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30 Ways to Make Budget Paint Look Great

We all know that "you get what you pay for," but what if you could get more? A cheap paint job doesn't have to be bad if you spend the time to make it right before the paint goes on. If you want to make your budget paint look good, you'll want to pay att

By , Photography by Brian Winckler, ,

There's no such thing as a cheap paint job. Well, there is, but you wouldn't want to own it. So the challenge is to get the most affordable paint possible that still lets you show your face at the dragstrip or cruise night, and to do it with a minimum of skill.

That was exactly the scenario with our '77 Nova, a new project that we'll build into a reliable foot-brake bracket racer that runs in the low 12s, thereby avoiding the rollbar requirement for now. We'll grow the project from there, testing the tricks you want to know about and telling you every secret along the way. We hope to someday make the Disco Nova run low 9s to high 8s for sanctioned heads-up street racing. Along the way we'll find the best deals on new parts and throw in some good finds from the swap meets, junkyards, and eBayMotors.com. If you think it's too expensive, it's because this one won't be a total hose-clamp-trans-mount dirtball project, or because you've got sticker shock over the fact that we'll always show you every little price of the parts and supplies we used, and there will be no "we had this sitting around, so count it as free" hokum. This is real. So real, in fact, that we were shocked how a basic $499 paint job quickly turned into an $1,800 investment when you add up all the knickknacks. And it's not like this is over the top; it would have been easy to spend another couple grand. For $1,800 you only get an average paint job these days unless you have the equipment to spray the paint yourself, and our point here is to see what can be accomplished by an average guy with a minimum of skill.

You're insane. Why are you wasting your time with that thing? No one cares"
Matt King

Also, when we spend money on stuff, we'll tell you exactly why we make the decisions we do. Like those new Mickey Thompson wheels-we were going to repaint some old rallys, but they weren't bright enough for the cover. The M/Ts totally make the look of the car, but we'll be a bit more practical than that to start. We'll bolt the rally wheels back on for the first few dragstrip stages of the project, then bring back the M/Ts later to see if the lightweight wheels can earn their keep.

The beauty of the third-generation X-bodies ('75-'79 Novas, Olds Omegas, Pontiac Venturas, and Buick Skylarks) is that they use front suspension like a second-gen Camaro/Firebird and rear suspension like a '67-'74 Camaro/Nova. That means you can get suspension parts galore, and the stock 8.5-inch 10-bolt rearend is lightweight and can be made bulletproof enough for our needs. A big-block fits more easily than in earlier Novas, and we can rob the frame mounts from 403 and 400 Trans Ams so we can stab Olds and Pontiac mills into the Disco. We already got mounts from a junkyard '76 Ventura with a Buick 350, so we can try Buick power too. Since the Nova has no collectibility whatsoever, we have no shame about gutting, drilling, welding, and hacking to make it a race car.

It makes the perfect Car Craft flog unit-with the tiny exception that it's still a '77 Nova. Third-gen X-bodies have a small following (see novaresource.org), but we've taken heat from people who think our Nova is just too grotesque to take seriously as a magazine project. With a production-shop repaint made better by lots of do-it-yourself prep work, plus some well-placed graphics and wheels, we've changed a lot of minds. Even staff naysayers are quipping, "ya know, this might not be that bad . . . if it's fast." And we'll get to that next month.

How about you? Tell us your thoughts on Disco Nova by e-mailing CarCraft@sourceinterlink.com or hitting the forums at CarCraft.com.





"Wow. This car almost looks worth owning!"
Terry McGean









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91 comments
Scooter's Garage
Scooter's Garage

all the prep work prior to paint...sanding till your fingers bleed!

Zeuz Alexander
Zeuz Alexander

My dad use to have an L79 .......was a great handle anfd throthle for a family car!

GothicBikers MC Mongolia
GothicBikers MC Mongolia

Hello from Mongolia, dear biker brothers & sisters! We are glad to join this great group & hoping to meet a lot of friends from here ;-) Have a safe rides all! Please visit our page ;-) Like it if you want to hear news from us www.facebook.com/gothicbikersmc

Andrew Crouch
Andrew Crouch

Restraining myself from killing the person that gives me the first real door ding...

Perla Ruiz
Perla Ruiz

Chevy nova yo tengo uno modelo 1975

Carlisle Customs and Classics
Carlisle Customs and Classics

Explaining to customers that the car's metal and body work needs to be solid and smooth before the paint can be applied. If you don't have a great canvas, you can't have a great painting!

Daniel Sanchez
Daniel Sanchez

Wen u get ready to paint.and mother nature throws a wrench in tha spokes..but for months prior,tha weather is fine!!wtf..

Michael DiGregorio
Michael DiGregorio

Preparation. The paint only looks as good as the material under it.

Jacob Mollica
Jacob Mollica

Painting is cake work it's all the sanding and attention inbetween

Andre Bandourov
Andre Bandourov

Free Tip : 1st and last ...... If care about your ride save up and do it right

Luke Burfield
Luke Burfield

Prep to get to paint. Why is this even a question

Justin Baumann
Justin Baumann

Wet sending for 5 hours straight to get the clear coat perfect is hard to do sometimes haha

Jeremy Leeper
Jeremy Leeper

Jeff Williams its a chevy so most likely at the harbor being used as a boat anchor lmao

Leo Stewart
Leo Stewart

Prep. I'm pertinent to detail. If it's not china smooth? Re-do it! And then do it again cause I know it's not right!

Ben Pewterbaugh
Ben Pewterbaugh

Old magazine project cars never die, they just fall into corporate obscurity. Speaking of that, what happened to the El Cheapo Camino and the hemi orange Duster??

Tim Wyant
Tim Wyant

I have painted cars with spray paint .and sanded and buffed it to shine just like a spray pro paint job would look like ..many times..

Tim Wyant
Tim Wyant

i remember that nova ..the most hard thing about painting is the sanding..

Tom Cooper
Tom Cooper

yep. 76 with a white top. traded it in on an 81 Z28. my last real muscle car. Now I have a tank - 55 Studebaker Commander.

Fernando Muro
Fernando Muro

NICE 77 NOVA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Joe Compani
Joe Compani

Explaining to your neighbors why there is overspray all over their new prius.

David Delgado
David Delgado

Spraying the clear.Making sure you lay it down smooth, wet, without orange peel, no fisheye, no runs

Luis Matías
Luis Matías

Fixing the dents'that's somethin that only skill workers can doit right. After that anyone can spray paint.

Joe Cormier
Joe Cormier

Wet sanding! Not really difficult just sucks

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