I didn't think that I could paint the car myself, but my father-in-law gave me a SpeedySprayer unit that he received for Christmas in 1976. He'd hardly used it, and according to the manual it should be able to be used for spray painting a car. It comes with its own little compressor that runs all the time, as well as a spray gun. I'll put a picture of it on a separate page of this site for Essential Tools. It's not a compressor that could be used for air tools as it's 2.5CFM @ 35psi, but it turned out that it could spray paint, which was a huge obstacle overcome because I could not see myself paying to have a spray job done. I want to emphasize that all the work shown so far was done without air tools, just in case somebody's actually reading this far and wonders if they can do a restoration without a compressor. The answer is yes, but at this point, be sure you have health insurance. More on that later.
So I read all that I could on the internet about the process of painting, and like a lot of other things in life, it turns out that for every hour that you're going to spend painting, it takes about 10 hours of prep work. In my case that meant sanding and learning how to use body filler and putty. I'd done that before, but always on cars that were teetering on the edge of going to the junkyard, and I wanted this to come out better. So I did a lot of hand sanding. And I mean a lot of hand sanding.
When you hand sand you get the chance to find the spots that need hammering, or filler. I eventually learned that the Bondo that I'd always used is very hard to work. Use the lightweight filler.
So where do you buy paint? I went to a body shop or two and asked. The first place they recommended couldn't convince me that the product they'd sell me wouldn't kill me. Maybe not quickly, but they just couldn't convince me they could sell me something I could use without a fresh air set-up. And I'm sure they were right. Another place that was mentioned was Sherwin-Williams. To me, Sherwin-Williams makes a fine house paint. But car paint? I thought it was a joke. But it turns out that they have a whole 'nother division that does car paint, and the store in my region had some guys that just couldn't have been more helpful. They spent more than an hour just on my visit to pick up primer, explaining things and getting me tools and equipment.
The primer and paint are not cheap, but it's amazing the results you get. I used an epoxy primer, which I guess sticks to just about anything. So I figured the time had come to try out the spray gun. I prepped an area of the car, masked it off, put on all the safety equipment I could improvise, turned on fans in the garage, and propped open all the doors and windows. Let me first mention that it's most likely that what I did was foolish, but I did wear a brand new 3M mask, meaning the charcoal filter elements were known to be brand new. And it was made clear to me that if I could smell the paint, I was in trouble. These modern 2-part paints produce isocyanates, and they basically kill you. And they get absorbed through your skin. And there's probably a lot more I should be saying about how dangerous they are, but I forget. Because I probably damaged my brain. I remember reading on one of the BBS's that if you don't take the proper safety precautions, then one benefit would be that you could hide your own Easter eggs. Funny line, and probably true.
Having said all that...
...I'm ready to shoot primer.
And this is the result of my first attempt. I was ecstatic. It may not show in the picture, but the results are stunning compared to an aerosol can.
So I started sanding the rest of the car to prepare it for primer. Now I don't know if there were other factors, but I worked so hard sanding, starting with maybe 60 grit and working my way down to 600 grit, that I eventually ended up with tendonitis in both elbows. Tennis elbow without the tennis, and on both sides of both elbows. Actually had to go to physical therapy for weeks and weeks, had to ice down my elbows after just a bit of sanding. But I was close to having something I could be proud of, and I could taste it. So I kept doing it. I eventually started using a vibrating pad sander that is intended for woodworking. Seemed to work fine. I would use it from the coarsest grit down to about 220, and would hand sand with the same grit after using it, and then hand sanded from 300 grit to 600. I don't think I mentioned that the car was originally Harvest Gold with gray primer underneath, and then someone resprayed it using black primer and a red.
So after a bit of sanding, the body parts would look like this:
I removed what I could from the car, sprayed all the pieces I could hang, then the shell of the car, then I'd work on the imperfections that I found after priming, and spray again.
Then it was time to pick a color. Couldn't be postponed any longer. I'd thought about the original Harvest Gold, but I think that even though I liked the color, it was too much of an attention-getter. I thought about a blue, and my wife was partial to British Racing Green (BRG). I thought that it was too small a car to be a dark color. Sue and I had seen at a car show a Morris Minor that was a fairly light green, and really looked "old-fashioned", and we both liked it, so we were going to try to come up with that color.
There's an extremely helpful website done by Paul Tegler, with all kinds of reference information and a zillion links to useful MG information. Here's the link: Teglerizer. Part of his site has a library of MG Color Codes with Photos, and that's where we found this picture of an Almond Green car that sure looked like what we remembered that Morris Minor at the car show looked like:
This isn't a linked picture, this is what we had to look at.
I found a great site that has a Library of color chips, including British cars. GN37 was the code we wanted, and the people at Sherwin-Williams were good enough to make up a formula for it. We thought it would be a bit lighter, but we still like it.
This is our version of Almond Green (GN37).
So after spraying the loose parts, time for the shell.
And then, after re-assembly.
I'm trying to hide it, but I did get a bit of color variation between the parts that I painted off of the car, and the shell itself.
These were taken about 4 months after painting, when I washed it for the first time.
I still haven't waxed it. I still have work to do on the finish and the wax would just get in the way.
In the primitive conditions in my garage I made no provision for exhausting the paint overspray, and the result was that bits of dried airborne paint deposited on all of the surfaces that were horizontal when they were painted. I need to color sand these paint nibs and then compound the whole car. I ended up with a fair amount of orange peel, but I think I'm just going to live with some of that.
I hope I don't feel the need to re-shoot the color. I used Sherwin-Williams' 3rd Dimension 5.0 VOC H.S. Urethane Enamel, which isn't as bad with the isocyanates as some others, but it still kind of gave me a headache. Might have been that it was just too hot and I was sweating too much in the suit and gear, but I do remember really wanting to get the job behind me. The primer didn't make me feel bad at all. It was Sherwin-Williams' DTM Primer 3.5 VOC Epoxy, Gray #E2A933.