1979 Holden VB Commodore engine bay clean-up - Our Shed

By: Glenn Torrens - Words & Photos

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holden vb commodore engine bay While rebuilding the air-conditioning system, I jumped at the chance to restore the engine bay, right down to all-new stickers from Stickthis Decals holden vb commodore engine bay
holden vb commodore engine bay before 2 Before I began, the engine bay was looking tired, dusty and rusty, as many of us do after four decades… holden vb commodore engine bay before 2
battery tray Due to acid spills, battery trays are notorious for rust. This one had no rust holes so I scrubbed it with rust convertor before the primer (undercoat) went on battery tray
holden vb commodore bonnet The underside of the bonnet needed some attention, too: rust-kill compound, sanding, priming and paint holden vb commodore bonnet
engine masked Paint-masking complicated shapes can be awkward. Kitchen-grade aluminium foil, scrunched around components such as engine mounts, is quick and easy engine masked
engine prime After a very keen clean, I used an aerosol can of etch primer to give the cast-iron parts of the engine a hazing of undercoat before the Rocket Red (also from a rattle-can) went on engine prime
engine bay painting Once I’d repainted most of the engine in Rocket Red, I masked the engine to prime and paint the engine bay around it engine bay painting
engine bay painted Thumbs up, fella! I let the paint set for a few days and then reassembled all the bits including a new brake booster engine bay painted
engine parts painted For a good finish, I painted the engine’s pressed-tin rocker cover and side plates etc separately after stripping them to bare metal engine parts painted
engine bay being painted Even the radiator support panel got a coat of flat black for that as-delivered look engine bay being painted

Glenn Torrens' VB Commodore wagon receives an engine-room refurbishment


Rebuilding the air-conditioning system in my 1979 VB Holden Commodore wagon - as I mentioned recently – gave me a terrific opportunity: With the bulky air-con system components out of the way, it was easy to remove some other hardware to give the engine bay a freshen-up.

The first step was to remove the bonnet. Not only did this make engine bay access easier, but the bonnet had surface rust under its front edge (behind its trim strip and the Holden badge) so it needed some lovin’ too. Laying the bonnet upside down on a stand allowed for easy repair and repainting.

holden-vb-commodore-engine-bay-before-2.jpg

Before I began, the engine bay was looking tired, dusty and rusty, as many of us do after four decades…  

My wagon’s front guards came off, too, after the bumper, grille and headlights were removed. Removing panels is often quicker than masking for paint and can result in a better job. Then I drained the coolant and removed the radiator, the air-con condenser and fan (the air-con was of course already devoid of gas), the battery and the Commodore’s moulded-as-one radiator/windscreen washer reservoirs. I disassembled the brake system – booster and lines - and completed the engine bay strip-down by bundling the two wiring harnesses (one for lights, one for air-con) into plastic bags.

engine-masked.jpg

Paint-masking complicated shapes can be awkward. Kitchen-grade aluminium foil, scrunched around components such as engine mounts, is quick and easy

Then I removed some of the components – such as the carby and power steering pump – from the engine so that repainting would be easier.

My idea was to squirt the engine head and block using a rattle-can then cover/mask it and paint the body around it using a spray gun. I used degreaser and oven cleaner to get most of the muck off the engine, the engine bay panels and strut towers and the power-steer and air-con brackets.

battery-tray.jpg

Due to acid spills, battery trays are notorious for rust. This one had no rust holes so I scrubbed it with rust convertor before the primer (undercoat) went on

Poor anti-corrosion measures and soft acrylic paint – plus four decades of use – meant there was some surface rust in my wagon’s engine bay. In particular, my car’s battery tray needed to be wire-brushed, rust-killed and primed before the fresh Sandalwood paint was applied. The pre-paint prep for the remainder of the engine bay was a little easier.

In addition to the work restoring the air-con (mentioned a couple of issues ago) the painting/detailing of my Commodore engine bay required a couple more relaxing beer-sipping days of effort to clean, spot-repair, prime and re-paint. When reassembling everything, I fitted a reconditioned brake booster, too, as my brake performance wasn’t what it should be: I’d diagnosed a leaking booster.

engine-bay-painting.jpg

Once I’d repainted most of the engine in Rocket Red, I masked the engine to prime and paint the engine bay around it 

My Commodore won’t win the Top Engine Bay award at Summernats but the freshly painted engine bay looks 1000 per cent better than before. The restored engine bay is one more task completed in my crusty, cruisy Commodore wagon’s rolling restoration. What’s next?

engine-bay-painted.jpg

Thumbs up, fella! I let the paint set for a few days and then reassembled all the bits including a new brake booster

 

From Unique Cars #443, Aug 2020

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