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Monday, 25 July 2011 16:51

Lesson Learned—Re-Painting a ‘57 Thunderbird

Written by Rich Evans
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This month I’m working on a project that I call re-do, nobody likes to do re-dos. About 6 to 8 months ago I did a ‘57 Thunderbird and I repaired the front end. I wrote a story for Autobody News (April 2010, Working On a ‘57 Thunderbird With Old School Tools & Techniques, which you can easily find in my column section at about it, but what I want to talk about this month is making choices and taking the extra time to take it all the way back. What I mean is why I made decisions to do it one way and not another and why they came back to bite me: 1) costing me my labor and 2) material, and 3) an inconvenience for the customer. All of the above are red flags for future repairs.

Going back to this ‘57 Thunderbird, I took the hood, we stripped it down around the edges just so I could get the gapping right. I made a decision not to take the paint all the way off because 1) I didn’t want to find more body work and 2) I didn’t want to warp the hood and cause a need for more body work.

What I did was grind and remove about 12 inches of paint on the front where I did the repair and then I took about 3 inches all the way around the hood just to get the build up of the paint. I thought I would come in,  Bondo™ around it, true it up right up to the paint where I’m not really causing myself any more work and I’m just blending the Bondo™ into the paint thickness, which wasn’t too bad. So, as I got the Bondo™ to meet up to the paint, the additional paint that I left on the hood—which is a laquer—was kind of gummy. That was another reason why I didn’t want to strip it down.

I was planning to come in with some PCL Primer, which I did, and loaded it up because that pretty much hardens itself and it’s been pretty much bullet-proof since I’ve been using it. Taking it to that point, we blocked the hood, got it painted, put it on the car and sent the car off.

The customer came back about 3 weeks later pointing out it had some wrinkling around the edges and I was like, “man that’s really close to where the Bondo™ meets the paint.” So I brought the car back in and sanded down the wrinkled area. I didn’t really break the clear coat, so it seemed like I was able to get it out. Then I went back and re-cleared it, put some more product on it, finished it, put it back on the car and sent the car off.

Then about 2 months later the customer comes driving back, and he pulled in my driveway and I was like “wow.” I mean this car had bubbled and it was bubbling right in the area where the Bondo™ meets the paint. So I was like “wow, what’s going on here?” And I saw it kind of bubbling around the scoop area as well so I took a putty knife and dug into it and it was lifting from the bottom of the hood. I could get my putty knife completely underneath the paint and pull it off in sheets.

So I studied the area to see what was going on and what I realized  was that the PCL primer sealed the paint and the Bondo™ area. It was only coming up where the painted area was and that tells me that gasses were trapped in there. As the motor would heat up, it would reactivate the paint. So whatever kind of paint they used in etching primer, which looked more like a laquer, was the problem. When it heats up, everything starts to move again and that paint doesn’t fully dry. When I was grinding into it it was kind of gummy, and it looked like the paint was 15 or 20 years old.

What I did to fix this problem was to grind all the paint that I didn’t remove the first time, (which obviously I should have done in the first place.) If I had I never would have had this problem, but then again, I am still learning. Sometimes it’s not good to work over old paint that’s way out dated and that could have a chemical reaction that causes more labor, costs more time, uses more product, not to mention creating an inconvenience for the customer. Hey, let’s do it right the first time.

After removing all the paint on the hood I was able to reverse the process I did the first time and come back and block where I had the Bondo™, 36 grit, and feather it into the metal so I didn’t have a step-up in the Bondo™. I actually removed more material, did a better finish, and I came back in with some PCL Primer, which is the 901Grey. I applied three heavy coats. Then I came back and blocked it with 80 grit—guide coated it first, then blocked it with 80 grit, then I guide coated it again and blocked it with the 150 grit, and guide coat it yet again and block it with 400 grit.

Now I was ready for my base color, which is black, so I’m going to put three coats of black, which I always do. Then I’m going to come over the top of it with a top coat of Transtar—three total coats of Transtar on it.

After doing this for my third time, the third time is the charm, I can almost guarantee that this customer will never have to come back again. I don’t really practice having come backs, I always practice on what works and what doesn’t work and obviously the choice that I made in this project didn’t work just because I was trying to avoid some obstacles. What I realized is that it caused me more obstacles by avoiding those original obstacles.

If you’re working on a panel, and it’s in a heated engine compartment area, and you’re not sure about how old the paint is and whether or not it’s laquer, remove it all! It’s best to start with a bare foundation than to be working on top of somebody else’s work. If you do that you’re taking a chance on having a problem like the one I ran into which then ends up costing you money in the long run. Time is money, we all know that.

I haven’t had this type of reaction come up before (I don’t think ever) since I’ve been using the PCL. With other primers I’ve had reactions but with using the PCL I don’t think I’ve ever had a reaction so I’m attributing the cause of all of this to the old paint, and really a combination of the heat and the old paint, because I did feather up against some old paint on the right fender and I didn’t have a chemical reaction like this. So, between the heat, the old paint, the chemical reaction, and the PCL Primer sealing it and holding it in where it can’t breathe is where we had the lifting problems. So, another tip for what to do and what not to do and hopefully you guys will be able to put this notch under your belt without having to spend the time or the money that I had to spend on re-doing this. I wanted to share it with you because some of the best of us come across these issues and they come back to bite you. I definitely got bit on this one. Three times is the charm as they say, but now, out of mind out of sight. Car looks good, customer’s happy, job’s done right. Still, in my mind I did the job right the first time, but old product came back to bite me,

Lesson learned. Don’t work over old product, strip it down to the bare metal. That’s key, strip it down to the bare metal and start with a clean foundation. That will save you a lot, especially if you’re not using the best primer. PCL Primer is definitely key to saving me a lot of re-work. Great product out there. Thanks to 3M for all the product and support they give me with the sandpapers, all the materials, and all the other companies out there that help me do what I do—we can’t build cars without you.

I’ve got some great stories coming up for next month, I’m going to talk about installing panels without welding, which seems to be a pretty innovative technology to get past that welding point. It’s what’s coming up in the future versus what’s being used now, so you have to make these changes as you’re growing and improving. I’ll talk to you next month, I’ll have some new, cool projects I’m working on.

Visit me at or go to my Rich Evans Designs Facebook page to follow my daily progress on projects I’m working on and what I’m doing and the next cool thing.  You can also see my twitter and facebook feeds from my column section at Alright guys, talk to you next month!

Read 3794 times Last modified on Tuesday, 13 December 2016 23:41