Nope. That’s not a typo in our headline. Code #WA708S, the candy tri-coat Camaro color known as Synergy Green is appropriately named. But the nose-bending hue is so powerfully intense, the word “greeen” deserves its extra E—as it screams for it. On the hood and deck, however, this factory-fresh Camaro’s contrasting satin black vinyl appliques seemed to lessen the overall punch as they created a rather bland detraction. Now let’s also factor in the fading effects of a year or so’s worth o’ San Diego, California, sunshine. Except for their sharp edges, the vinyl stripes on Eddie Mata’s otherwise bitchin’ Camaro were just plain dull.
It was a friend’s word-o’-mouth recommendation that led Mr. Mata to Escondido, California’s Hot Rods & Custom Stuff, where an experienced team of custom paint perfectionists would remedy his Camaro’s conflicting contrasts. Granted, vinyl graphics are indeed here to stay, and they certainly do have their place—elsewhere. From here, you’re all invited to follow along as Hot Rods & Custom Stuff’s award-winning, yet remarkably humble painter Andy replaces sharp-edged assembly-line vinyl with seen-but-not-felt custom paint, without coloring outside the lines.
1. At this particular paint shop, sensory overload has a way of blinding the best of us, as the diversity of in-the-works hot rod and custom projects inside is overly whelming. Here, a showroom-fresh Camaro might not attract much attention. But as it turns out, that’s all about to change.
2. With an old Milwaukee heat gun, painter Andy is removing unwanted vinyl rally stripes. These assembly line hiccups are flat ugly (flat ’n’ ugly) with sharp edges, and they’re bringin’ down a potentially beautiful automobile.
3. Just a short time later on the very same day, the Camaro’s hood and decklid have been chemically cleaned and positioned in HR&CS’ state-of-the-art Garmat, downdraft spray booth.
4. What’s been shaded has not faded. Even after thorough abrasion with a new-and-improved, red 3M Scotch-Brite pad, an outline of the old vinyl remains visible. For the job at hand, however, this will soon enough prove to be a visual advantage.
5. Back in the day, before the advent of the downdraft spray booth, even the smallest of in-booth sanding operations were risky business. Here with the fan on, this small bit o’ dry-sanding residue is escorted via blowgun, directly through the exhaust grate of the booth’s floor with little worry.
6. In our particular area of California, shops must adhere to a strict set of rules governing chemical usage. So in accordance with the rules du jour, a California-compliant solvent (PPG DX330) is propelled to its target via a California-compliant pump sprayer.
7. Before the solvent can evaporate Andy wipes the panels dry with surgically clean, disposable toweling.
8. With prep-work chores out of the way, the artsy part can now begin. Here the layout gets under way, starting with 1/2-inch 3M vinyl tape. Now in a darker shade o’ blue, this is the latest addition to 3M’s family o’ Fine Line–type tapes. Held taut and accurately placed, straight lines can be accomplished in a single motion—with practice, that is.
9. Although ghostly traces of vinyl’s past presence are helpful for this layout, strategically placed bits o’ tape make gun-sighting a little easier.
10. Based on personal painterly experience, 3M’s vinyl tapes do not corner as predictably as 3M’s crepe-type tape o’ yore, and painter Andy agrees. However, the vinyl variety excels later when it’s removed. It’s thinner, sharper, and far less likely to create raggedy edges.
11. In addition to the aforementioned advantages, 3M vinyl tape can be very precisely trimmed. With a sharp, single-edge razor blade, only the slightest downward pressure is required, which in this particular instance diminishes the possibility of cutting into the factory clear.
12. Once the initial layout is established with 1/2-inch and 1/4-inch vinyl tape, Andy extends with a single stretch o’ the standard-style 3M 2-inch masking tape.
13. From here, the remaining masking chores are tended to using Carborundum brand, water-resistant, bleed-resistant masking material. Masking tape and paper ain’t what they used to be. They’re better.
14. Here’s an additional trick worth pointing out. 3M vinyl-type tapes exhibit a tendency to pucker in the tighter corners. This will usually happen once attention is focused elsewhere, like when masking the other panel. Andy doesn’t like surprises, so small backup sections of tape work well as temporary retainers—’til it’s time to spray.
15. The idea here is to achieve coverage with minimal material for the smallest possible edges. Using PPG’s waterborne Envirobase, Andy now applies the first of three black (PPG #9937) color coats. With due respect for our environment, HR&CS uses only California-compliant chemicals.