Jul 28, 2018 update to the BMW 318is project car

Project BMW 318is: Buffing Paint

Here’s everything we used to make our BMW 318is beautiful again. The whole job took about two hours.
Step One: Clay bar the entire car.
Griot's Fast Correcting Cream made fast work of the BMW’s badly faded original paint. Paint not this bad? You won't need something this abrasive. It's only necessary when you need to remove a lot of original paint like we did.
After going back over the car with a random orbital buffer and Griot's perfecting cream, we had great looking paint.

Our BMW 318is didn’t have great paint, but that wasn’t going to stop us: A good paint job costs nearly $10,000, so our mentor (Tom Prescott of the Body Werks) gave us another idea: Buff the original single-stage paint until it shined, then get a paintless dent removal expert to remove the dents and dings. Theoretically, we’d have a shiny, straight BMW for a fraction of the cost of a fresh paint job. How is this possible? Unlike modern cars, which wear thin clear-coats on top of their color coats, our E30 has single-stage paint. Though single-stage paint fades more easily, it’s also much thicker than a clear-coat, meaning we could cut deep with a rotary buffer, removing dull paint until what remained was shiny.

So, after a quick lesson from Tom, we were able to quite-successfully buff out the chalky, white paint on our E30. We used a combination of Griot’s Garage white “Fast Correcting” pads, which are rather stiff and designed for heavy duty buffing, and their “Fast Correcting” cream. We paired those items with our six-inch rotary buffer and carefully went over the whole car. Success! Our chalky paint gave way to a shiny white finish.

Next step: remove those hazy swirl marks. We went over the entire car with a milder yellow pad on a random orbital buffer paired with Griot’s perfecting cream, which removed the swirls and left a polished finish.

Now that we’d fixed our paint, we needed to protect it. We’ll use Griot’s Best Of Show Wax, but only after we touch-up a few scratches and finish the car. We don’t want to contaminate any future work with wax just yet.

So, how’s the car look? No, it’s not perfect–you’ll still spot some deeper scratches, and we did burn a few slight holes in the paint while buffing–but it’s every bit as good as a BMW you’d find sitting on a used car lot. Once we find a paintless dent expert to remove a few door dings, we’ll have a driver-quality paint job.

Want to see how to buff original paint? Check out the video below:

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View comments on the GRM forums
kman91 New Reader
7/30/18 2:57 p.m.

I don't see any video below.

AngryCorvair MegaDork
7/30/18 2:59 p.m.

on variable speed buffers, i'd like to know the RPM you use for each product.

HarrisonMotorsports New Reader
7/30/18 4:08 p.m.

The clean white shiny paint was well worth your efforts!


cruster None
7/30/18 4:48 p.m.

Nice work.

For a beginner, a random orbital - instead of a rotary - polisher is usually preferred...it’s almost impossible to burn or further damage paint with one, and with the right combination of pad and product, you can get nearly the same results.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
8/1/18 5:05 p.m.

kman91, the video is right there on my computer. Must be an issue with yours. Tom at our place might have a better answer for you on that sort of stuff.

Angry Corvair, all the details on how we did it and what we used will be in one of the next few issues of  the magazine.


Cruster, you are absolutely right. You need to be damned careful with a rotary buffer. I have been buffing all my life and still made one minor mistake. This is especially true when paint is thin.

It would have taken a lot longer with an orbital buffer. This paint had sat out for ten years or more, with no care, before I found the car.

Harrison Thanks


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