Valve Cover Paint & Head Prep

I also spent some time this morning painting the valve cover and inspection plates, and also preparing the engine to receive new gaskets so I can reinstall those parts.

Last night I removed, cleaned, and primed the valve cover and inspection plates.

I used some Al’s Datsun Engine Blue spray paint on the parts.

I applied one thin coat and allowed it to dry before re-coating.

The valve cover and inspection plate gaskets were in bad shape but still sticking to the head. Pictured below, the valve cover gasket is orange and the inspection plate gaskets are black.

I used my gasket scraper to pry off the inspection cover gaskets and then scrape smooth the surface of the head where they were.

With a lot of effort the metal was clean and smooth.

The valve cover gasket was a bit more stubborn. I found it helpful to use a broad joint compound knife to pry it from below.

After working all the way around the perimeter with a variety of tools to get underneath the gasket, I was able to remove it in a single piece.

Then I used the blade of my small gasket scraper to clean up the mounting surface of the gasket.

After the scraping was done and the surface was smooth, I used my Shop Vac to thoroughly clear the entire area of scrapings and remaining pieces of gasket around the inspection covers and the valve cover. The last thing I need is a bit of old gasket getting sucked into the engine internals!

New Engine Bay Grommets

Today I installed all new round rubber grommets throughout the engine bay.  Four months ago I removed all the dried up old grommets and measured them so I could procure fresh new replacements. There are 14 total grommets in six different sizes in the 320’s engine bay. I was able to buy new ones from McMaster Carr in all the sizes I needed, though I had to buy full bags of each size, since they don’t sell by the piece.

I worked my way around the engine bay from the front driver’s side toward the firewall and around to the front passenger side, installing all the new grommets as I went.
First was a 3/4″ diameter hole at the front-right on the lower inner fender.

Next, slightly back on the upper fender a smaller, 5/8″ hole for wiring to the signal lamps.

Since there were wires coming through, I cut the grommet using a pair of scissors to accommodate them.

Then I just put the grommet into place and used some rubber cement to glue it back together around the wires. I found the key to using rubber cement successfully in this application was to apply a very thin coat to both cut ends of the grommet, wait for the cement to dry, and then press the parts evenly together and hold them together for at least a full minute.

Next, further back a bit lower on the inner wheel well was a 1 1/4″ diameter hole for the hard fuel line from the fuel tank. No cutting necessary; I just popped that one over the end of the fuel line.

And further back and down lower was another, slightly smaller 1 1/8″ hole for the hard brake line for the front wheel.

Next, back on the firewall, was the choke cable, which comes through a 3/4″ hole, and the hole for the hood release rod, which was 1/2″.

I cut the grommet for the choke cable and slid it over the cable and onto the firewall.

Then I did the same for the hood release.

I replaced two grommets at the corner of the firewall and engine bay. The lower was 7/8″ in diameter and the upper 1 1/8″.

And on the other side of the steering column moving toward the center of the vehicle, I installed another 5/8″ grommet around the accelerator cable.

Next, down a bit lower on the firewall and continuing across toward the other fender were the pair of holes for the heater core supply and return hoses, which are 1 1/8″ in diameter. I used my needle-nose pliers to pull out the remnants of the hose from the lower outlet.

Then I used the pliers to pull out the grommet…

…and installed two new ones.

Next, on the inner fender passenger side just between the firewall and the battery shelf I installed a new 1 1/8″ diameter grommet around the brake line, again cutting and rubber cementing it around the line.

Further forward, behind the front end of the batter shelf on the upper fender I pressed in a 5/8″ grommet around the signal lamp wires similar to on the opposite fender.

These new grommets make a big difference in the functionality and the appearance of the engine bay.

When I ordered my new grommets the minimum lot size (bag) ranged from 25 to 100 for the smaller size grommets. I actually sold a handful of kits I made by bagging up the surplus grommets in each size, labeling them, and providing an engine bay map of where they go. I may still have some grommets leftover, so f you have interest in buying such a kit, just shoot me an email.

Valve Cover Prep & Prime

This afternoon I spent some time cleaning up the E-1 engine’s valve cover, which was grimy and also needs a fresh coat of paint.

As far as I can tell, the early (1960-1963) 320 valve covers were connected to the head by two larger bolts going through the valve cover itself and had a Datsun 1200 badge riveted to the valve cover. The later valve covers (1964-1965) were attached to the head by six Philips-head machine screws with washers (similar to the later J13 engines found in the 520 and 521s) and had a Datsun 1200 metal badge decal stuck directly to the valve cover.
I pulled the breather hose from the valve cover and started unscrewing the mounting screws using a #3 Philips head screwdriver.

With all six screws removed, I removed the nondescript oil filler cap from the valve cover and pulled the valve cover from the head.

Then I put the valve cover into a basin with some hot water and used Simple Green to give it a good scrubbing and de-greasing.

Next I turned my attention to the inspection covers on the manifold side of the engine. I used a 5/8″ socket to remove the single bolt holding each cover plate to the block.

Then I popped off the inspection cover(s).

Here’s a peak behind those inspection covers.

Here are the inspection cover plates. Note they were the same blue as the engine. The rectangular gaskets came off the plates pretty easily.

I plopped the inspection covers into the bath with the valve cover and gave everything a good scrub. I noticed that the paint under the blue on the valve cover was an orange-ish red. I wonder if that is the original undercoat or primer or if someone had once repainted the valve cover that color before going back to the original blue-green.

After a bit of scrubbing the inspection covers were clean and I allowed them to dry. After this picture was taken I did some more cleaning to get rid of all the grease.

I primed the covers with some Rustoleum white Clean Metal Primer.

I was really torn about what to do with the Datsun 1200 valve cover badge so I can paint the valve cover. It was in rough shape, so I decided to remove it hoping I could reapply it if absolutely necessary.

However, in using a drywall knife to pry it off, I realized it was not a stiff metal badge but rather a thin foil decal. So today I resolved to find a reproduction badge to put back on the freshly-painted valve cover.

It gets dark early this time of year, so by the time I finished priming the valve cover the moon was up.

Note: the six screws that mount the valve cover to the head are 1/4″-20 fine threaded machine screws. I located and bought new screws from Fastenal, which are part #72588 (1/4″-20 x 5/8″ Phillips Drive Pan Head Grade 18-8 Stainless Steel Machine Screw). I also bought some new replacement lock washers to go with the machine screws, Fastenal part #71063 (1/4″ 18-8 Stainless Steel Medium Split Lock Washer). When I got them it was around $.30 for each screw and washer, or $1.80 in total.

New Air Cleaner

The original air cleaner that came on my truck had been modified at some point. The “horn” inlet had been cut off. See below:

These modifications were pretty common, but I wanted to get an intact stock air cleaner to put back on the truck. A couple of years ago I cut out a small swatch of my stock air cleaner to use it as a sample to get some paint mixed in Datsun air cleaner blue.
Earlier this year I was able to acquire a replacement stock air cleaner from a 1964 320 that someone was parting out. It is in good shape, but has clearly been repainted at some point.

The inside of the new air cleaner had also been painted, but the lid was its original blue.

I used some Metal Prep and a Scotch Brite pad to address the surface rust, which was mostly on the lid.

Then I sprayed some Rustoleum white Clean Metal Primer on the air cleaner.

Here are the air cleaner body and lid in white primer.

I opened the can of paint Ace Rust Stop paint I had custom-matched to air cleaner blue and stirred it thoroughly.

In order to make the paint flow better and hopefully self-level, I added in around 15% of Penetrol and stirred that in really well.

I started with the lid, just using a foam brush to coat the inside of the lid and the wingnut and other accessories.

After the paint dried, I flipped over the lid and painted the outside.

The air cleaner body had a rubber gasket inside the area where the bottom of the air cleaner mates to the top of the carburetor. Here are some shots of that gasket from the bottom of the air cleaner looking up (left) and from the inside of the air cleaner (right).

As you can see, the gasket has a lip that rests on the underside of the air cleaner. I used a screwdriver to work the gasket down from the inside of the air cleaner out the bottom.

When I got the gasket out it was crusty, the rubber hardened, and broken in several places.

Here is some detail on the top of the gasket where it aligns with the air cleaner lip that tightens around the mouth of the carburetor.

With that rubber piece out I moved on to painting the body of the air cleaner, also just using a foam brush.