Body and paint-these disciplines are often referred to as black arts, unfathomable for all but a gifted few. The bottom line is that a multitude of procedures and techniques must be performed to come up with a sharp-looking paint job, and it takes skill and experience to perform them. It would take a book to lay out everything that goes into the creationof a top-notch paint job, and many have been written. Something like that is beyond the scope of this article, but what we can do is go over some of the important steps that must be performed to achieve success; we've also picked the minds of some industry experts for information that will help you come up with great paint, whether you're paying to have the job done or tackling the task yourself.
The very first thing to consider, of course, is what you want. "It all depends on what the customer wants to pay for," says Jeremiah Becker of Studio Auto Body in Burbank, California. And that, of course, covers a broad range. Paint jobs at outfits like Earl Scheib and Maaco start out at just a few hundred bucks. And something like that may do the trick for you. "Those guys are excellent at spraying," says Tom Prewitt of Resurrection Hot Rods and Customs in Fullerton, California. "They spray 20 cars a day." On the other hand-and we'll discuss this more later-the material usually isn't very good. Prewitt recommends upgrading the material if you can. "They just do a quick sand and paint, so if you take the car apart yourself and scuff up the hard-to-reach areas, you'll get a paint job that's not too bad. It's not what we do, though."
A single-stage paint job like the one Studio performed on our cover car is in the 10 grand range. "There's $1,000 there just in materials," says Robert Becker. "The gallon of paint alone is $400." The rest is all the body filler, sandpaper, tape and masking paper, primer, and most importantly, the man-hours needed to get the car ready for paint. And that's not counting the multiple patch panels that were needed on this car to exorcise the devil rust. At Resurrection, where custom work is the norm, Prewitt says the tab, going from bare metal to paint, is more in the $15-20k range. And at D&P Classic Chevy, where 75 percent of the paint jobs are done as part of a frame-off restoration, you can easily get into 25-30 large on parts, then another 30-40 thousand on labor, which includes paint and body. Again, it all depends on what you want-and what you want to pay for.
On the other hand, what if you want to do it yourself? The first question to ask is, are your skills up to creating the type of paint job you want? And that begins with the bodywork. Our favorite Chevys are often 30 to 50 years old, so rust damage is often an issue, and panel replacement isn't a job to be taken lightly.
"If you cheap out on your paint job and you're not happy with it," says Darryl Nance of D&P, "you'll just get disillusioned and sell the car." None of us want that. The lesson here is to do your research, take your time, and get the job done right. This is our contribution to the process, with the hope that you'll come out with a great-looking Chevy at the end of it.
What goes into prepping and painting a vintage chevy?
There's a lot to keep straight, but the payoff is an eye-catching coat of paint.
Affordable to out-of-control for a custom or body-off paint job