Avid car magazine readers may have realized that each of their favorite newsstand publications, everything from STREET RODDER to CLASSIC TRUCKS magazines, prints a couple paint and body issues a year, predictably. No, it’s not because of global warming, there’s actually a simple reason why: Paint and body issues tend to do well on the newsstands.
We feel that these types of articles not only feed the veteran hot rodder’s passion to rejuvenate old iron, but paint and body stories must even inspire that random grocery store patron who may have a classic in their garage they’ve been meaning to work on. Simply being inspired to get moving on your own build is a valuable asset to have going for you, so as editors we like to think we deal in said inspiration. We enjoy sharing the findings of our car research, in hopes to get you, the reader, moving on your own muscle car or classic project. Whether we are inspiring you to build a new engine or, in this case, improving your car’s aesthetics, we hope our words and pictures give you the kick in the pants you need to get working on your project car.
In the following pages we compiled a bunch of paint and body ideas we gathered while planning to clean up our own ’63 Nova project. Nicknamed “The Hellion”, this two-door hardtop is a perfect specimen for showing off bodywork and paint problems. Although the floor is un-rusted, the body is straight, and most of the trim is in place (even the rare hood emblem piece with the cast letters that spell “Chevrolet”), there are about seven rot holes in the car’s body that need some patch repairs and the curdled cream paintjob has just got to go. Besides looking into the general bodywork it’s going to need to become a respectable muscle car, we also plan on adding some custom touches to the car that you could also use on your own ride; things like custom trim molding and powdercoated bumpers as an alternative to chrome.
We contacted a few high-end body shops such as Quigley’s Auto Body and O.C. Cars in Lake Forest, California, recently to get some inside info on products, tools, and techniques to use when repairing the paint and body of old cars. Think of the following pages as an oil pump primer for your paint and body ideas, something to get the gears grinding in your mind of paint schemes and styles. Hey, we learned something about bodywork in the last couple weeks, maybe you will too after reading this.
When it comes to fitting body panels and doors, many bodymen look for consistent distance between all the door and fender gaps. Quigley’s Auto Body in Lake Forest, California, is regarded as a top-tier body shop in the Southland. Bruce Berry says, body panel fitment and gap consistency depends on quite a few factors. “Every car is different,” Berry says. “Sometimes it takes 15 minutes to get the panels straight (which basically consists of loosening and tightening various panel bolts until the panel gaps are equal), and sometimes it takes eight hours.” Depending on how picky you are, getting body panel gaps square can be costly. On older cars, because oftentimes they’ve been in accidents, the body panels become mated to a particular car. When a customer wants to fit a fender from another car, although being the same year, it can be a bear to get the gaps equal. When they are too far off, some body shops will actually remove material or add material to the gaps to ensure they are straight, however, like we mentioned, that can be time consuming for the body tech, and costly for the customer, so it really comes down to budget. You can always try to align them yourself, it just takes patience. Also, Berry pointed out that even aftermarket panels sometimes need more “massaging” to get right, as opposed to a factory panel that’s relatively straight.
There is a trio of basic types of paint available for autos today: enamel, acrylic urethane, and water-based. We won’t count lacquer paint as it’s illegal in almost all states, just know that every old car painter you talk to will reminisce about how great lacquer was back in the day and nothing can stand up to it today. We guess it’s pretty toxic, so nowadays lacquer-based paints are nearly extinct in the hot rod and muscle car world.