Marc Christ
Brand Manager, Modified Mustangs & Fords
August 15, 2012

Good quality paint, a clean paint booth, and a capable painter are certainly necessary to pull off a good paint job. But beyond that, tedious tasks like sanding and blocking before, and wet-sanding and buffing after, are also key to a smooth-as-glass finish. In fact, the act of painting the car only takes up a very small percentage of a painter's time and effort.

Last month, we introduced you to Dean Santiago and Spike's Performance in Ocala, Florida. Santiago has been doing all the bodywork and paint on our '85 LX coupe, using paint and supplies from Summit Racing Equipment. Summit offers everything for paint and body, from sandpaper and other abrasives to buffing and polishing tools, and everything in between. Actually, the "in between" is the main topic of this month's installment.

Body Paint

Summit Racing Equipment released its own line of basecoat/clearcoat systems in 2010. Designed to meet the needs of both the professional and the do-it-yourselfer, this two-stage urethane paint provides professional results and OEM-quality finish—all at a fraction of the cost of other quality automotive finishes. Actually, a gallon of the basecoat that we used (PN SUM-SWBC518) is only $159.95. Other brands could be three or four times as costly, or more.

In all, there are 40 colors to choose from. Some notable options are Boss Blue, which is strikingly similar to Grabber Blue; and Flame Red, which resembles Rio Red. Heck, you can even get Hot Rod Satin Black or Jade Green Metallic. Whatever your taste, there's probably a color that will strike your fancy. Summit also released a low-VOC version of the line last year, with the same color options as the standard system.

Prep Work

Any time you're changing the color of an entire vehicle, you have to do what painters call "cutting in." Basically, this entails painting the door jambs, underhood, edges of panels, and such. Painters do this to replacement panels like doors and fenders before bolting them onto the car.

Santiago cut in all the panels before assembling the car. Once it was assembled, he blocked the entire exterior of the body to ready it for paint. He then masked off all of the windows, the engine bay, wheelwells, and door and trunk jambs. A quick wipe-down and the exterior is ready for some color.

Wetter is Better

One of the most time-consuming but rewarding steps in refinishing a car is wet-sanding and buffing the finish. Specs in the clear, blemishes, and orange peel can all be removed with some elbow grease and patience.

It's necessary to sand with water because dry sandpaper would burn right through the clearcoat and ruin the paint job. Wet-sanding is done with a special fine-grit sandpaper made specifically for wet-sanding. This allows you to remove very thin layers of clearcoat until all the blemishes are gone.

After wet-sanding, it's necessary to buff with a buffing wheel and polishing compound. The wheel is abrasive as well, so it's still possible to burn through the clear during this step. Finally, a foam pad and polishing glaze remove the swirls left behind by the buffing wheel. The finish is then ready for a fresh coat of wax.

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