What’s one of the first things you do at a car show?

After you find a prime spot (hopefully) and park your car, you pop the hood—right? After all, it’s called a car show for a reason. You’re there to show off your ride inside, outside, and under the hood, and you don’t want to be that one guy (or girl) who refuses to lift the hood.

Fortunately, it’s easy and affordable to transform a tired-looking mill into a show-quality engine. Using a traditional small block Chevrolet engine as an example, we’ve selected 15 different items that can help transform the appearance of your engine at a cost of under $1,000 total. Since none of the items cost more than 200 bucks individually, you can give your engine an instant facelift or perform the makeover from paycheck to paycheck.

Dress Up KitChrome Dress-Up Kit

You can also buy these items individually, but Summit Racing offers a full dress-up kit with a chrome air cleaner, chrome valve covers and breather, and chrome timing cover. Plus, you get the necessary hardware and gaskets—everything you need to enhance the appearance of your engine’s top end for one low price.

Cost: $77.70* 

Oil PanPolished Aluminum Oil Pan

Once you’ve dressed up the top-end of the engine, you can also spruce up the bottom-end with a nicer oil pan. Chances are not many people will see it (this item may be the first cut from your dress-up list if budget dictates), but a chrome or polished oil pan is a great way to complement the other dress-up pieces in your engine bay. If you do decide to forego the oil pan, you could opt to spend the money on a pair of ceramic-coated headers here instead.

Cost: $94.95

PulleysxlBillet Aluminum Pulleys

There are a lot of serpentine and V-belt pulley kits out there from companies like March and Zoops. You can’t argue with the quality of those kits, but to save money, we’re just upgrading the water pump pulleys and crankshaft pulleys in our small block Chevy example. You can get these pulleys in chrome or billet aluminum to add a little shine to your engine compartment.

Cost for water pump pulley: $25.95

Cost for crankshaft pulley: $24.95

Water PumpChrome Water Pump

Swap out that run-down water pump with a chrome mechanical water pump. Summit Racing offers its chrome water pump in both standard-volume and high-volume versions. For budget’s sake, we went with the standard-volume version.

Cost: $93.95

AlternatorChrome Alternator

This chrome alternator serves two purposes. The chrome finish adds more flair to the engine, while the one-wire setup helps to declutter things just a bit. As an added bonus, this 140-amp model gives us added juice for any extra electronics we might add.

Cost: $136.95

WiresRetro Spark Plug Wires

There are a lot of different wire sets you can use to complement the colors or finishes in your engine compartment. Summit Racing offers these old school-looking Musclecar Retro wires in black or orange. The 7mm wires offer low resistance with excellent EMI supression. Other manufacturers even offer spark plug wires with a stainless steel braid.

Cost: $38.95

Other Upgrades

There you have it—15 items that, when used together, will seriously enhance the look of your engine compartment. And all for less than a grand.



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Author: David Fuller

David Fuller is OnAllCylinders' managing editor. During his 20-year career in the auto industry, he has covered a variety of races, shows, and industry events and has authored articles for multiple magazines. He has also partnered with mainstream and trade publications on a wide range of editorial projects. In 2012, he helped establish OnAllCylinders, where he enjoys covering all facets of hot rodding and racing.