There are many things that separate an average Corvette from the standout cars that make people turn their heads and take notice. The overall paint finish ranks right up at the top of what counts when it comes to the visual statement that speaks loudest. No matter how worthy your machine might be in other qualities, it's the paintwork that makes the first impression, whether rolling down the road or under scrutiny on the show field. In fact, often the key feature a car is judged by is the appearance of the paint. How often is a car described disparagingly as a 20-footer, meaning that it might look good from 20 feet away, but falls short under closer scrutiny?
A fine paint job shows the level of craftsmanship as it is approached for a closer look. While the 20-footer might be a disappointment as you get closer and see the flaws, blemishes, and shoddiness of the paint, a great paint job will only draw admirers in. It takes a dedication to quality and an uncompromising eye for detail to achieve a fantastic show-quality paintjob, and that starts from step one-the body.
|Anyone’s Project: no tools required||1 Wrench|
|Beginner: basic tools||2 Wrenches|
|Experienced: special tools||3 Wrenches|
|Accomplished: special tools and outside help||4 Wrenches|
|Professionals Only: send this work out||5 Wrenches|Get Professional Help or DIY?
One of the early decisions...
One of the early decisions that will need to be made is the level of disassembly for paint. At a minimum, the trim and easily removable items should come off, but a really detailed job will require considerable disassembly.
One of the first things to contemplate when staring at your Corvette project and dreaming about perfect paint is what, if anything, you will tackle yourself. Here it's important to take into account your previous experience and level of skill, the equipment at hand, and perhaps most importantly, your own level of perseverance. Make no mistake, body restoration and paint is one of the most labor-intensive endeavors you'll ever encounter, and messy work at that. Expert paint and bodywork is very expensive, and it's tempting to save some of that costly work with a little (or a lot) of sweat-equity. However, it is also all too easy to get in over your head, or end up with results that fall far short of your dream of that fantastic paintjob. We've known do-it-yourself auto hobbyists that have succeeded in major body panel replacement and repair, and taken the project to completion with stunning paintwork, all in their own garages. We've also seen enthusiastic but botched attempts at the same that resulted in perpetually unfinished projects, and more work for the professionals that finally took over. What's important here is to be realistic in qualifying your own skill levels when deciding whether to tackle some aspects of a paint project, or just turn it over to the pros.
The more a car is taken apart,...
The more a car is taken apart, the more detailed the final product. Removing the doors, weatherstrip, and all the trim up here will allow a perfect finish in the jamb areas that would be impossible with the doors in place.
The overwhelming majority of domestic vehicles relied on stamped steel body structures, while the Corvette body has always been manufactured from composite fiberglass material. This material takes a whole different set of rules when it comes to every level of repair and prep in comparison to a more common steel vehicle. Fiberglass is far softer, and unlike steel, it breathes, while reacting to chemicals and solvents differently. Steel will dent like a tin can, while 'glass will shatter and crack. The hammers, dollies, torches, and welders of a typical bodyman's toolbox are useless when considering Corvette repair. In their stead are techniques of fiberglass layup, cutting, and bonding. The bottom line here is there are auto bodymen, and there are Corvette bodymen. While there certainly are some very talented individuals out there with the skills to handle both, for the most part when considering having work done to your Corvette, it pays to seek out those who specialize in our plastic-bodied machines.
Whether you plan on taking on the whole task of painting your car yourself, or placing it in the experienced hands of an expert, it's worthwhile to understand exactly what's involved in getting the job done. We'll go through all of the major steps in taking a car through the body and paint process, from beginning to end.
Stripping paint will remove...
Stripping paint will remove the previous built-up or damaged paint and bring the car down to the 'glass for a sound foundation to build on. Chemical paint strippers are the most popular means of stripping Corvettes, but be careful to use a material that is safe for fiberglass.
Sanding can also be employed...
Sanding can also be employed to strip paint, but beware that it will bite into the soft body panels just as easily. As can be seen to the left, the sander will break through the paint unevenly. Operator skill is a vital ingredient if contemplating using an air sander.
Once the paint is stripped,...
Once the paint is stripped, the real panel inspection can begin. Paint can hide a variety of previous repairs, such as the 'glassed-over lower fender here.