Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
May 1, 2001
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.

1 We didn't deal with PPG corporate and neither will you. PPG's jobber network is where people like you and me 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.

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.