Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
5/29/19 2:16 p.m.

Painting a car at home sounds so easy. You paint it, enjoy it, and then go about your merry way. The reality, though, is more involved–way more involved. So while readers keep asking us for a real “paint your car at home” story, to be honest, we’ve struggled a bit to come up with one.

Why? Because modern paints are a dichotomy. They’re better than ever, giving terrific results and making them very accessible for amateur painters, but they need to be used exactly as intended. They’re also not inexpensive, which creates a price barrier for amateur painters. Add in the need for some specialized equipment and various regulations at the federal, state and local level, and it simply becomes difficult to write a story about painting at home.

Nonetheless, this is GRM, and we can’t let you down. We’ve been painting at home for about 30 years. Lately we’ve been using the professionals a bit more, but we’ve also kept up with the times and still do some work at home. While the days of $200 at-home paint jobs are long gone, it’s still possible to put down some professional-quality paintwork for less than $1000 in materials and around $500 in equipment.

Of course, paint is only the frosting. The metalwork, bodywork and prep are the cake, so we’re breaking this down into three stories. In this first one, we’ll cover how to assess the car, strip bad work, and apply filler. Next we’ll get into priming, block sanding and fine-tuning the bodywork. Finally, we’ll lay some modern basecoat/clearcoat paint, wet sand it, and buff it out.

We’ll be performing all the work on the S52-swapped, E30-chassis BMW that was the subject of our High School Hotrod series. This is how we made it pretty on a budget.

Read the rest of the story

Campbelljj New Reader
5/29/19 5:02 p.m.

Can't wait to see what materials equipment and methods used to apply sealer and color and topcoat clear. I have a 1992 325i cabriolet that I'm fitting a mtech2 body kit to (eventually) and need to venture into the body work and finishing.  I have already welded in place a new core support and repaired minor rust and welded closed rocker moulding mounting holes. Looking forward to this series. Thanks. 

aribert New Reader
5/29/19 9:15 p.m.

My limited experience is that the metal (body) from most OEMs from the late 50s or early 60s on was dipped in some sort of metal prep /passivating that had the effect of preventing flash rust.  Once this is removed by sanding or other mechanical means, the bare metal has a tendency to flash rust.   I had my 61 Falcon plastic stripped to bare metal and did not get around to laying on an epoxy primer for about a 1/4 year.  The bare metal did not have any flash rust except in the lower corners of the doors where I sandblasted around some pencil sized rust thru.  On the sandblasted surfaces, the metal ended up with a very thick coating of rust.  The owner of the plastic strip business at the time had stripped one half of some generic 10 yr old car from center line of the car (bare metal, no clear coat on one side of the car) and was using it as a summer daily driver.

Looking forward to part 3 - and how you deal with the paint fumes (how you avoid annoying the neighbors (if any)).   I live in a major metro area and struggle with how to paint and not have someone report me.

kevinduffy86 New Reader
1/6/20 1:47 p.m.

We are doing a grandpa/father/daughter project on a 1987 Porsche 924S as her first car, and part of this process is to paint the car.  We have acquired the car and will start on mechanical restoration/rebuild soon, with paint coming along with the car basically disassembled.  We are looking forward to the entire process, which will take us about a year of weekends.

Can't wait until the next installment!


ufmarkm (Forum Supporter)
ufmarkm (Forum Supporter) New Reader
12/3/20 7:31 p.m.

Wondering what would be different for prep and painting a fiberglass hardtop?

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