Many custom lowrider builders like to take their rides to the next level by finely detailing their car’s engine compartment, but only a select few would dare venture into the car’s engine bay to the extreme that we’re going to dive into today. We’re talking about giving the engine compartment a quick clean-up by shaving and molding the firewall, and rerouting the car’s wiring harness to create a flawless-looking engine bay that would get anyone’s head turning.
When master car crafter Joseph Garcia of the Drag-N Shop in Santa Fe Springs, California, called us up to give us the inside scoop on his latest project, we were all ears. It turns out that Joseph’s latest project happened to be right up our alley. Joseph had a clean ’65 Chevy Impala that was ready to have its firewall shaved.
We decided to venture to Drag-N Shop bright and early one Monday morning ready capture it all on film. Once the clean Impala was discharged from the flat bed, it was time for Joseph to get to work using his metal-shaping skills. Joseph left no stone unturned when perfecting this car’s OEM stock firewall and turning it into a custom masterpiece. Move over, Gillette, Joseph can give a close shave with the best of ’em and you can follow along and see how it’s done.
1. Prior to starting the project, the owner had his engine block pulled out of the car along with the radiator, AC/heater and any other unwanted obstructions. Once all cleared, Joseph marked any holes and gaps that needed to be filled or molded in on the firewall.
2. Before starting any and all grinding or welding, we had to make sure that the fuel lines were plugged up and completely sealed to avoid any unwanted fires or explosions caused by carelessness.
3. Next, Joseph made sure to add some protection to the freshly painted Impala, because when sparks of hot metal fly they really fly! Plus, we should all know by now that some protection is better than no protection.
4. In order to create a good ground between the two metal surfaces of the welding gun and firewall, they needed to be prepped. For this, Joseph used his handy hand-held grinder to remove any paint on the firewall’s surface. This ensured a good ground, making it easier to get a clean weld on the areas that needed to be welded.
5. All visible lips were removed from the firewall as the one shown here. “Big Joe” used a pair of metal shears to execute the operation, which would be filled with a metal plate later on.
6. & 7. Joseph’s father Joseph, Sr. firmly held a 12×7 18-gauge piece of metal on the inner side of the car’s firewall holding while Joseph stenciled out the hole’s actual size using a marker. Once traced and stenciled out, Joseph used his metal shears to cut out the shape from the metal piece.
8. Joseph tack welded each corner into place before welding the metal piece. The tack welding method allows you to see if the right measurements were used and also lets you manipulate the metal into the proper shape that you desire.
9. Make sure to have someone on the inner side of the firewall hold a fire-retardant welding blanket in place, because sparks will be flying everywhere, including into the interior of the car and possibly starting a fire when coming into contact with the carpet.
10. Joseph filled in the gap where the firewall and cowl seam meet by melting the metal and manipulating it to become one flawless piece.
11. Using small straight pieces of metal, Joseph filled in the holes by welding the pieces into place and then twisting off any excess material.
12. All holes were filled and ground smooth. The firewall was then ready for some body filler.
13. Evercoat lightweight filler was Joseph’s choice of foundation. Make sure to mix the proper amount of hardener with body filler, because too much hardener (or not enough) can prove catastrophic.
14. Spread the body filler evenly throughout the firewall.
15. Once the filler was dry, Joseph did a quick sanding to knock down any high spots and make it flush with the rest of the firewall.
16. Joseph, a perfectionist at any task, noted that the firewall needed one more light pass of body filler before he moved on to the next step.
17. Joseph performed one last firewall blocking and dusting before filling his paint gun with Sikkens primer. He then laid out one nice, even coat of paint, followed by a secondary coat of the primer sealer.
18. After the second coat of primer had cured, the masking tape and paper were carefully removed from the Impala’s body, making sure that no primer was spilled onto the candy paint. All that the firewall needed now was a sweet coat of that juicy and tasteful candy apple red paint!