Difficulty: 3 Wrenches
Virtually any repaint other than a bottom-of-the-barrel, mask-and-blast job is going to require some level of disassembly. The amount of disassembly can vary considerably, from just removing some of the exterior trim, to a full frame-off, total strip-down to the bare body. Naturally, the scope of the project is going to dictate the extent of the teardown to some extent, as will the condition of the vehicle to begin with. If the goal is a national-level restoration or show car, a complete disassembly is generally required. On the other hand, if a good presentable daily driver is the goal, very respectable results can come from a minor partial disassembly. When contemplating how far to go, it's important to keep in mind that it will take many times longer to reassemble the vehicle than it did to take it apart. Overly ambitious disassembly has led to many failed project attempts.
There's no denying that the further the vehicle is disassembled, the more detailed the final results. Removing the bolt-on body panels provides a level of access for refinishing the jamb areas that simply cannot be matched with the panels installed. Removing the bumpers will allow perfect paint coverage in the filler areas behind, while removing trim and handles will give a seamless finish. Removing moldings, weatherstrips, hinges, latches, lights, and the like allows full paint coverage in the blind, hidden, and covered areas for a seamless look, devoid of tell-tale tape lines, or worse yet, overspray where there should be none. Therein lays the balance-judging just how far to go with tearing the car down with the amount of time and effort that is added to the project. Just where this balance is struck will have everything to do with the quality of the final result.
Even in a driver quality repaint, the condition of the car will play a major role in the level of disassembly required. For instance, a problem such as sagging doors with worn hinges will probably require the doors be removed to repair the defective parts, increasing the scope of the disassembly. It's in these early stages of the paint and body project that problem areas need to be identified and corrected. Things like the panel fit of the doors, hood, and headlamp assemblies may require attention, which will lead to their removal during the body and paint process. Rubber items such as seals and weatherstrip may be deteriorated, so naturally they should be removed before proceeding with the paintwork.
Whatever the extent of the teardown, it's imperative to have a system to organize and catalog the parts for reassembly. Boxing, bagging, and labeling are just as important here as the actual wrenching while taking the parts off. Photos are a very good way to provide a visual reference of how the various items removed go back together. A factory assembly manual is also a highly recommended reference. Keep in mind that a major paint project can take much longer than anticipated, and as time passes, it's going to be very difficult to remember where everything goes if the parts are all piled in a heap under the work bench.
Difficulty: 3 Wrenches
As with disassembly, a decision is going to have to be made early on whether to completely strip the car's original paint. Again, the car's condition may very well dictate the required course of action here. The only situation in which the original paint can be retained is if it is sound and in good condition to serve as the base for a repaint. As is often the case, with the common acrylic lacquer paints used through to the 1980s, the original paint may be brittle, checked, and cracked, making it an unsuitable base for additional paint. Another common problem with older Corvettes is too many previous repaint and panel repairs. We have seen some cars with up to eight previous repaints, with an unbelievable paint film thickness as a result. This is usually the result of a succession of cheap paint jobs by previous owners, often with low quality materials. Again, this is a case of the current condition of the vehicle dictating what will need to be done; in this case stripping the paint.