Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
May 1, 2001

Step By Step

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We didn’t deal with PPG corporate and neither will you. PPG’s jobber network is where people like you and I go for paint and supplies. Our local jobber, C.A.R.S., helped us immensely during our project. Here, C.A.R.S. Technical Advisor Keith Anger inputs our color formulas into C.A.R.S.’ computer for custom mixing. C.A.R.S. will mix and ship custom paints, but please don’t call them with technical questions.
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All custom paint colors are mixed from these base colors. This mixing rack ensures that the paints are mixed daily to prevent settling and separation.
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When a custom mix order is filled, the mix formula states (in order) how many parts of each color to add. Here Anger mixes up a small sample of one of the two Anniversary Gold formulas (for us to determine which one we will use). The scale will show “100” when the cumulative parts have been added.
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C.A.R.S., like most any jobber, has a complete line of automotive paint refinishing supplies on its shelves. From masking tape (don’t use the cheap stuff from an office supply store) to HVLP spray systems, you can purchase everything you need.
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As hindsight is 20/20, we should have installed our new suspension after our paintwork, but editorial deadlines necessitated that we work on other parts of the project before the paintwork. If you have anything on your paint project that you don’t want to get layered in sanding dust, primer, and base color overspray, use the old aluminum foil trick: Tightly wrap the items in aluminum foil and tape the seam shut. This trick works great every time.
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Using a high-quality seam sealer from 3M or Wurth, brush the sealer into any panel joints that require it, such as where panels were replaced. Notice the inside of the trunk is sealed as well.
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The floorpans are completely seam-sealed too. We laid down a couple of coats of rattle can primer to clean up the floor.
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Here’s a great tip while you still have the seam sealer out. Carefully brush seam sealer between the dashpanel and the cowl top until the gap is closed with the seam sealer to prevent hidden water leaks that may mimic a leaking cowl.
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On to the body prep! Since we had so many new panels installed, most of our bodywork is a matter of taking care of a few shipping dings. But our roof panel had some major problems. There were dents, rust, old bodywork, and “oil canning” problems. To locate our problem areas, we began sanding the roof with 180-grit sandpaper on a sanding board. The dark spots you see here are the low areas that need to be repaired. Make sure you have quality shop lighting for all areas of your project.
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One way to bring these low areas back into place is with normal body hammer work. Notice the body dolly in the left hand while the right hand carefully works the metal back into place.
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Taking care of high spots can be accomplished with a hammer and a dolly too, but a slapper can work wonders on high spots with just a few quick slaps of the tool. Many of these tools can be found at Sears, in catalogs, and through paint jobbers, such as C.A.R.S.
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A large 40-grit sanding disc is utilized—once the major high and low spots are taken care of—to remove all surface rust and paint from the hardtop’s roof panel.
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If you have a problem with oil canning on a panel (where the metal easily pops back and forth), which we had with our roof, you can repair it by carefully heating the area, then quenching the heat with a cool, wet rag. This will shrink the metal slightly.
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Keep heating and cooling the metal until the oil-canning problem is gone.
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As we stated earlier, our roof panel looked as though Steve Saleen had performed a victory dance on it and therefore required some extensive repairs. With the major dents, dings, and pinholes tapped out or welded closed, we used a small amount of body filler to fill in any minor low spots that remained. While the amount looks excessive in this application shot, approximately 80 percent will be sanded off.
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Once the plastic body filler has had sufficient time to set, yours truly is handed the sanding board and 80-grit paper to start knocking down the filler. Note, you should be wearing a mask and protective eye covering during all sanding and paint applications. Stupid me didn’t wear one for the first couple of days, so all I could smell was filler and primer for the next week.
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No, I’m not this good—but the crew at Classic Creations did the final sanding work. Again, this may look like a lot of filler, but it’s thin enough to see through to the metal in most places.
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The rest of the body, being about 90 percent new, simply required some machine sanding with 180-grit paper to remove the old DP-90 primer (applied several months ago for protection). Shipping damage occurred to our right door (shown here repaired), and the top of the right rear full quarter got kissed by the garage door rail while pushing the car into the garage one night (better now than after it was painted).
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For those of you following along who wish to repaint your car and are working with old panels and old paint, you also have the option of stripping your old paint (never paint over an old paint job if you can) using paint stripper instead of sandpaper. The aircraft paint stripper being used here allows old paint to simply scrape right off.
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Another potential problem lies in the Mustang’s cowl vent design. Layers of old paint and rust on the vent grille will prove that there isn’t a worse job out there. Have patience and take your time for quality results.
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Anger suggested using PPG’s DX 1792 Wash Primer and K38 High Build Primer/Surfacer as the base for our paint application. The DX 1792 offers excellent adhesion for the remaining products and the K38 quickly fills minor imperfections and dries quickly. Wet-sanding is accomplished with 400-grit paper.
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The K38 makes quite a mess as it is being sanded, so be prepared. You should take the time to completely disassemble your project for painting, but if you’re simply repainting your project, make sure glass and rubber items are properly masked off.
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Shown here next to our previously used DX 1792 Wash Primer is PPG’s DP40LF epoxy primer, which is used as a primer/sealer. The DP line of PPG primers is available in five colors and the DPLF is available in six: DP40 is gray/green, DP48 is white, DP50 is gray, DP74 is red, and DP90 is black. You can obtain identical colors in DPLF as well as DP60LF, which is blue. These colors help brighten or subdue the color of the topcoat, so choose accordingly or get samples and spray test cards to determine the proper shade you desire.
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The DP40 is applied in one or two wet coats with a 10-15 minute drying interval between the coats. Spray gun pressures will vary on equipment but 40-50 psi with a 1.4-1.6mm tip will usually work. When you order your paint, ask for product bulletins (or copies of them) to help you determine mixing ratios, pot life once mixed, and other important information on the product. The black enamel guide paint is a simple spray can application to help in wet-sanding.
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Once the DP40 has dried, we can begin wet-sanding the primer/sealer in anticipation of our upcoming topcoat. Using 400-grit paper and a rubber sanding block, the complete body is sanded. Watch out for sharp corners so that you don’t break through the primer coat. Wash the panel down and look for any traces of the black guide paint. If you see any, the panel will need additional sanding or filler.
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Sometimes you can’t help but break through the primer/sealer coat. As seen here in the trunk (sanded by yours truly—thus the breakthrough), we had several small areas that were showing the metal’s E-coat or bare metal. Spot priming can repair these areas, but if you’re in a hurry, this is akin to taking one step forward and two steps back, so try not to do it!
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Yes, that is a coffee can. What’s important though is that a paint strainer is being utilized. Mixing the topcoat correctly is important because there are different reducers for different temperatures during application. We used PPG DT885 for the hot weather here in Florida at the time of painting.
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We began our final prep for the Anniversary Gold topcoat by cleaning the complete body inside and out (and all of our loose panels) with PPG’s DX330 ACRYLI-CLEAN Wax and Grease Remover. This step was taken before each layer of product (DX1792, K38, and DP40) was sprayed, but it is critical for the topcoat adhesion to be cleaned this last time very carefully.
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The underside of the decklid (removed), the underside of the hood (removed), and the trunk are all taken care of first because these areas will need to be completely dry to allow the decklid and the hood to rest in place during the exterior topcoat application. The rear of the body is masked off to prevent any overspray that will affect the exterior topcoat’s appearance.
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Once the basecoat and the clearcoats have been applied to the underside of both the hood and the decklid and allowed to dry for up to three days, these areas are masked off with tape and masking paper to prevent any overspray during the final body painting.
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Depending upon how much you’ve disassembled your Mustang will determine how much time you will spend masking off areas to prevent overspray. Since our Mustang was a bare shell, we simply masked off the window openings to prevent overspray on our primed dash area.
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Now it’s time for the first coat of paint. After proper mixing and preparations, the first coat of Anniversary Gold is applied. Every painter has a different method for application, so use what’s best for you to ensure uniform coverage. Some paints fill better than others and require fewer coats. You want a wet coat but not so thick that it runs.
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Be especially cognizant around the detail areas, such as under the taillight panel and at the bottom of the rocker panels. Sometimes these areas don’t receive enough paint (it’s OK to bend over while painting—honest!), so be sure you catch these areas. Sometimes a second set of eyes are needed to detect those missed or thin spots.
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Apply the first few coats of your top color to loose items, such as headlight trim and valances, on spray stands. When it comes time for the final coat of color, bolt the items loosely to the body so that the flow of the paint from the gun will match from one panel to the next; this is especially important for metallic paints.
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Once the basecoat has had ample time to dry, we mixed our PPG Concept 2021 clear with the proper reducer and hardener for our application temperature (again see the product bulletin) and laid down two wet coats. Notice the hood and the valances are still in place from the last coat of color applied.
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After allowing sufficient time to dry (at least 16 hours), the front of the hardtop was carefully disassembled so that we could paint the engine compartment. Using PPG DCC 9300 Concept Black with PPG DX685 Flattening Agent (you’ll have to see the product bulletin to determine the amount to mix for the gloss you desire), we achieved the perfect eggshell gloss finish we desired for our engine compartment.
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Finally, we taped off the fresh doorjambs and applied PPG DIA 9295 lacquer to the dash and the doors. This paint mix code was supplied to us by Bob Perkins and is an exact match for the ’66 interior black color, though lacquer is continually becoming harder to find.
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With the paint application complete, it is now time to bring out the shine. Wet-sanding the clearcoat is not for the fainthearted. Using a rubber sanding block and 1500-grit wet sandpaper, carefully sand the finish to remove runs and any imperfections in the clear. You don’t want to break through the clear finish, so continually check your progress.
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After the clearcoat has been wet-sanded, the next phase to bringing out our show-winning finish is applying a buffing compound. Using a high-speed machine buffer is the only way to accomplish this. Watch the corners and sharp edges to prevent burning through the clearcoat. You want the pad spinning away from the edge, not toward it.
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Switching now to a foam pad, a glaze or a polish is applied next. This step removes the common swirl marks that occur during buffing. Again, keep the buffer moving to prevent burning the surface.
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A coat of high-quality paste wax that is clearcoat compatible is applied to give us the final sunglasses-required, stop-and-stare shine. Make sure the wax contains no silicone. We’ve now reached the top of Mustang Mountain, and the rest is all downhill from here! MCA 25th Anniversary, here we come!
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Our ’66 hardtop is shown here (about three months after painting) with the interior completed and all the glass installed. We ordered a set of Styled Steel wheels from Specialty Wheels and new Hoosier RS Radials to wrap around them. Nothing sets off a ’65-’66 like a set of Styled Steels and these are perfect!

Learning to weld is one thing, and learning to rebuild an engine is another. But actually completing the final shaping and sanding of a car's body, then applying a glistening coat of your favorite color to it takes some real time, investment, talent, and a bit of luck. There's a lot to be said for applying your own paint. In today's world of the do-it-fast-and-push-it-out-the-door mentality, it's becoming harder and harder to find a paint shop that will either paint an entire car or paint over someone else's bodywork. You can call any local shop that has a decent reputation and usually the folks there will flat-out tell you they don't do all-over paint jobs. Actually, they make more money on insurance work, or they'll estimate the job so high, you'd be crazy to accept it.

Now before you start sending in the hate mail, I know you can still find a great shop out there that works on restoration projects, show cars, and the like, and you should be happy you can. But for most of our readers, it's becoming increasingly harder to do what you are now taking for granted.

So what's the next logical step, you ask? Well, if you're a hands-on restorer and have stripped the body yourself and maybe even replaced some of the metal with reproduction panels with a little 110-volt MIG welder by your side, moving up to the next step of finish work and paint is a natural progression. But how and where do you start? We suggest--well in advance of actually needing to apply your paint job--you take some trade school courses on paint and bodywork. If you're a member of a Mustang club (you'd better be!), talk to some of the members. Often times, there are a few experienced members who have painted cars during the "lacquer days," and though paint materials have changed, application and preparation have changed little. Sometimes you can even borrow equipment from these same people or locate some used tools (pawnshops are great for these) or rent them from a tool rental facility to minimize costs, especially if this is the only car you ever plan to paint.

As for the paint type, you're fairly limited these days to polyurethane enamel, acrylic urethane, and basecoat/clearcoat finishes. Depending upon your local regulations, you may be unable to purchase certain types of paint without a license, so check with a local jobber first. Of course, there's more to a paint job than just the topcoat selection. Today everything works as a system, so the primers, the sealers, the hardeners, the reducers, and so forth need to be compatible with the topcoat you plan to use. In the case of our Project '66, we decided to work with PPG finishes and its Deltron Concept line of base and clear paints.

The reason we chose PPG is two-fold. First, its PPG Color Library [(440) 572-6100] has a vast system of paint chips and color codes dating back to the '50s for more than 280,000 colors. Obtaining a modern basecoat/clearcoat finish in the correct mix to match a 36-year-old lacquer color is a cinch with PPG's Prophet computer system and color scanners (for more on this, see the sidebar Anniversary What?). Second, we wanted to work with PPG because it has been an OE supplier to Ford for interior and exterior paints for decades. Let's face it, what better company to obtain an old Mustang color from than the one that originally produced it, right? So without further ramblings, we're going to give you the grand tour of painting our Project '66, from selecting the paint type to rubbing the paint out to that show-stopping shine.