In the process of cleaning up the engine compartment and spending some time poking around the car and online, I learned a few things. In no particular order:
WD-40 is effective at cleaning the engine compartment although it will not remove the heaviest grease but light to moderate oily residue can be effectively eliminated without major toxic fumes. Ventilation suggested anyway. I bought a one gallon container. It may last for many years….depending on how many cars I need to clean! Must wear nitrile gloves and using rags dipped in the solvent start wiping and you’ll be amazed.
Corroded thermostat housings may be repaired using products such as JB Weld. I used the version of the product that cures in 15-24 hours and it worked really well and achieved an even sandable/paintable surface.
It is best to remove the pedal box from the car when rebuilding the master cylinder. You will also be able to remove many years’ worth of crud from the catch basin at the bottom of the box. There is a handy detachable plate just for cleaning the area. I learned that the not all master cylinder rebuild kits are sold with the large copper washer.
I learned that it is best to bleed the master cylinder on the bench. If you install a dry master cylinder after applying just the red brake grease, an air pocket will prevent fluid from entering the unit. If that happens after installation, no need to remove it from the car, just slacken the output (forward position) fitting and drape a rag over the fitting to catch any fluid spray, then pump the pedal and watch the fluid level in the reservoir drop and you will then know that the master cylinder is receiving the fluid. Then re-tighten the fitting and proceed with bleeding the brakes. I learned that the Speed Bleeder fitting is useful for one-man bleeding jobs.