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Project C3 Triple-EX - Extreme Exterior Makeover, Part 1

Gets A Change Of Appearance

Dave Young Nov 26, 2009
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While many of us attempt to rationalize our Corvettes by using them to commute, offering rides to our significant others, restoring them as investments, or even by entering sanctioned racing events, there's no arguing that the money used to purchase, fuel, and modify these limited-use conveyances falls under the rubric of "expendable income." But while a Vette can sometimes be difficult to justify in a strictly fiscal sense, it does offer enjoyable travel and relief from the day-to-day stresses of life, all of which can lead to higher productivity.

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Of course, like other transportational frivolities such as a yacht or airplane, a Corvette must be properly maintained if it's to offer the expected rewards of ownership. Moreover, the car's appearance should be reflective of its intended use and/or its owner's attitude and position in life. [What are you trying to say?-Ed.] Though we did restore our Stingray's existing paint in a previous issue, there was no doubt that Project C3 Triple-Ex's older, aesthetically unappealing paintjob remained unsuitable for a magazine project car. To rectify this malfeasance, we decided to treat the '71 Stingray to a fresh paint scheme. We justified the decision in part by telling ourselves that the new paint would protect the vehicle from the elements, but the truth is that we simply wanted the car to look its best, as it represented the magazine.

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As with all capital expenditures, there are some parts of a restoration project where it pays to spend a little more, because the rewards are exponential. When building a Corvette, we've found that bodywork and paint are areas that fit that criterion, since good materials and professional work really show in the quality of the finished product. This is not to suggest that you have to spend the majority of your project funds on a paintjob, as you'll ultimately reach a point of diminishing returns. But we certainly wouldn't recommend having your Vette painted by a budget paint shop using cheap paint and materials. Alternatively, while companies specializing in Corvette restorations are likely to perform quality work and offer a "turnkey" experience, chances are you'll pay a premium for this convenience and craftsmanship. We've found a nice alternative to lie somewhere in between those extremes, at local shops that specialize in collision work but are willing to take on the occasional restoration project.

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Located as we are in central Florida, we often trust our restoration work to JD's Paint and Body Shop, in the town of Mulberry. Owner John Dempsey has been operating an automotive paint shop for many years, remembers these cars when they were daily drivers, and has repaired and restored numerous Corvettes in his career. Since collision and insurance work can be unpredictable, JD also likes to take in restoration jobs to keep his employees busy during the lulls. Though it can be frustrating to watch your car sit idle while the body shop repairs newer cars for insurance claims, there are several advantages to this approach provided you have a little time to wait.

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Since collisions shops need to do high-quality work expeditiously, they generally have efficient, state-of-the-art equipment and can perform all the necessary functions in-house, no matter what they find under the paint. Additionally, the employees of these shops tend to keep up on the latest refinishing products and techniques available, and can apply that knowledge to yield a paintjob that not only looks good, but lasts a long time as well. The body fillers and other products used by collision shops like JD's are typically the best available-in fact, they're likely the very same ones used by those expensive resto facilities. JD recommended BASF Diamont paint products for a show-quality finish on our car, and given our positive experiences with the Diamont basecoat/clearcoat system in the past, we decided to follow his recommendation. With our body shop and paint products chosen, it was finally time to pick the correct color and paint scheme for C3 Triple-Ex.

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If we were restoring this Stingray, we would simply refinish the car in the original hue of Brands Hatch Green, obviating any color-selection dilemma. But since this car is and will remain far from stock, our color and graphic options were wide open. While we did briefly consider a '70s tribute theme of wild candies, lace inlays, and an airbrushed wizard riding a Siberian tiger on the hood, we resisted this temptation and moved on to ponder more-traditional schemes. Loving the clean, basic lines of the early C3, we decided not to add any fancy spoilers, louvers, or air dams-we even deleted the rear luggage rack. For purposes of simplicity, we also decided to keep the aftermarket front end on our car for now, thus buying ourselves some time to find all the necessary parts for a future restoration to factory-style pieces. Envisioning a color combination for our Stingray was difficult not so much because we're picky, but because this body style looks great in so many colors. But while the sinister-looking black paint that came with the car certainly grew on us in the months after our purchase, we wanted to do something a little more adventurous than the typical monochromatic approach. Another paint scheme we particularly liked was the black-on-red Baldwin Motion treatment featured on one of the tuner's more famous early Stingrays. Then, while driving to work one day, we fell in behind an '09 Z06 finished in stunning Cyber Gray, and it was that sighting that inspired our paint-scheme decision: Since our '71 will reflect the best of both old and new automotive technologies, we decided to embrace this dichotomy by painting the car Cyber Gray with a black stripe around the tail panel and down the middle, similar to the early Baldwin cars.

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So, without further ado, let's make some progress toward making Project C3 Triple-Ex more aesthetically appealing. While we won't finish the car this month, we'll show you how bodywork is properly performed, and get our project ready for paint and reassembly in next month's issue.

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