1963 Chevy Nova - Muscle Car Alchemy

Our 1963 Nova Gets Some Hot New Paint

Jake Amatisto Sep 2, 2013 0 Comment(s)
View Full Gallery

"You see the shine on my car? That was done 12 years ago," said body shop manager and drag racer Moe Wilson as we ogled the pictures of his brilliant 8-second Nova on the wall in his office. After 32 years of painting cars, this Azusa, California, resident is no stranger to laying paint on old hot rods and he and his team at Clippinger Collision Center in Covina were our choice for painting our '63 Nova project, the hardtop Hellion. Not many can appreciate the time and effort that goes into quality bodywork and proper paint processes, but after speaking with painters and people in the automotive paint industry, we have a better understanding of why it can take so long to complete.

Restoring an old, rusted muscle car is not a quick process by any means; if you want it done right. Now that we've witnessed the man-hours and intricate steps it takes to make a busted-up body into a straight specimen, we want to shed some light on what happens after you drop off your project. Fixing dents is only the beginning of making a car look great; applying the right formulas in the appropriate stages, block-sanding, spraying primer, and more block-sanding is required if you want a car that will not only look bitchin, but will also stand the test of time.

For paint, we opted for Axalta Coating Systems (formerly DuPont) Hot Hues in a Cromax Pro blend, specifically Red Line Red. Axalta has a long list of paint products available, but Cromax Pro was chosen as a high-end waterborne basecoat—a perfect product for our California car. We actually looked at a few different shades of red in the Hot Hues line for this project, but thought the dark, deep tint was ideal for our red and black racer, and the name was right too. This is applied in a two-stage process: a basecoat and a clearcoat. The base is a flat red until the clear is applied. There are also a few different clears available from Axalta, but we went with their premium clearcoat, the LE 8700 S formula. This provides a high-luster finish that many quality paint shops use not only for its shine, but also for its durability.

If you recall, we purchased the car in question back in May of last year and since then, we've had it soda blasted, installed a chrome-moly rollcage, and completed the bodywork; now it's time to make it shine. Eastwood, 3M, and Harwood were a few other companies that we used to get our Nova looking how we wanted. From bodywork tools and spray guns, to faux carbon wrap that we plan to use for accents (see sidebar), and lightweight body panel replacements, these companies offer products that can help make a bland old shoebox into a hot-looking road demon.

Primers, sealers, basecoats, clearcoats, controllers, and activators—all of these various mixtures are carefully measured and combined to create what we oftentimes take for granted: a nice paintjob. Alchemy was a practice once believed to turn lead into gold in ancient times, and that's sort of what paint and body men do, transforming our pride and joys into precious metal. Follow along as we share what we learned while our car was subjected to the multistep process. In the end, I'm sure we'll all agree that the effort put into a quality paintjob is well worth the time it takes to complete.

Got Tools?
Another good source for painting tools and supplies is wwwautobodytoolmart.com. From dent repair to full-on paint booths you can pay on monthly, this site is a good source to have for your home garage or professional shop. They even offer Craftsman tools at a great price.


Here’s a shot of our hardtop prior to being mediablasted. It’s a fairly straight foundation to the untrained eye, however, once the bodywork commenced many small dings and dents began to show up.

1963 Chevy Nova 2/27

While the bodywork was being done, we also had the factory antenna hole welded up. We have no plans of listening to the radio in this beast; instead tunes will be blasted from an iPod.

1963 Chevy Nova Factory Antenna 3/27

For cars in bare metal, an etching primer is used, which is a special formula designed to bite into metal. Normal primer won’t adhere to metal the same way. Etching primer is first before sealer is used. Color-tinted primer can also be used and is a good way to hide eventual chips in the paint.

1963 Chevy Nova Etching 4/27

Once the bodywork was completed and the etching primer was applied, we had an extensive rollcage installed before taking it back to Clippinger Collision for the Red Line Red paintjob. We didn’t want our new paint sitting in a chassis shop, since there’s a lot of potential for mishaps.

1963 Chevy Nova 5/27

Axalta’s Hot Hues offers several shades of red in their product line. On the left is the color we went with, Red Line, but we also checked out Matador Red (bottom), and Dragon’s Fire in the Hot Hues series.

Axalta Hot Huse Red 6/27

Axalta’s Hot Hues offers several shades of red in their product line. On the left is the color we went with, Red Line, but we also checked out Matador Red (bottom), and Dragon’s Fire in the Hot Hues series.

Axalta Hot Huse Red 7/27

If you don’t think painting a car is an exercise in chemistry, take a look at the different solutions that need to be combined in order to paint a car. Activators, controllers, and reducers all need to be correctly mixed in order for your paint to be applied and cured properly. Quality paint does not come in one stage, and we should know since our previous rides were all painted as cheaply as possible, and it shows.

Dupont Cromax Pro 8/27

Here, Eddie Peredez mixes the Axalta sealer, which is applied after several coats of primer. The sealer ensures the car is a solid, even color before the basecoat is applied. Multiple coats of primer are used before this is applied and in between, there’s plenty of block-sanding to do. The purpose of having thick primer is so you can see the high and low spots in the body. A thin coat of primer won’t reveal certain areas, and that can eventually show up later after the paint has cured.

Axalta 9/27

If you’re looking for painting tools or supplies for your home garage or shop, check out Eastwood.com. They carry all the top brands, including the DeVilbiss Tekna spray guns the guys at Clippinger Collision use daily.

Devibiss Tekna Spray 10/27

If you were wondering what we’re doing on the cover of this month’s issue, we’re checking the fitment of our Harwood cowl induction hood (PN 13034). This area is the only place you need to trim, which can easily be done with a high-speed Dremel tool.

Harwood Cowl Inductin 11/27

This mixing chart is used as a reference when mixing up paints and primers.

Dupont Mixing 12/27

We plan on getting creative with 3M’s Scotchprint Wrap Film Series 1080 on the Hellion, we’ve already used it on our Harwood bumpers (PN 13050, and 13060), but we’re actually thinking of covering all the chrome trim and driprails with it too.

1963 Chevy Nova 13/27

We plan on getting creative with 3M’s Scotchprint Wrap Film Series 1080 on the Hellion, we’ve already used it on our Harwood bumpers (PN 13050, and 13060), but we’re actually thinking of covering all the chrome trim and driprails with it too.

3m Scotchprint Wrap Film Series 14/27

While the car was at the chassis shop, we made sure to paint the trunk and ’cage with a satin black paint. We like to use Dupli-Color High-Heat Engine Enamel in a spray can; it’s easy to use and actually comes out looking like powdercoat. Since the car has a black and red theme, the doorjambs, engine bay, and interior will be black.

1963 Chevy Nova 15/27

Many of the man-hours in a quality paintjob come from “blocking” the car, which means it’s meticulously sanded in order to reveal dings and dents that could really stand out once the paint is dry.

1963 Chevy Nova 16/27

We’re using Axalta’s premium clearcoat, the LE 8700 S formula. This product is known for its deep shine and durability against the elements.

Dupont Premier Clear Le 17/27

Even taping the Nova takes skill; we actually tried to “help” doing this process, but it was clear who the professional was.

1963 Chevy Nova 18/27

The first coat starts with the roof so your body has no chance of contacting wet paint or primer as you work. When you do the second coat it will be a little wet, but it shouldn’t get messed up by your clothes. Another thing to keep in mind is overspray floats down from gravity, so starting at the highest point of the car is ideal.

1963 Chevy Nova 19/27

Moe recommends a minimum of 30 days before you can wax your new paint. “Paint is like your skin, it has pores in it and when you apply wax, you can plug the pores. With fresh paint, there are solvents that need to come out. It may be dry on the outside, however, it can still be wet on the inside layer. The solvents are in the paint, unless it’s waterborne, but you still have solvents in the primer that need to escape. If you wax the paint too early, it covers those pores and the solvent can’t escape, resulting in unwanted bubbles in the paint.”

1963 Chevy Nova 20/27

Even taping the Nova takes skill; we actually tried to “help” doing this process, but it was clear who the professional was.

1963 Chevy Nova 21/27

All the waiting pays off when you get your car back and it’s as straight as an arrow. If we had done the paint and body ourselves, you can bet the side of our Nova would’ve been as wavy as the Pacific.

1963 Chevy Nova 22/27

A few people have wondered why we’ve called this car “Hellion” (and no, it won’t be turbocharged). We just felt a word meaning rowdy and mischievous was a good way to describe a 550hp street car with a fully loaded nitrous system.

1963 Chevy Nova Front 23/27

Back at the Source Interlink offices in Irvine, California, the build begins.

1963 Chevy 24/27


After pulling the six-cylinder engine (and the core support) we began the “fun” process of cleaning the grime out of the engine bay using some of Joe Gibbs brake and parts cleaner with a wire brush on a drill. Once we had a 10-pound pile of that nasty grease balls, we coated everything in Eastwood’s Extreme Chassis Black. The next time you read about our devilishly red Nova, we’ll be fitting on an aluminum radiator core support, followed by front suspension and brakes. Stay tuned.

MORE PHOTOS

VIEW FULL GALLERY

COMMENTS

TO TOP