Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
June 1, 2009
In keeping with our budget-minded project theme, our Recession Special coupe is getting a fiscally responsible makeover.

There's something uniquely relaxing about driving a beater. It serves the purpose of basic transportation and is, by all means, expendable. Project Recession Special has fulfilled its beater duties for more than a year now, and it's been quite an enjoyable experience. There is no fear of road debris, nor flying stones from dump trucks. Tailgate to your heart's content and let the bug guts melt into the car's distressed skin. It feels good not to care about it, doesn't it?

We were quite content with Recession Special's beater status, and now that we have fortified its powerplant with an at-home garage rebuild and added a budget turbo system, it runs far better than it looks. It's a sleeper in every sense of the term. Summit Racing Equipment, however, threw a wrench in our plans when it sent us a recent press release on a new line of automotive paint. Just $299 nets you a gallon of primer, two quarts of activator, a gallon of clear, and a gallon of paint--in one of 20 available colors.

Summit Racing Equipment has everything you need to paint your car.

The budget price got us thinking about Recession Special's battered flanks and how it might be nice to have something that's worth washing. (Did we just make more work for ourselves?) However, painting a car is a long and labor-intensive job. It requires a bit of practice to master the basic concepts of reshaping a bent or dented fender, and applying the materials with just the right mixture of chemicals and the right consistency of product. Normally the paint, primer, clear, and other assorted products cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on their own. Since nice paint really doesn't make your car go faster, most people are content to spend five bucks on a bottle of the latest miracle wax and call it good.

Summit Racing has taken the fiscal concern out of the equation, and even though we splurged for the necessary tools, various sandpapers, masking tape, paper, beer, and pizza that were needed to get the job done, we managed to keep the project under $800. In the end, we were left with the tools and probably enough sandpaper, tape, and paint to shoot another car. That being said, your author enlisted the help of a few good friends, and over the course of a week, we turned the Recession Special into a symbol of smart fiscal spending.

You can tape off the moldings to save time, but it doesn't take much to pull them off, and if you're doing a color change like we are, you definitely should. Our moldings were mostly shot and were replaced with pieces from Latemodel Restoration. These have a screw at the front bottom-edge of the molding. Remove that and gently pull the molding away, as glue holds the rest of it on.

The Paint Connection
Summit Racing Equipment now offers a basecoat/clearcoat painting system designed to give you professional results without a professional education on how to mix the chemicals. The primer, paint, and clear all mix at a 4:1 ratio--easy as pie.

The paint we used is a single-stage acrylic urethane made with premium resins and pigments to make it resistant to damage from UV exposure, chemicals, weather, and stone chips. According to Summit, since it's a pure acrylic urethane formula, there are no oils to stain or yellow over time, allowing the paint to hold its color and gloss for a longer time period than acrylic enamels, synthetic enamels, or lacquer top-coat systems. The paint is designed for the do-it-yourselfer and is available in 20 colors, with prices starting at $79.95 per gallon.

Giving the finish a deep shine is Summit Racing's High-Solids Clear Coat. It's designed to be user friendly and features premium resins to give it a high-gloss finish and make it easy to polish. The High-Solids clear retails for $59.95, which is quite reasonable, but if that's a budget breaker, Summit also offers a Medium-Solids clearcoat for just $49.95. Both clearcoats mix at a 4:1 ratio with the Urethane Universal Activator that sells for $19.95 a quart (PN SUM-UP101). The activator is available in fast, medium, and slow formulas, depending on the temperature where you'll be painting the car.