WHETHER VALET PARKING at a luncheon, cruising to the local car show, or racing on the track, a Corvette makes a statement that's difficult to ignore. And while the car is impressive enough even in conceptual form, the real deal can be made all the more striking when the correct colors and paint schemes are applied. Since the paint is the first thing most people notice about our cars (and sometimes the only thing they remember about them), it just makes sense to consider repainting your Corvette-especially if the paint is faded, worn, bubbling, or cracked. Since our '71 Stingray project car suffered from all of these unbecoming afflictions, we decided it was time to professionally refinish it.
Of all cars deserving new paint, the Corvette is at the top of the list, not only because of its stature, but also because the factory finish is often compromised by the car's fiberglass construction. We'd also speculate that that by virtue of being so much fun to drive, most Corvettes have earned the right to a respectable-looking exterior many times over. Over the past several months we've certainly made our Stingray more engaging on the road and track. And since we enjoy driving it so much, we figured it was high time to replace the aged, substandard paintjob with one more suitable for a magazine project car.
Last month we took C3 Triple-Ex to JD's Paint and Body Shop in nearby Mulberry, Florida, where JD and his crew got busy stripping the car of its black hue and repairing the damaged areas of the body underneath. Fortunately our Vette only needed some minor fiberglass repairs in the passenger-side doorjamb and quarter-panel; this work was completed with fresh 'glass and resin. We also decided to shave the luggage rack, filling the holes with more fiberglass. The aftermarket front end was left on the car, both for simplicity's sake and to buy us some time to find the numerous parts necessary to return C3 Triple-Ex to chrome-bumper glory. The panels were straightened and sealed with BASF catalyzed primer, and we rolled the car into the booth for paint. A Z06 sighting inspired our color choice of '09 Cyber Gray, and we even added a twist with a retro black stripe around the back and down the middle of the car.
But just because the car has been stripped, repaired, straightened, and primed doesn't mean our work is even close to being over. This month we'll finish the job by prepping and painting the car in BASF Diamont color, then laying out our Baldwin-inspired graphics and applying the multiple coats of Diamont clearcoat necessary for a show-quality finish. We'll also reassemble our Vette using new emblems, door handles, mirrors, rocker moldings, doorsill plates, taillights, door seals, and miscellaneous items from Corvette Central.
During the clearcoat phase of the paintjob, JD shared a trick with us that increases the cost of the paintjob slightly but really adds to the straightness and luster of a car-especially one made of fiberglass. After initially spraying three to four coats of clear, the car is allowed to cure, then is block-sanded wet for an ultra-smooth and straight finish. The car is then rolled back into the booth, where another three to four coats of clear are applied to finish the paint application process. Even then the work is not complete, as the car is again wet-sanded for straightness, then buffed with two different buffing compounds for a lustrous finish before being waxed for reassembly.
While at JD's, we took the opportunity to have the windshield replaced by A-Glass Pro of Lakeland, Florida. Replacing a pitted, hazed windshield with a new one will not only make a car look better, it should make it safer and more fun to drive as well. Best of all, repairs such as this are often entirely covered by your insurance.
While a show-quality paintjob is stunning, if the chrome, stainless, and trim items are worn and pitted originals, that new paint will make them stand out and detract from the product as a whole. For this reason we always recommend replacing or refurbishing the chrome and ancillary items during a paintjob, as the relatively minor extra expense is greatly offset by the appearance of the finished car. Fortunately for us, we were able to log on to Corvette Central's website and find all the necessary parts. Now that everything's in place, follow along as we perform the final preparations, apply the paint, then reassemble Project C3 Triple-Ex.