1968 Camaro Auto Body Repair - Structure & Color
Body and paint-these disciplines are often referred to as black arts, unfathomable for all but a gifted few. The bottom line is that a multitude of procedures and techniques must be performed to come up with a sharp-looking paint job, and it takes skill and experience to perform them. It would take a book to lay out everything that goes into the creationof a top-notch paint job, and many have been written. Something like that is beyond the scope of this article, but what we can do is go over some of the important steps that must be performed to achieve success; we've also picked the minds of some industry experts for information that will help you come up with great paint, whether you're paying to have the job done or tackling the task yourself.
The very first thing to consider, of course, is what you want. "It all depends on what the customer wants to pay for," says Jeremiah Becker of Studio Auto Body in Burbank, California. And that, of course, covers a broad range. Paint jobs at outfits like Earl Scheib and Maaco start out at just a few hundred bucks. And something like that may do the trick for you. "Those guys are excellent at spraying," says Tom Prewitt of Resurrection Hot Rods and Customs in Fullerton, California. "They spray 20 cars a day." On the other hand-and we'll discuss this more later-the material usually isn't very good. Prewitt recommends upgrading the material if you can. "They just do a quick sand and paint, so if you take the car apart yourself and scuff up the hard-to-reach areas, you'll get a paint job that's not too bad. It's not what we do, though."
A single-stage paint job like the one Studio performed on our cover car is in the 10 grand range. "There's $1,000 there just in materials," says Robert Becker. "The gallon of paint alone is $400." The rest is all the body filler, sandpaper, tape and masking paper, primer, and most importantly, the man-hours needed to get the car ready for paint. And that's not counting the multiple patch panels that were needed on this car to exorcise the devil rust. At Resurrection, where custom work is the norm, Prewitt says the tab, going from bare metal to paint, is more in the $15-20k range. And at D&P Classic Chevy, where 75 percent of the paint jobs are done as part of a frame-off restoration, you can easily get into 25-30 large on parts, then another 30-40 thousand on labor, which includes paint and body. Again, it all depends on what you want-and what you want to pay for.
On the other hand, what if you want to do it yourself? The first question to ask is, are your skills up to creating the type of paint job you want? And that begins with the bodywork. Our favorite Chevys are often 30 to 50 years old, so rust damage is often an issue, and panel replacement isn't a job to be taken lightly.
"If you cheap out on your paint job and you're not happy with it," says Darryl Nance of D&P, "you'll just get disillusioned and sell the car." None of us want that. The lesson here is to do your research, take your time, and get the job done right. This is our contribution to the process, with the hope that you'll come out with a great-looking Chevy at the end of it.
Quick Notes
The Query
What goes into prepping and painting a vintage chevy?
Bottom Line
There's a lot to keep straight, but the payoff is an eye-catching coat of paint.
Affordable to out-of-control for a custom or body-off paint job
Counting The Cost
There's a lot more to painting than just paint, so we hit a local paint dealer-Coast Airbrush in Anaheim, California-to see what it would cost to paint a theoretical car. With Resurrection Hot Rods and Customs' Tom Prewitt as our consultant, we dreamed up a '68 Camaro that would be adorned in House of Kolor Apple Red with Snowhite Pearl rally strips. Coast owner Dave Monig pulled everything we'd need off the shelves, laid it out for us, then ran up an estimate.
We expected the paint and primer to count for a big chunk of the total, but were surprised that the substances needed to make them work-the activators, catalysts, and reducers-cost half as much again. As with most things, the little things will get you. It's good to know you'll spend more than $100 on sandpaper before starting, and that could easily double if you're taking a car down to bare metal. And you're looking at almost that much again just for tape and masking paper.
We did include a couple of sanding blocks in the total but didn't include power tools, like a grinding wheel, DA sander, or block sander-not to mention a paint gun. So if you, like us, have ever wondered why a paint job costs so much, now you have a better idea of where all that dough goes.
1. Body filler $77 2. Sandpaper $112 3. Tape and masking paper $85 4. Primer $171 5. Basecoat/stripes $475 6. Clear $125 7. Activators, catalysts, and reducers $331 8. Respirator and spray suit $90 9. Cleanup supplies $53 Total $1,519
Primer 101
You might think of primer as just "that stuff beneath the paint," but the undercoats serve several important purposes critical to a good paint job, and there are a variety of undercoat types. First, primer protects the metal from corrosion. Second, it provides the final level of bodywork, filling in minor imperfections in a car's surface. Third, it seals the prep work below, and fourth, it provides a uniform surface for the paint to adhere. These are the types of primer and what they do:
*Self-Etching Primers/Epoxy Primers provide adhesion to the metal surface and all products that follow and also corrosion resistance. If you take a car down to bare metal, one of these should be used. This primer is generally not sanded.
*Primer Surfacers fill small scratches and imperfections in the metal surface. They dry quickly and sand easily-in fact, several layers are often applied and sanded until a satisfactory level of straightness is achieved. Some primer/surfacers have direct-to-metal etching qualities-read the tech sheet to be sure.
*Primer Sealers seal the preparation layers below and provide a uniform bonding layer for the finish coats. They can be tinted for color-matching purposes and are not sanded as long as the paint is applied within the curing window. If primer sealer is allowed to fully cure, some may require sanding before painting; again, follow the manufacturer's recommendations.
Normally, you'd think the smoother a surface is sanded the better. Not so, says our man Prewitt. We'll cover this more elsewhere, but paint products make two types of bonds: chemical and physical. If you sand primer too smooth, the next layer can't make the necessary physical bond. "Under a microscope, you see little teeth sticking up," he tells us. "That makes the physical bond." The bottom line is if you sand primer too smooth, the following layers can't stick. In a nutshell, 400-grit is as fine as you need to get during the final wet-sanding of the primer surfacer.
New Metal
Since we covered a patch panel installation elsewhere in this issue, we decided to contact Mark Vogt, general manager of Classic Industries, an OER distributor, to talk a bit about aftermarket sheetmetal. "Nobody beats a panel straight anymore," says Vogt. "There's so much good metal to replace it." So what tips does he have for those who decide to replace their metal? "We recommend professional installation on everything, even a fender that bolts on in five places. There are shims to deal with, and the whole thing gets more complicated if you're doing a ground-up. There may be other problems to deal with as well. And I believe in replacing the whole panel rather than a just a quarter skin. It'll blend better, you can make fit better, and it's easier to do, since it goes on at the spot welds." And that black coating aftermarket panels are coated with? "It's not a primer," he reminds us. "The coating is a rust inhibitor and protector for shipping. It has to be removed and the panel primed." What's the biggest problem with replacement sheetmetal? Vogt says "99.9 percent" of complaints are shipping damage. "Don't sign a delivery clear if there's a dent, nick, or anything that shouldn't be there," he says. And what does he say to those who question the fit and finish of aftermarket sheetmetal? "Get original metal if you're building a 100-point resto. If not, no one should know the difference."
Refinish Vs. Custom Paint
So just what is the difference between refinish and custom paints? They're two different strategies for two different purposes," says House of Kolor's training manager Brian Lynch. "The essence of refinish paint is to try to duplicate what was originally on the car, with certain expectations. Most of these paints are fairly simple, Lynch explains. They have an iridescent color (that's a metallic or a pearl to you and me) protected by a layer of clear. The layers of primer, basecoat, and clear are only 4-5 mm thick. With a custom paint, the metallic flakes might measure as much as 6 mm or even larger. "It's a structurally thicker paint job to accommodate thicker flakes and particles needed for the optical effects one sees," Lynch says.
How much thicker? Somewhere in the 10-15 mm range, even higher with graphics. So on one hand, choosing between refinish and custom paint is a matter of simple color preference. On the other hand, since custom paint systems are designed to work at higher builds, they are usually the better choice if you're doing graphics or custom effects. Note that we said system here; these paints need to be used with the appropriate primers and clears. "The primer system we recommend when we build a skyscraper gives us max mechanical anchoring," observes Lynch. And just as you need the right material underneath all that paint, you need the correct clear over it. Refinish clear, applied liberally, measures around 3 mm; doubling that, according to Lynch, would be way out of spec. This can keep the clear from curing completely. Clear designed for use with custom paints creates a more stable film at high build-important when you're clearing over flames or graphics-and it provides the additional UV screeners needed to protect the exotic colorants used in custom colors. Both are critical to paint longevity. Whichever type of paint you decide to use, you have to use the proper supporting materials with it.
4 Things To Pay Attention To, From Jeff Matauch, PPG Training Center Instructor
"Whatever you use, there is no safe paint. Protect yourself by using a respirator, spray suit, and gloves, and always promote fresh airflow in your painting area."
"Nine out of 10 times there's a problem, it's the equipment, and the first thing is always the compressor." You can buy a $600 paint gun, but if your compressor doesn't put out, it's all for naught. "A typical HVLP gun needs 15-18 cfm air pressure, and a compressor creates 3-4 cfm per horsepower. That means a 5hp compressor is borderline. The size of the air lines is critical-you should use 3/8-inch hose and high-flow air fittings for better volume. And air filters are a must.
Wrong Product For Job
You have to put the right type of solvent or reducer in your paint. "Anytime you use a solvent, you have to choose the correct grade based on the temperature you are spraying at." If you use a solvent that makes the paint dry too quickly, for instance, it can skin over, trapping solvents underneath. This can cause problems like dieback (dulling) or solvent pop (blisters). "You can go on our site and get a description and mixing directions for any of our product lines. It takes the guesswork out."
Waterborne Paint
Use of waterborne paint will be mandatory in parts of California starting this July. So what, you say? Well, as the Golden State goes on environmental issues, so goes the rest of the country, eventually. Some painters think it's the end of the world; most are at least concerned. "My confidence is high, and I'd have no problem spraying it now." Waterborne paint is more consistent and stable, since there are no solvents to settle out. "It's easier to spray, the metallic control is better, and it's more durable." And, of course, it's more user-friendly.
Adhesion & Cocktailing
It's a given that paint has to stick to the surface you're spraying it on, and when it doesn't, you've got problems, usually of the take-it-all-off-and-start-over type. "There are two ways that paint adheres," Prewitt explains. "One is physically; that's the reason you use different grit sandpapers. The other is chemically; the layers melt into each other. Acrylic lacquer won't take acrylic urethane clear. "It won't bond; it's like putting a piece of plastic on it." That's an extreme case, but if you start cocktailing back and forth with different materials, it's a crapshoot. And a lot of adhesion problems come from cocktailing, the mixing of different products from different manufacturers. The bottom line is that you need to stick to one manufacturer's product line throughout the job, ensuring compatibility. "I always recommend you follow the manufacturer recommendations, read the tech sheets, read the can. You know, most painters, the more experienced you get the less you think you have to read; I'm guilty of it."
Ironically, it's easier than ever to get this information-tech sheets are available online from both House of Kolor and PPG, among others. Prewitt boils this subject down nicely: "Between the chemical and the physical bonds, that's what really makes paint stick. You can't sand too smooth or it won't physically bond; you can't cocktail or it won't chemically bond. Knowing those two things can save a guy a lot of headaches."

Photo Gallery: 1968 Camaro Auto Body Repair - Structure & Color - Chevy High Performance

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