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might have undergone a full restoration several decades ago, that doesn’t mean some of the parts aren’t worn or outdated.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.
Here’s a look at the old driver’s side valve cover and plug-wire setup, talk about untidy–it’s OK, we’ve got some simple fixes.
We’ll continue with a few more pictures of the old setup so you know just how incohesive it was–yikes.
Here’s a close-up of the driver’s side of the old setup. We’d like to eliminate some color, starting with the valve covers and plug wires. The old plug-wire routing is also messy.
OK, last one of the messy old setup, we promise. We just want you to get an idea of how bad it was so you can truly appreciate how our simple mods completely transformed the engine bay.
How’s that for clean? We sourced Billet Specialties valve covers (PN BSP-95221) from Summit Racing that cleaned up the engine bay without breaking the bank. Thankfully these tall aluminum versions fit the bill; looking killer and selling for just under $125.
You’d be hard pressed to beat the quality of Billet Specialties products. Just look at the high polished finish, tidy lines and jewelry-like quality all at a budget-friendly price.
Here’s more proof the Billet Specialties units are top-notch, they have integrated oil-baffles to keep oil inside the motor rather than splashing all over the valve covers.
Here’s all of the Billet Specialties plug-routing and valve-cover components from Summit Racing that helped us neatly route the wires away from the headers and down along the valve cover for a super-sano finish.
Billet Specialties even has extended valve cover bolts and studs (PN BSP-95011 and BSP-RP9510) for the ultimate in style with a secure fit. The raised inboard bolts look great and are easy to access..
We opted for the smooth Billet Specialties breathers (PN BSP-21120 and BSP-20120) for that ultra-clean finish. We used one breather and one PCV-style breather routed back to the intake-manifold.
In case you’re wondering how we secured the wires with our the Billet Specialties wire separators, we started with the single post up front and moved rearward to the floating two-wire clip, then into the three wire clip at the rear valve-cover bolt and eventually into the four-wire clip that’s threaded into the back of the cylinder head. For those looking to replicate the process, the Summit part numbers are as follows: BSP-69604, BSP-69703, BSP-69702, BSP-69701 and BSP-69602.
Here’s your E-ticket ride to custom plug wire routing and show car touches: the MSD Pro-Crimp Tool (PN 35051). This nifty tool makes cutting and crimping plug wires to length a simple task. Although we didn’t use the Plug-Wire Separators (PN 8841) in our application, they’re a popular alternative.
Here’s the other piece to our engine-bay makeover, MSD Universal 8.5mm Super Conductor black Chevrolet spark-plug wires with 90-degree heads (PN 31233). These MSD units are as quality as they come thanks to ultra low resistance wiring and a highly insulated outer sheathing–they’re also available in several different colors. We chose blackbecause its clean and concise.
A plug-wire puller comes in handy when stubborn ’wires won’t release from the spark plugs. The small hook simply wraps around the boot and the handle gives you additional leverage to remove them.
Notice how the Billet Specialties plug- routing posts not only neatly and securely route the wires down the sides of the valve covers, but they also double as the lower valve-cover bolts. I don’t know about you, but that’s subtle perfection in my book.
Here’s another peek at the new MSD plug-wire routing setup around the new Billet Specialties valve covers. How’s that for tidy? The plug wires are neatly tucked out of the way without getting too close to the hot headers. All of this for a little time and a handful of budget bits.
Stepping back and looking at the new setup, it looks much cleaner now. Sure, there’s other under-hood bits we’ll be addressing in the near future to further tidy the engine bay, but it’s amazing what valve covers and proper plug-wire routing will do for an engine bay.
The driver’s side setup is just as clean, allowing for full view of the shiny, new valve covers.
Here are some before-and-after pictures to help better illustrate just how much nicer it now looks. We went for a subtle yet classy feel, so seeing new and old side-by-side really solidifies just how much valve covers and tidy plug-wire routing can do for your engine bay, no matter the make, model or year of your project car. valve covers.