Nobody likes to drive a beater. But, although it's true that a show-winning paint job is out of the price range for most of us, it doesn't mean that you can't have a nice-looking street machine when you're working within a tight budget.
How can this be? Well, it involves you doing the manual labor rather than farming out the work (and writing a big check) to "Picasso Pete," the local concours d'elegance paint maestro in your hometown. With little or no paint and body experience, you can be a lean, mean restoration machine in no time at all--if you pay attention to the advice given here (and the accompanying "Body Blunders" story).
Doing the body and paint work yourself, you'll discover a few key items such as: Redoing a car's finish usually involves a lot more effort than you originally expected; you'll make a lot of mistakes and have to redo many aspects, and your arms and fingers are going to be extremely sore. However, what you will get out of the deal is a good-looking paint job for minimal cash outlay, along with pride in knowing that you did it yourself.
We use our illustrious Cheap Street Chevelle to show you how to paint a beater without going broke. Over three past issues of Car Craft, we transformed a non-running, smashed, bashed and rusted-out basket-case '70 Chevelle into a 13-second street machine. At the end of the last installment, we asked you what we should do with Cheap Street. One of the most popular responses we got was to paint it so it looked better. Andy Bean of Chalfont, Pennsylvania, wrote, "Do a paint and body special on it. For paint color, I think that orange or yellow would be great. Keep the theme of the car as a restification. Make it kind of a street sleeper. A clean-looking car that kicks butt on the street is what it's all about." Well Andy, ask and you shall receive.
This Paint and Body Special contains loads of tech tidbits that we're using to transform our beater Cheap Street Chevelle into a glistening chariot. Because our Chevelle originally had a vinyl top that trapped water underneath, there was loads of rust on the roof and in the rear window area. In this story we show you how to repair a rust spot. Since we are on a tight budget, we're opting to install a new vinyl top over the crusty-rusty roof rather than replacing and painting the entire roof. Plus, we tell you how to neutralize a rusty roof before putting on the new vinyl top.
Cheap Street's doors were heavily dented and full of body filler, so we show you how to replace a doorskin with new O.E.M. doorskins available from D&R Classic Automotive. Our front fenders were garbage, so we are installing a new set, but we had a heck of a time trying to bolt them to the original plastic inner fenders that were cracked, warped and complete junk. We scouted around and found that Original Parts Group is now making reproduction inner fenders--and we show you how to install them.
Other parts that were needed--but not available in reproduction (such as the front fender/headlight extension and vinyl top chrome trim)--we got from the auto recyclers at Hughey Auto Ranch. Many of your letters asked us to lighten the Chevelle using fiberglass body parts. So, we demonstrate how to install a lightweight cowl-induction-style fiberglass hood from Original Parts Group, and we even show how to prep fiberglass parts for paint. Heck, we're even showing you the basics of a hood pin kit to ensure that the hood stays closed on those hard quarter-mile charges.
In this story we don't chronicle a step-by-step paint job on our Chevelle, but we do show you how to conquer specific challenges you'll encounter when restoring your street machine. If you put in the work required and have plenty of patience, you can expect great results such as we got with our Cheap Street Chevelle.
1. Our Cheap Street Chevelle originally had a vinyl top. Over the years weather took its t
2. Start your rust-repair project by removing the rear window glass. Removing it gains pro
3. Proper repair of the rusted area requires installing new metal. Start by making a rough
4. Using tin snips, carefully cut out the required patch panel. Don't cut off too much met
5. Place the patch panel in place for a trial fit. Bend and trim the panel as needed to ge
6. Once the patch panel has been made, cut out the old rusty section of sheetmetal. Using
7. Once the rusty panel has been removed, weld the new custom-made panel into place. We re
8. After the panel has been securely welded into place, use a high-speed grinder with a 24
9. Finally, apply body filler and sand to get the area smooth. If the patch panel is corre
As with any project where cutting, grinding or welding is required, safety equipment like goggles, glasses, a face shield, gloves and particle masks are mandatory to protect against flying hot metal chips and other debris. It's no fun visiting a hospital emergency room because of the "it'll never happen to me" attitude. Safety--learn it, live it and love it. Good safety equipment is as close as your nearest Sears store's Craftsman Tool department.