Project Pieces and Parts - Paint
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by: Terry L. Howe

Painting the flat fender
The finished product

Anyone will tell you that the key to a good paint job is the prep work. Body work on a Jeep is something you need to strike a delicate balance between looking good and not wasting a lot of time. I wasn't building this Jeep to be a show truck and I knew I'd be scratching and denting the body before too long anyway. I probably ended up spending too much time on the prep work. It is hard not to get carried away, but the results were excellent.

This Jeep was a real challenge to paint because every piece of metal was bent or rusted through, but it is only a Jeep. Jeeps have relatively little metal body to begin with, there's no roof! Jeeps also have mostly flat panels and simple curves.

I'd spent the past four years driving a beater and for the most part it is a lot of fun. I could wheel with reckless abandon, but I was getting tired of having such an ugly Jeep. The plan with this Jeep was to make it good looking, but easy to repair.

A solution to the maintainability was to chose a color I could easy get touch up paint for. In the past, I'd picked odd-ball colors that I liked, but I couldn't touch up scratches because I couldn't find any touch up paint that was close. I'd also gone the rattle can path in the past and I wasn't happy with the color selection, price, or the durability of the finish. I decided to chose a color from a new model so I could easily get touch up paint, the color I chose was the new Jeep Chili Pepper Pearl Metalic. I loved the color the first time I saw a TJ painted this color.

From past experience, I knew I wasn't the neatest painter in the world. I tend to lay it on too heavy which causes sagging, etc. I enrolled the help of Roger Wild, a friend of mine who has done a lot of painting in the past. Since Roger was going to shoot it, I asked him to choose the type of paint and he chose Dupont Centari.

The Dupont Centari is a bit of an old school paint, it is a one step process, not like newer paints where you shoot color and then clear coat. A good paint just the same and not cheap. Since the flat fender had such a small body and I was only planning on shooting the exterior, I only had two quarts mixed up. The paint with a hardener and some reducer ran me over $140. The primer was extra.

Painting the flat fender
Roger Wild shooting primer in the garage

I wasn't going to shoot the interior since I had already Durabaked the inside and the underside I had already rattle canned black. I rattle canned the underside black to make it more maintainable if I decide to go with a different color in the future.

Painting the Jeep was an all weekend project working a lot of hours. I had some last minute Bondoing, sanding, and masking to do before shooting primer. We also had to set up my garage to shoot the primer in the winter time. I had to provide ventilation and heat to keep the temperature within specification for the primer.

Wet Sanding

After the primer was shot and allowed to dry for a while, it was time to begin the wet sanding. Wet sanding is crucial to providing a smooth finish that will shine. I wanted a shine, but not a show car shine, so I only used 400 grit for the wet sanding.

Shooting Color

When the wet sanding was complete, we loaded up the tub and other body parts on my pickup truck and brought them over to a paint booth I had rented for the final coat. The paint booth was completely ventilated and clean for shooting the final coat to reduce the chance of dust settling on the wet paint.

We set up all the body parts in the paint booth and I was light boy while Roger shot color. The paint booth did have lighting, but not enough for Roger's tastes, so I followed him around with a halogen flood lamp. It was amazing to see the color after months and months of body work. The finish was outstanding and the color rich.


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