Project Olds Weekend Makeover: Take A Hike, Granny!
Over the course of a weekend, Project Olds goes from granny to racy with some scuff-and-shoot paint and fresh graphics
From the June, 2012 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Stephen Kim
Photography by Robert McGaffin
After a while, sometimes the old ride just doesn’t have the same appeal that she used to. When the initial love affair subsides, the eye starts wandering and you want something new—but does that mean you necessarily have to give up on old Sally? Maybe the ol’ girl just needs a makeover. We’ve been there with Project Olds, our ’65 Cutlass project car. At first, the novelty of ripping up the autocross in a machine with a distinctly geriatric vibe was great fun, but eventually our enthusiasm waned. “It looked like a grandma car with bigger wheels,” car owner and PHR photographer extraordinaire Robert McGaffin opines. “Over the course of the build, the performance of the car got ramped up big time. It’s been on several road courses, the autocross, and driven across the country. The Cutlass needed a more aggressive look to match its performance, so it was time to give it a makeover.”
It’s been a while since Project Olds made its last appearance, so here’s a quick refresher. Not long after purchasing our ’65 Cutlass, we yanked the 330ci small-block and two-speed slushbox, and stuffed in a 514hp big-block Olds and Tremec TKO 600 five-speed stick. To plant the barrage of lb-ft dished out by the 461ci mill, the decrepit stock underpinnings got chucked for a complete Detroit Speed and Engineering suspension working in concert with 18-inch Rocket Racing wheels and some super-gooey Nitto rubber. Although building a Pro Touring car can easily become a pricey affair, we’ve tried to keep costs down throughout the entire build, and we had every intention of sticking with that theme with a makeover on the horizon.
Freshening up the look of any project car without spending a small fortune is no small feat, especially when laying down paint is involved, but it’s definitely possible to spice things up over a weekend given enough planning and determination. Our simple plan called for trading in the two-tone look for a monochrome paint scheme highlighted with a racing stripe and refinished wheels. “According to the paint code, this was originally a blue car with a white top, but during its last restoration someone painted it red with a silver top. I don’t mind the two-tone look, but wanted something more aggressive,” McGaffin says. “In 1965, there was a 4-4-2 vinyl stripe kit that you could buy from the dealership. It’s not a rally stripe, it’s not centered, and it looks unusual, which are all things I liked about it. I found the original dealer instructions posted on www.442Bro.com
that shows measurements for locating the stripes and used that as a template.”
In addition to scuffing and shooting the roof red to match the body, we decided to paint the wheels silver to match the stripe. With the plan in place, we headed down to Windy City Rods and Restorations (www.WindyCityRR.com), where Miguel Menendez and Glen Shar put the makeover in motion. The beauty of a project like this is that just about anyone can do it over the course of a weekend in their own garage.
After completely scuffing...
After completely scuffing down the roof, it was sanded once again—this time with 80-grit paper—to clean the metal and promote primer adhesion. The roof was cleaned with wax and grease remover.
Prepwork involved removing...
Prepwork involved removing all trim pieces on the hood, trunk, and quarter-panels as well as covering the glass with cardboard. The roof was then scuffed with 36-grit sandpaper using an 8-inch dual-action sander. This revealed several areas of minor surface rust, which were removed with a grinder.
Once in the paint booth, the...
Once in the paint booth, the car was masked and wrapped in plastic. Next, two coats of primer were applied while allowing for five minutes of flash time between each coat. The primer required one hour to dry, after which it was sanded down with 320-grit paper. Although we used a paint booth, if you opt for waterborne paint, this process can be performed safely and legally in your garage.
Removing the trim piece at...
Removing the trim piece at the bottom of the sail panels revealed five small holes on each side. While holding a piece of copper to the backside of the panel, the holes were MIG-welded shut. The copper provides a base for the weld material to fill into without sticking to the copper itself. Afterward, the welds were flattened smooth with a grinder.
As with most old cars, we...
As with most old cars, we weren’t quite sure what color Project Olds was sprayed with during its last restoration. Fortunately, John Murdock from Terrace Supply Company came to the rescue with his trick Aquire paint scanner. It works by scanning the paint in several locations, then comparing it to a database of paint codes. It turns out our Cutlass wears Ford Electric Currant Red, and as such, we ordered up a couple of quarts of the stuff for the roof.
With the primer dry, four...
With the primer dry, four coats of paint were sprayed on the roof, A-pillars, and the tops of the quarter-panels. Next came three coats of clearcoat. After allowing the paint to dry overnight, it was wet-sanded and buffed.
After laying down the tape,...
After laying down the tape, the car was covered in plastic once again, leaving only the stripe area exposed. After scuffing down the surface in the area to the painted, the stripe pattern was sprayed in three coats of silver, followed by a coat of satin clear. The paint was carefully blended to match the new color of the wheels.
Since it’s virtually impossible...
Since it’s virtually impossible to get the color of the body and freshly painted roof to match perfectly, the tops of the quarter-panels were blended into the C-pillar. The process involves feathering the new paint onto the old paint of the adjacent panels, followed by wet-sanding. This makes the difference in color between the panels imperceptible to the eye. Think of it as purposeful overspray.
Thanks to a schematic posted...
Thanks to a schematic posted on www.442Bro.com, we were able to precisely locate the position of the original 4-4-2 stripe. The instructions called for offsetting the stripe on the driver side, 15.875 inches from the left edge of the hood and 17.125 inches from the edge of the trunk lid. Instead of applying vinyl, however, we decided to outline the stripe pattern with masking tape and paint the stripe on.
For just $6, you can completely...
For just $6, you can completely change the look of your wheels. After cleaning and degreasing the wheels, and covering the tires with plastic, we sprayed them with Dupli-Color Perfect Match Light Champagne Mist paint. One can was enough to apply three coats of paint to all four wheels.
For visual continuity throughout...
For visual continuity throughout the car, after roughing up the surface of the sidescoops with scuff pads, they were painted the same color as the stripes. For not much extra effort, small details like this can really set your car apart from the pack. With all the paintwork complete, the trim was reattached to the body.
The 4-4-2 stripe pattern features...
The 4-4-2 stripe pattern features a large central stripe flanked by two 1/4-inch-wide stripes on each side. It was laid out using 1/4-inch masking tape, as it’s easier to manage than narrower tape. Next, 1/2-inch tape was used to position the outer stripes.
And there you have it, a weekend...
And there you have it, a weekend makeover that anyone can perform at home. For not a lot of cash, a few simple tweaks can completely transform the look of your project car!