Saturday, 02 August 2008 04:00

Racing Against Time, Corvette Gets Show-stopping Restoration

Written by Rich Evans
This month’s project was to do a complete restoration of a 1972 Corvette Convertible to be given away at the 2008 ISN Tool Dealer Expo, held in Orlando, Florida. The challenge: this five to eight month job had to be done in five weeks! Luckily with a lot of hard work, little sleep, and help from my sponsors, our five-week deadline was met and our project was delivered on time to the ISN Tool Expo.
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    The challenge began when the Corvette, purchased in Arizona, arrived at Huntington Beach Bodyworks, where it was unloaded from the transporter and moved into the shop. At first glance it seemed like we may have lucked out and this wasn’t going to be to hard to pull off. However, we all know that what you see is not always what you get. Upon closer inspection it became apparent that we had some late nights coming up.
    This 'vette has all the many bumps and bruises accumulated over 36 years. Like most Corvettes, the body was made of fiberglass, which is great for low weight and speed, but doesn’t hold up as well to the usual bump and grind that every car endures over its lifetime.
    I began by sanding the entire fiberglass body with 150-grit sandpaper and my Chicago Pneumatic DA sanders. After putting down the sanders, I scoured the car and marked every chip and crack in the fiberglass. I then went into every little chip and crack with some 36-grit sandpaper to give the Duraglass a little bite.
    Rich Tip: When mixing up the Duraglass, be sure to follow the instructions, being careful not to add too much catalyst to the mix. If you are new to the process, this is the first place things can go wrong.
    You might think that adding more catalyst than required helps to apply it faster, harden it quicker and get to the sanding sooner. This is, in fact, a mistaken assumption. By adding too much hardener, the Duraglass will never fully harden, and you’ll be left with a big mess.
    After applying the Duraglass, the next step is to grab a long block, some 36-grit sandpaper and start sanding. After the 36-grit, I used 80-grit, and then moved on to the 150-grit.
    At this point the car is basically ready to be painted, but before that it was necessary to  mask off and paint the under carriage and the engine compartment. Now it is time to roll this baby into the booth.
    After putting the car in the booth, I masked off the body and mixed some PCL Polyprimer. When mixing the primer, always mix 2 parts Primer to 1 part catalyst.
    Rich Tip: You never want to spray the primer too heavy or spray the next coat too early. This will keep the primer from hardening.

     I then gave the body three coats, with fifteen minutes between coats. After the primer dried, I sprayed a quick guide coat. I usually mix a batch of black non-sanding epoxy primer for this. Once again the block sanding of the body began first with 36-grit, then 80 grit, ending with  150-grit.
    Rich Tip: Be sure to re-apply the black guide coat in between each change of grit in sandpaper. This will help you see all the high and low spots in the primer.

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    Once the block sanding is finished and the primer completely smoothed out, a white sealer was sprayed to help with the adhesion of the paint and to make the red base color as bright as possible. I use white non-sanding epoxy primer, mixed two parts paint to one part catalyst to one part reducer, as my sealer. This being a non-sanding epoxy primer, you should be able to go right into base coating.
    Rich Tip: Sometimes it’s a good idea to give the sealer a thorough once over and check for any nubs that may have spit out of your spray gun. You can knock these down with a little 1000-grit wet sandpaper before spraying the base coat.
    Finally, I get to mix my red base and give the body three good coats. My technique is to  always hang the doors, hood, trunk lid, etc. separately to spray them. It’s what has always worked for me in getting a nice glassy finish over the complete car.
    Rich Tip: This technique should not be used when spraying kandy or pearl coats. It’s a lot more difficult to make the panels match with these products.
    Lastly, I gave everything three coats of clear.
    Before painting, I completely stripped out the interior. We put in new carpet and a new dash, then  installed some fresh seats and gauges. After some buffing and a good detailing, this 'vette was ready for Orlando.

And now a word from our sponsors
That’s about it in a nutshell, folks. There was a lot of work to fit into these five weeks and at times it seemed that I might miss my deadline. Lucky for me, my sponsors and the lucky new winner of this ’72 Corvette, we came in just under the wire. Of course, without the help of my sponsors, particularly the 2008 ISN Tool Dealer Expo, this project would not have happened.
    Many thanks to Chicago Pneumatic for their incredible tools, 3M for their prepping supplies, and PPG for supplying the paint products. Further thanks go to Worth for supplying the coatings for the chassis and engine compartment, BF Goodrich for supplying the rubber, Vintage Air for the high quality air conditioning system that was a pleasure to install, and definitely MicroFlex for keeping my hands safe to work another day.
    Please visit microflex.com, chicagopneumatic.com, 3m.com, ppg.com, vintageair.com, and bfgoodrichtires.com, for these quality products.