Finishing The Tribute 1959 Thunderbird

Part 2: Marcus “Shaky” Sullivan and “PPG Paul” Finish The Custom Paint Job On Larry Watson’s Tribute ‘59 Thunderbird

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

Recently, we introduced you to Marcus “Shaky” Sullivan and his legacy project, a Ford Thunderbird “Square Bird” custom that painter Bill Carter started. For those of you who just joined us, Carter set out to build a tribute to his mentor, Larry Watson. He had some friends drop and shave a survivor car before he painted it. Only the car remained unfinished upon his death in 2019. So, Sullivan took it upon himself to sort out his hero’s unfinished business. He bought the car and set out to replicate the paint design that Carter’s longtime pal Steve Stanford rendered.

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00 1959 ford t bird watson carter ppg paint part 2

Part 1: “Wild Bill” Carter Left a Paint Legacy and an Unfinished Larry Watson Tribute

That’s a big ask, even for a pro like Sullivan. But he has the next best thing to an interstellar portal: “PPG Paul” Stoll. He’s a retired PPG Industries rep who teaches custom painting classes using information gleaned from people like his mentor, Bill Carter. Stoll insists that he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to enter the paint industry if not make a career of it if not for Carter, and that it’s his responsibility to keep the tradition alive.

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01 Marcus “Shakey” Sullivan started by spraying a wet coat of ECS81 White Sealer through a 1 4 fluid tip
Marcus “Shakey” Sullivan started by spraying a wet coat of ECS81 White Sealer through a 1.4 fluid tip. He then mixed a batch without a reducer and, using a 1.8 tip with 5-10 psi at the gun, shot a so-called dry coat.

Last month they explained how they laid out and sprayed the purple panels. This month they do the same for the white areas among the panels and on the top. As they did before, they reveal the ingredients that Carter specified to create this shade of Billy Brew. They also explain how they got the graphic effects.

02 The dry coat produces a rough texture like what you’d expect from an interior building wall
The dry coat produces a rough texture like what you’d expect from an interior building wall. This is the cornerstone of the famed pebble base. He covered this with T400 white.

Read More: Inflatable Spray Booth Makes it Easier To Paint Like a Pro

Once upon a time these techniques and formulations were highly guarded secrets. And to a degree, they still are—some enthusiasts still pass off production colors as custom blends, which is pretty lame.

03 He then mixed T452 Fine White Pearl 1 1 with VWM5556 waterborne midcoat clear 10 percent T492 5 percent T493 and 20 percent T494
He then mixed T452 Fine White Pearl 1:1 with VWM5556 waterborne-midcoat clear, 10 percent T492, 5 percent T493, and 20 percent T494. He shot two coats.

But thanks to the generosity and commitment of pioneers like Carter, their designs and legacies live on. The ultimate way to honor those techniques is to pass them on to others. Because if we can see further, it’s from standing on the shoulders of giants like Wild Bill Carter. MR

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04 Sullivan laid out some designs over the pebbled and pearled base using the FBS tapes
Sullivan laid out some designs over the pebbled-and-pearled base using the FBS tapes. He covered this with a pearl intercoat that he made from 25 parts T4000 Crystal pearl, 75 parts VWM5556 clear, 10 percent T492, 5 percent T493, and 25 percent T494. He protected that coat with a lock-down intercoat of WVM5556.
05 Sullivan then re masked the pearled area to expose the blades that flank the center graphics
Sullivan then re-masked the pearled area to expose the blades that flank the center graphics. Paper can stick to waterborne basecoats, even if dried overnight. But quality, wax-faced paper won’t stick, so give it a shot.
06 He mixed a batch of VWM5556 with 10 percent VM4603 Violet Murano Pearl
He mixed a batch of VWM5556 with 10 percent VM4603 Violet Murano Pearl. That also got the 492, 493, and 494 formula. He shot a few light coats of that.
07 He then removed the masking from the center and laid some ¼ inch stripes with the FBS tape
He then removed the masking from the center and laid some ¼-inch stripes with the FBS tape. That area got T400 white that fades from opaque at the base of the trunk to transparent toward the window. He repeated the process on the hood.
08 You’d think white graphics wouldn’t show up on white backgrounds but here we are
You’d think white graphics wouldn’t show up on white backgrounds, but here we are. The pearls and opacity distinguish each element from the others.
09 Sullivan re flaked the top then ran some unreduced black lacquer through a Binks 2001 equipped with a veiling tip and cap
equipped with a veiling tip and cap. The squiggly pattern was a standby for things like cake decoration and fiberglass lampshades when this paint style was popular. Iwata makes a gun that shoots what it calls a disheveled pattern. But save your pennies: an SGD-71 usually runs a grand or more—if you can find one.
10 He laid out a rocket inspired design in the roof and striped out a pattern with FBS’ 1 8 and ¼ inch vinyl tape
He laid out a rocket-inspired design in the roof and striped out a pattern with FBS’ 1/8- and ¼-inch vinyl tape.
11 Sullivan sprayed a Billy Blue candy mix in the VWM500 midcoat
Sullivan sprayed a Billy Blue candy mix in the VWM500 midcoat. The purple fades from back to front.
12 After removing the masking for the second stripe pattern in the center Sullivan shot another light coat of Billy Brew purple
He masked off a second stripe pattern. He shot another Billy Brew fade, but this time in the other direction (from front to back). After removing the masking for the second stripe pattern in the center, Sullivan shot another light coat of Billy Brew purple.
13 Here’s how it looks under VC5700 mixed as a lock down clear
He masked the graphics that he shot along the center, removed the masking from the remainder of the roof, and blew another fade from the graphics to the veiling. Here’s how it looks under VC5700 mixed as a lock-down clear.
14 He mixed T411 Blue with 10 percent T492 5 percent T493 and over reduced it with 50 percent T494
Then he shot some blowouts. He mixed T411 Blue with 10 percent T492, 5 percent T493, and over-reduced it with 50 percent T494. Turn the fan adjustment in all the way (no pattern), blast some paint in a spot, then back off the trigger to blow the color around with the gun.
15 He laid a string of blowouts along the purple graphics on the hood and fenders
He laid a string of blowouts along the purple graphics on the hood and fenders. Once buried in clear, this design will basically disappear until light hits it at just the right angle.
16 Sullivan finally buried everything in VC5700 mixed as a conventional final clearcoat
Sullivan finally buried everything in VC5700 mixed as a conventional final clearcoat. Spraying the purple and white areas independently of each other instead of over each other minimizes finish buildup, saves materials, and yields a very flat surface with minimal (if any) ridges or steps to bury in clear.

As an Aside

I meant to do that.   –   Sullivan did something that usually makes paint reps like Stoll squirm: he dry sprayed a panel. Only in this case, Sullivan was following Stoll’s orders.

Dry Texture Spray

In the straight world, dry spraying falls under the heading of poor practice. It makes sprayed paint particles tack up before they land. So, rather than flow out into a glossy skin, these partially dried globules stack up as a textured finish. And in a world where everything must match existing finishes—which are usually smooth—any deviation is a flaw.

Paint Dust

But for every rule, there’s almost always an exception. Take dust. Best practice says to keep it out of our paint mixes. But it is dust made from ground-up materials with reflective surfaces that give metallic and pearl finishes their reflective characteristics. With some thought, the results of so-called poor practice can turn into features.

Read More: How To Get Rid of Orange Peel Paint

In this case, dry spraying is a feature, or at least the foundation for one. It’s over this texture that Sullivan laid a coat of clear with a pearl additive. Pearl additives are really nothing more than reflective minerals ground to a crystalline powder (the dust we invoked earlier).

Think of the grains in the powder as mirrored salt or sugar crystals. The angles of these facets vary, and that makes each one reflect light at a slightly different angle from the others. This random orientation causes light reflected from the surface to diffuse or spread out over a larger area. Pearl laid over a perfect surface can glow; one laid over an imperfect one can glow like crazy.

Like many custom-painting techniques, this lends itself to detail work. Anybody can accidentally get that dry-sprayed finish, but it takes some technique to do it consistently over a large area. Even if it was possible, a whole car done this way runs the risk of looking a little too extra. And a little too extra is how much clear it takes to fill in that texture. So, practice some restraint if only for your financial health.

Custom Paint Techniques

This is far from the only example of poor practice resulting in an interesting and desirable finish. Just about every popular custom-painting technique—freak dots, veiling, lace painting, splatters, crackling, and marbling—has one foot planted firmly in so-called poor practice.

So next time you screw up, think of a way and place where you could use the result. Honor thy error as a hidden intention and you, too, could invent the next trend. MR

17 Here’s an exploded detail of the pebble finish coated with white pearl and buried in VC5700
Here’s an exploded detail of the pebble finish coated with white pearl and buried in VC5700 (for reference, the PPG logo is about the size of a quarter). It resembles a textured wall encased in plastic, and the way the pearl reflects light makes it look almost otherworldly.

Source
PPG Refinish
us.ppgrefinsh.com

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