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Rhonda's Renaissance Part 1

Mon, 26 Mar 2012

There are few bigger moments in a project car's resurrection than when the paint and finish are chosen. Let's face it, 95 percent of people are only going to see the exterior. Today's builders are inundated with choices ranging from hue and texture to material and, of course, cost. It's a turning point in the life of a project car and should be treated as such.

My project is a 1963 Pontiac StarChief. You've heard the story of Big Rhonda up to this point, and now I've come to that all-important fork in the road.

Luckily, I have very little bodywork that needs to be done. Rhonda has a few rust spots on the rear doors and one softball-size wrinkle from a parking-lot hit-and-run a few years ago. Light brown 1980s Ford F-150, I'm still looking for you.

Painting a car conventionally is one way to go. Shops can now match colors, add hardening agents, dust with metal flake and even spread a marbled finish over the body panels. With advances in paint science and chemistry, the finish can last a decade or more. There are plenty of traditionalists who might want to see Nocturne Blue—the original color—or Starlight Black paint on the big body.

The other option is to wrap. Vinyl wrapping is a newer technology popularized at places such as the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas and by companies such as SkinzWraps in Dallas. Wraps can do almost anything paint can do, and a few extras things that resin, pigment and solvent can't.

The last option I'm exploring is a matte finish, which comes with its own set of pros and cons. For starters, it looks boss. It can also be done in either paint or vinyl, both of which require special care.

So there's the dilemma. It seems my fork in the road is really more like a four-way stop. Make a left down Custom Canyon or head right down Traditionalists Trail? During all of this, the penny-pinching voice in my head says to just keep going straight on DIY Boulevard.

Come back on Wednesday for part two, when we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of paint and vinyl.

By Jake Lingeman