Let’s face it, looks matter. And while we like to focus on performance, there’s nothing wrong with making our rides look nice. When our cars rolled off the assembly line, they were considered basic modes of transportation with functionality being high on the priority list. After all, they weren’t building show cars back then any more than they are today. If you’d have told them that we’d be massaging them the way we do in ’09 they would have laughed in disbelief.
For designers, the firewall was all about function. It wasn’t put there to look pretty, it was simply a steel barrier between the engine bay and the passenger compartment. As such, it’s a bumpy, hole-filled mess that can greatly benefit from a little TLC.
In the case of our Project Track Rat, we want the engine bay to have a very clean and uncluttered look. The ’68 will have all the bells and whistles such as air conditioning and wipers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t tidy things up a bit. So, follow along as we give our functional firewall an aesthetic makeover.
In the lower area of the firewall there are two holes for accessing the cage nuts for the subframe bolts. They are important access points if you run into a rust issue and can’t get your subframe bolts out, or if rust breaks loose the cage holding the nut. Our car is in great shape and will lead the good life from now on. So, for an extra clean look, we decided to close them up. We also decided to ditch the fenderwell supports, so we ground down the factory pinch welds and removed the brackets.
Time to get to work with our 3M cutoff wheels. The object isn’t to remove the entire factory firewall, but instead to cutaway any part that protrudes out from the main plane of the bulkhead. We will also be removing the leading edge of the transmission tunnel to get a cleaner, truly flat look to the finished product.
Using a grinding disc, we ground down the metal flanges surrounding some of the holes. We also took most of the firewall down to bare metal. We will be using a metal adhesive to help bond the new firewall to the vintage steel, and it works best bare metal to bare metal.
Something that can’t deviate is the angle where the brake master cylinder mounts. Changing the angle or location of this would mean having to reengineer the brake system and that’s just more work for no gain. Most of these holes won’t be in our finished firewall. For example, our wiring will be different, so we won't need the fuse block hole, the car won’t run the factory parking brake system, and the hole for the steering column will only need to be the size of actual column.