It's been said that the wheels make the car. While that's true, it's just as true that it's the paint that gives personality to your ride. Whether it's an in-your-face red or a classy silver, the paint job will most likely be the biggest expense of your build. But you can save a few bucks, if you're willing to think outside the box.
This $150,000 '06 Ford GT...
This $150,000 '06 Ford GT runs the same Tungsten Grey Effect (code T8) paint as a $25,000 Mustang.
We have all marveled at some of the beautiful colors splashed across today's hot rods, be they at the fairground or at the track. These paints are custom mixes, and they're given fancy names to make a statement-but at a price. Boutique paints offer exclusivity and the chance to say almost no one has your exact hue. But is it worth the extra cost? I've always found great luck in choosing OEM colors for my cars. I can see spending the extra cash on an all-out show car, but for a car destined for the street, OEM paints seem like a better fit at a better price.
That's not to say that you can't have an OEM color specially mixed. The price point can even get up near a custom color. If you take an OEM hue with a pearl base, and add in a bunch more pearl, you'll see the price go up accordingly, since pearl is a very expensive part of paint. Nonetheless, if you stick with the OEM formula, you will end up with a stunning ride and a few bucks to put toward something useful, like more power.
You'll also find that the OEM color will be much easier to match if your car is damaged. Automotive manufacturers spend a lot of time making their paints easy to match. If you pick a super-custom boutique three-stage paint, you'll have a harder time repainting a fender or quarter-panel.
Custom boutique colors are...
Custom boutique colors are pricey because they contain far more expensive pearls and metallics compared to the OEM stuff.
Lookin' For Paint In
All The Wrong Places
When shopping for color, the best bet is to grab your camera, and start checking out new car dealerships. Every make will offer at least a few cool colors to get your gears turning. Also, don't think only in terms of the domestic car companies. There's nothing wrong with choosing a color from an import. Many youth-market car companies like Scion and Mazda are on the cutting edge in regard to trend-setting colors. By expanding your search to new cars, and even sport bikes, you'll increase the chance of finding the perfect hue for your ride. After all, if it looks good on something ugly, imagine how good it'll look on your car.
This '69 Camaro, owned by...
This '69 Camaro, owned by Tyler Gadker, is painted in Arrival Blue (code 91) and looks absolutely stunning.
Have Inexpensive Paint
Car manufacturers are in this game to make money. If they're selling cars for cheap, they certainly can't afford to coat them in expensive paint. These paints are generally solid colors, and if they are a metallic or pearl, the amount of metal in the paint is kept to a bare minimum. This means it may end up being cheaper than that hot color you spied on an expensive BMW.
Remember, you can still make a cheap paint expensive. If you order the exact paint that a body shop would use to fix a Kia, then the price should be smokin'. However, if you have that paint "enhanced" with extra pearl or a higher quality clearcoat, then expect the price to go up. If you're on a budget, then stick with the OEM formula, preferably a solid color, to save the most cash. Also, keep in mind that how good a paint job looks depends more on the bodywork and prep than the paint.
My old '69 Camaro is a good...
My old '69 Camaro is a good example of where thinking outside the box can get you. The blue is '02 Subaru WRX Blue Pearl (code 02C), and the stripes are Silverstone Metallic (code WV2) from an '02 Infinity G35.
Customizing a car is all about showing your individuality and standing out in a crowd. So why paint your car the same color as everyone else? Unless you're restoring your ride to factory specs, there's no reason to stay locked into a period-correct color. [Unless that color is already perfect, like the Tripoli Turquoise on the project '68 Chevelle.-ed] Coating your classic in a modern hue can do wonders to update the look, and get people's attention. At a car show, how many '69 Camaros are painted Hugger Orange? How many are painted '06 GTO Brazen Orange Metallic? The hot color trend today seems to be some variation of orange. This means that all the OEMs have been busy focus-testing stunning oranges. The same is true for blue, and green is even starting to make an emergence, especially in the lighter shades.
Whatever you choose, just make sure you love it, since you'll be living with it for a long time. Here are some of our favorite OEM colors that we think would look bitchin' on your next project car. The paint code for the color is listed in parentheses, and the cost listed is the average shop price. Also, assume all paints are two-stage, and require a clearcoat in addition to the paint.
PPG's "Paint Your Ride" Contest
If you're ready to paint your car, put the HVLP gun down for a moment, and check this out. PPG, the makers of Hot Wheels Spectraflame automotive paint, have teamed up with Mattel, makers of Hot Wheels toy cars, to immortalize your hot rod in one amazing contest. Both companies are looking for a cool car to make into a star-more specifically, your car. The catch? You've got to paint your car using all PPG paint, and at least 25 percent of your car needs to be painted with at least one of the Hot Wheels Spectraflame paint colors listed below. You'll need to complete an official "Paint Your Ride" contest entry form (you can download it from PPG's website at www.ppgrefinish.com) and send it in with pictures of your car no later than April 30, 2008. One more hoop to jump through: If they like your car, and you're one of the 12 finalists, you've got to be present at the PPG Goodguys Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, next July. If they choose your car, you're going to Vegas, baby, and we're talking in style. Your car will be displayed in PPG's booth at the 2008 SEMA Show, they'll put you up in posh digs on The Strip, and give you $2,000 in walking-around money. Mattel will also want to turn your car into a Hot Wheels toy, depending on how practical it is. (They promise to get it as close as they can.) You'll also have your car featured in PPG's calendar (along with the other 11 finalists), and get your story in PPG's Repaint Reporter magazine.
Rich Yellow Gold
Light Red Watermelon
Hot Wheels Blue
Colors for the Chromaphobic
What if you're not into jellybean-colored cars, and just want something subdued? You're in luck because the OEMs have long catered to those who aren't into flashy tones. White, black, and silver are still the most popular and time-tested hues, and they never go out of style. Have you ever seen a pastel-painted car and thought, "Wow, there's a blast from the '80s"? If that guy had painted his car silver or black, it wouldn't seem as dated. But don't get stuck thinking that black is black and all whites are the same. The OEMs have been busy jazzing these colors up with pearls and metallics, just like the primary colors. Here are some utterly cool, yet subdued, OEM colors you should consider for your next paint job.
The Silver Standard
You can't go wrong with silver. It looks stylish and fast, and best of all, it won't go out of style. Given the current popularity of silvers and golds, there are many versions to choose from. When I think of silver, I think of Mercedes. This '70 Camaro, owned by Jeff Mortenson of Classic Chevy 5-speed, is painted in Brilliant Silver (code 744), a popular Mercedes color. A quart of PPG Deltron in this code will only set you back $80.10. If you just have to run something domestic, then check out GM Fine Silver Birch Metallic (code 59). It can be found on several new GM trucks, and is fairly close to the Mercedes. The cost, however, is almost the same at $71.85 per quart. Price-wise, we found silvers to be great buys.
Make sure you explore other options, even the ones from overseas. This '07 Subaru WRX is stunning in its Steel Gray Metallic paint (code 26D). If it can make the goofy lines of this car look good, then just think how killer it will look on your ride. Another similar, but slightly darker color is Sterling Pearl Grey Metallic (code 472) found on the '07 BMW X5. A very popular tone that's found on many GM cars and trucks is Light Pewter Metallic (code 11). It falls somewhere between silver and gold, and looks as good on older cars as it does on newer ones. Both price out at $71.87 per quart.
It's amazing how many shades of white there are, and now that pearls are being added, there are even more to choose from. This '07 Mustang is done in High Performance White (code HP), and being a solid color, it's less expensive. On the higher end of the scale is '07 Escalade White Diamond Metallic (code 98) or '07 Lexus Glacier Frost Mica (code 074). Keep in mind these are three-stage paints, and each stage will cost you $71.85. That's $143.70, plus the cost of clear, or twice as expensive compared to the Mustang High Performance White, but it sure looks good. Even at $143.70, both of these pearl whites are less expensive than the least expensive boutique variant, which can run anywhere from $199.30 to $813.60 a quart per stage.
Classic colors are being reborn on new iron. This Lime Gold Metallic (code P1), listed at $92.80 a quart, is found on '05 Mustangs and is almost a dead ringer for the identically named hue of the '60s. If these earth tones are what you're after, then take a trip to your local Lexus dealer. They have colors like Cypress Pearl (code 6T7) and Jade Green Metallic (code 6V0) for those looking for cool greens. They also have a very nice Desert Sage Metallic (code 6U3) that falls more on the brown side. Add some semi-gloss black graphics and these colors will make your ride the talk of the town without breaking the bank.
Choices For The Cash Impaired
If your ride needs paint, but your wallet is light as a feather, then you need to get creative with material. If your budget is really tight, then consider spraying the car yourself. Dupli-Color sells bulk product under the Paint Shop moniker, and it's easy to apply, even at home. A quart will only set you back $19.95 (from Summit). Do the math: At 80 bucks a gallon, anyone can afford a new paint job. Of course, you'll still need to prime and clear the car, but Dupli-Color offers the clear for the same low price. Unlike traditional paints, this stuff is super user friendly. The finishes aren't time sensitive either. This means you have the option of painting your car over several days because additional coats can be applied at any time. It's sprayed with a traditional HVLP gun, and it's a two-stage deal just like the high-dollar stuff, but it's in a pre-mixed, ready-to-shoot package. No reducer is needed, so you have one less thing to screw up.
Want something brighter? No problem. The youth segment has been busy creating blues that are about as vibrant as they can be without causing retinal damage. This '04 Pontiac Vibe (below) is painted Dark Blue Metallic (code 62U), while this '07 Honda Fit (left) is coated in Vivid Blue Pearl (code B-520P). Both colors would look great on a hot rod, and the chances of someone else at the donut shop having the same shade is somewhere near zero. The Vivid Blue Pearl runs $147.70 a quart-that's about $20 more per quart than the GM Arrival Blue we mentioned before. You just need to decide if this shade is worth the extra $120 for six quarts.
Speaking of something different, this color really caught my eye when I first saw it. A bit more subdued than most blues out there, this color would definitely look great on the right car. It's Barbados Mica Metallic (code 47U), and was only offered on the '04 Pontiac GTO. How's that for exclusivity? A quart of PPG Deltron 2000 will cost you $110.05. Again, the cost is mainly determined by how many pearl and metallic additives are in each mixture.
Same Color, Different Name
Earlier, we said that the hottest color out there today is orange-and we weren't kidding. In fact, we could've written this entire story on just OEM shades of orange. This is the newest take on orange from the General, and it can be found on '08 Corvettes. It's called Atomic Orange (code 83), and it's a few shades lighter than the previous year's Daytona Orange (code 71). Wait, isn't that the same code as Sunset Orange Metallic on the Firehawk? Yep. The OEMs spend a lot of cash developing colors, and to keep cost down, they use them throughout their product line, sometimes only changing the name. The paint code never lies, so go by the code and not the catchy name.
This trifecta of OEM orange goodness belongs to Tony Whatley of LS1tech.com. The '06 GTO sports Brazen Orange Metallic (code 66U), and the '02 Pontiac Firehawk is coated in Sunset Orange Metallic (code 71). The '69 in the background is painted old-fashioned Hugger Orange (code 990). In the '90s, GM again offered Hugger on the Camaro, and the paint code for the modern version is 99. The Brazen Orange is the most expensive standard PPG color in this story at $176.80 a quart. The Sunset Orange comes in at $147.70, and Hugger is a bargain at $110.05. That means on a typical six-quart order, the Brazen Orange will cost you around $400 more compared to the Hugger.
I could tell people my '68 Camaro was painted in some high-end boutique color, and they would most likely just nod in agreement. The truth is, it's covered in '02 Plymouth Prowler Orange (code YVF). I've seen similar shades in the high-end paints, but I bet this costs less. We found a custom color that was close, and it priced out at $240.10 per quart. The Deltron Prowler Orange comes in at $147.70. That means the boutique color would've run $554.40 more for this paint job. If you want it a few shades lighter, then check out LeMans Sunset Metallic (code A17) found on '03 Nissan 350Zs.
The Single-Stage Option
Want to make sure your car is never lost in a crowd? Want to save a few bucks? If the answers to both are "yes," look for something like this. It's called Competition Orange (code CY), and it came on a host of Ford vehicles, including '04 Mustangs and Focus SVTs. It's a solid paint, so it has no pearls or expensive metallic bits. This means you have the option of going with a single-stage paint if money is really tight. Single-stage is $80.10 a quart. The two-stage is $127.65 a quart, and you still need to buy the clear.
Like we said before, the best way to shop for a new color is to roam new car lots. On a stroll through a local Honda dealer we saw this '07 S2000, which was bathed in Rio Yellow Pearl (code Y-65P, $127.65 per quart), and the camera really can't do it justice. If you're thinking yellow, then check this out in person. If you want a more traditional yellow, try '00 Vette Millennium Yellow (code 79, $127.65 per quart), or '05 Mustang Screaming Yellow (code D6, $110.05 per quart).
If you want an in-your-face color, then chances are you will find it on a sports car. These cars are more suited to colors like these compared to a mini-van. If you want something a bit different than the typical "resale red" seen on every other musclecar, then look into some of the variants. This '06 Mustang is painted in Redfire Pearl Metallic (code G2, $147.70 per quart), and the color is both classy and sporty. This color on a Chevelle with some smokey silver stripes would cause neck strain all around town.
This $150,000 '06 Ford GT...
This $150,000 '06 Ford GT runs the same Tungsten Grey Effect (code T8) paint as a $25,000 Mustang.
Even if your heart is set...
Even if your heart is set on a tradition red, there are still dozens of variations to choose from that range from a deep blood red to something along the lines of this '55 Nomad.
Another popular red is Viper...
Another popular red is Viper Red (code PRN, $147.70 per quart). They also offer a killer shade of blue called Midnight Blue Pearl (code PB8, $127.65 per quart).