What sort of paint should you use on your restoration project?

The most expensive brand you can afford! Seriously, although quality paint is frighteningly expensive, in comparison to the amount of time and money invested in a full restoration it’s relatively small. Cheap paint really is false economy. If you have to pull the car apart in a year or two for a redo because the paint failed it would be an utter disaster and anything you can do to avoid that possibility is worth doing. There are so many things that can go wrong with a full paint job that you want to stack the odds in your favour as much as possible and quality paint is a great way to do this.

I use PPG at The Classic Factory, it’s quality paint and I feel confident using it. There are lots of great brands out there though. Look at the signs on high end panel shops as you drive by them and start remembering the brand names. Also ask at your local paint supply house but make sure you ask for the premium paint.

Now, what type of paint should you use?

Disclaimer, there are serious health and legal issues with using automotive paint. I paint inside a very expensive, certified spray booth with a filtered fresh air breathing system. Anything less than that is probably dangerous and may be illegal… I’m not suggesting this as a guide to do it yourself but as a way of being more educated when you talk to whoever is going to paint your car. And in the end you’re probably just going to go with whatever they recommend!

Acrylic lacquer is the old favourite standby and when it’s properly applied and polished nothing beats the look of it. It is nowhere near as durable as modern two pack however and it’s getting harder to find. It also has more of a tendency to stone chip as it’s more brittle than two pack. The big problem is the acrylic undercoats, they’re very porous and soak up water like a sponge. This can have terrible effects on your paintwork down the road. It is possible to use 2 pack undercoats but it needs to be done carefully to ensure good adhesion.

Modern two pack is probably the way to go and what I use on most of my restorations. Two pack refers to any paint that has a hardener in it but in most instances when people refer to 2 pack they mean urethane paint. It’s great stuff, durable, tough, glossy and full of modern technology. However, it’ll kill you real fast if you don’t use the proper PPE, it can be finicky to use and if you’re not careful it can have a really textured ”fat’ look to it.

Most of our jobs are colour sanded and buffed. This gives it that flat, glossy look and gives a finish very comparable to Acrylic lacquer. After it’s dried properly we sand it completely flat with pretty coarse paper (anything from 600 – 1500 depending on the finish we’re looking for) before working up through the grits to 3000 or 5000 before buffing and polishing. It’s extremely labour intensive, just when you think you’re finished the paint job you have to sand the entire car another 4 – 8 times before a 2 – 4 step polishing process. It’s slow and expensive but so worth it for the look!

Clear coat or not?

You have two options with 2 pack paint. Single stage or Direct Gloss (DG), where the colour has the gloss built in or Base Coat Clear coat (COB or Clear Over Base) where the colour is one product and then the clear goes over the top to give it the gloss.

There’s advantages and disadvantages either way but to be honest there’s not much in it. Some people say DG has a more authentic look and it’s certainly closer to what your car was probably sprayed in originally but COB has more UV protection and makes touching up and blending easier. If the colour you choose is metallic you must use COB, otherwise it’s whatever you and your painter prefer. UV protection probably isn’t as big of an issue as you think as most of these cars don’t spent that much time sitting in the sun!

Hopefully that gives you a bit more info next time you’re looking at painting a car.