Paint Secrets | Dealing with bodyshops to produce a show-worthy finish.

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Doing your own pre-paint body prep is a big job, but that effort pales in comparison to what you'll go through if you have problems with the shop that sprays your final color. In the "Paint Prep" article on this channel, we started from scratch prepping a 1970 GTO convertible for a complete repaint.

Correct surface preparation and the use of quality materials are key to arriving at a stunning finished product. The boulevard bomber was taken down to its bare metal, its slight body damage was repaired and the whole car was brought to the final stages of sanding and primer. We did everything just prior to spraying the color. Shown here are steps on how to find a good body shop, the application of paint, sanding and polishing and some after-paint care. Best of all, a professional body man provides some excellent suggestions about what you can do yourself and what yout you should leave to the pros.

As mentioned in the "Paint Prep" story, NEVER mix paint products from different manufacturers during a job. Sticking with one brand of material ensures against inadvertently mixing different types of paint together. Also, find out what paint your intended body shop uses before you do any prep work yourself.

We start the final procedure in a clean spray booth that has been hosed down and the floor squeegeed to remove any residue from the last job. Having the floor wet also keeps dust down as the spray booth fans suck out the overspray. A conscientious shop changes the booth filters on a regular basis so the exhaust fans can do their work efficiently.

Spraying Color
Due to current emissions laws, HVLP (high volume, low-pressure) spray guns are used in California, and environmentally sensitive regulations are making this practice a law in other states too. These guns are gravity fed and require much less air pressure to apply the paint. After mixing the color with the hardener (following the instructions word for word), the first color coat was applied to the prepared surface. Our expert likes to let this first coat dry and then color-sand the entire car. If any problems are going to occur, this first coat will usually detect the defect, which can then be repaired before proceeding. Once the sanding is completed, the surface is again wiped down and the final color coats applied. We applied four coats of color, allowing about 15 minutes between coats. A flowing, back-and-forth motion is used while spraying, with most of the action occurring at the wrist. Concentrate, Grasshopper. This wrist action is very important to an even, final finish.

Rubbing Out
Once the complete surface is sanded to a dull finish, the rub-out can be started. Next to initial body preparation, the final polishing rub-out process is the most important step. If you've never rubbed out a fresh-paint finish, don't start now! It takes experience to bring up the shine without doing damage. The buffing wheel can easily cut through at edges or literally burn the surface because of the high rpm required for polishing. This process is best left to the pros.

Maintaining Shine
The final maintenance of the surface is up to you. Quality car-care products, applied regularly, can keep the surface gleaming for many years to come. These high-tech paints will last much longer than the original enamels and lacquers used 30 years ago. Regular waxing, with a glaze application in between, will guarantee a show-quality finish. Most companies now offer car wash products to use prior to waxing that prep the surface as well as quick detailers that provide an instant "wet look" just prior to show time.

Wise Words
Pro painter Gus Gonzalez answers a few important questions about painting and pre-paint decisions.

Q: What's the first step in deciding on a paint job for your collector car?

A: You must first make the decision on what level of quality you want and how much you can afford. Do you want a driver or show-quality finish? The answer will heavily affect the cost and the type of shop you choose.

Q: What are your recommendations on selecting a shop?

A: After you decide on the quality level, you must find a shop that can deliver that quality. A production shop is not geared to produce show-quality work but could create a nice driver-level finish. Cruise a few car shows, find an example of quality you like, and ask the owner who did his paint. This is a great way to select the correct type of shop.

Q: How can one avoid price increases during the work for quoted additional labor or an unrealistic amount of time for completion?

A: Always get a written estimate before the work is started. Go around the car with the shop owner and list everything that is to be done. Also establish a timeframe for the completion of the work. You can hold the shop to the contract price and completion date with a signed document.

Q: What's the normal deposit amount required for a shop to start the work?

A: Most reputable shops will require a 50% deposit in order to pay for the materials and pay salaries along the way. This is common and reflects half the agreed amount for the finished job on your signed contract. It is never necessary to put more than 50% down.

Q: How do you know the shop is actually working on the car and doing what was agreed upon?

A: A great way to check on the progress is to simply drop by unannounced and ask to see your car. If the shop is on schedule, you will see regular progress on each visit. If the car is not progressing, there is a problem.

Q: What about after the job is completed?

A: Always go over the original estimate and contract and make sure everything that was agreed upon was done. Do not accept the vehicle or pay the balance until all the work is performed to your satisfaction. This is why you have the signed contract.

Q: What about damage like door dings after you have the car back on the road?

A: It's a good idea to get touch-up paint from the shop when you pick up the car. This way you can fix any small dings and maybe even have enough to have a larger dent fixed in the future. Using the same paint guarantees a perfect match.

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