There was a time when chrome and billet were very common dress-up schemes for high-performance engines, but it seems these days more and more gearheads are choosing black over the classic shiny and polished look. Although chrome and billet engines look great when done right and meticulously maintained, adding black components to the engine is a trend that seems to be growing.
One obvious reason is the dark pigment’s ability to hide grime. Face it, engines get dirty, so blocks, oil pans and the like can camouflage some of the filth when in dressed in black. There is also a theory that the color black both absorbs and dissipates heat better on an infra-red level than most other colors. There’s still debate about that point, but it certainly is worth considering.
EngineLabs had many options for dressing up the nitrous-equipped Ford small-block engine project pictured to the right. But a sense of nostalgia, not Goth chic, was the primary motivating factor in choosing black for the engine theme. This bullet will be going into a ’65 Mustang fastback that originally came with athe 289ci, 271-horse K-code V8. That engine came from the factory painted black, not Ford Blue.
So the block was painted black and the oil pan ordered to match, instead of Moroso‘s familiar clear zinc finish. The engine builder did want some contrast and not everything painted or powercoated black, or else it would get lost mated to a black-on-black Mustang. The Edelbrock aluminum intake and cylinder heads were left natural, while a black Edelbrock water pump was installed (the Edelbrock timing cover will be painted when a black Concept 1 pulley is adapted. EL, however, was inspired to go with black valve covers.
That color scheme led to Proform‘s Ford Racing valve covers (PN 302-135), which are coated in a black wrinkle finish. Proform sells quite a few different black cover styles as well, including a faux-carbon fiber and smooth black finishes and is one of the few aftermarket companies licensed to use the official Ford logo.
There was a time in the ’80s and ’90s when the turquoise graphics and a shimmery chrome engine bay was the norm for a modified muscle car, but these days more are going for more of a monochromatic look. Hoses and fittings for example, could only be found in blue and red. Now black hoses and fittings seem to be growing popularity as well.
Like wheels for the exterior, the valve covers can change the appearance of the engine compartment, and since black matches with everything, switching to black can add a clean contrast under your hot rod’s hood. Black spark plug wires, valve covers, and wire looms in black give a subtle, clean look that more builders are opting for.
“We have had an increase in the demand for black valve covers,” explains Proform’s Jessica Pickering. “Over the last few years we have noticed that the black is selling 2-to-1 against our chrome offerings. People seem to want more styles and the black is easy to maintain as well as affordable, which is what Proform is all about.”
Using black fasteners such as ARP‘s black oxide-coated intake bolts, is another option for those going with more black under their hood, however, the black finish doesn’t last forever. These will eventually get a tad rusty over time if not swathed with WD-40 on a cloth, or other lubricant from time to time. For the Chevy crowd, Proform offers a couple black engine dress-up kits that include all the main components needed for your next engine build.
“Our Chevy and Ford dress-up kits, carburetor components, as well as the reinforced rear end covers by Perfect Launch are definitely our hottest sellers in black,” adds Pickering, noting that other black items from Proform include linear wire looms, oil fill caps, and fuel block off plates.
The key to any black engine dress-up is contrast. If the entire engine is painted, powder-coated and trimmed in black, then it will look like a lump of coal in the engine bay, especially if the sun is behind the open hood. As with any other engine color, a strong bullet needs a little shine and a little color to go along with making a bold statement. This engine isn’t finished. The team will be adding the C1 pulley system and a few more touches, so check back often to see when the finished engine hits the dyno.