Dressing It Up

When the car rolled out of the booth, the gleaming white finish made all the work up to this point seem worthwhile. To add a healthy dose of visual pop, noted striper Jeff Styles worked with Sean and Randy on the graphic design. A custom layout based on a phantom Le Mans GT logo was rendered; it’s an arrangement that is fictitious, but very much in the style of OEM graphics of the era. The design features striped accents at the fender character lines, somewhat reminiscent of the OEM GTO accents, while the hood and deck were blocked with wide pinstriped panels bearing the Le Mans GT logo. The graphic was carried over to an OEM-style rear spoiler, painted separately from the car. Styles laid out the fender striping and the front and rear panels by hand, using special 3M Fine Line masking tape. The process here was a combination of carefully checking measurements, and ultimately the skilled eyes and hands of an expert. The tape pattern as applied is a reverse of the finished product, with the base white color revealed once graphics are painted and the tape is lifted. For the actual lettering, the mask was cut on Styles’ plotter after the font and size were determined.

Back in the booth, the graphics were shot in the selected Voodoo Blue hue, and then the car was masked once again for the final clearcoat. Three coats of Matrix Systems AG40LV Urethane Clear sealed the visual package, providing a deep gloss. Right off the gun the car looked stunning. While the car was destined for a final process of color sanding and buffing, good results off the gun are a key to the ultimate quality of the work.

Cutting and buffing can be considered the final icing on the cake, and it is this process that produces the glass-smooth, mirrorlike finish of a show car. The procedure here is actually a multistep process, beginning with sanding the newly painted clear with the goal of removing any surface flaws and texture. Traditionally, the sanding process was done by hand-blocking the clear, then wet-sanding with ultrafine sandpaper. Machine sanding has become the popular choice in recent years, using an air orbital sander and a dry sanding process. There are advantages to this process other than the obvious labor and time savings, including making it easier to see when the surface is cleaned of texture, and, arguably, a smoother final result. South Coast used the machine sanding approach, employing Eagle Abrasives’ 1,200-grit discs on an orbital finishing sander for the first cut, and then finishing with a second pass at 1,500-grit. The detail areas unsuitable for machine sanding were cut with hand-sanding pads and wet sanding.

Once the surface is flatted via the sanding stage, it is ready for buffing to return to a brilliant luster. Buffing, too, is a multistep process, starting with a more aggressive cutting compound (3M 06085) and a wool pad. This level of polishing will remove the fine sanding scratches, and bring the surface up to a dull shine. There will be a visible machine buffing swirl pattern after the initial compounding is completed, but all marks from the sandpaper will be buffed away. Next, a much finer polish is used, in conjunction with a foam polishing pad. South County used 3M Foam Polishing Pad Glaze, number 05996. The Glaze brings the clear back to a gleaming and brilliant gloss, and polishes out the visible swirl pattern left from the first buffing step. To complete the buffing process, an even finer compound, 3M Perfect-It Ultrafine Machine Polish (06068) was used next, again on a foam pad, resulting in a truly mirrorlike finish.

With the buffing completed, the full visual impact of the effort was evident. There were a great number of steps in getting there, from the initial primer blocking, to the many paint processes to follow. To recap, it is worth a review of the sequence once the car hit the paint shop. Progress began with unbolting the doors, hood and deck and jambing the inner painted areas. The sealer, base, and mid coat clear were then applied in the booth as the foundation. Next, the clear mid coat was sanded to prepare for the graphics. Once graphics were painted, the final clearcoat was applied, sanded, and compounded to perfection. That may seem like a long road to travel, but one look at the finished results is proof enough that it is worth the journey.