lowered. The hinge itself see "red arrow" will be smoothed out with a nice taper.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your 3ntique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 44 56. We gave a similar treatment to the hole for the steering shaft.
Building a custom egnine compartment for your 3ntique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 44 57. The finished job, ready for primer, blocking and paint.

Jeff Lilly Restorations
11125 F.M.1560 N
San Antonio, Texas
210-695-5151 - www.jefflilly.com