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At Last!

This Leopard Has Changed Its Spots

Mike Harrington Oct 18, 2005

All the hard work has come down to this moment. Anyone who has done any type of bodywork preparatory to painting a car knows that lots and lots of work is involved. When that's done, there is lots more still to be done. Next time I get the idea into my head to paint a daily drive, try and talk me out of it, will ya? The hours spent sanding, scuffing, guidecoating, and even more sanding do have an end goal in sight. To tell you the truth, it felt like it we would never reach the finish line, but we did.

If you have followed along thus far, our adventures in the realm of prepping a car for paint began in our August issue. It all started with an ugly crease in the Camaro and a very aged paint job circa 1988 that was rapidly fading. Believe it or not, when we first started on this project there were naysayers and scoffers-a-plenty. Our most common reaction was "You're going to do what?" or "Why don't you just take it to some one day paint place?" The answer is simple: I'm as broke as the Ten Commandments, so spending a few thousand dollars at a shop is simply not an option. We could have just done all the prep work and stopped there, then take the car to a shop to have it painted. We decided, however, to go all the way and see what we can do with some help from experienced friends. Friends like Roy Landgrave at the Chino High School auto body program.

Like we had mentioned in our last installment, we are going to use Auto Air Colors for our paint. Auto Air Colors is not a urethane-based paint, but water-based. This paint is a new animal and does not behave like urethane paints, even though it contains the same pigments found in most urethane paints. One obvious advantage to using water-based paint is the environmental factor. Since there are no harmful chemicals it can be used practically anywhere, including the home garage with out fear of harmful vapors. Another advantage to using this paint is for the novice painter. We noticed that Auto Air paint lays down beautifully. If you follow the directions and spray it on in light guidecoat-type applications, you can't mess it up. There will be no runs or tiger stripes. If you take a look at their Web site (, it contains tons of useful information about their product, more than we can fit in this article. They also have flakes, pearls, and solid colors. Auto Air colors recommends using a urethane primer and urethane compatible clearcoat, which is just what we did. You may have a favorite brand to use or you can ask Auto Air Colors which brands they might suggest. Follow along and see how well we did.


Here is what the Camaro's old paintjob looked like before we started.

When we left off in our last issue, the Camaro had just had been shot in primer, guidecoated, and sanded. Once more, we thoroughly washed the car before entering the paint booth. Just like last time, Staffer Grant Peterson and I spent a couple of hours masking the car. After all this was done, we wiped the car down with a water-based solvent, which ensured the car was as clean as possible before we started shooting paint. We were thankful to have a helper like Dylan Rose, to assist us in the paint booth.

Now it's time to start laying down the basecoat. With the basecoat/sealer that Auto Air Colors provided us there is no mixing required. Straight out of the bottle and into the spray gun it's ready to shoot. After we thoroughly shook the bottle, we used a strainer, filled the spray gun, and that was it.

Once we loaded the gun, we gave Dylan a chance to gain some experience with the spray gun and he shot some of the basecoat/sealer for us.

After Dylan and I played around with the spray gun shooting the first few coats, Roy Landgrave stepped in and finished the job. After the Camaro was shot in Sealer, we waited an hour to let it dry. Since we were inexperienced when it comes to shooting a water-based paint, we let caution rule the day and waited a little longer than usual for drying times.

And here is the Camaro, sealed up and waiting to dry.

With Auto Air Colors paint, we were told the initial step was to apply it like it was a guidecoat. We applied the paint in light coats every time. The last thing you want to do is lay the paint on heavy. This may take a few more passes around the car than would be necessary with a urethane paint.

After all the light coats build up, this is what it should look like. The reason for the building of light coats is because it's a water-based paint; you have to allow time for the water to essentially evaporate. After all was said and done, we once again decided to let caution rule the day and waited three hours before we shot the clearcoat.

After the clearcoat has completely set up, the fun job of color sanding is next on the list. We decided to single out a small section on the hood of the Camaro to show you the before and after of color sanding. First, we started wet-sanding using a 1000-grit paper. After that, we then switched to a 1500-grit paper and went over the same area again.

In our sanded test area, you can see the difference between the sanded and non-sanded parts of the hood.

Now it's time to buff out the sanded area of our hood. The polishing compound we used is also a water-based compound, available from Evercoat.

Hopefully, you can see the difference between the mirrorlike finish on our test area versus the rest of the non-sanded unpolished hood.


Auto Air Colors
East Granby, CT 06026
Chino High School
Chino, CA 91710

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