Priming

"As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than to create." - Spock

Everything is stripped down to bare basics and you have done the fiberglass repair work. Now what do you do, especially if you have never sprayed a car or handled an air gun before? Easy, contact an old school gearhead. Although I do have a mentor who answers basic questions for me and points me in a general direction via email and phone, nobody is there for the "hands on" help. Also, these questions are normally answered in general terms such as "oh, you need body filler". Nothing specific such as brands or quantity or timetables. Thankfully, my mentor gave me the number of an old hat PPG supplier who is also an old school gearhead. I told him I wanted a complete turnkey solution with everything I needed to get the paint on. He set me up with all the components for high build primer, sealer, and paint. The other items are what I figured out on my own...

The Setup

Costco 20 X 10 tent ($190). HVLP gun and turbine ($450). This tent is a tubular steel frame. I have one box fan pulling air out (as shown) and one fan at the opposite diagonal window screen pushing air in to give me a cross draft. The floor is nothing more than two tarps duct taped together. I got sizes a bit larger than the floor area since I wanted to be able to seal the edges against the tent wall. Gnats and flies are going to be an issue, and I don't want my car to become a mobile piece of amber that seals these pests forever in the media.

HVLP System

I did not want to invest in getting a huge 25+ gallon air tank and associated power circuit breaker, so I took a chance on a newer technology of the HVLP turbine. The Sprayfine A301 compressor is a 3 stage unit and is the most affordable of these types I could find, plus it came with a top loaded gun with changeable nozzles. Note how small the actual turbine is in the previous tent exterior shot. The only big negative is that the web has almost no information on this unit used in automotive (except one youtube video of someone painting their car without even prepping it... garbage in garbage out). None the less, I took a chance and order it anyhow.

High Build Primer

This stuff is called Z-Chrome (sorry, took the picture after I already used it). Went through two gallons of the stuff. The pot life (how long it takes before it solidifies in your gun cup) was supposed to be around 6-8 hours, but it solidified in mine in less than 2 hours, so DO NOT STORE IT even between coats in your gun! I had to strip my gun bare, and the stupid little U joint going to the cup doesn't come apart, took me an hour just to dig the stuff out of that piece. Make small batches, and after each batch, run about half a dixie cup of lacquer thinner through the gun to clear it out.

The Parts

Remember that I stripped the major components off my car. Had to find creative ways to suspend them at an angle. For the hood I used bungie cords to suspend it from a step ladder. For the top cover thingie I used a saw horse (and bungies...). The doors were too heavy to bungie, so from scrap wood I made easel stands. Be creative. Per photos here, once the stuff is put on (thick, two or three coats) it dries to an orange peel texture as shown (yes, it is supposed to be irregular, not a flaw in the application...).

The Car

Have to have the gun 6 to 8 inches away while spraying, so here is just a couple of side and rear views of the space I have to work with while painting around the car. Something I hadn't figured on was how to get the air hose around the car when it in the process of being painted. Note the elevated entry point of the air hose from the outside of the tent. I would hold the hose up with one arm high above the car while spraying with the other. This is not easy. I learned that I could, if careful, drape the hose over the passenger compartment without touching any thing. Even so, I got careless once and the hose touched the one side, messing up the application in one area that I then had to redo later on a subseqent coat. The wheels I had to mask, so this is nothing more than a garbage bag with a slit cut down the middle of the back side. It then just slips over, and tucks underneath and behind. I should patent this! The engine compartment is covered with a tarp and paper wads.

Sanding

This actually wasn't as bad as I expected. Get a cheap can of black primer, stand back a couple of feet from the parts, and spray a misting over them. This is your guide coat. Next, I got out 120 grit paper and wet sanded. I have two blocks and a sponge (that I cover with the sand paper for curved areas). Did a light back and forth with the long block. Working carefully so as not to scratch or dig too aggressively, sand until almost all the black is gone. I then switched to 320 grit and went over everything to smooth the finish out. On the picture with the water hose on it, notice the darker areas. This is where the block sanding almost made it down to the fiberglass. If you hit the fiberglass, that means you didn't put on a thick enough coating of the high build primer. Either stop at this point and spray on more coats of the high build, or fudge things and just continue around the area with a sponge sanding. Thankfully, I was good all the way around and did not have to do either.

Sealing

The PPG guy showed me several different painted layers on a test white card and it scared me a bit, since even after the 6th layer on the card, the shade boundaries were definitely evident. Out of ignorance, I asked him if the final epoxy sealer was available in black. He looked at me like I had worms coming out of my nose. When I explained to him that this being my first time and unfamiliar with placing a standardized coat thickness, black might be a bit more forgiving since the dark color of Brands Hatch Green might not show gradation as much since it would be actually making the background epoxy primer a tad "lighter" on each subsequent coat. He agreed. Black it was. This stuff went on similar to what you might expect from "platic dip". It was thin, but after application and drying, it gave the same rubbery texture to the touch. And, try not to touch... before application of the paint, go over with Windex to get rid of any contamination.