1955 T-BIRD CAR RESTORATION PROJECT
T-Bird Project Part 18 - We Finally Got The Painting Done! - Page 2
Once the guide coat cured we wet-sanded the body with 800-grit paper, not worrying about sanding through to the primer in some areas. The process took several days and we carefully inspected each panel for flaws before moving on to the next. After the entire body was sanded smooth we went through the multi-step preparation before putting on the final coats of paint.
Our paint was DuPont Centari enamel plus a dual-catalyst hardener/gloss additive system called 2000. It was popular about 15 years ago and no longer available, but we had on hand an original package that was unopened. The old System 2000 provided a hard, high-gloss finish that rivaled base/clear systems, so we decided to make use of it. After all preparation was done we mixed batches of the paint and sprayed 3 coats onto the car. It was left to cure for several days.
Before buffing and polishing the final finish we had to sand all the "orange peel" out of the surface. To do so we used 1200-grit sandpaper and plenty of water, taking our time to do each panel thoroughly. During this process we found one run in the paint on the right rear fender just behind the door opening.
Runs are actually no big deal. Careful sanding removes them perfectly, so for this one we got a bucket of water and put some 1000-grit paper on our block. We gently sanded over the surface, checking often to see how far down we'd sanded the run without touching the rest of the surface. After a few minutes we had a perfectly smooth overall surface which would be buffed out.
Several days later the body was completely sanded and ready for compounding and polishing.
The first polishing was done with heavy duty polishing compound, which is roughly equivalent to 600-grit paper. A ribbon of compound was poured onto a small (about 2 square feet) surface and the buffer pad was used to spread it around. The buffer spins fast and must be kept moving at all times. As the surface heats up the compound dries and starts revealing a shinier area and we kept the buffer clear of edges. Edges were done carefully, keeping the buffer spinning in the right direction to prevent it catching an edge.
Once a given area was polished we cleaned the buffing pad. The entire panel was buffed this way and then the next-smoother compound was applied. This compound took out the micro-scratches produced by the first compound. After the second compounding we cleaned things up and did a third compound with a swirl remover. This yielded a shiny finish that can easily be waxed and polished after the car is assembled. The three-step process on the hood, for instance, took about 2 hours.
Needless to say, buffing and polishing the entire car took about a week. It was tedious and unpleasant but the end result is a smooth, consistent finish that can't be beat. Final polishing and waxing can't be done for at least a couple months so that the paint can cure, but we're going to be busy creating an electrical harness and reassembling the car anyway.
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