Thursday, 21 April 2011 20:54

Painting with Waterborne at John Force Racing

by Paul Stoll, PPG Trainer

John Force Racing drivers have won the last five National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) events, dating back  into late 2010. You don’t do that without some body damage to your Ford Mustang Fuel Funny Cars.

John Force Racing has been using PPG’s Envirobase® High Performance waterborne basecoat on their cars for two years now. Envirobase® HP is very easy to use and repair, something that the paint team has the opportunity to do on more than one occasion—when things go bad on the racetrack. PPG waterborne basecoat dries to a thinner film than conventional solvent basecoats, helping the team keep the Ford Mustang bodies light. And PPG’s Envirobase® HP waterborne paint has helped John Force Racing go green.

I had the opportunity to go to the team’s Brownsburg, Indiana shop earlier this winter and spend four days helping paint the Ford Mustang bodies for 2011. I worked with Dean Antonelli, one of John Force’s crew chiefs and general manager of the Brownsburg facility. Paint shop manager and graphic designer Brandon Baker, painter Dave Gregory and Jesse Knox were all part of the team.


Creating Robert Hight’s 2011 Ford Mustang Body
Last year’s carbon fiber bodies are stripped of the PPG clearcoat and most of the basecoat too, to keep the weight down. We used a PPG citrus-based paint remover for various reasons: first to be safe over the carbon fiber; second, it’s a green product that’s safe for the environment; and finally, the water-based stripper works better than the caustic type paint removers traditionally used. Envirobase® HP is a latex resin basecoat that is very flexible and resists solvents and chemicals. The paint that is not removed, as well as the exposed carbon fiber, are then sanded with 400 grit dry sandpaper. Sanding carbon fiber will expose the fibers, so sanding is kept to a minimum.

Areas that require a body filler and any fuzzy carbon fiber exposed from over sanding are sprayed with PPG’s ECP A-Chromatic Surfacer. After drying, we sanded with 400 grit dry sandpaper, and finished with 600 grit. Envirobase® HP basecoats should be sprayed over a 600 grit (or finer) scratch because of the thinner film build. A sealer could be used to fill sand scratches, but on these cars, sealer is left off to help keep the weight to a minimum.

The Mustang body is now blown off and cleaned with PPG’s OneChoice® H2O-So-Clean waterborne cleaner. This evaporates quicker and pulls the sanding dust from the sanding scratches much better then solvent cleaner, leaving a nice surface that is ready to paint. Since we are working on a carbon fiber body, we do not get any static when wiping the body.

The first color to go down will be a metallic silver. I spray three coats just in the area where we will mask off the silver with ½-inch tape for Brandon’s design. I use an Iwata LPH400 gun with a gold air cap. I let the metallic silver dry between coats, which takes only five minutes thanks to the TurboAir Drying System® installed in JFR’s booth. Air movement is what makes waterborne paint dry fast, and the TurboAir unit is a turbine blower that does the job quickly—speed is required at John Force Racing.

After a 30-minute dry time in the booth, masking begins. We use a plastic/vinyl masking tape like FBS. Brandon also uses his computer skills to cut out a paint mask to aid in speeding up the process and, more importantly, to keep all the designs the same on all the John Force Racing Mustangs. The area of the car that will be blue is covered with plastic, so as to not add excess paint and weight to the car. The white stripes are sprayed next.

Two coats of Envirobase® HP T400 white toner are sprayed, with five minutes dry time between coats and a 30-minute dry time before we’re ready for the blue. The white basecoat covers twice as fast as solvent, so this step goes quickly and weighs less due to fewer coats of paint. This also helps keep edges between colors much smoother.

We mask off the white with a transfer paper that Brandon uses to transfer the vinyl decals he puts on the car. Again, this is faster than tape and paper.

I am back in the booth, and I spray two coats of ‘AAA of Southern California’ blue. The Envirobase® HP formula covers quickly, and with the TurboAir blowing, I am ready for the second coat as soon as I can reload the paint gun. In just half an hour, I am ready to clean up and we are unmasking. We had a couple of small blow throughs on the first car—easily fixed. A quick mask of the blue and re-spray a little silver. The second car was perfect, no blow throughs.

I blew the body off and tacked it with a PPG tack rag. Dave then stepped in and sprayed a double coat of PPG EC700 Production Clearcoat.

While custom, multiple-color paint jobs are not considered to be very productive, with the tools at John Force Racing and the speed of the Envirobase® HP basecoats, we where able to spray a body a day while I was visiting.

The last part of the job was applying sponsors’ logos on the cars, which I left in the experienced hands of Brandon.

Paul Stoll is a PPG Trainer, who, among his many duties, teaches custom painting classes at PPG training centers across the country. Classes include training using Envirobase® High Performance basecoats in custom paint jobs. When not traveling, Stoll can be found at the PPG training center in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., (909) 987-0924.

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