By Bob O’Niell
(see Paint Codes for stock colours)
First and foremost you must decide what you expect as a ultimate goal in the end. For the purpose of this discussion it is assumed that you want the best paint job and body work you can do yourself.
Start with step one.
Disassemble the car. That’s right, remove the interior as much as possible. Remove the glass or at least all the trim around the windshield and if at all possible and because they propably leak anyway the triangle glass. BE EXTREMELY careful with this. If you are not going to have the rear glass resealed because your rubber seal is in great shape then to prevent paint from getting on the rear window rubber trim, put a piece or rope beneath the trim where it seals against the body to raise it up. This may prevent damage and will prevent you from getting paint on it if you wrap the tape under before painting. Remove wings/spoilers and any and all light fixtures as in tail lights and side lights. If your trim is bolted on remove it carefully so you can get paint under it. If the rubber trim is installed with tape then leave it in place. If you have GFX, remove them so you can get under and repair any damage to the body as in rust etc.
Once the body is disassembled you’re ready to start work. I mean the FIRST thing to do now is to align everything. If you don’t have plans to remove the doors to replace hinge pins then at least remove the plastic inner wheel well to get to the hinges so you can adjust the door to insure that the front and rear are exactly the same distance from the front fender and rear quarter panel etc. Do the same for the hood and rear deck lid.
Look over the entire body for dings and record where everyone of them is located.
Now start in with the sanding. I used a Porter Cable 5″ electric orbital sander. If you have a really GOOD air ‘DA’ as in the 6 inch unit this works well too. Take the paint down to at least the primer. There will be some area where you’ll take it to bear metal. Don’t worry about this as you’ll be priming it soon.
Once the entire body is sanded you may uncover some rust areas. If it’s just surface rust and you’re sure of that just grind it out. If there is a hole you have two choices. Once totally ground and all rust is gone you should repaire the area with a new piece of metal that’s welded in place. However if you’re able to get behind the spot you can remove the inner paint and put a piece of fiberglass on the back of the hole to support the filler assuming the hole isn’t huge. A larger hole as in the size of a few inches or larger should be welded.
Let’s assume that all the rust issues are solved. Next it’s time to deal with all the dings. I recommend a product called Z-grip body filler. It’s light, hard and easy to work with. Thin is better always. Dings are usually less than a millimeter thich but they look huge. Smooth on the stuff properly mixed and block it with a long board. Once you’ve got the entire area ‘repaired’ to where there is no longer a ding and the area is totally flat it’s time to clean and prime. Be sure to go over the entire car twice to insure all dings have been dealt with and that all body imperfections are gone. Once you’ve done this and used the long and or medium boards to ‘block’ the areas then clean.
Go over the car twice with a degreaser/dewaxer after you’ve washed it with soap and water then rinsed. Once the car is clean and degreased it’s time for etch primer. Put this on thin but cover the entire car (after taping what doesn’t get paint that is. Once this has dried it should be covered then with the filler primer. This should be done with two to three coats. You’ll be wet sanding this so about half of what you put on will come back off but the surface will be perfect or at least that’s the goal. Using a sanding pad made from rubber soak your 320 paper in water with a cap of dish soap for 20 minutes. Using the same solution of soap and water in a spray bottle to keep the surface wet go over the entire car till the entire car is smooth. Using then 400 paper do it again. Once you’re sure the entire car is perfect it’s time to clean it again. Repeat the steps described earlier to clean and decrease the entire car just prior to paint. You wash then dry then tape and paper then degrease for paint.
Once the car is ready for the first paint coat and depending on the manufacturer of paint you may need a sealer coat just prior to paint. This seals the car and covers any possible sand throughs you may have made when you wet sanded the primer. Before paint, tack cloth the car to get rid of dust. Don’t air spray because that will only bring up dust in the air.
Mix the paints per instructions and apply a coat of color to the car starting in one corner and finishing at the same corner. If you’re spraying a metalic paint DO NOT spray the same panel in two different directions and be sure to get full coverage. More is better than not enough. NEVER think that one area needs just one extra coat and spray it in the opposite direction. The metalic will not stand up properly and in the right light you’ll see there’s a difference.
Once you have the necessary color coats on the car and they’ve dried at least to the point where you can tack cloth (this is a questionable step only because I only did it on part of the car and you can’t tell where).
Once you’re happy with the color coat, mix the clear and apply using the same (start in one corner etc) pattern you used to spray the color and apply the clear. About 3 – 4 coats is all you’ll really need if they’re nice good coats.
Once the car is dry and I mean really dry and you’ve painted EVERYTHING like the car, the trim, the wings and anything else that needs color/clear.
Once it’s dry then get out some of the same soap and water solution and soak some 1000, 1500 and 2000 grit paper. Start with the 1000 and finish with the 2000 and sand smooth the clear coat. Once you’re sure the surface is perfect, get a 6 inch foam pad orbital sander and some foam rubber pads. I got mine for $20 at Home Depot. The foam pads you get from the paint supplier. From the paint supplier get a bottle of micro fine polishing compound and finishing compound. Using this starting with the polishing compound on a wet foam pad, begin to polish the car in a straight line till it’s shiny. Then finish off with the finishing compound. A month of so later, wax it.