A Legendary Candy Paint Job On This Special 1959 Thunderbird

Part 1: “Wild Bill” Carter Left a Paint Legacy and an Unfinished Larry Watson Tribute. Here’s How Marcus “Shaky” Sullivan & “PPG Paul” Stoll Honored the Deal

By Chris Shelton    –   Photography by Marcus “Shaky” Sullivan & “PPG Paul” Stoll

The late Bill Carter is a custom painting legend. Standing on the shoulders of giants like his mentor, Larry Watson, “Wild Bill” invented processes and forged styles that evolved to fit countless Funny Cars, boats, choppers, and dragsters over the decades that followed.

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02 Next step will be to put on our spray goggles

When it came to building a cruiser for him and his gal Linda, Carter went to his roots. In 2009, he bought a 1959 Thunderbird and set about building a homage to the Squarebird that defined his mentor’s career about the time they met.

03 Steve Stanford prepared this illustration back in 2009
Steve Stanford prepared this illustration back in 2009. The idea is still a good one.

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Now, if you’re not familiar with Larry Watson’s 1958 Thunderbird, just know this: it wore a generation-defining candied panel paint job over a pearl-metallic base. Carter set out to copy the car, but in his own colors (his Billy Brew, as he famously called them) and with a few of his own techniques.

04 Sullivan masked off the areas that stayed white with 1 ½ inch and ¾ inch masking tape
Sullivan masked off the areas that stayed white with 1-½-inch and ¾-inch masking tape, then followed with 1/8- and 1/4-inch FBS vinyl tapes in orange (straights and loose curves) and green (tight curves).

Unfortunately, Carter died before he got the time to finish the car. Marcus “Shaky” Sullivan, a hard-core Carter fan, got the great fortune to buy the master’s personal, well … masterpiece. There was only one catch: He had to finish the job.

05 Sullivan cleaned the existing finish with OneChoice SWX350 H2O So Clean waterborne cleaner
Sullivan cleaned the existing finish with OneChoice SWX350 H2O-So-Clean waterborne cleaner. He then wiped down the car with a tack cloth before spraying a light coat of OneChoice SX103 Multi-Prep cleaner.

To be fair, finish probably isn’t the right word. The only paint Carter applied to the car was on its top. “And that wasn’t salvageable,” Sullivan and  Carter’s friend Paul Stoll says. “So, Shaky had to re-spray it.”

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06 Tinting the ground coat (primer) close to the finish color improves coverage
Tinting the ground coat (primer) close to the finish color improves coverage. Sullivan tinted this coat with 75 parts of EHP T400 white toner and 25 parts of T443 violet toner. He reduced it by 20 percent with T494 reducer, and to toughen the finish for future overspray and tape removal added 10 percent T492 adjuster and 5 percent of T493 modifier.

The lack of paint on a car built by a guy who revolutionized paint really isn’t as bad as it seems. It’s because Carter, like other emotionally secure innovators, shared his knowledge and techniques with his protégés and peers. And Stoll is one of those lucky beneficiaries.

07 Using a SATA gun with a 1 2 tip Sullivan shot everything but the top with two coats of Vibrance Radiance Base
Using a SATA gun with a 1.2 tip, Sullivan shot everything but the top with two coats of Vibrance Radiance Base 51180 toughened with T492/T493. It’s a chunky-metallic violet that Carter chose as the foundation for his Billy Brew Purple Candy paint. He improved good color consistency by lowering the gun pressure, increasing the gun distance, and spraying a control coat with a 75 percent overlap.

You could call Stoll a professional bearer of so-called secret tricks: he’s a training-facility manager at PPG where he teaches professionals like Sullivan how to properly use the company’s products. “I met [Sullivan] when he attended a custom paint class,” he says. It was PPG’s Basic Lowrider Designs course. “He showed up for class with his pinstriping kit and a Carter airbrushed shirt.”

08 Sullivan mixed VWM5556 waterborne midcoat clear with the T492 T493 and T494 combo almost all PPG paint products
Sullivan mixed VWM5556 waterborne midcoat clear with the T492, T493, and T494 combo. The one wet coat he laid down protects the violet base coat for subsequent taping, cleaning, and recoating.

At the outset of the project, Carter had his best pal Steve Stanford render his ideas on paper. Sullivan and Stoll reverse-engineered the graphics where they could; wherever they couldn’t, they came up with things that Carter probably would’ve done. “Lucky for me, [Carter] and I did some custom paintwork with PPG Envirobase, and we were in the slow process of starting on the T-bird,” Stoll says. “That’s what happens when we get old; you slow down!”

09 Sullivan masked off a secondary panel pattern a few inches within the purple area
After the waterborne midcoat dried for a few hours, Sullivan masked off a secondary panel pattern a few inches within the purple area. He fogged two coats along that line with VWM500, a solvent-borne midcoat designed to go over the company’s Envirobase waterborne basecoats. It uses VH 7780 hardener and D8767 reducer. Tinting it with 10 percent DMX220 Cobalt Blue turns it into the translucent component in Billy Brew Purple Candy paint.

Masking 102: Perfect-Fit Masking Wheels For Painting in Minutes

Fact: Masking wheels for painting and tires from overspray sucks almost as much as removing overspray from unmasked wheels and tires. And while those cloth wheel masking bags are great when new, they trap dust, and you never seem to have enough to protect all jobs. But Stoll and Sullivan taught us a low-cost, low-effort trick.

10 five more coats of the Billy Brew Purple Candy over the entire purple area
Sullivan removed the masking tape after the fog coat flashed for 10 minutes. Then he shot five more coats of the Billy Brew Purple Candy paint over the entire purple area. The whole area emerges a deep purple, but the two first coats fogged in along the tape come out even darker. It’s a subtle contrast, but don’t confuse subtle with weak.

The secret is poly-lined masking paper. When wet, it conforms to nearly any shape; once it dries out, it stays in place without even tape to hold it. Just soak a piece of 36-inch paper, wring it out, and wrap the tires. Pitching it when you’re done reduces the risk of blowing this job’s dust all over the next one.

11 Sullivan masked the purple with FPS masking tape
Sullivan masked the purple with FPS masking tape. Note that he lays the roll on its side to make it better conform around corners without stretching. This prevents the tape from lifting.

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In the spirit of preserving traditions, he and Sullivan are showing us what products they used and how they used them, right down to the mixing ratios and coat counts. And our gratitude goes to Kenny’s Rod Shop for hosting the event (Sullivan flaked and veiled the top at home in his garage). For this and next month they’ll walk us through exactly how they got what they got. And as you’ll see, they got a lot done! MR

12 Spraying the graphics adjacent to the base coat instead of over it saves materials and eliminates the unsightly steps
He spanned the tape with masking film. Note the absence of wrinkles. These are known dust traps. Spraying the graphics adjacent to the base coat instead of over it saves materials and eliminates the unsightly steps that often arise from spraying complex graphics. We’ll follow up next month with his techniques for the rest of the body and the roof.
13 How to make wheel covers
How to make wheel covers when you paint a car. You get the masking paper wet so it will conform to the tire and stay in place, even when it dries it holds that shape. An old school, Carter-era trick.
14 We now have our tire wheel covers in place keeping paint off of the combo
It’s ideal to elevate the car to a level that makes it easier for you, the painter, to spray the rocker panels, the wheel well openings, and to perform a better masking job. We now have our tire/wheel covers in place, keeping paint off of the combo.

Sources

Kenny’s Rod Shop
kennysrodshop.com

PPG Refinish
us.ppgrefinish.com

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