MSD, Billet Specialties and Summit Racing help us turn our engine bay from cluttered chaos to clean and cool.
At some point every project vehicle needs to be refreshed, it’s just the way it works. Although the vehicle in question might have undergone a full restoration several decades ago, that doesn’t mean some of the parts aren’t worn or outdated. Take for example our ’72 Chevrolet Cheyenne step-side pick-up. It had been restored over a decade ago and while a lot of the pieces still looked great, life under the hood was dated and cluttered. Of course, thoughts of yanking the motor and completely revamping the engine bay crossed our minds, but in reality our pockets just weren’t that deep. Instead, a closer look revealed dated valve covers and severely untidy spark-plug routing. The fact the plug wires had been on the truck for 10 years and 10,000 miles was further motivation to update the wiring.
Although many feel that underhood dress-up parts are expensive, in reality there are many affordable mods that can do wonders without breaking the bank, like nice valve covers and tidy plug wiring. The old setup consisted of polished Chevrolet valve-covers with a red and blue laser etched version of the popular phrase from the 90s, “The Heartbeat of America,” along with the bouncing line from a heart-rate monitor. I’m sure they were stylish when new, but now they’re dated and too busy.
In search of some quality replacements, we contacted Summit Racing Equipment for a set of attractive, affordable replacements. Thankfully the Summit helpline made quick work of our requests and in short order we decided on a set of polished aluminum units from Billet Specialties. These cool covers are officially licensed by Chevrolet and are the perfect blend of old and new with CNC-machined bowtie logos flanked by traditional fins. They’re made in the USA from high-quality aluminum, come in short and tall versions, have 1-¼-inch holes with rubber grommets for PCV breathers and internal baffles that keep the oil inside rather than splashing all over your motor.
In addition to the valve covers, the Summit helpline also helped us spec matching polished smooth breathers, one standard and one PCV-style. To round out the fortress of Billet Specialties components we selected matching polished wire separators and upper valve-cover bolts. These polished bits will route the spark-plug wires along the sides of the valve covers, allowing for full view of our shiny, new valve covers and out of harm’s way above the hot headers.
Speaking of plug wires, we opted for a legendary pair of MSD Performance 8.5mm Super Conductor wire sets. These hot wires have special helically wound cores with 40 ohms of resistance per foot and an RFI suppression equal to a 1,500 ohm wire. In other words, they’re high-tech wires. In fact, there’s 40-feet of tightly wound copper per every foot of wire. There’s also tough 8.5mm synthetic and silicone jackets that keeps the wires insulated from heat and help conduct the electricity. Don’t forget about the dual crimp stainless steel terminals that feature snap-locks for a secure fit. For our particular examples, we chose the black universal-fit wire kit with 90-degree heads for our HEI distributor. We chose the universal-fit wires so we could custom make our own set to our liking, in this case to work with our Billet Specialties wire dividers. To make things easier we also opted for an MSD Pro Crimping tool (PN 35051). True, these are on the expensive side, but they’re professional quality and simplify the act of cutting and crimping the wires. Seriously, even for someone who’s never cut their own wires, the crimpers made it bonehead easy, giving us the ability to route the wires exactly how we wanted.
We took our time during the install in the pursuit of perfection, so while it might not typically take a half-day, we moved slowly and enjoyed the process. The result? An engine bay with custom touches that’s tons cleaner, a lot classier and the best part? It didn’t cost a fortune.
Follow along with the photos and captions as we take you through the process and be sure take a good look at the before-and-after photos, the improvements are huge. Click on the first photo to scroll through.