Disassembly, Stripping, and Assessment

Any paintjob involves decisions, and one of the most important decisions you will make is just how far you want to go. Here, there are extreme ends of the spectrum. There are plenty of quickie paint shops that will scuff the existing exterior paint, bust out the tape, and spray away. That barely rates as a minimum approach. On the other hand, perfection means pulling the car apart and down to a bare shell, stripping off the last nut and bolt, and kicking off the paintwork from there. Most of us will end up somewhere in the middle. The condition of the car plays an important role in the decision-making process. Indeed, if the car is otherwise mint, and is being re-sprayed in the stock color, a scuff and exterior re-spray may be quite acceptable.

For our project Nova, several factors set the direction. Overall, the vehicle was in questionable condition, with layers of old cheap paint and previous bodywork, meaning that the paint would have to be stripped completely off. Another factor that helped define the direction of the effort is the fact that we will be changing colors to a metallic orange from Eastwood. Since we do not want any trace of the previous paintjobs peeking through, the color change reinforced the need for substantial disassembly of the body. We removed every bit of exterior trim and components from the exterior body, along with the removable body panels.

We presented the stripping process in detail in the Dec. ’11 issue of PHR (see “Life’s a Blast”). The existing paint and filler was stripped using a combination of 4.5-inch Eastwood stripping discs (PN 31086) on an angle grinder for the accessible sheetmetal surfaces, and Eastwood’s Master Blaster dual media blaster in the tighter, recessed areas. When we started there was no way to know what ills resided beneath the cheap white topcoat of our Nova. Ron explains: “You find out pretty much everything once you strip the paint off. The Nova looked pretty good, but once we got down to metal we found the passenger side was buried in filler and plastic. Once you start stripping, you’ll usually discover what’s under all those years of cover-ups.” When it was all said and done, an assessment of the stripped sheetmetal revealed we would be ahead by replacing the front fenders, valance, and support, as well as the passenger-side doorskin and right rear quarter-panel. We ordered all of the replacement metal from the Nova experts at YearOne. Without a doubt, this is a point in our project that really takes some faith and perseverance, since our once-acceptable Nova was now looking like a torn-down wreck!

Body Building

After stripping the car to bare metal, the body build will progress to sheetmetal repair. In the process of a major body restoration such as ours, you will be looking at two basic choices: repair or replace. In the case of bolt-on body panels for which replacements are readily available, it doesn’t take long for the cost of new metal to make economic sense versus the option of repairing the existing panel. Essentially, this was the case regarding the sheetmetal from the firewall forward, as well as the hood on our Nova. With replacement panels available at a reasonable cost, repairing the old bolt-on panels would have consumed far more time and money.