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Jaguar XKE E-type Restoration: Cleaning and Refinishing Firewall, Heater and Washer Bottle

When I had the heater box, all of the hoses, brake components and the vacuum bottle off the firewall it was time to get serious about cleaning up, detailing and refinishing the area and its components. One thing I notice at car shows is that people always ask E-type owners to open the hood and this attracts more people  to have a look at what you have under that long nose – you really do not want to open at that hood and have a greasy and dirty mess to show people.  So, since I was was not intending on pulling the engine (it only has 37,000 miles) and respraying the engine bay, and since I am going to keep the original cream color for the car, I want to really clean and tidy up things as I work.

Cleaning –

I used lots of Gunk Engine Brite degreaser. I I have tried other brands and always come back to Gunk. I also used a small steam cleaner, but after 40 years of grime I have to combo up with the Gunk.  For application and wiping I used garage cloths and also Scotch-Brite pads and plastic bristle brushes where the dirt and grease were heavy.  I did not use wire brushes or wheels except on pieces I was going to repaint anyway. For all repainted components I tried to take them down to metal.

On some plastic parts I used Fantastic spray cleaner and some super fine sandpaper (1200) very gentle rubbing compound and polishing compound to get them into presentable shape. One example was the windscreen washer bottle.

Refinishing XKE E-type Windscreen Washer Bottle

Detailing Paints Used –

For painting the gloss engine components my friend and fellow E-type owner Mark recommended Dupli-Color Engine enamel.  It is incredible. It goes on super smooth, very little to no orange peel and easy to keep from running. Comparing finishes from the preserved paint on my car to the Dupli-Color finishes I found their high gloss was a little extreme and have used the Dupli-Color semi-gloss black which looks really good and is plenty shiny.

For the touch-ups on the cream white engine bay surfaces I custom blended an enamel and air-brushed in some cases. In other cases I found the Dupli-Color Wimbledon White to be almost an exact match for the original paint.

For primer I used a red Rust-Oleum anti-rust primer. In some cases, I topped this with a sandable  Rust-Oleum primer in gray.

To get a tough finish on small parts like the heater box I baked the finished product in an over for 30 minutes at 250 F.  Of course – if you have the money and time – you can get the parts powder coated by a professional shop for the best and most durable finish. As this car is going to never see rain or be subjected to harsh use I figured I would take the DIY route.

See what you think –

The heater box on the E-type gets dripped on through the louvers and often are really rusty. In addition, if the coil inside leaks they can rust from the inside out. In the case of my car there was only some very minor surface rust – and the motor worked fine.  I took the box apart and fully cleaned it, checked for internal leaks, sanded, rust primed and painted it again in  black.

Refinishing the XKE / E-type Heater Box

I also took off the radiator reservoir bottle and refinished it. Once that, the heater and hoses were off the firewall I could really get at the grime there and give it a very thorough cleaning and touch up. It turned out the firewall area was in excellent shape underneath the years of dirt and grease. The pictures below show the situation at the start and at the end of this process on the driver’s side of the firewall.

Cleaning up the Driver's Firewall and Reservoir Bottle.

The same treatment was given to the passenger side firewall and it cleaned up nicely with removal of the grime and some touch-up paint work.  The engine bay is definitely starting to shape up!

Passenger's Side Firewall of the XKE / E-type Cleaned-up

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