Inflatable Spray Booth Makes it Easier To Paint Like a Pro

Is a Summit Racing DIY Paint Job Worth It?

By Gerry Burger – Photography By the Author

Paint and bodywork are two of the most important aspects of building a hot rod. While these two words strike fear in the hearts of many, today there are new tools like inflatable car spray booths and HVLP spray guns, that make the process more doable. Like most things, everything required to do bodywork is available on the Internet. Things that are not yet available via mail order include patience and desire. If you have a supply of those two things, you can produce a high-quality paint job at home.

02 The black panels at the end of the inflatable spray booth are “air in” while the two large black panels are “air out”
Note our work horses are wrapped in fresh masking tape to ensure they are clean. The black panels at the end of the inflatable spray booth are “air in” while the two large black panels are “air out.” Note the Summit rolling rack on the left holding the inner fender panels. Plastic panels allow ample light.
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When it came time to do the bodywork and paint on our 1936 Ford Phaeton we used Summit Racing brand materials. The reasoning was simple: quality products, fast delivery, and the price is attractive, too. We used all Summit Racing materials, from their Autobody Filler to the finish primer. We also used their house brand dry sandpapers, while the finish wet sandpaper was 3M and USC brands. Over the years it has been our experience that using materials from the same manufacturer eliminates compatibility problems.

Read more: Clayton Machine Works Provides an Aluminum Trim Solution

03 Our last prep is a wipe down with Summit Surface Wash
Our last prep is a wipe down with Summit Surface Wash (PN SUM-UP403Q). This is like a prep solvent but evaporates faster and is now our favorite paint preparation solvent. Use lint-free rags, and a tack cloth is also a good idea.

We touched on the fabricating, filling, and priming of our panels in previous tech pieces, now it’s time for the glory…we’re going to lay down the color in a basic, non-metallic, single-stage urethane car paint. We simply picked the color from the fleet color samples at our local autobody supply store and had them mix up 1-1/2 gallons of the PPG Delfleet Essential Urethane. (The guy behind the counter told us, “You’re gonna love this stuff,” and he wasn’t kidding.)

04 We were able to roll our 1936 Ford Phaeton into the inflatable booth for painting
By unzipping the entire door of the inflatable spray booth, we were able to roll our 1936 Ford Phaeton into the booth for painting. Painting urethane car paint without a booth brings all kinds of problems; a clean environment is a must.
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The process of laying down the final finish has gotten easier yet at the same time the process has become more complicated. With the new HVLP spray guns (high volume, low pressure) (Editor’s note: Burger considers anything developed in the past 40 years “new.”) there is less overspray, so more of the paint goes on the panel and less into the air. The days of lowering the garage door down on a couple of window fans and spraying lacquer are behind us. The fast flash time of lacquer made it possible to paint in any garage by simply covering your toolboxes and such. The downside to modern urethane car paints is the flash time is slow enough that you must spray in a clean environment, preferably filtered air, and the overspray sticks to everything, so extensive covering is required. We have seen garages converted into makeshift spray booths with varying degrees of sophistication and success (or lack thereof) and they produced successful paintjobs.

05 We used PPG Delfleet Essential paint with the proper hardener (thinner) and catalyst
We used PPG Delfleet Essential paint with the proper hardener (thinner) and catalyst. Mixing to the manufacturer’s specification ensures good results. We picked our blue color from the fleet color swatches.

Read more: How To Make Custom Headlights For Your Hot Rod

We were considering such a homebrewed booth when we stumbled across the inflatable spray booth. Think of it as a “bouncy house” for hot rodders of all ages. We were amazed when we first saw them and pleased that they are somewhat affordable. At under $700 you have an inflatable car spray booth large enough for a 1936 Ford Phaeton. The booth comes complete with a floor, so it truly is a clean environment. Now, adding that amount of money to your DIY car paint job may seem like a deal breaker, but we fully expect to sell the booth for half-price, so now we’re talking less than $400 per paint job. If you plan on painting several cars the inflatable spray booth quickly pays for itself. The quality of the finish makes this a worthwhile investment.

06 When it came time to lay down the final finish, we used this Summit HVLP spray gun
When it came time to lay down the final finish, we used this Summit HVLP spray gun (PN SUM-918069). We would classify this a midrange-priced gun, a step above but still affordable. We were thrilled with the way it worked. It also pays to have a spray gun holder (PN APT-GFH1000) on hand for the HVLP guns; that is also available from Summit.

Our shop has a large air compressor suitable for painting an entire car with an inline filter and evaporator to keep the air clean and dry. I also have a well-maintained, 30-year-old Sharpe spray gun. However, the last time I used it there were some issues with it and so I decided to step up to a new spray gun. Now, true confessions, time is catching up to me, so this will be my last full paint job. Because of that, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on a spray gun, but I also didn’t trust a super cheap gun. After some research I opted for a Summit HVLP spray gun (PN SUM-02-40001) with the 1.4mm tip and an aluminum cup. I had my expensive but aged professional-grade gun on standby in case the new gun didn’t measure up. Well, I could not have been more pleased with the Summit Racing HVLP spray gun. I sprayed some reducer through the gun first and it took virtually no adjustment other than air pressure. With a thorough cleaning after each use this gun performed flawlessly. We cannot stress how important it is to do a thorough cleaning immediately after spraying. Catalyzed urethane car paint will harden in all the wrong places, so clean the gun and cup thoroughly and change the small filter in the bottom of the cup. Using a dedicated spray gun cleaner and a cleaning kit will ensure good results.

07 We did the Phaeton fenders and small parts first
We did the Phaeton fenders and small parts first and between the new spray gun, quality paint, and a clean, dirt-free environment we laid down a superclean paint job.
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In preparation for the finished paint, we did something odd—we followed the PPG Delfleet paint manufacturer’s directions. While some folks are finishing sanding panels to 600-grit, the directions said sand to 320-grit. We were doubtful, so we first did the taillights and other small panels as a test and sure enough we had a perfect topcoat. No work scratches.

Read more: Coming Unhinged by Removing Vintage Hot Rod Door Hinge Pins

08 We use this rolling rack from Summit Racing for all our painting needs
Hanging parts is a great way to ensure you get complete coverage. Having the parts at eye level also makes laying down a nice, even coat easier. We use this rolling rack from Summit Racing (PN SUM-918069) for all our painting needs.

Today, mixing the final finish paint is a precise process, and once again following the PPG Delfleet paint instructions is imperative. This involves using mixing cups, filtering the paint, and using reducers that are appropriate for the spraying temperatures. The Delfleet Essential Urethane car paint is a three-part paint, the reducer is called a hardener, and the third ingredient is the catalyst. New urethane paints are incredibly durable and lay down nicely with the proper spray equipment, the proper clean air pressure, and a dust-free environment. It is important to spend time properly hanging parts and placing them on work horses so you can apply a uniform coat to all sides of the pieces. We have a great parts rack from Summit (PN SUM-918069) that holds everything from our 1936 Ford Phaeton doors to small pieces like the headlights and taillights. Racks like these pay for themselves in one paint job, and they make it easy to roll parts in and out of the spray booth; we even use it for spray can work, roll it outside and roll it back inside. It sure beats dropping a piece onto the floor from some makeshift rack.

09 After running some basic urethane reducer through the gun, we followed up with paint gun cleaner and brushes to ensure a superclean gun
We left the panels to dry/cure in the booth for several hours. We decided to paint the body the next day, so it was time for a thorough spray gun cleaning. After running some basic urethane reducer through the gun, we followed up with paint gun cleaner (PN SUM-UP407Q) and brushes to ensure a superclean gun.

We prepared for the spray day with a high-quality paint respirator mask, rubber gloves, and full body covering. We laid down three full coats and were very pleased with the finish. We had a trace of orange peel, which is typical of most urethane finishes, but we were certain this would cut and buff to a great final finish.

Read more: FLOORING OVER THE FIVE-SPEED

10 Here are some 3m sandpapers we use to wetsand
We allowed the paint to cure for three days before we began sanding. Every painter will handle the waiting period differently. We wet-sand in five stages, beginning with 800-grit, followed by 1,500-, 2,000-, 2,500-, and finishing with 3,000-grit. Longer sanding time means much less buffing time.

Now, I learned the secrets of cutting and buffing urethane car paint from one of the best in the business, Joe Bailey at Alloway’s Hot Rod Shop. Anyone who has ever seen an Alloway paintjob knows there’s none finer. Of course, no auto body guy does things exactly the same, but I was pretty darn close to Bailey’s method. My first cut on the cured paint was 800-grit (wet) followed by 1,500-grit, then 2,000-grit, 2,500-grit, and finally 3,000-grit wet papers. (Bailey begins with 600-grit and finishes with 2,500-grit). We taped the edge of the doors until it was time for the 2,000-grit paper and even then we were extremely careful to not sand through the edges.

11 We use low-tack blue tape on the edges to remind us not to sand too close to the edge on our Ford Phaeton
We use low-tack blue tape on the edges to remind us not to sand too close to the edge on our Ford Phaeton. This prevents dreaded sand-through. Here the door has been sanded with 2,500-grit. We removed the tape and carefully sanded to the door edge, then followed by sanding the entire door with 3,000. A well-sanded panel will begin to shine.

After the sanding, polishing begins with a Schlegel wool pad (PN SHL-175C) and 3M Finesse-it II (PN 05928) with our buffer set at about 1,000 rpm. It is best to work urethane paints at this slower speed to avoid potential burning of the paint. That brings up the basic shine. Next we polish using 3M Perfect-it EX (PN 06068) and a Synthetic Wool pad (PN SHL-275C), which takes the polishing haze off the finish and the depth is beginning to show. Then we go to a 3M black foam pad (PN TES-7000000484) still using the Perfect-it EX. The finishing touch is done with a 3M blue pad Perfect-it Ultrafine foam pad (PN TES-7100003841) still using the Perfect-it Ultrafine Machine Polish. Then wipe it all down with a microfiber cloth and some spray detailer, followed by a non-abrasive wax for protection and you should have an excellent finish.

12 Buffing begins with a wool pad and 3M Finesse-it II Machine Polish
Buffing begins with a wool pad and 3M Finesse-it II Machine Polish. Run the buffer at a relatively slow 1,000-rpm speed to prevent burning the paint. Light pressure is all that is required. Remember, you’re polishing paint, not grinding steel.

By the time you finish painting and buffing your car the price of a custom paint job begins to make sense. The hours involved in this final finish work is amazing, but in the end, you’ll have the satisfaction of saying you painted the car yourself. MR

13 First the wool pad, then the synthetic wool pad, followed by black and blue pads
Like the sanding, polishing is a five-step process. First the wool pad, then the synthetic wool pad, followed by black and blue pads. We applied a final finishing cream with the yellow pad but a blue pad can also be used.
14 The 3M Machine Polishes go a long way so one bottle of each should be enough to do an entire car with some to spare
The 3M Machine Polishes go a long way so one bottle of each should be enough to do an entire car with some to spare. Begin polishing with Finesse-It II, followed by the Perfect-it EX Ultrafine Machine Polish on the synthetic wool pad and the foam pads.
15 True confessions, we painted the wheel wells with satin black enamel using a brush
After we did the cut and buff on the body and fenders it was time for a bit of assembly. True confessions, we painted the wheel wells with satin black enamel using a brush. We’re building a driver, not an AMBR contender.
16 We made a thread chaser out of a 5_16-24 bolt by cutting four reliefs in the threads of a bolt
We made a thread chaser out of a 5/16-24 bolt by cutting four reliefs in the threads of a bolt. We ran this homebrewed chase through all the cage nuts that attach the rear fender. This is time well spent as all bolts start easily.
17 The Ford Phaeton fender welting was clamped to the fender and the mounting holes were marked
Fender welting was clamped to the fender and the mounting holes were marked. Leave extra welting on both ends and trim to fit the ends after the fender is mounted to the body.
18 In some cases, the welting must be cut in a wedge shape to make final adjustment possible
A ¾-inch arch punch was used to make the holes. In some cases, the welting must be cut in a wedge shape to make final adjustment possible. Fitting the welting perfectly takes time and patience but it makes a big difference in the final appearance.
19 Simple parallel leaf springs and tube shocks work well on 1935-40 Ford frames
We spent some time cleaning up the suspension bits under the car along with the housing of our John’s Industries 9-inch rear end. Simple parallel leaf springs and tube shocks work well on 1935-40 Ford frames.
20 We spent some time cleaning up our Coker Tire wide whites and chrome reverse rims
We couldn’t help but do a little glory work, so we spent some time cleaning up our Coker Tire wide whites and chrome reverse rims. This wheel-and-tire combo is in keeping with our traditional mild-custom approach on our ’36 tub.
21 The modified 1939 Packard taillights work well on the 1936 Ford Phaeton fenders
This rear shot shows we are making progress. The modified 1939 Packard taillights work well on the 1936 Ford Phaeton fenders and we are very pleased with the overall paint finish on the car. This is rolling proof that a high-quality paint job can be achieved at home … particularly in this time of inflation.

SOURCES
Summit Racing
(800) 230-3030
summitracing.com

Coker Tire
(866) 515-3215
cokertire.com

John’s Industries
(800) 332-3450
johnsindustries.com

PPG
ppgrefinish.com

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