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Billet Dress-Up Basics For Your Engine Bay

Pop the Hood With Pride

Dan Ward
Aug 14, 2014
Photographers: Dan Ward, Robert McGaffin
Men have been searching for shiny things since the first flicker of sunlight reflected off water. Nowadays, with our 1-minute attention spans, we’re always bouncing around to the next best shiny thing. New phone, TV, gun, you name it, if it’s new and shiny, there will be guys huddling around calling dibs on it. With show season in full swing, we wanted to give you a basic look at how some well-placed billet engine dress-up parts can help you take some trophies home at events—and take more pride in your truck.
The engine bay isn’t always the first place we focus our attention and dollars. Sure, an intake and exhaust are under there, but besides routine maintenance, we may not pop our hood all the time. For our in-house project, Lightning, the engine compartment was in desperate need of some TLC, and we thankfully turned a dire situation into one we genuinely take pride in. This isn’t a Ford-specific how-to story, rather it’s more of a before-and-after glimpse into what you can turn your engine bay into. In the source box, you’ll find companies that make dress-up parts for GM, Ford, and Ram trucks. Give them a call today and start popping the hood every chance you get.
Photo 2/14   |   1999 Ford F 150 Engine Billet Dress Up Basics
1. If your engine is in rough shape, take solace; our F-150’s engine bay was looking beat before we paid it some much-needed attention.
Photo 3/14   |   1999 Ford F 150 Engine Billet Dress Up Basics
2. Obviously, we added the Whipple for the power it makes, but as a huge bonus, the large polished piece also looks awesome under the hood. Note: The firewall is white even though the truck is gunmetal gray. A few coats of rattle-can semi-gloss black helped take the focus off the blatant color change.
Photo 4/14   |   1999 Ford F 150 Engine Billet Dress Up Basics
3. We found a truck owner on a Lightning forum willing to sell us his engine dress-up kit. This particular kit is no longer on the market, however, these general rules do apply to all engine dress-up parts and are not Ford specific. First off, we used 80-grit sandpaper to give the double-sided tape more bite.
Photo 5/14   |   1999 Ford F 150 Engine Billet Dress Up Basics
4. Some parts may come with 3M double-sided tape already in place. If it’s not, a quick trip to the parts store will remedy that problem. We cut each strip of tape to provide maximum adhesion on the billet piece without being visible from the top.
Photo 6/14   |   1999 Ford F 150 Engine Billet Dress Up Basics
5. After wiping down the lightly sanded plastic with some acetone, we lined up the billet piece with the factory plastic part and pressed firmly. If the part is highly polished and you don’t want to get greasy fingerprints on it, a microfiber towel can be used as a barrier.
Photo 7/14   |   1999 Ford F 150 Engine Billet Dress Up Basics
6. And just like that, the part went from unsightly black plastic to show-ready billet in just a few minutes.
7-8. For parts that are oddly shaped or not readily available, many billet companies will custom cut dress-up items. A great example of this is Down South Kustoms, in Texas. The crew can custom make all types of billet parts. This wire loom cover was a huge eyesore, but after the billet part covered it up it was a thing of beauty.
9-10. Little things make a big difference for show judges, and you can sway votes to your truck if you’ve thought of small things like billet caps for the master cylinder, coolant overflow, and radiator cap.
Photo 12/14   |   1999 Ford F 150 Engine Billet Dress Up Basics
11. As we mentioned, the semi-gloss black helped disguise the paint color change, and with the billet cover applied no one will be the wiser.
Photo 13/14   |   1999 Ford F 150 Engine Billet Dress Up Basics
12. Another great way to add style to the engine compartment is a custom radiator core support cover like this one that our friend Steve McGaughy crafted out of sheetmetal. We had it painted by the pros at L&G Enterprises.
Photo 14/14   |   With a polished Whipple supercharger front and center and plenty of billet pieces surrounding it, our Lightning’s engine compartment was ready for its 15 minutes of fame.
13. It’s not perfect, but it is a big improvement over what we started with. Future plans include painting the plastic intake elbow and adding electric fans for an even cleaner engine compartment. Go ahead, pop your hood and make it look good.


Billet Specialties
La Grange, 60526
All Sales Manufacturing
Empire Vehicle Accessories
Down South Kustoms



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