Nothing will transform a vintage machine like quality paintwork. Although some guys will firmly advocate the benefits of vintage patina, or even the scrappy look of rolling junk, we have to wonder. Curbside to the casual observer, it is the overall look projected by the finished sheetmetal that determines perception. The truth is that even a modestly built project car receives hero status when displaying flawless paint and bodywork. Of course, getting there isn’t easyor cheap.
The ’72 LeMans pictured here is a case study on how paintwork can radically transform a project. Randy and Sean Lorentzen purchased this staid Pontiac Luxury LeMans in 2009 for $1,000 as a father-and-son project to serve as Sean’s first car. While directly related to the sporty GTO, this version of GM’s A-body definitely lacked the muscular flair of its cousin. Starting with a car that was solid and rust free, the LeMans could have been given a mechanical once-over and deemed good to go. In fact, mechanically the LeMans is mostly stock. What makes it a standout street machine is the outstanding paintwork. This trick-looking LeMans draws a crowd wherever it goes.
It’s hard to believe that...
It’s hard to believe that this hot custom Pontiac began as this uninspiring ’72 Luxury LeMans. The Luxury LeMans was a higher trim level of the standard LeMans, with a styling direction far removed from performance inclinations. As a platform for a project, the unmolested and rust-free body served as a solid basis.
Right from the get-go the Lorentzen men intended to achieve a knockout muscle car look. The fast track here is the predictable approach of creating a GTO clone; however, the decision was made to go the path less traveled with a completely custom design. Initially, a planned color scheme of factory Orbit Orange with black graphics was favored, but Jason Pecikonis of Timeless Kustoms pointed out that the wild arrest me hue might just provide too much attention for a 16-year-old kid. Instead, a more refined approach was pursued, using bright white (Toyota 070 Blizzard Pearl) as the base color, with deep blue graphics (Toyota 8T6 Voodoo Blue), a basic color combination that finds tradition with early Pontiac Trans Am variants. The custom graphics package was worked out in drawn renderings to get a basic idea of the look, using a mythical LeMans GT designation as the theme. With a plan firmly in place, the project took direction with a set goal in mind.
Body damage was modest, with...
Body damage was modest, with the LeMans showing only a few old scars from its long service life. The worst of these was a scrape along the right front fender brow. Note that the major dent has been pulled, and the metal worked back into its basic form. The damaged area was prepped for filler using a grinder with a 40-grit sanding disc.
Now, the easiest thing to do would be to load the LeMans on the trailer with these renderings in hand and head to a capable custom paint shop with a checkbook and pen. That was not the way it was going to go down in the revival of this Pontiac. Right from the start, Randy decided that if his young son, Sean, was to have a custom street machine, he’d have to earn it the traditional way and work for it. In fact, Randy left it to Sean’s efforts for the project to progress, lending a hand and providing direction as required. Randy says this approach offers a level of ownership and appreciation of the result that can’t be bought. Also, by handling the tough and time-consuming disassembly, bodywork, and sanding portions of the job, outstanding results are possible at a fraction of the cost of having the entire project done professionally.
The final filler coat was...
The final filler coat was worked with progressively finer sandpaper, starting with 80-grit on a long sanding board, and finishing with 180-grit. Here, a smaller hand block is used for the final sanding.
The design rendering definitely posed a sportier image than the reality of the Luxury LeMans, and it pointed out the moves that were necessary. The original vinyl top and lower belt molding trim would go, as would the factory rear wheelwell skirts and the original badges. What would be left is a clean body, much more true to its essential body lines. Work on the car began with the more significant body repairs, fixing the assorted scrapes and dings accumulated over the car’s long service life. Fortunately, the LeMans had virtually zero rust to contend with and the body damage was minimal, with the worst being isolated to the pronounced character line on the right front fender. All of these assorted dents were handled in the same way, beginning with a coarse sanding to bring the damaged area to bare metal, followed by metalwork as required, and finishing with polyester body filler.