Thursday, January 19, 2012

my block sanding vacation part two

So after two full days of filling and sanding, I was ready to paint....or should I say ready to start preparing to paint. The first thing to do was try and rid the garage of all the dust I produced while sanding body filler. This actually took a lot of effort. I swept up the worst of it, but there's only so much you can do with a broom, so I got the compressor going and blew everything towards the door and out into the world (it's only dust, right?), and finished up by wetting down the floor and sweeping again.

Great, onto the car itself. I gave the bodywork a thorough wipe down with shop towels soaked in denatured alcohol. Then I broke out the masking paper and tape and got stuck in. I masked off the trunk and the window and door openings first, and then covered up everything forward of the firewall which I already painted with epoxy primer.

Ok, so getting to the end of day three now, but at least I'm ready to spray the primer. I had just enough epoxy leftover from the engine compartment, but I didn't plan on my paint gun breaking down about three quarters of the way through. This was a major PITA, as I was forced to complete the job with a touch up gun, and it shows, particularly in the second picture below. Fortunately it doesn't really matter, because I'll be doing a bunch more sanding of the car anyway, but it's still annoying.

Last day: I began by applying seam sealer to the drip rails - I didn't take pictures but I used a lot of masking tape while I was doing this and it was well worth it as the process is really messy. After the sealer had time to dry I covered it up with a coat of epoxy using the now-more-appropriate touch-up gun.

While the primer was drying I went over to a buddy's house to pick up a substitute paint gun - one a good deal better than the cheap piece of tat I started with - and then I started preparing for the final part of my block sanding vacation: clear coating the underside of the car.

There has been much discussion on VMF recently about the wisdom of painting urethane clear coat directly over epoxy primer; the reasons for not doing so include:

1. The paint manufacturer does not recommend doing so without the appropriate layer of base coat in between.
2. Clear coat is not as tough as the primer, so the surface will actually be more prone to damage from flying stop chips, road debris etc.
3. The shinny appearance isn't concours correct.
4. One of the purposes of clear coat is to add UV protection, but you don't really need that under the car.

All of these points have their own merits, and you can add to the list that it's costly and time consuming...but then isn't everything, so I came up with my own list of reasons for doing it anyway:

1. The key to paint compatibility is really to do with surface preparation and application, plus I don't think that base coat and clear coat are chemically all that different, they're both urethanes, so that's point one dealt with provided I scuff up the existing primer to give the surface some "tooth".
2. Clear coat may well be easier to scratch than primer, but it still provides additional protection to the metal underneath - you can't scratch primer at all if it's covered with something else, can you.
3. Nothing on my car has been done to make it "correct" because I couldn't care less about concours requirements; I'm building the car I want.
4. I happen to like the look of shinny stuff more that dull, so that's that.

Here's the masked off look:

And here's how the underside came out after the clear coat dried: all nice and shinny!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

my block sanding vacation part one

One summer back in the midst of my youth I found myself working in a factory that manufactured wallpaper sample books. A good deal of this work consisted of sticking rectangular pieces of border paper on top of square pieces of hand. It wasn't the most stimulating or fulfilling endeavor, to say the least, and as a result the area of the factory where folks toiled away at this onerous task - in fact just a large group of tables in the center of the building - was collectively known as "the patch"....on the basis that you had to be a cabbage* to work there!

Suffice to say, management were not overly keen on this phrase being bandied about, but it did tend to (cough..) crop up quite a lot, for example a co-worker might be heard to comment: "Tim was late again this morning, now he's stuck on the patch" or perhaps "that new guy is awful, he'll be on the patch before the end of the week" and so on. I was hardly ever late, and never misbehaved with the boss's daughter (his son was an only child!), so fortunately my exposure to life on the patch was minimal. Still, over the years, memories have occasionally flashed before my eyes, usually when I've found myself doing something mind numbingly boring....which brings me on to the real point of this post: block sanding.

I've been dreading the body-filler part of this project for a number of reasons, not least because just one quarter panel was enough to stop the Restoration King in his tracks...but eventually the time came when there was nothing for it but to take the plunge. I started out by investing in a set of Durablocks and some rolls of self-adhesive sandpaper in various grades and I tapped into my friend Chuck for some advice on technique before I got started.

I also did some reading up on what type of body filler to use - my only experience of using filler prior to this project was when I helped my father plaster it over his Consul sometime in the early 80s....we even used some chicken wire too I recall.  This time I chose to go with Evercoat's Rage Extreme, based amongst other things on this review.

But, hold on, before I actually got started I had to battle though a severe bout of can't-be-bothered-with-this-project-ever-again-itis. Then, after a week or so of being entirely consumed by this illness, I noticed some very small rust spots forming on the car bodywork (!) which was exactly what I needed to spur me into immediate action! In fact the turnaround from lack of interest to desperation was so rapid that I booked two days off work next to the weekend, and vowed to have the car in primer by the end of day four. To start with, here's a picture of the filler being mixed - every bodywork blog I've ever read has a version of this picture, so I had to include my own. I found a huge box of mirror tiles in my garage when I moved in and I found they make excellent filler-mixing surfaces.

The worst damage was at the driver side quarter panel, so that's where I began:

The first footprint in the dust. By the time I was done sanding, there was dust everywhere in the garage, but I was careful to keep it out of the house!

My basic methodology was to apply the filler, give it 20 minutes to harden, and then attack it with my seventeen inch long board and some 80 grit sand paper...and then repeat the process. For the first few cycles I was mainly concerned with knocking down the high spots in the body work, but eventually, thanks to my favorite BFH I came out the winner. Here's the car at the end of the first day with one quarter panel well on the way.

Day two and time to move onto the roof and A-pillars:

I was still struggling with boredom, but after a day and a half I had refined my technique such that I was applying less filler each time and doing less sanding on each iteration...after the roof was taken care of I moved onto the passenger rear quarter and the then the tail light panel.

The funny thing is, the more time and effort I put in, the more I wanted a great result...but you have to stop somewhere, and anyway I'll be doing a lot more filling and sanding after the first coat of epoxy, so I didn't beat myself up too much over getting it absolutely perfect. Essentially I worked on getting it as good as I could by the end of day two, and then to wrap up I gave the entire car a light going over with 120 grit and called it done. Coming in part two: clean up and stay tuned.

*cab·bage [kab-ij], noun,
1. Any of several cultivated varieties of a plant, Brassica oleracea capitata, of the mustard family, having a short stem and leaves formed into a compact, edible head.
2. (Chiefly British Informal) (a) a stupid, dull, or spiritless person (b) a mentally impaired person who is unable to live independently; vegetable.

Monday, January 2, 2012

the yellow camero

I was recently without a daily driver for a few weeks after I was rear-ended on the freeway (phew, no serious injuries...), and while this is the kind of PITA everyone can do without, I did enjoy spending 1500 dollars of State Farm's money down at my local Hertz. The obvious choice would have been a Mustang of course, but the fact is I get plenty of opportunities to drive these cars anyway, thanks to my buddies in BAMA, so I decided to try something different. The Hertz franchise near me is overflowing with so-called luxury saloons like the Mercedes E series and the Lexus equivalent, but frankly I find these cars about as exciting as a night out in Hull - the Adrenaline Collection was much more up my street. I actually tried really hard to get either the Corvette or the new Challenger, but the best my local agent could come up with was this yellow Camero SS, so I sucked it up, turned the key, and prepared to lay down some stripes...

The day after I picked up the Camero just happened to coincide with the inaugural BAMA vs. DVMA kart racing at Umigo in Livermore, so naturally I showed up with my new wheels....and caused plenty of comment.

...and when I wanted to leave, I couldn't get the BAMA guys out from under the Camero's hood!

But how did it drive? commute sometimes takes me through the Santa Cruz mountains and doing this drive half a dozen times in the super-fast Camero was a lot of fun....but it didn't actually handle all that well through some of the more challenging sections of the course...I mean highway...and unless you have the traction control turned on, the car has a serious tendency to slide through the turns.

The Camero attracted attention wherever it went - for example I've never heard a "nice car!" comment from a random stranger when I've been out in my Forester - but it got old very did all the kids in Honda Civics that wanted to race me...meh....

So....functionality: the Camero is exceptionally quick off the line. I mean it really is very fast, even for a muscle car, and the motor makes a stunningly sweet purr when you stamp on the gas. Going from, say, 40 to 80 mph on the freeway is effortlessly accomplished in the time it takes a bird to flap its wings, thanks to more lower-end torque than you can shake a stick at. And, as I mentioned above, the traction control allows you to accelerate hard out of even the tightest turns. In other words it's absolutely nothing like my Forester...but then you knew that already.

It's not all good news though. For a start the Camero was absolutely useless at the store, and it was very tough getting my son in and out of his car seat....but it's a bit unfair to blame Chevy for that, their target market isn't exactly your average soccer Mom.

Slide in behind the wheel though, and the issues are much more concerning: the gauge placement looks like it was designed by a blind monkey! The steering wheel basically obscures everything in the dash -  I had to crane my neck just to figure out what speed I was doing, a real PITA!

The center console is also an unattractive mess of molded plastic. Don't get me wrong, I'm not expecting a luxury interior in the Lexus mold, but this has a real downmarket feel...and a transmission temp gauge? C'mon, who really needs that?

I do a *lot* of driving and so it only took me ten days to clock up 1000 miles in the Camero, and I found myself looking at the view below more often than I would like. Again, it's not fair to blame Chevy because their souped-up V8 sucks down a lot of gas, and my personal driving style adds to the problem, but it's a significant factor.

I made sure several of the BAMA guys and a few of my other mates had a chance to put the Camero through its paces, or "show it who's boss" as my friend MS put it (note: I hope Hertz aren't reading this....) and the overall verdict was that we couldn't work out what SS actually stands it So-So? Super Sub-standard? After a week and a half I'd had my fun with the Camero and I was fed up with it's attention-attracting glow....although I never got tired of pressing down hard on the gas pedal and lighting up the rear I took it back to Hertz and swapped it for a Rav 4.

Hands down the Rav 4 handled ten times better than the Camero, and also had a very nice power band in the 40-60 mph range. Not to mention four doors and a ton of space in the back. Much more practical, but not nearly as much fun.