Chemical reactions (AKA, paint stripping is much easier than sanding paint off but isn’t without its own hazards).

I’ll say this straight up – I liked the white-over-blue two-tone paint my car wore when I bought it. Originally delivered in Pontiac’s very early/mid 1960s colour “Aquamarine”, at some point my car was resprayed with more blue in the mix, and a pearl white roof.

The resprayed blue works well with all the chrome and polished stainless trim the ’64 wears, however I have chosen to shave much of this from the body as it was pitted, rusty, or otherwise broken. And replacing those pieces would cost a king’s ransom thanks to their size, rarity and number of pieces required.

So, with its new look I decided to give the car a new colour. Choosing a hue proved difficult as I needed a colour that works on a large car, and works with chrome. After discounting Orbit Orange, reds, electric blues, and pastels, I settled on a factory emerald green from late model General Motors cars – in some markets it goes by Lime Rock Green, Poison Ivy, and Rainforest Green.

To start with, I wanted to know what was under the existing paint, which was suffering badly from humidity blisters (hinting of issues with rust hiding). I had already sanded the roof of my car to bare steel using a pneumatic palm sander and 80-grit discs. This took two full days, created huge amounts of invasive dust and was very, very noisy.

My painter suggested we use paint stripper, which I have used in the past, and I agreed quickly. Because it is imperative to clean paint stripper off COMPLETELY before you start priming, we only put the chemical stripper on the outside skins of the panels.

It is CRUCIAL to understand that paint stripper is a toxic product so protective clothing (heavy duty gloves, eye protection, long-sleeve clothing) is MANDATORY. You should also use it in a well-ventilated area as the fumes will make you sick quicker than a dodgy chicken burrito.

This process started by trucking the car 1.5-hours north to Newcastle, where the panel and paint work will occur. This is a brand new factory bay so no dust or smutz in the shed. I will do another post detailing how I got the car ready for this work, which includes the fiddly job of removing the glass and stainless trim.

Once again, Luke from Full Tilt Towing got the job to pick the car up at 8am on a Saturday. I absolutely recommend Luke for any towing work in the Newcastle, Hunter Valley, Central Coast regions of New South Wales, Australia. He is a total professional, fast to load and unload, excellent pricing, and takes care of your car even if it isn’t (yet) a glamour!

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I prepared the panel by quickly scuffing it with a 40-grit sanding disc in my hand, in a roughly cross-hatch pattern.

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Brendan started brushing the CAM stripper on, straight out of the 4-litre tin onto the painted panel. We had let the panel warm in the sun so it had just a small amount of heat, but wasn’t hot to touch. A slight amount of warmth aids in the stripper’s activation, and I’d suggest covering the stripper with a plastic sheet if you know you have to cut through several layers of paint. 

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The paint started reacting quickly, bubbling up and showing aftermarket grey (gray) primer after only 5 minutes.  

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Approximately 7 minutes in and there is great activation.

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This was almost ready for its first wipe. We had planned on having two goes with the stripper on the bonnet (hood) and boot lid (trunk lid) as these can be areas with lots of body filler, or layers of paint. 

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Brendan used a metal filler (bog/bondo) applicator to wipe off the top layer of paint. Starting at the outside edges and pushing to the centre, it meant we didn’t make a huge mess on the floor.

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The panel went through its first scrape in five minutes, leaving patches of bare metal and original red oxide primer General Motors used back in the day. This was whizzed off with a power sander and 80-grit pads in a matter of a few minutes as the stripper had already weakened the primer’s bond to the panel. 

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Scraping the waste to the middle of the panel leaves a big pile, which was then scraped off using a large household paint-scraper. 

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The bonnet (hood) showed signs of surface rust in the metal, which will be treated before the panel will be primed. The black patches are primer – I am actually not sure if it is original GM primer (which is traditionally red oxide, as I have found on other parts of the car), or if it is a later aftermarket primer from a repair. 

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It is a good idea to have some heavy cardboard to scrape the stripper into as you should not handle paint stripper with your hands. You need heavy duty gloves (ideally black nitrile-spec), and wear glasses, and long-sleeve disposable overalls.

This waste was then moved into a plastic bin as it would have eaten through the cardboard in time. 

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