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Chevelle Paint And Body, Part II - Trim, Polish, And Finish Work

Now With Fresh Paint, It's Time To Reassemble Our Chevelle With A Little More Orange And A Little Less Peel With . . .

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Last month we went through the steps of face-lifting to rescue our aging '66 Chevelle from its dated '80s Euro painted bumper visage. Now with a more contemporary bright-orange hue, courtesy of Eastwood paint and materials, it's time to reassemble our citrus exciter. With the paint still fresh and the masking paper overflowing the trash can, we began to bolt everything back together. This included several modifications to the car such as trimming a little fat by slicing the A/C suitcase off the firewall, adding a new fiberglass front bumper, and then carefully assembling a raft of image-enhancing pieces from Original Parts Group (OPG).

We were so motivated to bring the car back to life that we dove right into bolting on the new parts while the paint was still fresh. This allowed the paint to cure for a couple of weeks before we mounted a 2,000-grit attack via color-sanding to bring out the best of the orange shine. Let's get to it.

Front-Half Trim
Now we had to bolt all the stuff back on that we yanked off. The first step was to position the front fenders. On Chevelles, there are three fasteners that use large shims to even up all the fender lines. We placed the old shims back in their original positions but still spent an hour playing with washers to get the gaps even. If we wanted to mess with this for another half day we could get these gaps closer, but with our wonky-wavy non-Glasstek fiberglass hood, it seemed like a waste of time.

Next, we slipped in the new OPG Chevelle grille assembly and headlight bezels. But first, we had to repair the radiator core support, as both fender mounts were broken, which necessitated welding and grinding. This was followed by bolting on the fiberglass bumper and the handful of trim pieces that really finish off the car. Finally, we also added new weatherstripping to the door and trunk lid and new vent wing seals to minimize the wind whistle.

Bringing Up the Rear
Here's where we were really challenged. We're much more used to building engines and checking bearing clearances than working with fragile trim pieces, so we had to get creative when it came time to bolt on the new taillight trim pieces. The sheetmetal between the taillights had also been previously replaced and came undrilled, which required careful work (measure twice, drill once) to ensure a quality fit. But now that all the pieces are in place, the car looks far better than it has for decades.

Paint Detail
While the Eastwood Huggin' Orange single-stage paint went on with very few hiccups, we did have some issues with a mild amount of orange peel that left our paint job less than glossy. From 10 feet away, it looked good, but upon closer inspection, our prep work needed help. We found several places where dirt had found its way into the paint before it cured. This called for a quick color-sanding that would remove most of the hiccups and also produce a much glossier finish. It might seem counterintuitive to attack your brand-new paint with sandpaper, but that's the best way to eliminate the orange peel and produce a glossier finish.

A mirror-like finish is best achieved with the smoothest surface possible. If we were to magnify the surface of our paint job, we'd see lots of peaks and valleys. To produce a glossier finish, we needed to sand down those peaks and bring them closer to the valleys. That's where the time-honored art of color-sanding comes in. CC staffer John McGann helped us out with his experience, and in less than an hour we had color-sanded half of the Chevelle's decklid with a five-stage process that is really pretty simple. All we did was work slowly and double-check our work before moving on to the next step. The beauty of this approach is if you decide the paint needs a little more smoothing, you can back up to any stage of the sanding process and start over. Minor paint runs and even paint chips can be finished the same way. Chips or gouges can be filled in and then carefully color-sanded and buffed until the error is blended into the base paint. This same color-sanding effort can also be applied to clearcoats to produce a maximum shine. We used Meguiar's compounds and polishes to help us achieve our goal.

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