There are many things that separate an average Corvette from the standout cars that make people turn their heads and take notice. The overall paint finish ranks right up at the top of what counts when it comes to the visual statement that speaks loudest. No matter how worthy your machine might be in other qualities, it's the paintwork that makes the first impression, whether rolling down the road or under scrutiny on the show field. In fact, often the key feature a car is judged by is the appearance of the paint. How often is a car described disparagingly as a 20-footer, meaning that it might look good from 20 feet away, but falls short under closer scrutiny?
A fine paint job shows the level of craftsmanship as it is approached for a closer look. While the 20-footer might be a disappointment as you get closer and see the flaws, blemishes, and shoddiness of the paint, a great paint job will only draw admirers in. It takes a dedication to quality and an uncompromising eye for detail to achieve a fantastic show-quality paintjob, and that starts from step one-the body.
Get Professional Help or DIY?
One of the first things to contemplate when staring at your Corvette project and dreaming about perfect paint is what, if anything, you will tackle yourself. Here it's important to take into account your previous experience and level of skill, the equipment at hand, and perhaps most importantly, your own level of perseverance. Make no mistake, body restoration and paint is one of the most labor-intensive endeavors you'll ever encounter, and messy work at that. Expert paint and bodywork is very expensive, and it's tempting to save some of that costly work with a little (or a lot) of sweat-equity. However, it is also all too easy to get in over your head, or end up with results that fall far short of your dream of that fantastic paintjob. We've known do-it-yourself auto hobbyists that have succeeded in major body panel replacement and repair, and taken the project to completion with stunning paintwork, all in their own garages. We've also seen enthusiastic but botched attempts at the same that resulted in perpetually unfinished projects, and more work for the professionals that finally took over. What's important here is to be realistic in qualifying your own skill levels when deciding whether to tackle some aspects of a paint project, or just turn it over to the pros.
The overwhelming majority of domestic vehicles relied on stamped steel body structures, while the Corvette body has always been manufactured from composite fiberglass material. This material takes a whole different set of rules when it comes to every level of repair and prep in comparison to a more common steel vehicle. Fiberglass is far softer, and unlike steel, it breathes, while reacting to chemicals and solvents differently. Steel will dent like a tin can, while 'glass will shatter and crack. The hammers, dollies, torches, and welders of a typical bodyman's toolbox are useless when considering Corvette repair. In their stead are techniques of fiberglass layup, cutting, and bonding. The bottom line here is there are auto bodymen, and there are Corvette bodymen. While there certainly are some very talented individuals out there with the skills to handle both, for the most part when considering having work done to your Corvette, it pays to seek out those who specialize in our plastic-bodied machines.
Whether you plan on taking on the whole task of painting your car yourself, or placing it in the experienced hands of an expert, it's worthwhile to understand exactly what's involved in getting the job done. We'll go through all of the major steps in taking a car through the body and paint process, from beginning to end.