How I painted my 87 Fiero GT

How I painted my 87 Fiero GT

First thing I did was realized that my car needed a new paint job. I found this out by looking closely at the paint. It was hazy in places while others looked fine. Yet in some places I saw these little deep cracks in the paint. The roof was the worst part. All areas up there were heavily oxidized and cracking. So much that if you ran your knuckle along it…well lets just say Band-Aid. I will add photos later (need to develop some film) This is how I painted mine start to finish.

This is the paint system that I used. You will need to pick a color. I used a pearl metallic versus a flat color or a metal flake.

Here is a list of the Dupont Chroma Series part numbers:

  • (1 gal) 3919S Prep-Sol solvent for de-waxing and cleaning / preparing the car
  • (1 gal) 7175S ChromaBase Base maker This turns the 1KM into base paint
  • (1 qt) V7585S Activator for the clear coat only
  • (1 gal) V7500S Clear coat
  • (1 gal) 1KM Base you pick the color (reds and blues are expensive) But they look great.
  • (1 gal) Virgin lacquer thinner for clean up of gun only

I also purchased:

  • (1) 32038 3M 400 grit wet or dry Imperial sand paper
  • (2) 32023 3M 1500 grit wet or dry Imperial sand paper
  • (2) 32044 3M 2000 grit wet or dry Imperial sand paper
  • (1) 3M series 5000 respirator disposable Please use this. Isocyanates are a nasty thing.
  • (2) Generic air line dryers and oil filters
  • (3) 3M Scotch masking tape rolls of 3/4″
  • (1) Roll of 1″ masking tape 3M
  • (1) Roll of fine line tape 1/4″ vinyl very thin 3M
  • (6) 10′ x 20′ 2 mil plastic tarps
  • (1) Rubber sanding block
  • (2) 39004 3M Super duty heavy cut rubbing compound
  • (1) 05993 3M Liquid polish

I did not purchase:

  • 1. Adhesion promoter 2322S for plastics because the car was already painted. The rep said that I did not need it for this reason. Just prepare the surface as normal.
  • 2. Flex additive for ABS / SMC plastic bumper covers because mine did not have any cracking and they were already painted and the stuff would evaporate / harden after about 4 months anyway. (Actual quote from the Dupont representative). Not a bad idea to do though.
  • 3. Urethane filling primer Rep said he recommended it only for warranty and my old paint if prepared properly would serve as a fine primer. I had no peeling issues and needed no body fillers.

Maker sure to get plastic stir sticks, filters / screens, a measuring stick that gives mix ratios. These items are usually free from the supplier. You will have to purchase disposable coveralls, safety goggles (use anti-fog on the inside) and plenty of lint free cloths. Wrap your coveralls with bands of tape to keep them close to you so they don’t brush against painted surfaces. Make sure you have plenty of light. I used (2) 4′ dual fluorescent shop lights per side of the car. Use caution if using a halogen because of heat and flammability reasons.

How to paint your Fiero.

Beginning

First wash the car. I used a lot of soap and a good sponge. As I washed it, I scrubbed every square inch very well. I then rinsed and dried the car. Then it’s time to remove all of the tar and bugs. So much for the easy part!

De-wax and degrease using Prep-sol.

You may want to do this step two – three times depending on how often you waxed your car. Reason being is that the build up can be pretty thick. I used the Prep-Sol by wetting a clean cloth and wiping over the entire car, bumpers and all rough and smooth paint. This was to remove all waxes and residues. I did this twice. It actually makes the car look great, until it evaporates. On the last application of Prep-Sol wipe on and wipe dry at the same time.

Wet sanding.

This will create a mess. This is where your arms get the work out. Use clear water in a bucket. Use 400 grit wet or dry sandpaper. I cut mine into strips 3 inches wide by 8.5 inches long. I folded it in half and half again. (abrasive side out). Dip the sandpaper into the bucket and get it wet. Wet the car as well. I found it works best to keep the panel you are sanding wet at all times. Just like you are waxing use circular motions about 4″ in diameter. You will have to rinse out your sandpaper as you begin to rough up the paint. As you start you will see a white foam start to form. This is the clear coat. As you proceed you will begin to see a foam the color of your car appear. At this point you are through the clear coat. It is not totally necessary to go through the clear but in some cases you need to know how deep you are going. Paint is not very thick. Watch out for curved areas and sharper corners as you can quickly sand through them and hit the plastic. Use your other hand to feel the surface as you go to see if it is smooth to the touch.

Wet sanding rough spots.

In some locations you will have heavily oxidized paint. Mine was the roof and hood. At this point I used a 320 grit wet or dry sandpaper. Be careful because this is more abrasive than a 400 grit. After it is smooth to the touch use a 400 grit to remove the deeper scratches left by the 320 grit.

Wash the car thoroughly.

After you are happy with the sanding it is time to wash the car. Use a good sponge and a little soap. Wash with the sponge in one hand and follow by wiping with your other hand to loosen any residue that may be clinging to the surface. Dry the car with a towel. Don’t let it air dry by itself. This will further remove any residue.

Prep-Sol the surface again.

Use the same procedure as before. Wipe on and leave it to air dry and then wipe on and immediately wipe off.

Inspection and preparation of your “garage”.

At this point you should see the entire car look very hazy. Inspect that the car has been sanded completely over every square inch. If you need to do some touch up sanding now is the time. The car will have basically the same color as before but there will be no shine. (Mine was black and after I sanded it was gray). This tells you that the entire surface is roughed up. I hung tarp’s all around the garage, on the ceiling and floor. Believe it or not the fumes from the paint kill bugs and they love to fall on the hood of the car you are trying to paint.

Body work / repairs.

If needed (mine did not) all repairs should now be performed. Instructions are on the container of what ever you use. Talk with your paint dealer on application techniques and working times and tools. Sand to smooth once completed and remove all dust and residue using Prep-sol.

Pre-masking.

Disconnect the battery! When you spray paint / primer goes everywhere, even into tiny openings. I don’t recommend removing the plastic trim around the windshield but if that is your preference then go ahead. Prior to masking you can remove all the trim, door handles, ornaments and mirrors. I did not remove any of these items. I used a product from 3M called fine line tape. This is a thin vinyl tape that stretches and curves to form to the contour of any surface. It is thinner than conventional masking tapes so it will leave less of a witness line (raised area where the paint stops). I used 1/4″ to cover all the windshield seal, around the mirror bases, around the antenna base, sunroof gasket that meets the roof, metal trim over the top of the windows. The purpose of this tape is to give you a place to stick the regular masking tape. You do not have to cover a whole item with this. I used one piece to run along the windshield seal just where it meets with the roof. It will take you some time to mask this off the way you want it.

Masking.

After masking with the fine line tape you can mask with the regular masking tape. You can purchase masking paper for large areas like the windshield or use a couple of layers of newspaper. It is your choice. With whatever you use, you will invariably run into a spot that curves. Simply fold the paper to follow the contour and stretch the masking tape to cover the rest. Yes, masking tape will bend a little. Just pull and press into place, it will stick. I recommend removing the tail light assemblies. Roll the wire harnesses up, twist tie and remove the bulbs. You may want to mask the sockets to keep them clean. Mask off and cover the engine. You can remove the trunk gasket but mine was brittle so I did not. You will be painting the underside of the hood and deck lid (if you are changing the color) so cover the labels, etc. with masking tape or fine line tape. If your labels are loose or peeling off you can use a heavy layer of Petroleum Jelly to cover it and then wipe it off after the car has dried. Be extremely careful if you use this because wherever the Vaseline goes the paint will not adhere. Mask off under the hood as well. Cover all with sheets of paper. Cover everything. Make sure the overlaps of paper are taped off so no overspray can get in there. If you are going to paint the door jambs as well, you will need to leave the doors opened so that they don’t get painted shut. (Disconnect that battery or it will be dead!) To do this you will need to mask off the entire door opening to the inside of the car. Hang paper over the entire opening and make sure it is tightly closed. Paint on an interior will not come out.

Prep-sol again.

Doing this will remove any oils left behind from your hands and lint / dust during the masking portion. Use one wipe on and wipe off immediately application.
Leave the hood and deck lid propped open with something. I used a pop can under the hood spring and left the deck lid down but still open. If your car has the spoiler remove it. It uses 10mm nuts in (4) locations to secure it. Hang it for painting. Note: the studs and nuts will probably be rusted. Use WD-40 if you need to but Prep-Sol after to remove any oils. Paint does not like oil. I also propped the headlight covers up about 1 inch to paint around the sides. I used a spark plug socket on each side to keep them propped up. (Don’t use the headlights to do this, you do not want them up that high) only enough to paint the sides of the headlight doors.

Spray equipment.

At this point you are ready to spray. I used a Binks Model 62 spray gun with a 66SD tip and a 1 quart cup. I rebuilt the gun prior to painting to make sure it would work properly. This is a conventional siphon spray gun. HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) guns are expensive but you get less overspray. I used a 3/8″ diameter 25′ air hose. Set air at 40 psi for base coat application and 32-35 psi for clear (less overspray). These pressure values are set by the manufacturer of your paint. I set the gun to a 5 to 6″ fan spray vertical. I used a 20 gallon 5 HP air compressor. I installed a disposable air filter/dryer at the inlet of the gun along with a pressure regulator for quick access. There are other guns available but be careful of the lesser expensive guns. The paint will specify a tip size know this if you have to buy a spray gun. You can get a decent gun for around $100.00.

Spraying

(This is largely technique and requires practice for first timers). If you are spraying the car yourself then follow this closely. Practice without paint if you need to or if this is your first paint. Use air and an empty gun to get the feel of it. Whenever filling the cup always pour through a strainer. I mixed the basemaker with the paint in a 1:1 ratio (specified by manufacturer) in an empty clean gallon paint can then poured it into the paint cup of the gun. If you are using plastic flex additives, add them in the cup of the gun. For clear coat only, add your activator for the clear in the cup of the gun. Keep the spray gun at least 8 to 10 inches from the surface you are spraying. Follow the contour of the surface. If you get too close you will get a puddle or a nice run / sag in your paint. This is where the paint runs down the side of the car. Base coats are usually pretty tolerant to this. Don’t get in a hurry to apply. Use a constant motion with the gun. You will usually spray in a left to right and then back technique. Do it this way: start at the left (press the trigger as you begin to move right) continue to move to the right, once you stop at the right let off the trigger if you are going to go back left then press the trigger when you begin to move. In other words, do not leave the gun spraying as you switch directions moving right to left or vice versa. Go one arms length or off the car. If your arm stops moving, stop spraying. This will prevent spray from collecting at the stop and start points. You can effectively spray 3 or 4 ft wide on each pass. Overlap each pass about half starting at the top and working your way down. The way I painted my hood, roof and decklid was I stood on the side by the front wheel and started in the middle and went windshield to radiator working my way out (towards me). I spray the sides of the car first including the front and back ends then the hood, roof and decklid. In my opinion, this will prevent overspray from settling on the hood, roof and decklid. Check your work before you move on to the next application.
CLEAN THE GUN OUT WHEN YOU SWITCH MATERIALS. I used Lacquer thinner for this. Primer, clean gun, base paint, clean gun, clear, clean gun.

How many coats?

I sprayed (3) base coats and (3) clear coats. I use a mid-temperature paint (70 to 80 degrees ambient temperature). It had a flash time of 10 minutes. This means that I can re-coat after 10 minutes. I waited over night to apply the clear. The paint that I used allowed up to 24 hours for clear coat application. If you wait over night, then before you spray the clear, dust the car off with a dry lint free cloth. I used about 1/2 gallon of base paint and 1/2 gallon of clear coat.
DO NOT MIX BASE PAINT AND CLEAR COAT. The base paint uses an additive called basemaker and the clear uses an additive called an activator.

After spraying.

Give the car a week or two to cure. Delivery time (cured and derivable) will be specified on the particular product that you used. Mine was 24 hours, but I gave it a week. At this time you can do one of two things:
1. You can be tickled that you did an excellent job and un-mask everything and be done or
2. You can polish.

Polishing.

If you are like me and want a perfect mirror shine then read on. I used a 1500 grit wet or dry sandpaper and wet sanded the entire vehicle. This will take some time. I used a firm rubber sanding block to sand the large flatter areas. Don’t apply too much pressure but apply some. You should work up a light white residue. You will feel the paper grab when you are getting close. Dry the spot you are working on and look at the reflection from an angle. (While you are sanding you are looking 90 degrees to the surface), sight down the side or across the hood to see the images. Look at the way objects in the room appear. If they are not clear enough then continue sanding.
Once you are happy with that, I used a 2000 grit wet or dry sandpaper following the same approach. After you are happy with that, I used a Dewalt 90 degree (angle) polisher to buff the car at 1400 RPM. I used the hook and loop foam rubbing pad (made for polishers) it is about 7 inches in diameter, and 3M Super Duty heavy cut liquid rubbing compound. I followed this by buffing the car three times with a 3M clear coat safe liquid polishing compound and a new polishing pad at 1800 RPM. After this I was done. I waited 3 months before I waxed the car to give it ample time to dry out.

Please let me know your thoughts, questions and suggestions. I have photos for every step of the way. If I am missing one I will create one.
Thanks again.

Kevin

87 GT 5 speed

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