Poll

What do you think of these clear valve covers?

Those clear valve covers are cool!  You can see your high tech rockers, stands, and pushrods, tell the condition of the oil, and check for problems under the valve covers without unbolting anything!
71 (93.4%)
Those things suck!  I wouldn't be caught dead with those on my engine.  Throw 'em in the trash, along with the Popeil Pocket Fisherman, the Veg-a-matic, and the Ginsu steak knives!
1 (1.3%)
No opinion
4 (5.3%)

Total Members Voted: 74

Author Topic: Clear Valve Covers  (Read 7448 times)

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jayb

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Clear Valve Covers
« on: April 14, 2013, 08:38:56 PM »
I kind of figure from talking to some of my friends who know about this project that you guys will either love them or hate them LOL!  Feel free to respond to the poll above.  The photos below show the first pair of valve covers, and what one of them looks like mounted on the 428CJ that is currently on my dyno.  The covers are not yet complete; more on that farther down the page.







I've been thinking about doing these for a long, long time.  After our kids were born and my wife went back to work, I spent a lot of time in the house babysitting the kids when I wasn't at work.  Because I couldn't spend time in the shop I started on the radio control model airplanes; I could build them on the dining room table while I was watching the kids (much to the wife's chagrin  ;D).  I got into that pretty heavily over the years and started doing a bunch of scratch built planes, and in order to make parts like canopies and gun turrets for some of the more complex models I wanted to have a vacuum forming capability.  In the back of my mind I was also thinking about vacuum forming car parts, like valve covers... So, back in 2004, just as I was transitioning back to cars, I bought some plans and all the materials required to build my own vacuum forming machine.  Shortly after all the parts arrived, my Mach 1 came up for sale on ebay, I bought it, and got completely immersed in that project.  So the vacuum forming machine sat in pieces, awaiting fabrication and assembly, for about 8 years.

Fast forward to this fall, and I was cleaning up my shop after last year's unsuccessful Drag Week thrash, and kept having to move all the vacuum forming machine parts around as I was cleaning.  I finally decided at the end of November just to put the freaking thing together.  This turned out to be a fairly arduous task, involving lots of cutting, welding, plumbing, wiring, woodworking, etc.  Took me a whole month, but over the New Year's holiday I finally finished it, and tested it with success on a clear plastic canopy for a 1/5 scale AT-6 Texan.

Of course, now I didn't want to do airplane parts, I wanted to do valve covers.  Starting with 428CJ valve covers as a guide, I built a plug that I thought would work, and then shopped around some for the right plastic.  I finally settled on 1/8" thick Lexan, which is supposed to stay hard up to 280 degrees, and was rigid enough to make a decent cover.

My first experiments with vacuum forming Lexan were not all that successful, but as I learned I modified the valve cover plug and my technique until I got better results. This has been kind of a back burner project because of the work I've been doing on the CVR water pump adapters and the FE intake adapters, but finally this weekend I got a passable valve cover off the vacuum form machine.

Here's a photo of the vacuum forming machine, with the valve cover plug on the forming surface (called the platen), and the plastic attached to the frame and up in the heating position.



From below, you can look up through the clear Lexan and see the heating elements in the top of the vacuum forming machine:



When the plastic gets hot enough it starts to droop, and when it droops to a certain point the frame holding the plastic is pulled down over the plug and stretched onto the platen.  Then a valve is opened feeding vacuum to the platen, and sucking the plastic down onto the plug.  It happens really fast.  The challenge then is to get the plug back out of the plastic, but after working it for a while you can do this if the plug is designed correctly.  Mine gave me some trouble at first, but I finally got it working.

Next steps are to machine a couple of valve cover rails that will sandwich the Lexan, and bolt together with an O-ring seal to provide a leak-free, rigid frame to bolt the valve covers down with.  This will ensure that sealing to the valve cover gasket isn't an issue.  I also plan to machine a fitting that bolts to the top of the valve cover and will accept a factory breather.  Then I want to develop a light kit that fits into the aluminum frame, and will turn on some LEDs when energized.  Finally, when I've got all that worked out I think I will put a set of these on an FE car for testing over the summer, to see if the Lexan really will hold up to underhood temperatures.  If they look like they will survive without any trouble, I may start building them for sale this fall.

I've also given some thought to doing a set of covers based on the pentroof design.  It is a difficult process to build a plug for the vacuum form machine, but if these covers last the summer without durability problems I think I may give that a try.  One of the real distinctive things about FE engines is the valve covers, and the pentroof covers are a real signature piece, so I think I may have to give those a try.  I've also thought about an SOHC version, but that would be REALLY tough, with the spark plug tubes coming through the valves covers.  On the other hand, I like a challenge...
« Last Edit: April 14, 2013, 08:45:22 PM by jayb »
Jay Brown
- 1969 Mach 1, Drag Week 2005 Winner NA/BB, 511" FE (10.60s @ 129); Drag Week 2007 Runner-Up PA/BB, 490" Supercharged FE (9.35 @ 151)
- 1964 Ford Galaxie, Drag Week 2009 Winner Modified NA (9.50s @ 143), 585" SOHC

   

BruceS

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Re: Clear Valve Covers
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2013, 08:59:19 PM »
Jay, great idea!  I would go for the pentroof versions as they're my favorites, and yes they are a signature piece as you've said.  The rounded, baldy style might be popular with some folks too.  My only doubt would be sealing, but I read that you're addressing that... Bruce
66 Fairlane 500, 347-4V SB stroker, C4
63 Galaxie 500 fastback, 352-2V FE, Cruise-O-Matic

afret

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Re: Clear Valve Covers
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2013, 09:28:46 PM »
Always thought the PSE clear valve covers were pretty cool.  Would be great to be able to look at your rockers and springs without taking the covers off.  I'd be interested in getting a  CJ style set or two.  Hope it works out and passes your test.

amdscooter

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Re: Clear Valve Covers
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2013, 09:30:34 PM »
Helluva idea!

ScotiaFE

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Re: Clear Valve Covers
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2013, 10:26:42 PM »
A couple of things Jay.
It's not called babysitting Dad, it's called parenting. ::)
Babysitting is when the young girl comes over and you go out, then her boyffiend comes over and eats all your GOOD food and does things on your couch
you don't want to know about. Then you pay her.
And do they clear a set of Erson's
And how much for a set.

Very Kool!!!
Got to try that oil pan next, that will be an interesting show on the pump.

jayb

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Re: Clear Valve Covers
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2013, 10:55:27 PM »
Hey, I remember that Howie, now that you mention it.  35 years ago I was that kid who knew the babysitter  8)

They should clear Ersons, and no idea how much yet - I need to figure out if this will even work in the longer term.

If I did the oil pan and the timing cover, I'll be getting close to the visible V8 engine  ;D
Jay Brown
- 1969 Mach 1, Drag Week 2005 Winner NA/BB, 511" FE (10.60s @ 129); Drag Week 2007 Runner-Up PA/BB, 490" Supercharged FE (9.35 @ 151)
- 1964 Ford Galaxie, Drag Week 2009 Winner Modified NA (9.50s @ 143), 585" SOHC

   

afret

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Re: Clear Valve Covers
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2013, 11:04:44 PM »
How about a clear plastic intake manifold?  LOL  Lot of the new cars come with a plastic intake.

WConley

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Re: Clear Valve Covers
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2013, 12:18:26 AM »
I remember at Ford we spent a ton of time and money getting clear covers and oil pans made up for the first Modular V-8's.   The engines were spitting rods out the block, and no analysis could explain it.

Finally after putting an engine on the dyno with those covers, the oil return woes came to light.

I imagine if you have to machine aluminum pan rails it will get expensive.  Hopefully you can find a way to make half-rails so you don't waste so much material.  Fun project!
A careful study of failure will yield the ingredients for success.

GJCAT427

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Re: Clear Valve Covers
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2013, 05:51:40 AM »
Jay, What about a plasma cut rings out of stainless for the hold down rings? Only drawback is the amount of waste after cutting. If I can help let me know as I have a CNC plasma cutter and fab SST every day.

machoneman

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Re: Clear Valve Covers
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2013, 06:56:18 AM »
Very cool Jay. And that is one hell of a vacuum forming machine. You could make lots of kit car and model airplane parts with that baby....among other things!

I like the clear covers with one big caveat: the originals, from the few I'd seen long ago,  discolored rather quickly on the inside from the oil heat and became rather unsightly. Perhaps with the advances in modern plastics the material you're using won't do that. 

Hey, it just dawned on me that you've turned into...wait for it..........

Pro Stock Paul (of P.S.E. yore)!

Hah, at least your stuff will actually work.....LOL!
« Last Edit: April 15, 2013, 07:00:21 AM by machoneman »
Bob Maag

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Re: Clear Valve Covers
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2013, 07:48:58 AM »
Very cool. I wouldn't run them permanently but would definately love to slip a set on and watch the show.

jayb

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Re: Clear Valve Covers
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2013, 08:03:49 AM »

Hey, it just dawned on me that you've turned into...wait for it..........

Pro Stock Paul (of P.S.E. yore)!

Hah, at least your stuff will actually work.....LOL!

I was wondering when somebody was going to bring that up LOL!  Looking in the old PSE catalog, their clear valve covers were kind of rounded looking, not really FE-ish except for maybe the old baldy valve covers.  The CJ shape of my covers look a lot more like FE parts, and the pentroofs would really make the FE statement.

I hate to be seen as just copying PSE's old parts, because my parts are substantially different, but I suppose comparisons are inevitable.  And PSE did have a lot of cool parts back in the day...
Jay Brown
- 1969 Mach 1, Drag Week 2005 Winner NA/BB, 511" FE (10.60s @ 129); Drag Week 2007 Runner-Up PA/BB, 490" Supercharged FE (9.35 @ 151)
- 1964 Ford Galaxie, Drag Week 2009 Winner Modified NA (9.50s @ 143), 585" SOHC

   

WConley

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Re: Clear Valve Covers
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2013, 12:09:57 PM »
"I hate to be seen as just copying PSE's old parts, because my parts are substantially different, but I suppose comparisons are inevitable.  And PSE did have a lot of cool parts back in the day...   <JayB>"

Up next...  The Jay Brown Billet Aluminum 5.00 inch stroker crankshaft!
A careful study of failure will yield the ingredients for success.

jayb

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Re: Clear Valve Covers
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2013, 12:45:10 PM »
Geez Bill, did Pro Stock Paul really make one of those??  Guess I'd better review my 1980 catalog... :o
Jay Brown
- 1969 Mach 1, Drag Week 2005 Winner NA/BB, 511" FE (10.60s @ 129); Drag Week 2007 Runner-Up PA/BB, 490" Supercharged FE (9.35 @ 151)
- 1964 Ford Galaxie, Drag Week 2009 Winner Modified NA (9.50s @ 143), 585" SOHC

   

jayb

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Re: Clear Valve Covers
« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2013, 01:31:45 PM »
How about a clear plastic intake manifold?  LOL  Lot of the new cars come with a plastic intake.

You know, Earl, when I get my intake adapters finished up I could build one with a Lexan cover for the middle, rather than using a machined aluminum cover.  It would be cool to see the lifters going up and down...
Jay Brown
- 1969 Mach 1, Drag Week 2005 Winner NA/BB, 511" FE (10.60s @ 129); Drag Week 2007 Runner-Up PA/BB, 490" Supercharged FE (9.35 @ 151)
- 1964 Ford Galaxie, Drag Week 2009 Winner Modified NA (9.50s @ 143), 585" SOHC