Corvette Painting 101: Strip Show

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some of you know I have promised VetteMan89 that I would put together
a Corvette Painting 101 post.
it�s time to put up or shut up
so here goes. I will be publishing several
articles, as it
stands right now I am planning on doing the following
How to strip your current finish, How to repair your fiberglass,
How to prep your body for painting, How to apply an Imron finish. ( I
might also do Lacquer, but I am hoping someone else will take up that
challenge as it is not my forte.), and lastly, Tips when reassembling
your car.


Tools of
the trade:

Picture 1.

Ok, let�s get started.
Picture 1
shows the tools and supplies you will need to strip your car.
I have found that plain old Stripeeze, used correctly, is very safe for
use on fiberglass finished cars and boats. The keys to using
this product
are strict timing, multiple applications, and
LOTS of rinse water. Notice
the rubber gloves and safety
glasses, Stripeeze will cause serious
chemical burns to
your skin or eyes, by the time you feel it burning it
is too
late, you have a blister on the way. Please use gloves and glasses
and keep a bucket of clean water on hand just in case. I usually buy a
box at a time of the cheap brushes shown, get the ones with
wooden handles,
they will last for a day or two and at $.75
each you can afford to toss
them. The plastic Bondo
applicators, the Scotch-Brite pads, and the plastic
steel wool
are the main tool you will be using to get the paint off of
your car. Do not use regular steel wool, you will spend forever picking
steel fibers out of your gelcoat, this is experience talking
here! You
will want a couple of coffee cans, one for holding
the Stripeeze as you
are applying it, the other(s) for holding
the gunk that you are taking
off the car. The razor blades are
for very limited use, this tool used
improperly, can cut right
down into your fiberglass, we will cover the
right time and
method to use these. Not pictured but of major importance
an egg timer, or wind up kitchen timer. And last but not least, I love
these big sponges, have a bunch of them around as well as a
bunch of rags,
you must thoroughly rinse and dry the area you
are working on between

To strip or not
to strip:
comes the moment of truth, do
you want to spend the time and effort required
to get all that
paint off of your baby, or will another coat on top do
trick. Here are my top 5 reasons for stripping a finish.

5) Gets that
little bit of wax off that would otherwise ruin a perfect
paint job.

4) Best way to find
previous repair
spots, Stripeeze hates Bondo!

3) Prevents premature
failure caused by the underlying paint letting loose

2) The only
way to
find all the cracks and damage points in your

1) The only way to
get all the
Nu-Finish off ( just kidding, kinda! )

I only get to work
on my car for a couple of hours in the evening a few nights a
week and
maybe a day on the weekends, it seems my family wants
me to pay some attention
to them as well. Having said that,
using the procedures that follow, it
took me just over a month
to remove all the paint from my 1974 coupe.
That included the
original primer, original dark brown paint, and a thick
enamel that was put on top of my original paint. Also included were
the doorframes and the lip around the engine compartment. As your first
time, you can figure on roughly; a day for each quarter panel
or major
panel, another day for the doorjambs, and two extra
days just because.
Total time to strip = 10 long days or about
100 person hours. Don�t forget
to add the time it will take to
remove all the trim, lights, bumpers,

Caution: I
had to replace both bumpers on my �74 as
they were both cracked, the other
Corvettes I�ve painted were
steel bumper cars. I DO NOT recommend
Stripeeze on
Corvette rubber bumpers, I tested it on one of my old bumpers
and it made it swell up something fierce. I would check with your local
auto paint supply house and see what they recommend and then
test it first!

Ok already, how
do I
do it:
first part of this process is to remove any
trim items on the car, this
includes emblems, marker lights,
tail lights, headlights, grills, gas
filler door, chrome side
moldings, and bumpers ( metal or rubber ). You
want to make
sure you have not missed any plastic pieces since Stripeeze
may eat it away, this would include items like the vent cover for your
ram air hoods. Make sure you also remove all the grills, like
the ones
behind the rear window on a C3 or the egg-crates on
the side of the older

If you are planning
to replace any of your weather stripping this is the time to
remove the
old stuff. You might want to take a picture of it
first, I forgot exactly
how the weather stripping came off of
my doors! Another thing I have learned
to do is use ziplock
bags to put all the retainers in. I will use one
bag for each
item I have removed and add a piece of paper that describes
what the retainers are for. I also like to remove door handles and the
window weather stripping on the door itself. This does require
your inner door panel, but it gives a much more
professional looking job,
there is nothing tackier looking
then bad masking near a trim piece. If
you are doing the
doorjambs, you will also want to remove the sill plates
the quarter trim panels. If you are really going for the killer look
or are changing color you will want to consider removing or at least
back the dash pads. If you only pull the back be very
careful not to get
any stripper on them. The more you remove
the less old paint will show,
also the more likely you are to
find any spots needing repair. Needless
to say the more you
remove the longer this project is going to stretch

Finally we come to
the hood, convertible cover,
wiper doors, and side doors. I have to say
up front that I
really hate removing doors! I always end up bribing one
of my
buddies to come over and re-align them for me, I think it is a mental
block but I just cannot get them straight. I have tried every known method
of marking the hinge position and counting shims, but I still
seem to
mess this up. Having said that I did pull them on my
�74 so that I could
blast and repaint the hinges, and yes, I
will be taking it over to the
Goodwrench guys to re-align it
since my buddies will not touch a Corvette.
My local Chevy
body shop is charging me under $150.00 to re-align the
The hood on the other hand is very easy, use a sharp awl or punch
and carefully, remember this is fiberglass, mark the position of the hinge
on the hood, and on the inner fender. I usually scratch a
fairly deep
mark on the side and on the front where no one is
likely to see them.

Take it off, take
it all off:
like to start at the top of the
car and work my way down, but since this
may be your first
experience with the nasty goop that comes off of the
car, I
recommend starting with one of the rear fenders. After you get
a feel for the consistency of the paint / stripper gunk that you are
I would suggest going back and starting at the top
of the car. Now as
much as I would like to show you on my car,
I am already done stripping
the body panels, so instead I will
show you a couple of pictures of the
headlight trim as I strip
those ( when I write the section on painting
I will show you
my car ).

Let�s start off with
by-the-numbers summary of the steps to strip and then we can review
the important parts.

1.Clean the area completely,
Dawn works well.

2.Pour a fair amount
of stripper
into the coffee can

3.Using your brush
put a
heavy coat of stripper onto the area to strip, do a section about
two foot square.

4.Set your timer for
three to five
minutes depending on temperature, err on the safe side to

5.If, during the \”cooking\”
time, the area begins to bubble, lather another coat of stripper on top
of the existing coat

6.At the end of the
\”cooking\” time, using the edge of the bondo applicator,
begin \”scraping\”
the goop off of the car, watch it this
stuff is chemically HOT. Dump this
junk into your second
coffee can. I usually dispose of it sealed up in
old paint

Using copious
amounts of fresh water and your plastic steel wool, scrub
area you just \”scraped\”.

8.Using a non-oily
and a second bucket of fresh water, rinse the area you just worked

9.Dry the area with
a junk towel, change both
water buckets.

10.Let air dry for
15 �30 minutes (
I usually work another section on the other side of the
during this time)

11.Once dry repeat
steps 3 thru 9
as many times as needed. Most cars will require three to
applications to get down past the primer.

Ok there are the
basics, now lets look at each step a bit more

Picture 2.

Steps one and two
are obvious, with step three the idea is to apply a thick coat
that lays
on the surface ( see Picture 2 ). One of the
problems with Stripeeze is
once an opened can gets old it
thins out, the thicker it is the easier
it is to work with.
Notice in the picture that as I am applying the stripper,
is cutting right thru the black paint exposing the brown paint underneath.
This was a case of black lacquer being applied on top of the
brown enamal.

As you get more
with the process you can work a larger area, but I
tend to not work on
anything larger then a three foot square
or more complicated then this
light assembly. There is a lot
of car to work on so it is easier to have
several patches
going at once in different stages of completion. You can
from one to the other as you are waiting for them to dry. Never have
more then one area with stripper on it, if you get called away or tied
up doing something else it will burn away at the car!

In step four we set
the timer for three to five
minutes, on hotter days the stripper seems
to work faster, it
also depends on if you are removing enamel of lacquer,
comes off much quicker. You can take the edge of your bondo applicator
and push into the paint a bit and see if anything comes off,
after three
minutes a large amount should come off.
CAUTION, do not think that
leaving the stripper on
longer will make the job easier, if left on too
long it can
soften up the gelcoat, this is BAD. It is much better
to make four or five applications to remove everything then to try and
do it all at once.


Picture 3.

Picture 3, the gas
cap, shows the stripper bubbling away, this was after about
two minutes
on an 80 degree day. At this point I covered the
cap with another coat
of stripper and three minutes later
began removing all the old paint.

Picture 4.

Picture 4 shows the
end result of
the first pass through all the steps, you can see that a
amount of the paint came off, but there is still quite a bit left,
the next application will be for 3 minutes only. My rule of thumb is;
once you see gelcoat ( or primer ), do not let the stripper sit for more
then three minutes, period!

Picture 5.

Picture 5 shows the
result of a
second coat of stripper, yup it only took two applications
get us down to here. Now for this coat I applied the stripper, left
it for three minutes, pulled the excess off with my bondo applicator,
and then I used water and a scotch brite pad instead of the plastic steel
wool, you get a little better control as your are
\”sanding\” the gunk off.
The dark gray areas are the
original primer showing, the light areas are
the gelcoat.

Once this piece completely
dries, I will finish
it off by hand wet sanding the remaining bits of
paint and
primer off. Then it is a heavy coat of feather fill primer,
wet sand, and finish paint. Piece of cake right!

couple of final words, I mentioned the razor
blades in the tools section.
I only use these on two
occasions. The first is when I have pin-stripping
tape or
weather stripping adhesive that will not break free after two
coats of stripper. At that point I will sit and VERY carefully
scrape with the edge of the razor blade. BE CAREFUL!! The second
case is when I am dealing with pot metal pieces like grills
and the gas
cap door. After stripping the piece a couple of
times I will often use
a razor blade to scrape off the
remaining bits of paint on the edges.

little tip,
after you have completed a couple of passes
stripping a full section you
may find that all but a few spots
of the section are down to the gelcoat.
In these cases use
your paint brush and just dab the stripper on the offending
spots, then complete the process as you normally would. Rinsing the area
neutralizes the stripper, letting it dry for a half hour lets
the gelcoat
\”recover\”. The effects of multiple
applications of stripper on the gelcoat,
if this process is
followed carefully, is not cumulative. That is to say
you can
do 20 coats as long as you rinse the area well and allow it to
dry properly between coats.

Rinse, rinse, and
rinse. Many of the folks I have talked to over the years who have
had bad experiences stripping say they cannot get the paint to stick and
end up with early failure. This is almost always caused by a
failure to
rinse all of the stripper out of the work surface
before priming. You
are spending this much effort to strip
your car, don�t skimp on rinsing
it! I will work for hours on
a section, then pull the car out of the garage
and use the
hose and a big clean sponge to really rinse it down before
quit for the day.

Watch that interior.
Stripeeze does
nasty things to both your leather seats and the rest of
interior, BE CAREFUL, use sheets of plastic and tape to protect
your interior, or better yet pull as much as you can ( easy
for me to
say! ).

Finally: I
this helps you. It has taken longer to write this then I had hoped
as I am working hard to actually complete my car. The next installment
will cover repairing fiberglass. We will talk about everything
from minor
edge chips in the t-tops to stress crack repairs.



1.The procedures in
this and the accompanying articles are based on my experience
cars, motorcycles, and boats. My procedures are time
intensive and while
my customers were always VERY happy with
the finished product, I lost
money on as many projects as I
made money on, which is why I now only
work on my own car;

2.The procedures here
will give you a beautiful
looking show and go car, they will not score
you ANY points in
a NCRS show, the art of fiberglass restoration is a
different subject, we will be focusing on basic fiberglass repair.

3.I know there are
faster, perhaps better ways to
accomplish any of these tasks, again this
is what has worked
for me.

4.Failure to carefully
follow the
steps in this first part, stripping your paint, could result
in damage to your car�s fiberglass gelcoat and that is a real pain to

5.Stripeeze will soften
up any
Bondo filler on your cars body. I consider this a good thing as
it will help you remove the Bondo so we can repair the damage correctly,
but you need to be aware of this fact.

6.Neither I
nor the
owners of this web site can be held responsible for
damage to your vehicle
or personal injuries sustained by
attempting these procedures, it is assumed
you have some clue
as to what you are doing. The directions and comments
in these
articles are to be viewed only as guidelines, if you are unsure,
use some common sense and seek professional help.

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