1955 T-BIRD CAR RESTORATION PROJECT
T-Bird Project Part 18 - We Finally Got The Painting Done! Well, Eventually.
The bodywork took quite a while, as our past articles have detailed. After finishing all the smoothing work we cleaned the entire surface and sprayed a generous coat of etching primer over all bare metal. This left us with an "army green" finish that not only protects the metal but helps show defects in filler, dents, scratches, etc.
Now we re-masked the engine compartment. We took off the old masking materials to eliminate dust and caked-on body filler that had resulted from wet-sanding. This allowed us to inspect the finish in the bay for overspray and other problems.
Using paint "runner paper," we masked the entire engine bay making sure the tape adhered continuously around the surface. Runner paper can be obtained at paint stores and comes in long rolls, three feet wide. It is very strong and water resistant and, importantly, quite inexpensive per foot.
Once the masking was done we washed the body down and dried it with paper towels. We hung the doors on the garage rafters to allow full access to all sides and bottoms, and also arranged the hood and trunk and other panels onto saw horses.
Back to the painting: after wiping down with Prep-Sol, drying, tack-ragging and preparing the intermediate primer-filler material, we sprayed two coats onto the car. The primer-filler (DuPont URO) is a catalyzed urethane product that fills scratches and minor imperfections and also provides a bonding layer between the etching primer and top coat. It sands smoothly and gives one more layer of protection to the metal.
Sanding of the URO layer was done with 600-grit wet-dry paper, all by hand. We wanted to gently sand all defects without digging into the finish. Using sanding blocks and hand-pads (for curved surfaces) we took our time and wet-sanded the entire body.
Now, Can We Paint?
The process related above took nearly 50 hours of actual work spread over two months. Weather, commitments and other factors caused the time to spread out and we forced ourselves to be patient. Anyway, the weather eventually allowed us to prepare the car for its first coat of paint (humidity and pollen went away) so we went through the wash/dry/Prep-Sol/dry/tack rag process and mixed up some of the red color that would be the final finish.
Wait! What about a guide coat to find the remaining flaws?
Glad you asked about that. Most painters, at this stage, grab a couple cans of spray paint and shoot a dust-like layer of color over the primer. Then, they wet-sand the color away, leaving only the low spots in the surface - in which the color remains. This is called the "guide coat" and it's a time-honored process. We decided to use the actual red finish paint as a guide coat because we knew we had more than enough for the project. Doing so gave us a very shiny surface, which is the best way to see flaws. We shot the body with one coat of the red paint.
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