Mike’s Custom Corvette Airbrush Flames and Airbrush Fire
1.) This is a real treat, we’re starting with a beautiful Corvette that’s in great condition. The Owner of this classic ride has ordered a complete repaint with a side of custom airbrushing. He’s already done a lot of the pre-work disassembly for us, removing things like chrome trim, marker lights, emblems etc. This is a smart move on his part as the neighborhood is a little shady and rare, original emblems sometimes have a way of “disappearing” and ending up on EBAY. Unfortunate but true.
I always remove and disassemble as much as possible to give me comfortable access to all the nooks, crannies and hard to reach areas of a vehicle. Anywhere that water would be able to get to, I want to be able to get to. The more thorough you are at this stage in the game, the better the quality of paint job you’ll end up with. Note: Label everything! This car may be in the shop for a month or longer and although I may be an arrogant, conceited, attractive bastard that thinks he has a photographic memory, I’m not stupid. If you take the time to label everything now as you disassemble, it’s going to save you a lot of pain and headache when you’re ready to re-assemble. Especially if there’s more than 1 person on a project.
Have you ever sat staring at a finished project, holding 2 small bolts in your hand, scratching your head, wondering: “Where the hell do these go?” Yes? I thought so. That happened because you thought you were smarter then God and you didn’t label anything.
2a.) This is the catalyst that prompted the repaint, (backed into by another driver) it’s a job in itself and the perfect starting point for this project. The key to a good, strong, permanent fiberglass repair, is getting down to the raw fiberglass material and working your way up from there. On the surface, this didn’t look like much of a hit but once the paint was sanded down, the real extent of the damaged was revealed. It wasn’t life threatening, but it did require some special attention. Use a combination of hand sanding, die grinder, DA Sander and even a flat head screwdriver to remove the paint and get down to the fiberglass. Sandwich in new fiberglass mat from the front and the back, covering 6 to 8 inches around the damaged area in all directions. Apply several layers and once dry, use Kitty Hair (short strand fiberglass) to fill and smooth over as needed. Finish up with a light layer of body filler.
2b.) Doors and hood are removed, the interior and engine bay are masked in preparation for the upcoming body work. The front bumper cover is removed. It was semi sun warped and is being replaced with an updated composite version that does not warp. A front lip is also being added.
3a.) The collision repair is in full swing, you can see where the damage/repair on the upper part of the rear deck lid extended well into the middle of the car. I constantly compare and measure this side with the original undamaged side to make sure they are identical. Tip: Create a template of what the body should look like at different angles by holding a piece of poster board up against the rear or side corner of the body and tracing the profile. Then you can cut it out and match it up exactly with the other side.
3b.) Bodywork has begun. The whole car gets a once-over with 220 grit sandpaper and a DA. This is going leave major sand scratches but they will be filled and covered when I spray the primer. I don’t want to sand off all the existing paint, it was in pretty good shape and I would be hard pressed to get a better seal/adhesion then what’s already on there. The fiberglass on these Vette’s are like a sponge. They really soak up solvents, oil and other contaminants so the less raw fiberglass that get’s exposed, the better. The exception to this was of course on the back corner where the damage was.
The composite bumper cover has been prepped and installed. We’re going to try and eliminate the seam where it connects to the car and achieve a nice smooth look, by filling it with a non-shrinking, sandable adhesive.
4a.) Are the 20 in. rims too much? Pulled the car out and tried these on for fun, they just barely fit.
4b.) After being prepped, all the individual parts are hung and sprayed with 3 coats of 2K filler primer. The paint booth may look ghetto but trust me it does the job. Right above the back door there is a killer 16 in. Dayton Explosion Proof Fan that pushes air like nobody’s business. There are 16 large gerbils running on a wheel inside that fan to keep things going smooth. Keep your paint booth clean, always wet the floor before spraying to keep your dust down, if possible do your body work elsewhere and all costs, keep your Gerbils fed. Pretty standard stuff.
Bodywork took a while, no dents (it’s fiberglass) but plenty of small waves in the body. Once bodywork was finished, the whole car got 3 full coats of 2K filler primer. After drying for at least a full 24 hours, it was block sanded with 220-320 grit sand paper. After that, pulled it out side, blew it off thoroughly with an air gun then washed and dried it. Time to mask everything off and get ready for sealer.
5.) Using a non-catalyzed sealer on a project like this is crazy talk. If I did do that (which I didn’t) as soon as I sprayed the basecoat, the reducer in the base coat would re-activate the sealer and I’d have a nasty little reaction on my hands (which I didn’t). In fact, I’d probably have to scrape off all the basecoat, (never happen) then scrape off the 2 coats of sealer (no chance), then clean the primer underneath (in your dreams) and then re-mask the whole bloody thing for the third time!! (that part sucked)
After learning my lesson the hard way, switched to a high quality 2K Sealer and sprayed 2 full coats. Then 4 full coats of Debeers Metallic Blue Pearl (which really kicks ass by the way) followed by 4 coats of clear. You’ll notice the seam around the front bumper cover is looking nice and invisible.
Note: To ensure a perfect color match when re-assembled, I painted the doors, hood and head light covers at the same time as the body. It may not be necessary to do it this way, but with this metallic pearl blue I’m not taking any chances.
6a.) Pic of the old hood to show how the seam used to look on the front bumper cover.
6b.) Things were looking good at this point, so let’s airbrush already! The hood, door jambs and back deck lid are all going to get touched by an angel. There is really no good cut lines for the clear on this Corvette so I decided to wet sand the whole thing with 600 grit then rinsed and dried it.
6c.) It took about 3 1/2 weeks to get here but we’re finally ready for the fun part. I use 1/8 in. blue fine line tape to layout some classic flames on the left side of the hood. I create a pounce pattern (same technique as used in custom accord airbrush graphics tutorial) to layout my flames on the right hand side. Usually I would mask the negative space of the flames but for the technique I’m going to use here, I mask the positive part of the flames using 16 in. transfer tape.
I fill the airbrush with a dark purple basecoat and spray in some organic looking TRU Fire keeping my application free and loose. Once I’ve got a good fill of purple fire, I switch to white base coat and spray a second layer of fire. I prefer to use a combination of free hand brush strokes and home made fire stencils. (Sorry for the lack of pics on this one.)
7a.) I wipe it off with a tack rag then using a touch up gun, I cover the entire airbrushed area with a nice coat of Oriental Bue Kandy, make sure it’s dry and then unmask it. Looks pretty cool but it’s begging to be pinstriped. I wipe everything off again with a tack rag to get rid of the overspray and help knock down the paint edge so it doesn’t grab my brush when I try to pinstripe it.
7b.) I use Silver HOK striping paint and a 00 Mack brush to pinstripe the flames. I finished up the airbrushing on the door jambs and deck lid then the whole car got 3 more costs of clear.
7c.) You can see the darker under layer of purple flames better out here in the sun.
9.) These aren’t the best photos but quite a drastic change from the classic red Corvette that pulled into the shop about a month ago. Really looked killer once all the trim and emblems had bee reinstalled + the engine on this beast is just as clean and detailed as the rest of it. A real one of kind custom Corvette. Thanks Mike.
10.) Door jambs.
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