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1971 Chevrolet El Camino - The Devil Is In The Details

Primer, Paint, And Barrels Of Elbow Grease Create A Show Car Shine

Mike Harrington Jan 26, 2007
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Yes, it is true: the devil is in the details. But what details are we talking about here? The details of which we speak are the hundreds of hours it can take to have the shiniest, straightest car in town. Yes sir, the very first thing anybody sees on any vehicle is the quality put into a paint job. From the onset of any project, "quality in" gets you "quality out." I used to faint when I heard folks talk about how much money they put into their paint jobs. After all, it's just paint-you spray it on and you're done, right? No, it goes deeper than that.

Our friend Harry Ortis, owner of Harrison's Restorations, purchased this big-block '71 El Camino a few years back for $1,200. Over the years he worked on the El Camino off and on between his customer's vehicles. Finally when the El Camino reached its time to roll into the paint booth, we were there to follow along. The El Camino was in an accident years ago and required some new Goodmark sheetmetal, a driver's side rear quarter-panel, and a hood. After that, a call was made to PPG and it supplied the base and clearcoat for this project. On the next few pages, we will dissect the anatomy of a show car quality paint job and what it takes to get it done.

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The cowl induction SS hood that was ordered from Goodmark gets the royal treatment. Even though replacement hoods and panels are factory fresh and as straight as an arrow, they still need prep work. Layers of primer, guidecoat, and polyester putty are applied then sanded off.

The cost of doing paint and body on a car is no secret, especially if you want to achieve stunning results. But why such high costs? Let's "do the math" shall we?

This includes sandpaper, tape, paper, primer, guide coat, etching primer, body filler, polyester putty, DA sanding disks, grinder disks, acetone, tack cloth, etc. All tallied when purchased at a reputable body shop like Finish Masters, which is where we bought all our supplies, can total $1,800.

PPG's top of the line paint was used which runs approximately $430 per gallon (we used 2 1/2 gallons). The reducer is approximately $50 per gallon (we used 2 1/2 gallons). The clearcoat is approximately $330 Per Gallon (we used 2 1/2 gallons) The catalyst is approximately $60 per quart and we used 2 1/2 quarts. All totaled up we are at approx. $2,165 dollars.

Labor Costs:
Every vehicle that rolls into a shop is different. Some are in great shape, some are OK and others need lots of TLC. While some restoration/body shops charge more or less than others, it's safe to say that industry standard is around $75 an hour. How many hours are involved in a paint job? We won't dive into those deep waters. Every car is different. In the case of this El Camino a new quarter panel was grafted in and a new hood was also added. Take a look at our other article about hanging sheetmetal.

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Oh my goodness! Nearly 250 man hours later, look how beautiful this El Camino looks after everything is done. 24 hours later the El Camino gets rolled out of the booth and is color sanded and buffed. Starting with 1000 grit, then 1500, and finally 2000, the vehicle is sanded down three times then buffed to highly mirrored finish. In our opening shot of this article, the El Camino had yet to be color sanded and buffed. Fret not, we will run a full feature on this car when all the king's horses and all the king's men have put the Elky back together again.


Goodmark Industries
Lawrenceville, GA 30045
Rancho Cucamonga, CA



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