Paint & Body Special Section
Any paint job involves decisions, and one of the most important decisions you will make in painting your Corvette is just how far you want to go. Here, there are extreme ends of the spectrum. There are plenty of quickie paint shops that will scuff the existing exterior paint, bust out the tape, and spray away. That barely rates as a bare minimum pproach. On the other hand, perfection means pulling the body off and down to a bare shell, stripped of the last nut and bolt, and kicking off the paintwork from there. Most of us will end up somewhere in the middle. The condition of the car plays an important role in the decisionmaking process. Indeed, if the car is otherwise mint and is being resprayed in the stock color, a scuff and exterior respray may be quite acceptable.
For our project C3 Corvette, there were several factors that set the direction. Overall, the vehicle is in decent condition, but the fact that the exterior paint was heavily checked (surface cracking) meant the paint would have to be stripped completely off. The visible cracks in the paint common to these cars will typically go right down to the bottom layer of primer. Just sanding and burying the checked paint with more primer will only temporarily hide the problem if it is not dealt with by stripping. In fact, our car had already received one respray over its original finish sometime in its past life, and, needless to say, the checking was not dealt with then.
Another factor that helps define the direction of our effort is the fact that we will be changing colors from the factory white to a custom orange from Planet Color. Since we don't want any trace of the original paint peaking in, the color change necessitates substantial disassembly. We removed every bit of exterior trim and components from the exterior body. Before it's all done, the doors will be removed, as well as the hood for a seamless repaint in the new hue. Essentially, all the areas that will be visible, and many that will not, will be repainted in the new color, with no taped edges hiding or revealing the original white.
While this Corvette was a decent 20-footer, we are after show-quality paint here. That means detail that will look great, even under close scrutiny, and the only way to get there is to take the car substantially apart. Fortunately, mid-'70s Corvettes have a minimum of xterior trim, and most of what is thereis fairly easily removed. The only sticking point is that some of the fasteners may be rusted or seized. While penetrating oil and time does the trick in most instances, there were times when we were forced to break out the drill. With the car's exterior fully undressed, stripping the panels was the next step.
There are several ways to strip the paint from a Corvette. The choices here boil down to blasting, sanding, or chemical stripping. Since we wanted to do the job ourselves, specialty blasting was not considered, though many have success with plastic media blasting. The downside of blasting is the media can (and will) get everywhere. Since this car is not receiving a full restoration, we had further reason to seek other paint removal means. Sanding is another alternative, but the potential for digging into the fiberglass body shortly after the paint is removed can lead to damage and a wavy surface. A D/A air sander may be perfect for steel panels, but it takes a brave soul to attempt stripping a fiberglass body with one.
For our situation, that left chemical stripping. This process can be a hit or a miss, depending upon the product and the paint surface. Some paints are incredibly resistant to most chemical strippers, but ours came right off with a single application. The topcoats proved easy to chemically strip, leaving most of the original primer, which we will sand off by hand. Without a doubt, this is that point in our project that really takes some faith since our once acceptable Corvette was now looking like a torn-down wreck. It takes confidence that the final product will prove to be worth it in the end.