Getting Some Paint Tips from the Pros
One of the most critical and costly parts of building or updating a hot rod or vintage vehicle of any sort is the paint job. Shoddy prep work will show instantly, poor paint application may blister or peel quickly, and lack of follow through on the buffing can all turn your dream car into a rolling nightmare.
However, when everything is done right, the result is pure satisfaction. And fortunately, there are professionals who are actually passionate about paint finishes and bodywork.
When you think about it, there are really only two kinds of hot rodders in this world: those who enjoy body and paint work, and everyone else. For those that can do it, our hats are off to you, because the work can be tedious, precise, and confusing. If fact, it seems like you have to be part metal craftsman, part chemist, extremely patient, and a visionary to see the long process through to completion.
For anyone thinking about a fresh paint work or even a complete build, there are many questions to consider before entrusting a paint shop with you pride and joy. Not only is there the difficult matter of color selection, but also selecting a shop, dealing with surprises behind the existing paint, and budget planning. And that just scratches the surface.
We set out to get a few paint tips from the pros to help answer some of these questions and to give you more things to ponder. We also reached out to some of the top paint suppliers in the business to see what was new in the world of finishes. Follow along and develop your own list of questions to ask your paint shop before you drop off your project.
Goolsby Customs likely rings a bell as of late as they’re behind our 2020 Classic Instruments Street Rod of the Year, a refined ’32 Tudor finished in a two-tone mist green paint with black fenders. Jonathan Goolsby launched the shop in 2005 and the Hueytown, Alabama-based team has been wide open ever since with award-winning builds from rods to muscle cars.
What you don’t see makes the difference
The number of hours and amount of work that takes place behind the scenes of a mirror-straight, perfect paint job is phenomenal and largely goes unnoticed. What happens underneath that fine finish is what makes or breaks a quality paint job and most people have no idea about the amount of work that goes into the fit and finish of all those body panels, bumpers, trim and more.
“The majority of the time spent on a paint job is all behind the scenes,” Jonathan said. “We have to rework every panel to have crisp lines and edges, alignment and gaps. You don’t simply work on a fender, then a door, then the quarter panel, rather look at all of those pieces together as one big panel. All those pieces become one large panel, bumper to bumper, in order to get the perfect fit and finish.”
Jonathan continued, “When you’re working on a car that is going to be judged, you need to pay attention to the areas that most people don’t see. Putting time in door jambs, inner fender areas and hidden panels will set a paint job apart from others. Of course, this attention to detail also takes more time and budget in the end – but it will be worth it.”
A great paint job doesn’t end with all the body and prep work, either. “Actually, with today’s modern paints and processes, spraying the paint is the easiest part of a paint job, Jonathan added. “Once the paint is on the body, there’s a serious process of sanding and buffing ahead. This can take as long as some of the prep work!”
DIY to save a buck by disassembling
A lot of people shy away from trying body and paint work themselves for a number of reasons. If you’re doing all your mechanical work, you can save a few bucks by disassembling your car for the paint shop. Goolsby has other shops bring projects for paint and a few customers that have brought them rolling shells before as well.
“Other shops that don’t have a paint booth have brought us projects to paint. It saves us a lot of time to receive a car that is stripped of all the weatherstripping and seals, stainless, glass and interior. However, it’s very important to leave us with any pieces of trim or custom panels that are going back on the car,” Jonathan warned. “Anything that needs to be aligned and fit for a proper finish and form needs to be left with the painter to make sure it’s right.”
Designer Street Rods
If you’ve been to a Goodguys event in the last few years, you’ve likely stopped by Designer Street Rods to check out a few of their latest builds, including our 2021 Grand Prize Giveaway Chevy II. Rodney Beasley, Designer’s owner and painter, has been building and painting cars since his teens and understands what is expected from a custom hot rod shop when it comes to paint.
Collision vs Custom Shop
Deciding on who to trust and where to take your hot rod for body and paint work can be a daunting task. Pretty much every town in the country has a collision body shop that can repair a fender bender on a daily driver, but true custom hot rod shops aren’t always as accessible. Is there a difference? We asked Rodney Beasley of Designer Street Rods.
“I feel that a specialty shop is going to spend a lot more time working on and going through an old car compared to most collision shops,” Rodney said. “I’m sure there are some collision shops that can do a good job, but custom shops are used to working on old cars and we’ll take the extra steps needed to make sure the paint lasts for years to come. It might take a little longer, and it will likely cost a little more, but we’ll sweat the details to get it right.”
That’s not to say that some smaller collision shops can’t do a great paint job, but their overall focus is on fixing the damage, making the paint match and get it out the door so the customer can have their car again. Most of their work comes from fender benders, collisions and insurance work so there are limitations imposed on the bodyman and the project right from the start.
“I’ve worked with a few painters that come from a collision shop background and it’s interesting to see how they work,” Rodney explained. “Usually they want to come to a custom shop so they can slow down, focus on their work, and really get things just right rather than beating the clock on every job. On a hot rod, the small details must be worked through and finished properly, which takes patience.
“As an example, I have a client that we did a couple hot rods for and he has sent me his daily driver BMW and Corvette for touchups and minor repairs, but for his work trucks, they go to the collision shop.”
Cotati Speed Shop
You may recognize Zane Cullen’s name as he pens our monthly column “Paint Tips with Zane.” As the founder of Cotati Speed Shop, in Santa Rosa, California, Zane understands the anxiety that can come along with choosing a paint shop, the color, and even the style of a build.
Common Mistakes and Choosing a Paint Shop
When we asked Zane about tips on choosing a paint shop, he pretty much answered our next question about common mistakes as well. “You really need to do your homework on a shop before you commit to trust them with your business,” he said.
He explained the importance of doing your homework on a shop, to check out their other builds, what they’ve accomplished, and their track record. Even talk to their past clients. But he also cautioned that you really need to understand what your own goal is for your project, your expectations, and of course, the budget.
“People see a beautiful car in a magazine or at a show and say, ‘that’s what I want and expect,’ but they don’t have an understanding of the layers of work involved to achieve that level. I almost interview our new customers and explain to them what to expect from us as we try to achieve their goal. Conversely, I want the customer to ask tough questions about how we work, how we bill, to know our process and schedule,” Zane explained. “It’s important for the paint shop and car owner to be on the same page.”
Choosing a Color
“As a creative mind, it’s always nice to get full creative control of a build, but even then, it’s important to keep the customer engaged in the process. I try to find out what the owner likes and doesn’t like, again, getting on the same page,” Zane said.
“When it comes down to colors, a big part of the choice depends on the car you’re building. I really like to use modern OE colors and the current products available, but a new brilliant pearl blue BMW offering may not look right on a traditional hot rod.”
Korek Designs was formed based on a passion for putting the “Wow!” factor into anything automotive. Ryan Korek grew up around custom builds, paint fumes and racing with his dad, Steve. Together, they assembled a talented team and built a shop in New Berlin, Pennsylvania, where they design, build, and paint hot rods of all shapes, styles and forms.
Follow Trends and Styles?
“I really caution the use of too much carbon fiber, billet and other super cool materials that are used today and try to focus on timeless designs,” Ryan said. “I’m a big fan of Bobby Alloway’s builds and styles and want to build a car or truck that in 10 or 15 years can maybe get a wheel and tire update and look just as fresh as when it was new.”
Ryan explained how important stance and color are to him and how he works with customers, and the four-wheeled canvas, on choosing the right color. “I generally don’t pick a color at the beginning of a build, as I like the idea of getting to know the car as it develops to get a feel for a color. Then I work with the owner on narrowing it down to a color family.”
One thing that really helps get the painter and owner on even ground is to use a designer that can help with the color choices through their renderings. Ryan works on many projects with designer Eric Brockmeyer, which helps give a clear vision on the overall design, color and look of the build for everyone to know the end goal.
New Paints and Technology
Painting has never been easy, but Ryan explained that today’s paints are wonderful to work with from applying them to the volume of eye-popping colors. “These paints, whether they’re waterborne or solvent based, are so easy to apply these days. Of course, the prep work is a huge commitment, but after the paint is sprayed, it’s all about sanding, buffing, sanding and buffing. We’re good painters, but we’re great buffers!”
Goodguys / Goolsby Custom 2019 YoungGuys winner
At just 25 years old, Justin Zimmerman already has about 10 years of experience in paint and bodywork. Actually, it’s probably more than that, as he’s a third-generation body/paint man and basically grew up in the body shop around his dad and grandfather. His first project was a ’59 Impala that his grandfather gave which earned him our YoungGuy title in 2019. Since then, he’s been hard at work honing his skills and craft at ACR Paint and Powder Coating.
Learning by doing
For any young hot rodder out there, a trade school or program is likely the ideal way to get your toes wet in the paint/body industry, but Justin found that a hands-on approach was more fitting. “Bodywork and painting is a hands-on experience and thanks to my dad and grandfather, I was in the thick of it when I was a teenager,” Justin said. “The only way I’ve found to learn and hone my abilities are to physically be practicing and watching others. I didn’t go to a trade school, but I already had experience and better yet, I wanted to learn more – and still want to learn more even at work.”
“Attending a vocational school is a great start for anyone that wants to be in this side of the business. Or if they’re lucky enough, and ready to get involved, finding an entry-level job in a shop is a great way to learn. Even if you start by sweeping the floor, you get the opportunity to watch and learn from the pros in the shop. I think many body shops would like to have a young person that is willing to listen and watch so they can learn and grow within the company.”
Justin learned by doing. And a big part of that learning came from restoring his ’59 Impala, which his Grandpa gave him when he was just 14. The car was far from perfect and needed a complete floor and patch panels in the quarters and fenders. At such a young age, Justin worked on the car here and there, but once out of high school, he got serious about getting the old Chevy together and the learning process eventually turned into a career in paint and body.
Tips for DIY
If you look up the definition of DIY online, there might as well be a picture of Justin. His biggest tip for anyone working on their own body and paint is to focus on the prep work. “Without proper prep work, the paint job will never turn out great; you need to take your time in prepping the body and going over it again and again to get everything just right,” Justin said. “After the paint is cured, it’s time to spend as much effort sanding and buffing as you did the prep to get that mirror-perfect finish.”
The Finishing Touch
Once the paint on your hot rod is complete, the finishing touch may come in the way of a tasteful pinstripe or custom lettering. Though it’s an artform that takes years to refine, you can always start practicing or try out a couple strokes here and there.
Speedway Motors offers 1 Shot pinstripe paints, the same paint used by Von Dutch, Ed Roth and other greats of the artform. Designed specifically for striping, the oil-base gloss enamel delivers outstanding durability and fade resistance. Speedway offers kits in a number of colors that can be used on metal, glass, wood or even vinyl. Give it a shot – 1 shot!
Research and development are constant when it comes to racing parts and it’s no different when it comes to automotive paints. In fact, Glasurit, the premium paint brand of BASF, recently introduced their most advanced waterborne basecoat system, the 100 Line. The product raises the bar in quality and efficiency while focusing on new standards of sustainability for modern shops.
The Glasurit 100 Line delivers the lowest VOC in the market with a 40-percent reduction from traditional waterborne basecoats (lower than any global requirement). This helps their paint customers improve their environmental footprint and drive overall performance while providing world-class finishes, colors and overall perfection.
Pearls of Vibrance
To the casual enthusiast, one could easily mistake a metallic finish with a pearl finish, but to painters and customizers, pearl paint, specifically Murano pearl, offers a completely different finish. The Murano pearl delivers more of a shimmer when the sun hits it just right compared to the sparkle of metallic flakes. PPG now offers Murano Pearls as part of their popular Vibrance Collection line of custom finishes.
The Murano Pearl pigments are compatible with basecoats, ground coats or mid-coats to create exceptional color effects and exclusive custom finishes including their Radiance II candy dyes. The Pearls are offered in four colors: gold, red, violet and blue, with each one creating a unique color-shifting effect that can go from subtle to brilliant, depending on the design scheme you want to create.
You’ve heard of Kindigit Designs from either seeing their amazing builds at a number of Goodguys events or through their long-running TV program, “Bitchin’ Rides.” With the number of cool rides they’ve built along with trendsetting designs and finishes, it makes perfect sense that they teamed up with AkzoNobel to develop Modern Classikk, an advanced line of custom paints.
The latest addition to the Classikk rainbow is Sageless, a blend of the past, present and future as a gorgeous green. It’s a combination of silver spurs and sagebrush producing elegance and irreverence. Sageless, like the other Modern Classikk tones, is available in waterborne or solvent-based technologies to fit the needs of any custom painter.
The technology and use of waterborne paint systems has expanded the color offerings and depth of paint for hot rodders, whether you’re searching for a modern OE hue or custom blend. Sherwin-Williams has been on the forefront of waterborne paint systems such as their Ultra 9K Waterborne Basecoat System.
The Ultra 9K System is one of the easiest to use refinishing systems on the market and is complemented with 62 toners and a single reducer. The non-stir mixing system provides shops with dependable color and reliable application properties. The system comes with an all-new color retrieval experience, a spectrophotometer and global color box to make color matching easy.
Summit Racing Equipment
We Want Candy
What hot rodder doesn’t enjoy taking in the glow of a candy paint finish on a sunny afternoon? Candy paints have been used since the early days of customizing, where they really stood out with their eye-popping glow and depth. This trick appearance was due to a unique basecoat, usually created with a metallic, followed by a translucent color-tinted coating forming the candy. It’s a system that still stands out at shows.
Summit Racing understands the appeal of candy paint and now offers their own candy system that is formulated from unique OE-grade transparent pigments, so they are far more lightfast than dye-based candy colors. A single-stage urethane topcoat can be used as-is or blended with other colors to create entirely new shades to form a much more durable UV and chemical-resistant finish. Colors include: Cobalt Blue, Aquamarine, Electric Lime, Emerald Green, Gold Mine, Infra-Red, Lava Orange and Ultra-Violet.
House of Kolor
Shimmering with Shimrin
Painters have looked to House of Kolor for their vast variety of hot rod hues through their Shimrin system and its factory packs of pre-mixed colors. Now with their Shimrin 2 system, painters can get exclusivity on a color along with a comprehensive system.
House of Kolor’s Shimrin 2 system includes versatile primers/sealers, a high-coverage basecoat color, and a ridiculous range of effects that go beyond industry-standard pearls and flakes. To top it all off, a complete assortment of premium clearcoats are available to protect any custom color for years to come.