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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, ,

TRIM THE PAINT VALLEYS
Remember how we told you to leave some gaps between unboltable body parts? Some of those gaps will end up filled with thick paint. Before the paint fully cures (before it gets brittle), carefully slice those gaps apart with a razor blade before bolting the parts back together. Be careful that the paint is not so soft that it deforms as the parts cinch up.

SCRAPE OFF THE OVERSPRAY
If there's excess paint on the rubber trim or glass, flake it off with a knife or razor. Wait a few days for the paint to harden and it gets easier.





SET THE DOOR GAPS
We had so much excess paint near the passenger-door gap that it dripped down the edge. We probably could have color-sanded the drip, but instead we opened the door, the edges touched, and we got a big chip. At least we can touch it up, but we should have set the gap bigger before we took the car to be painted.

COLOR-SAND IT
The paint on our Nova set down quite smoothly but had a little orange peel and a few good chunks of crud in it. Much of that can be solved by color-sanding, and 1 Day Paint recommends that you always clearcoat a car if you want to color sand it. That doesn't necessarily mean you need basecoat/clearcoat paint. Instead, 1 Day will use a regular basecoat, then add clear. We eventually plan to color-sand the car with 1,500- then 2,000-grit, then buff it with Meguiar's compound (the stuff in the photo is a bit too aggressive) on a wool pad, and polish it with a light foam pad.

CHROME THE BUMPERS
There's nothing like new paint to make average bumpers look neglected, so you've got to do something about them. Rechroming can often be the last bit of dazzle you need to really make a budget paint job pop. But since we eventually plan to have fiberglass, we used a decent junkyard bumper instead. Mother's Billet Polish was surprisingly good at making it look like new. But forgive us for that scongy rear bumper (see this month's cover).

GET NEW BODY GASKETS
The factory used rubber gaskets behind parts like the lock cylinders, door handles, and rearview mirrors. Most of these are available reproduction through companies like OER and Classic Industries, where we got ours. New gaskets not only give a more detailed look, but they keep the metal parts from digging into the fresh paint; without the gasket, the edge of the door handle or mirror will lift the edge of the paint, which will eventually chip. Bonus tech tip: The '77 Nova remote-control outside mirror is the same as the one used on '69 Camaros, so a Camaro gasket will work.

NEW WEATHERSTRIP
Miracle of miracles, Classic Industries actually has door and trunk weatherstrip for third-gen X-bodies. For nearly any other musclecar it's even easier to get replacements, and you really have to R&R the rubber to make a color-change paint job acceptable. Tech tip again: The GM door seals don't really need adhesive and snap nicely into the groove. Press them into place with a plastic spatula (like the one you used for the body filler) to avoid gacking the paint.

DETAIL THE GRILLE
No one has a mint '77 Nova grille, and no one wants to pay big bucks to have it restored. We'll also push you away from '80s body-color grilles and run screaming from rattle-can blackout treatments. However, McGean discovered that VHT cast-iron exhaust paint has kind of a nice argent look when applied to a used Nova grille. After knocking all the loose plastic-chrome junk off with sandpaper then priming it, the look was perfect. The headlight buckets got the same treatment.



DETAIL THE TRUNK
Ever see a repaint that looks OK until the trunk is opened and it's a different color? We paid 1 Day Paint for a full jamb-job that included the underside of the decklid, and the shop even got rid of the old jack instructions before fogging the color. It also helped that we replaced the hashed trunk weatherstrip, and OER has a new and softer latex seal to replace it; order the same number as a '79 Camaro and cut it to fit. Finally, we degreased and brightened up the trunk with some light gray spatterpaint, which looks more fresh than the original black.

ADD ONE COOL DECAL
A Gabriel Hi-Jackers sticker on top of an old hair-band decal won't get you far, so make sure to peel all that junk from the bumpers. However, a single, well-placed and subtle sticker on your car can take another step to saying, "I'm a hot rod," in case screaming Zinc Yellow did not get the point across. Choose something special to you and lay it on. We, of course, chose to fly the colors.

AND FINALLY, BOLT ON THOSE COOL WHEELS
You can take a worthless pile of a street machine and make it neat with the right wheels. So it stands to reason that trick rollers will also take your cheap paint job up a few notches, detracting from any flaws. In our case, ugly wheels would have made a '77 Nova way too hillbilly. It already sits too high, so we needed the power of the bitchin' new Mickey Thompson ET Drag wheels that scream "I'm a drag car." We used 27.5x4.50 ET Fronts (PN 3009) on 15x3.5s with 2.25-inch backspacing (PN 75355072) on the front and 28x9.00-15 ET Drags (PN 3054) on 15x8.5s with 4.5-inch backspacing (PN 75805074) on the rear, and they fit perfectly. Expect to see a drag test with these tires in coming months.

ADD A STRIPE
Crossbreeding factory tape stripes can create monsters-a Dodge bumblebee stripe on a Plymouth is a huge no-no, for example. But Car Craft has found the '69 Chevelle SS side stripe to be fairly generic and non-offensive on other cars. We even used one on the El Cheapo El Camino a few years ago. This time, a fresh black stripe from Original Parts Group made a giant improvement in the impact of the Disco Nova. Stripes add flash but can also conceal minor waves in the car's waistline.

For more on how we added stripes to the Disco Nova (which you didn't see in the magazine) and to answer our online poll on what you think we should do with the Nova CLICK HERE!



DONE!!!






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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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