Monday, 04 June 2007 09:44

The weeklong sleep deprived marathon challenge

Written by Rich Evans
    Here at the Huntington Beach Bodyworks, we’ve done our share of rigs. The Meguiar’s big rigs have been the most popular, of course. There have been several others, including my own trailer complete with the works- skulls, skeletons, flames, and all. But even with all these projects in the past, we could not have predicted the challenge that was yet to come.
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Rich Evans and his team had one week to restore this 1972 Eagle bus in need of some major work.
    Things have been pretty hectic at the shop. In addition to the normal workflow, we just finished a project for MTV’s show, “Pimp My Ride,” which will broadcast at the end of the summer. Then I got a call from Thomas Pendelton, who has been a friend of mine for the last 15 years. He asked me to customize a bus for him that will be used in a pilot for the A&E television network.

    The deal was that we had one week to restore and customize this bus for him to travel in and give tattoos. You might remember him from “Inked” on A&E. When I was approached with the opportunity to restore and customize this bus, I immediately accepted the offer. However, like always, it seemed we were in for more than we bargained for at Huntington Beach Bodyworks.
    In a nutshell, this was a one-week, complete exterior restoration of a ‘72 Eagle bus in serious need of some TLC. Plus, throw in some custom metal work, wheels, paint, and a whole lot of airbrushing on top, ‘cause that’s what we do.
First appearances misleading
    To start things off, I received pictures of the bus and it actually looked pretty good. It did have an awful pink paint job

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The first to go was the pink paint job and airbrushed landscapes.

with airbrushed landscapes, but from the photos it appeared to be in pretty good shape. When it arrived it was obvious that this bus had been ridden hard. It was evident it had lost its glimmer and shine a long time ago. A project as large as this was going to take some time, but we were going to have to fit it all into one week.
    I couldn’t allow the weather to be a factor. With new challenges, sometimes it becomes necessary to invent a new system for completing such challenges. Luckily, I’ve been in this situation before, so I already had the whole project mapped out in my head. {mospagebreak}
Shelter from the weather
    The first step was a shopping spree at Home Depot to buy some PVC piping, PVC pipe cutters, joints and canopies. The idea was to build a roof over the rigs and use the PVC piping as a frame for the canopies. This protected the rig from the sun, wind, and rain. I tied the canopies down to anchors and bowed the ends to allow moisture and rain to flow over and away from the surface, rather than collecting on the top and possibly staining my finish. {mospagebreak}
First step: rivets

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With such a large area to work with,  the paint was sprayed from left to right in the direction of top to bottom.

    The first thing we had to do was drill out all the old rivets and then feather edge all the peeling paint around the rivets. We then replaced the rivets with new ones as needed. This all had to be done before we could begin to apply base coat to our project. In total we used over 500 rivets to regain the structural integrity of the bus. I used a Chicago Pneumatic CP-883 rivet gun to accomplish this.
Sand and polish
    Then we sanded the whole thing down with 320-grit sandpaper. The front and rear of the bus was fiberglass, so I grinded these areas down with 24-grit to remove all the heavy cracking. I came back and feather edged with 80-grit sandpaper and then came back with some heavy coats of PCL Poly Primer for the more severely damaged areas.
    Then we repaired all the dents and smoothed out the surface with Dura Glass. We used poly putty to fill in all the cracks. After that, the crew masked off the bus and I shot the repaired areas with PCL Poly Primer. Because the bus itself was made of aluminum, we used House of Kolor’s KC20 Post Sanding Cleaner, KD2000 Direct to Metal Primer (one coat gray), and Ko-Seal II Primer Sealer (two coats). It’s always a good idea to use products made specifically for a job.
    We polished the entire aluminum paneling with wool pads and medium compound to bring it back to a lustrous shine. I

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Custom-fabricated metal accents were made using a plasma cutter and added to the vents of the bus.

started out by painting the roof black. The air conditioning covers were painted black and airbrushed by Pendelton in the spray booth. The poly primer was blocked with 80, 150, and then finally 400-grit sandpaper; and a black guide coat was used between grits. With the bus primed and masked, block sanded, and prepped for spraying, we were ready to start with our paint job and graphics.
Paint and graphics
    Of course, I started with some black sealer and then gave the bus two coats of House of Color black basecoat. With such a large area to paint, I had to change my usual system for spraying. I decided the plan was to spray from left to right going from top to bottom. I also overlapped about 6-inches to prevent as much dry area as possible. In total, I sprayed about three coats of black base on the bus. The normal spray booth technique was used on the rest of the parts that were broken down.
Steel spiders and flames
    On this project we added a lot of custom-fabricated metal accents, including spiders and flames cut from steel using a plasma cutter. We then prepped them, painted them black, and attached them to the vents on the sides of the bus. We also used our Rich Evans Designs Truck Dubs wheel covers. Pendelton and the airbrush team at Huntington Beach Bodyworks then went to work on the artwork.
    Pendelton did a freehand airbrush rendering of skeletons, a portrait of his wife, and various tattoo style pieces along the sides of the bus. Johnny Sotelo used our vinyl plotter to create a stencil of the “Rich Evans Designs” logo so Terry Stephens could airbrush it onto the rear of the bus.
    Stephens then came in and applied the airbrushed shadows and highlights. Whenever there is any airbrushing that needs to be done, the only paint we tend to use is House of Kolor. Their pigments have a finer grind than most other finishes and therefore flow better through a small airbrush.
Peeling off the masking
    After the airbrushed shadows and highlights were applied, we peeled off the masking material that was used to blanket the bus. Be sure to peel only the paper masking and leave any vinyl masking until the end. Masking should be peeled off slowly and at a sharp angle away from the graphics. This helps to prevent lifting of the graphics. The best way is to use an X-ACTO knife with both hands while taking care not to poke the paint.
    We then wiped down and tacked the bus and made sure to leave clean edges on the graphics. This wasn’t that hard because almost all the artwork was completely freehand. We made sure to pre-kleano and remove any fingerprints, oils, and glue residue that may have been left behind by the vinyl and/or masking. {mospagebreak}

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 The finished bus.  

Clear coats
    Now it was time to mix up some clear and apply a few coats to each side of the bus. I pre-cleaned, tacked, and then gave everything a coat of Intercoat Clear. I started with the same process I used to spray
the basecoat. I overlapped a little with my strokes to help prevent dry areas and blend the whole thing together nice and even.
    There were only two coats of clear on this bus because of the size of the whole thing, so I made sure not to rush the job or apply the next coat too soon. This could cause the clear to run. If you do get a run in your clear, hopefully it’s not too big and can be fixed with a bit more color sanding before buffing.
The whirlwind week
    Basically a week after the bus had arrived, the work was complete. It was an extremely exhausting task, but that’s what I live for. As soon as the bus arrived, I hit the ground running. I started on a Friday at 8 p.m. and worked until 9 p.m. the following day. I came back at 6 a.m. on Sunday and finally left at 1 a.m. on Monday morning. Then I started again at 9 a.m. that Monday.
    I began to basecoat the bus Tuesday night and finished around 2 a.m. The airbrushing started on Wednesday morning and finished around 2 a.m. on Saturday morning. I arrived and started clearing at 6 a.m. on that same day. I finished around 9 a.m. that morning and then started piecing the bus back together at around 11 a.m.
    Believe it or not, I’ve done a few jobs that have been more involved than this project. It was an extremely daunting task and I, as well as everyone in the shop, could not help but be overwhelmed at certain points of the project. There were a few sleepless nights on this project.
    If you’re reading this and you happen to have a project of this magnitude, such as an RV or similar, hopefully these steps will help you out.
    Rich Evans, owner of Huntington Beach Bodyworks in Southern California, is an award winning painter and fabricator. Currently he is offering workshops at his facility so he can share his special techniques to other industry professionals. For more information, visit www.huntingtonbeachbodyworks.com