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GLOSS FOR LESS DOSH Published: 28th Aug 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Repainting costs are usually eye-wateringly steep but here Rob Marshall extols the virtue of self-preparation re-sprays plus we explore alternatives

Even though I knew that it was sound fundamentally, its scruffy top-coat led most people to believe that my £175 Dolomite was fit for the scrap-heap. Sadly, environmental directives and increased material costs have ended the era of £100 repaints but, when the time came to juggle the finances of our wedding, several years ago, I reasoned with the future Mrs M that her hire car budget would be better ‘invested’, by treating my tatty daily driver to a smart new coat. Amazingly, she agreed to my cunning plan.

As I had found out before, it is possible to achieve a good finish on the cheap, without cracking open a tin of Dulux and unwrapping the paint brushes. As most of a paintshop’s invoice is for labour charges, you can save a fortune, by doing the main preparation work at home. Yet, as oil, grease and silicone are sworn enemies of a successful repaint, finish all mechanical work, before starting the ‘prep’.

Like most professional sprayers, I am neither a fan of cellulose, nor single-pack coatings. Not only are they more prone to reacting but two pack (2K) paint is also more durable, even though its lethal ingredients should dissuade any DIY sprayers from applying it at home. Thankfully, the 1990’s antipathy towards using 2K top-coats on classics appears to have waned.

Consider that extras will increase the cost, such as a colour change, or a metallic finish. It is worth paying a little more for removing the glazing (if possible) and painting the door shuts. As second-hand doors replaced the terminally rotten and dented panels of my car, I had their undersides repainted too, because I would never have been forgiven, if dirt marked a £1,500 wedding dress!


Addressing deteriorated paint can only start, once the body is stripped of its trim and any welding and de-rusting is finalised. £100 should finance the consumables you need, including fine-grade Scotch-Brite pads that are very useful for accessing tight angles. Beware of high-street suppliers that sell high-priced but low-quality abrasives, presumably to finance their shareholders’ dividends. Choose professional grade items instead, which need not cost any more, and buy them either from your bodyshop, or its supplier, many of which are small businesses that are situated in larger towns. Do not forget classic car paint specialists either, plus there are some bargains to be had on dedicated paint supplier stands at autojumbles but ensure that the products are of a decent quality. A good indicator is wet-and-dry sandpaper does not snap, when folded.

At all stages of the paintwork process, I found that ‘feeling’ for high, or low spots, was far more effective than using sight. Reduce the quantities of filler, by knocking out any dents first but do not use metal-impregnated types; they are harder to sand, which might cause a lump to be visible beneath the top-coat. After filling, I flatted the paintwork with 320-grit wet-and-dry sandpaper, ensuring that any filler and edges of old paint layers were feathered as much as possible. Although a rubber block is vital, a thinner, rubber squeegee was used for light panel curvatures and the professional blocks, made by 3M, are inexpensive.

Aerosol cans of etch primer are useful, to cover any bare metal, but are expensive at around £10 each. Always refit any MoT testable items, such as lights, mirrors and glass, before driving to the spray-shop. In our case, the paint-shop permitted me to remove both doors and glass on arrival but the sprayer completed the final processes, including the masking and degreasing operations. A three-litre kit of good-quality filler primer (costing approximately £45) was sufficient for the Dolomite and, after it had cured, I reassembled the Triumph and drove it home the following day.


If not done so already, apply a light dusting of dark-coloured aerosol paint, over the primer, to act as a guide coat. Block-sand the primer, using 500-600 grit wet-and-dry (800 if metallic finish). If you use your bare hands, instead of the rubber blocks, your palms and fingers will exert uneven pressure and you are likely to create small channels, which will be visible through the top coat. While I use water and wipe it away afterwards, some of the latest abrasives can be used dry but do wear a mask, to protect your lungs from the paint dust. Your aim is to remove all traces of guide-coat, without rubbing through the filler primer completely, otherwise your bodyshop will have to apply additional coats. Do not be tempted to apply another type of filler primer at home, because you will increase the risk of the top-coat reacting.

It took three weeks, until I felt that the Dolomite was ready to be reunited with the sprayer. As with the primer stage, be prepared to pay the bodyshop’s labour rate to mask up and perform the final preparation touches, prior to the top coat being mixed and applied. The Dolomite’s boxy body took four litres of high-quality paint, which cost £90.

In my car’s case, the extra time and effort was rewarded with a glossy finish. Fortunately, the bodyshop allowed me to refit the windscreens (with new rubbers), on-site, before I drove the car home.

While the total cost of £420 (add another £100 for today’s price hikes), hardly makes the exercise the cheapest option, consider that more than that outlay has been added to the car’s value, a point that remains applicable for similar entry-level classic cars.

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