Looking Back at Some Backyard Bodywork and Paint

By: Alex Vendler

Now that everyone has at least gotten a glance at the Starletabusa project I will be building a time machine and going back to the days before I painted the car and giving a tour of how that process took place.  Painting a car is one of the most complex and difficult projects a DIY warrior can take on.  People are used to near perfect factory paint jobs so an amateur one really sticks out.  In a bad way.  To make matters worse there is a good amount of special equipment required to do bodywork and it's not interchangeable with the usual set of tools a home wrench-head would have.  One also needs a clean, controllable, preferably indoor space to work in and then there's the time required.  Cubic yards of time.  Sikorsky Sky Crane payloads of time.  Did I mention you need a lot of time?

First off, let's take a quick tour of the mess I made on my car and then it will be easy to do a better job now that these mistakes have been exposed and explained.  As I mentioned in the Starletbusa introduction article the car had a pretty good number of small dings and dents as well as some previously repaired sections that still needed work.  It also had a 5 piece fiberglass body kit that was in really sad shape due to several poor installation jobs on multiple cars in the past.  In short this car would require a little bit of every kind of bodywork method to make it right again. 

When the car came to me the flares were on it but the stock fenders were still sitting underneath untouched.  In the rear the stock fender lips were cutting into the tires on every bump.  This unwanted contact had also bent the rear quarter panels as well.  The solution was to cut out the quarter panels and inner fender wells to allow the tire and wheel combo that the flares were designed for to actually fit on the car.  No problem right?  Err.  Not so fast.  The inner fender well and the quarter panel come together right at the wheel opening in a seam that forms the fender lip.  If one cuts the quarter panel out to work with the flares there is now a hole to the interior of the car that needs to be filled.


Here you can see the new sheet metal that I added (the wedge shaped piece in the first photo) to the inner fender well in order to fill the gap left behind by trimming the outer panel.  The new metal was welded in and the seams were then sealed with a body panel putty designed for the job (More on all the special products needed for paint and boy work in a bit.).  This process of "half tubbing" the rear fenders gives me ton of room for any imaginable tire size or ride height combination in the future.  Believe it or not the picture below actually shows the clearance with the suspension at ride height!



Up front it's much the same situation except there was no inner fender well so just cutting the fender did the job.  Again, lots of room for any tire/wheel/ride height combo.  The photo below show the suspension at full droop but even fully compressed there is a ton of room for anything I want by way of wheels and tires.  It turns out that a regular jigsaw was the best tool for cutting the fenders and inner wells.  With a extra fine tooth blade a jigsaw is a good way to cut sheetmetal.  Hearing protection is a must though as the ringing sound while cutting is deafening.



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Monday, January 16, 2012 8:34 AM
What did you use to line the over fenders? The black trim around the outside is what I'm talking about. I always see fender flares put on and think they would look a lot better with the trim.
Alex Vendler
Alex Vendlerlink
Monday, January 16, 2012 8:40 AM
That moulding is from the flares on '80's Supras. Toyota also uses the same stuff on Tacoma "Pre Runner" fenders. Avail at the dealer or junkyard. I went junkyard FTW!
Monday, January 16, 2012 9:01 AM
Also for that fender welting (trim) with a steady hand and a caulking gun you can use black silicon. use the stuff made for outdoors use, cut the tip really small and at a slight angle and keep a damp sponge near by to smooth out any little wrinkles you create..

it takes practice but it's a thing of beauty when done properly.. it's a hot rod guy trick
Monday, January 16, 2012 10:59 AM
Cool, thanks for the info! I also notice it on the RWB cars. It just makes the car look complete. Details!
Monday, January 16, 2012 4:47 PM
For others that are looking to do a home paintjob, prep is 90% of the job. Do yourself a favor and get a long flexible sanding block for getting panels that won't wave back at you. They have some stiffening rods you can insert depending on if you're working on hoods or fenders.

Also, when shooting paint, you can make a ghetto spraybooth with a 1x2x12 pine strips and plastic drop sheets. Make yourself a nice cube to contain you, your car, and your mess.
Home Despot has/had some nice stick-on zippers you can use for spraybooth entry after you've made a nice cleanroom for your painting job. If you want to avoid having dust in places the son doesn't shine in your garage or workspace, the ghetto baby incubator or boy-in-a-bubble space is highly recommended.

***IMPORTANT***So you don't snuff yourself, rig up positive ventilation with some WalMart box fans and some matching HVAC paper air filters. You can set the intake fan on Hi and the exhaust fan on Low if you want positive ventilation (air pressure inside higher - keeps the outside crap out, makes the bottom edges of your tent flutter if you don't tape them down.) Exhaust on Hi/Intake on low for negative ventilation if you want to keep the body filler dust and crap on the inside of the tent.

I built a kit car and refinished the roof of a friend's truck with this setup.

Last tip is to paint the hard-to-reach details like windshield wiper cowlings, insides of door jambs and hatch lids on the first few coats before moving to the main flat surfaces like fenders, hoods, doors, and rear hatch. This will ensure all the details are covered and the paint flashes before you go for the money coats...

Enjoy body-work monkeys!

"Curious George is now Furious George"
Tuesday, January 17, 2012 10:16 PM
Something else DIYers might want to consider is what is in the paint they are shooting. If Isocyanides or anythingcyanide is in the mix seriously consider finding a legit positive air pressure mask if you value some of those internal organs.

There are some paints like lacquer and acrylic enamel without hardeners that won't have the cynanide. The downside is they might not hold up as well in the long term. The upside is they are cheap to respray with if ever there is a nick or scratch in the paint.
Alex Vendler
Alex Vendlerlink
Saturday, January 21, 2012 8:46 AM
Wow! So many great comments. Man, I wish I could have spoken to you guys before I painted my car. I am happy with the paint job but I could have made it so much better with some of your tips!

This project is a learning experience and so far I have done plenty of that.

Sunday, January 22, 2012 10:17 AM
You got the bulk of it all down really well, they make books on the stuff you covered in a few paragraphs.
Sunday, January 22, 2012 10:18 AM
Oh and the car looks much better, night and day difference!
Monday, April 30, 2012 4:50 PM
Man, I LOVE the project. I'm resurrecting a Suzuki Swift GTi, and after five trips to fastenal, could not find threaded inserts like yours. Any info? proper name? Help would be greatly appreciated. All that old plastic stuff isn't long for this world. Thanks
Alex Vendler
Alex Vendlerlink
Monday, April 30, 2012 6:34 PM
Those inserts are available from mcmaster.com and are called "weld nuts". They also have a wide range of rivet nuts too.

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