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Paint Your Car at Home

If you're into looking good on a budget, dive into this primer on basic bodywork and creative use of color.

Photography by ,

Finally! Ready For Paint
After what seemed like forever, the El Camino was ready for the fun stuff. Since this has been a homebuilt budget operation from the start, we bought a big roll of inexpensive plastic sheeting and trimmed the inside of the garage to create our own spray booth. We also fashioned a small fan with a filter to keep the air moving through the garage. With the HVLP gun, the overspray wasn't as bad as it would have been with a high-pressure gun.

Material costs are a big part of any paint job. It's easy for material costs to exceed $2,000 without getting extravagant. To keep the cost in line, we decided on single-stage paint for the El Camino, using a DuPont metallic urethane called Nason Ful-Thane. This is a low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint, which means it is environmentally friendly and you don't have to worry about poisoning the neighborhood by shooting this stuff in your garage. Single stage means that this is a one-shot deal compared to the more common but also more expensive basecoat/clearcoat two-stage paint systems. This also means you won't be able to color-sand this paint after it is applied, which makes it that much more important to get the coverage right the first time. This paint is a urethane replacement for the old acrylic enamels and will produce a good shine that will also be durable.

We're skipping over lots of details because of space considerations. For example, following the manufacturer's recommendation for mixing ratios between the topcoat and the catalyst is important. Paint manufacturers recommend mixing reducer with the topcoat to allow the paint to adjust for temperature. There are also several speeds of reducer based on weather conditions. Fast reducers flash the paint quickly for colder weather painting while slow reducers are best used in hot weather. There are tons more tricks that you can learn by asking a few questions of painter buddies and professional body men. If you're unsure, ask questions before you lay down paint and your chances of success will improve immensely. Take your time and above all, have fun.

Paint Tricks
Since this was a budget-driven paint project, we used less-expensive materials for primer, fillers, and especially the topcoat. In this case, we opted for a single-stage urethane paint. If you're looking for a better overall finish with more gloss, two-stage basecoat/clearcoat paints offer more depth and clarity but are much more expensive. It's not unusual to pay more than $350 for a gallon and a half of basecoat color followed by a gallon and a half of clearcoat that will run $150 or more. That comes out to around $500 just for the topcoat, reducers, and hardeners. Other attendant goodies could be another $50. We won't even get into pearls and specialty paints that can run much more. We'll leave those paints to the pros.

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Car Craft