Primer gray is fine for those with dysfunctional taste palettes, but some enthusiasts demand more pleasing aesthetics. Thank goodness. Unfortunately, while there are only a few ways to do bodywork right, the possibilities for butchering a car while trying to save a few bucks are endless. Requiring artistic ability more than mechanical aptitude, performing high-end bodywork takes decades to master. So instead of attempting to teach an entire art form in a single magazine story, we'll focus on briefly describing common bodywork procedures. Likewise, we'll define some basic terms to help you make better-informed money-spending decisions. In conjunction with the how-to articles elsewhere in this issue, this should help you determine what jobs you can reasonably tackle yourself, what steps should be left to the pros, and what products and services you can skip to keep your budget in check.
For an insider's look at the basics of bodywork, we turned to Rodney Austin of Austin's Collision & Body Works for help. Like most people reading this story, Rodney picked up the art of bodywork out of necessity. He bought a '68 Camaro when he was 12, but obviously didn't have the money to send it to a body shop. Luckily, his neighbor happened to be a bodyman and showed him the ropes. Rodney went to work for him when he turned 14 and opened up his own shop in 1990. With nearly 30 years of experience under his belt, Rodney collects insurance checks for collision repairs to help pay the bills and performs high-end restoration work for fun.
Single Vs. Multi-Stage Paint
"A single-stage paint is applied in one step. Hardeners and reducers are mixed into the paint itself, and the finish comes out shiny to begin with. In a basecoat/clearcoat system, the basecoat is a much thinner paint that yields a very dull, satin finish. The clearcoat is applied on top of the basecoat to give the finish its high gloss. There are pros and cons to both paints. A single-stage is a durable paint, less labor intensive to apply, and a bit less expensive, since there is less material involved. The downside is you're really limited in color choices, and there are very few single-stage metallics available. Basecoat/clearcoat paints are more expensive, but offer a far greater selection of colors. Applying multiple stages of clear also allows color-sanding the paint back to like-new condition once it starts showing signs of wear."
A lot of the compounds and polishes you can buy at the auto-parts store are the same stuff used at professional shops.