1966 Ford Mustang - Project '66 - How To: Prep and Paint Your Mustang
If You Wish to Invest the Time and Money, You Can Still Paint Your Own Car
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.
Long before we started this project, I knew that my old '66 hardtop had a special order paint color on it. Through the detective work of Jim Smart and Jim Haskell's Mustang Production Guide, Volume 1, we learned of the 1 Millionth Anniversary Mustangs that were built to commemorate the anniversary of this sales number. See pages 64-65 of the Mustang Recognition Guide for a photo we think is a PR shot of these models. Legend has it that these cars, all well-equipped hardtops, were built in the San Jose plant in March 1966. While the legend states that only 50 cars were built, we believe that the number was actually in the several hundreds. The documented car in the Mustang Production Guide, with a consecutive unit number of 177412 and build date of 29C (March 29) is identical to my original hardtop with a consecutive unit number of 177724. My car was also built on 29C in San Jose and came with a blank paint code (thank goodness the original door tag was still on the car when I bought it).
Fast forward to 1999. I purchase this hardtop that is on the brink of extinction as a project car for Mustang Monthly. I immediately begin the process of converting this white hardtop with blue interior to match my long-gone Anniversary hardtop. Most of it is simple: find a 289, convert the interior, and so on. But when the subject of paint came up, we thought we would be stuck. As luck would have it, our good friend Tony Popish at the Special Order Paint Registry faxed us a few Anniversary Gold Ditzler lacquer numbers he had researched throughout the years. We had the PPG Color Library cross these and sure enough, two of the numbers (23072 and 23073) came back as "'66 Mustang Anniversary Gold." The representative put us on hold while she checked to see if PPG had a color chip in its vault. No sooner had we figured out that PPG must have a huge vault in which to hold these color chips when she came back on the line and said "Yep, got it right here. Tell me what type of paint you're going to use and I will scan the chip and fax you a mix formula." After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I said we would be using PPG's line of Deltron base/clear paints. Later that day, I had a mix formula for "'66 Mustang Anniversary Gold" sitting on our fax machine.
So now you know how we obtained this interesting color. If you're looking for some rare or hard-to-find color too, give the PPG Color Library or the Mustang Special Order Paint Registry a jingle; you'll be amazed at what you can unearth. Isn't technology great?
Custom Paint Information
PPG Color Library
8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (weekdays)
PPG Technical Service
(Call this number for information;
do not call C.A.R.S. directly)
8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (weekdays)
Mustang Special Order Paint Registry
7425 S. Clarkson Cir.
Littleton, CO 80211
We made every effort to get our Styled Steel wheels onto our Project '66 in time for the Silver Springs Mustang Show, but unfortunately the UPS driver showed up a day late with our tires and we ran out of time for mounting. Originally, Tom Sensebaugh of Specialty Wheels suggested a 15x7-inch version. We were fine with that, as long as we could still use a trim ring (it is, after all, a '66). After attempting to install a countless number of trim rings, Tom called us back and told us none of them looked appealing (he usually sells the custom sizes with a chrome '65-style rim). So we opted for the '67 Styled Steel wheel (a 14x5.5-inch model with a black painted rim) and all the lugs, caps, and rings we would need.
Once we figured out the wheel, we moved on to the rubber that will ultimately meet the road. After hearing positive statements about Hoosier Tires' new radials, we decided to try them out. Hoosier, well known in the racing industry, introduced its line of street radials in 13- to 17-inch sizes approximately a year ago. These tires feature an outstanding 440 rating in tread wear and an "A" rating in both temperature and traction. They look great in either black sidewalls or raised-white-letters; it's your choice. We opted for 205/70R14s at all four corners.
We ordered a set of these nifty paint pens from our lifesavers at The Eastwood Company. The pens come unassembled in a pack of six and are ready to be filled with your custom mix paint. We mixed up a little bit of our Anniversary Gold, as well as the two different blacks for the engine compartment and interior and added them to our show kit. Get a little stone chip, break out your paint pen, and touch it up fast. We used our pens quite a bit during assembly (those vent window frames are tough to install and can cause a scratch or two). And best of all is the price. In Eastwood's last catalog these pens (order no. 34071) are just $9.99 for the set of six!
I originally planned to paint the '66 myself with some training and help from Classic Creations of Central Florida, the shop responsible for the bodywork and prep up to this point. My hands became dirty while sanding and blocking (and even a little wet-sanding afterwards), but I never got a chance to hold a spray gun, because our time leading up to the MCA Grand National last year quickly ran out. Even so, the loads of manual labor made me appreciate what skilled bodymen do every day all that much more. Classic Creations doesn't usually perform paintwork because the time involved and the space needed precludes the folks there from painting, so they contract with a local custom painter. They graciously spent their valuable time (even spraying the clearcoat on an early Sunday morning) helping us get the hardtop's Anniversary Gold sprayed in time for the really big show in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina, last year.