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Paint & Body
1955 Chevy 210 Auto Paint - A Great Finish
Morrison's GT55-Part 6
Nov 1, 2004
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1955 Chevy 210 Auto Paint - A Great Finish
Having so much fun with the car, it took quite a bit to persuade Art to reduce the GT55 back to its basic parts once again.
When disassembling a car, place all fasteners in Ziploc bags, label them and keep in a safe spot for when you go to reassemble the project.
Before taking the car to the sandblaster, all the paint was removed from the car with these tools to prevent excessive blasting media being used and risking damage to the car's body. Body filler was also sanded out as well as any factory seam sealer.
After removing the layers of paint, a straight and rust-free body was revealed.
We did find some rust, but the problem will easily be solved with one of Danchuck's replacement panels.
Using a rotisserie, the body was then taken to a local sandblasting outfit where all the remaining paint, undercoating, and surface rust will be removed.
After the sandblasting process was complete, the body was delivered to Byers Custom & Restoration for the real work to begin. If you are going to have a shop do part, some or all of the work it is a good idea to see previous cars and current projects just to see what their work is like. In this case, a few vintage Ferrari racecars were just being completed for a local collector.
A small sanding disc was used to remove any missed pits of rust and greasy fingerprints. It is a good idea to always wear gloves when working with a bare steel body. When this is completed, the body is cleaned out with compressed air to eliminate the chance of sandblasting media finding its way into the paint. Cleaning every last bit of sand out of the body can take an hour or more, but it is worth every minute of it.
Melting the lead out of the factory body seams revealed rust from the excess flux used at the joint between the top of the A-pillar and the roof. A spot blaster was used to remove the rust. All seams were then welded together.
Before the body is mounted to the chassis again, a skim coat of body filler was applied to the firewall to smooth it out.
Once the firewall was smoothed, primed, and prepped, all of the seams in the floor were sealed with a paintable, two-part epoxy seam sealer. This will prevent any new rust from forming in these seams.
Freshly unmasked, the firewall is now painted. The floor will now be painted and then allowed to cure. It will then be mounted to the chassis so the body won't relax suspended on the rotisserie and to ensure proper body panel alignment.
A spray-on bed liner material is used in the fender wells in lieu of undercoating. The next step will be to coat the rest of the bare metal in PPG's epoxy primer (DP-90LF) to protect it from the elements.
Before mounting the body back down on the chassis, all threaded holes are chased to remove excess paint.
Now that the body is securely mounted to the chassis, all of the body panels are installed and aligned so the bodywork can take place.
Looking like a complete car again, the GT55 is ready to go down to Byers shop. The car is completely assembled and aligned so when the skim coats of body filler are laid out, there will be a smooth transition from the fender to the door and then to the quarter panel.
In areas where the lead had been melted out and welded up, high-quality fiberglass filler is used. Here Alan spreads some of the Duraglass to fill in the seam just under the rear window.
Running a sanding board with150-grit sandpaper over the DP primer sealer revealed only a few low spots on the roof.
In hard to reach areas such as under the headlight eyebrow, a small air tool is used to smooth out the fiberglass filler.
To get the fit right on the doors and deck lid, Steve installs the weatherseal so the trunk is properly spaced out from the body. Once this is done, the bodywork can be finished and will be exact when it comes time for final assembly.
Because the front fenders hang slightly below the rocker panels, the front fenders had a small pie cut taken out of them. After the cut, Alan taps the lower edge of the fender up with a body hammer, welds it, and then grinds it smooth. Be sure keep the panel cool with an air nozzle to prevent warping.
After spreading out a skim coat of high-quality body filler, you will be using many different shapes of sanders to make your body panels flat. Use 80-grit paper and the largest sander you can for each panel and sand in a long horizontal X-pattern to prevent the sanding board from digging channels into the panel.
Once the sanding begins, you will want to continue until you begin to see the high spots appear through the filler. If you sand too much, you will undercut the filler and will have to add more filler and re-sand. Take your time and use plenty of guide coat to monitor your progress.
After many hours of sanding with 80-grit, the car was given a quick once-over with 150-grit paper to remove all of the deep scratches in the filler. Cleaned off and masked, the car was then sprayed with PPG's high-build polyester primer (MX-241). Before it left the booth the entire car was sprayed with a black guide coat to show off the high and low spots during block sanding.
Using 150-grit paper the car is block sanded. Here you can see that the door still has quite a bit of work to be done before it is finished. If it isn't perfect, you can re-prime and sand it again. Also, use plenty of guide coat, it is a great tool that lets you see the highs and lows easily.
In tight areas such as this, homemade tools are required to get the job done. Here Sean uses a wooden dowel that has been wrapped in 150-grit sandpaper to block-sand around the front wheel well.
A great trick to see your progress is to spray or wipe a coat of PPG wax and grease remover (DX330) onto the primer. The DX330 gives the primer a shine as if it had a clear coat on it letting you see if there are any waves in the bodywork. When finished, dry the excess DX330 with clean paper towels. With the whole side of the car sprayed with DX320, Jon Byers and Sean look for any imperfections in the bodywork. Rocking side to side while looking at the reflections in the wet DX330 the highs and lows really jump out. If there is any more work to be done it can either be sanded out or re-primed and re-sanded. Once again, dry the excess DX330 with clean paper towels when finished.
Once Jon gave his "thumbs up" on the block sanding, the car was then disassembled and cleaned up for its final coats of PPG's DP-90 sealer and K-38 primer. This time around, the primer will be wet sanded with 400-grit sand paper. Moved back into the booth, the GT55 is masked off, and cleaned off with DX320 to remove any contaminants off of the surface of the primer. It is very important to keep the primer free from contaminates, silicone, and greasy fingerprints because it can hinder the adhesion of the paint.
Given a few days to cure, Alan and Shawn begin wet-sanding the car. This is the final stage before paint, so it is crucial to make sure that the bodywork is perfect or else the flaws will show in the final product.
While Alan and Shawn worked on the body, I was wet sanding the trunk lid. Using DX330 again, I could see where I needed to focus my attention.
After spending many hours wet sanding and detailing the edges of the GT55 body it was cleaned off one more time, re-masked and sent to the paint booth. PPG's DP-90 epoxy primer was used as a sealer and given proper flash time. The car was then painted white using PPG's DBC basecoat (three coats) then masked off and then painted blue (three coats). Next the car was clear-coated with four coats of PPG's high quality DCU 2002 Concept Clear to give the color its shine and to protect it from the sun's harmful UV rays. While PPG recommends only 2 coats of clear, Byers does 4 coats so there is plenty of material laid down for the color sanding process.
While most cars are allowed to air cure for a couple of weeks so the solvents in the clear-coat can escape, we were in a serious time crunch. Thankfully PPG's Kent, Washington, training center let us use their bake booth and the car was heated up to 140 degrees so the paint could cure in a few hours instead of a few weeks.
The color sanding and polishing stages is all about detail and making the paint smooth as glass. Starting with 600-grit paper, the car is wet sanded to remove the orange peel and any imperfections out of the clear. 1000-grit sandpaper is then used to remove the 600-grit scratches, and finally 1500-grit paper is used to smooth everything out. Use plenty of water and put a few drops of carwash soap in there to help lubricate the paper as you sand. Polishing is a three-stage process that starts with a coarse compound with a wool pad followed by a medium compound with a foam pad and then a fine compound with a fine foam pad. Here, Alan uses a small buffer to get into the edge of the roof.
Assembling the car can be a very tedious, time-consuming process. You can never have enough eyes and you can't be too careful. Have plenty of soft, clean towels around to protect the new paint, and take your time. Since the quarter panels can't move, install and align the doors so the gaps are correct with the quarters. Then install and align the fenders to the doors and finally install and align the hood to the fenders.
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