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My '83 Choo Choo needs a refresh and I'm tired of the original black.

58070 Views 360 Replies 44 Participants Last post by  any4xx
I've got a genuine '83 Choo Choo SS that I had since 1993. I bought it from the original owner in all original condition. It had just 50K miles on it then and even now it's only about 80K miles. It's black with sand beige interior.

In 1998, I changed the 305 out for a '96 LT1 engine with it's 4L60e transmission. It was a new factory take-out from a '96 Impala SS. At the same time I upgraded the rear to a 3.42 posi.
The following year I re-painted it the original black. I did paint the dash, change the carpet and headliner but the seats and door panels are still original.

Here's how it looked after I did that paint job:

It's been about 17 years since I took those first 2 photos and even though I've only put about 25K miles on it since then, it was used for moving myself and family members from house-to-house several times. Both the paint and the interior are now showing their age some. Both from usage and some from just age.

I'm thinking of painting the car a bright non-metallic red and changing the interior to black but still stay with original type style and material. I'd replace the original graphics with stock black graphics.

I like the drive-train I have in it now but I'd remove it to detail the engine compartment better and then put it back in. I also think I'd like to go with headers for the LT1 and a dual exhaust system with an H pipe. Right now it just has the the stock 305 exhaust manifolds on it now and it's going through the stock exhaust pipe to a single in dual out muffler.

Also right now it has 15" wheels and I think it might look better with 16" or 17". I also think I'd like to do some suspension mods but I do want to keep it the stock height as I don't like the lowered look. It's stock right now except for a rear sway bar. I'm thinking to rebuild the original front with urethane bushings and maybe rebuild the rear and replace the air shocks and springs in the rear. Maybe some RideTech components back there and their adjustable shocks all the way around.

I'm looking for comments here at this point. I'm planning on starting this project this coming winter and this will be my build thread. I will do all the work myself except for the seat upholstery.
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Gaps do indeed look good, you are doing a nice job with the car!
Thanks! Appreciate the compliment.

Roger I thought you were keeping it stock. You never see an upper door to fender gap that nice:poke: Well mine is close, but it ain't stock.

I can understand your trouble on the white. I've got several commercial steel doors at work which come with a dark grey primer. I'm spraying them white with a Sherwin Williams pro waterbourne multi surface acrylic white, which is thinner than your standard house paint crap. 2 coats should have done it, not quite happy with 3. Still see some variance. If I was starting over I'd try one of their white primers first. For comparison most white fiberglass doors I spray with same white I usually get away with 1 coat. So yeah, more paint is in order as white is difficult on coverage consistency.

Gun cap holes definitely can cause a variance . I like to at least unscrew & hold up to the light pretty often if not actually dropping in my cut off soda can of lacquer thinner & brushing off a few minutes later.....
I never would have guessed but it seems white is a little more difficult to match with the process I used to paint this car.

I have another theory that I thought of might have something to do with my issue and that is that gray seal coat I put on right before the paint. I used SPI gray epoxy with a 1:1:1 mix so it was reduced 50%. SPI directions say to do this and wait one hour before spraying. Some guys on the SPI forum wait the full hour, some do 30 minutes and some just 15 minutes. I probably wasn't consistent with the time I waited in the 3 paint sessions I performed. I think I didn't wait as long on the first paint session. Temperature and humidity conditions were different too. I'm wondering if that sealer coat could have bled into the white paint a little. I don't know but I've now color sanded the entire car (except for the bed which I'm not cutting and buffing). It did seem like there was enough paint on all the panels as I didn't sand thin anywhere.

Change in plans though. I'm going to shoot a couple of coats on the entire car except for the bed. I have enough paint for that and should still have a little left over. That way I know for sure everything will match perfectly.

I color sanded starting out with 400 grit dry and then with 600 wet. Sanding dry with the 400 didn't load up the paper at all so I used my 16" flexible block to maintain the flatness.
Finished that up today and gave it a full washing.

So, it's ready for what I hope will be the final paint session. It will take a while to get the room ready and paper off where I need to on the car. I'll double cover the interior.

Got a rain storm moving in on Friday and Saturday but Sunday looks like it might a good day to paint.

Looks kind of cool in flat white!

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Painting is complete!

Weather cleared up this afternoon and dried out so I got it done.

Went very well. Put 2 coats on everything but 3 on a couple of areas. It did spray better with the new gun settings that Barry suggested I use and I did reduce the paint mix 10% using slow SPI reducer.

Glad to have this done!

Now I don't have to wonder about any panel match issues. I knew a couple were off before but wasn't totally sure about others and just kept trying to analyze them. Not anymore.
This was where it was most noticeable to me before and now it's perfect. Of course, it has to be now!

Next up will be the polishing process and then a bunch of assembly. Talked to the interior shop and he said without a doubt he will start on the seat next week. He told me the headliner will be done by Monday and would like me to pick it up right away so it's out of his way.
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Looks good.

I heard Progressive insurance called, wanting to buy it for one of their commercials.:poke::poke:
Looks great. I just switched my shop to all of Barry's SPI. All my unders and overs anyways. PPG bases. Love his stuff. And the customer service.
Thanks guys!

Long list of small things done since my last post.

Upper window seals. Soffseal brand. Fit well
Door perimeter seals. Soffseal brand. Poor fit on ends, may work OK though
Outer window felts. Very good quality
Windows installed and adjusted
Quarter window trim installed
Rear bumper installed
Installed all the bolts inner fender to outer
Installed horns
Installed new Odyssey AGM battery.
Hood color sanded.
Top color sanded and buffed
Top of driver door color sanded and buffed

My process for color sanding and buffing:
Start with 1000 grit wet using a paint stick for a backer. Follow up with 1500 grit wet and then 2000 grit wet both using a hand pad for a backer.

For buffing I'm using a denim pad on a Dewalt polisher and Menzerna Heavy Cut 400 compound. I like this method because it will remove 1500 sand scratches and leave a heck of a shine in one step. It takes practice to handle the buffer with a denim pad though. I've done it before quite a bit on other projects.

I am finding it difficult to photograph the white to show off how well it shines where I've buffed. After I get the whole car done, I'll take and post some night photos to really be able to see it.
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Got the door handle and lock installed on the door that's polished.
Now I can close the windows and be able to keep the interior clean now that it will be going together.

I picked up the headliner and visors from the interior shop today. I also cleaned painted all the trim pieces and am ready to get the headliner installed tomorrow.

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Lookin good. You definitely got white car prepped door gaps.:thumbup:

For all the modern technology & overpriced sanding blocks on the market, sometimes it's just hard to beat the good ole paint stick, which was the first sanding block I was ever shown by anyone.

Now denim pads are new to me, though I can see where they could cut & polish good from the fabric profile.. Is that bought or made? On a full rotary or random?

I was noticing spi does have a white 2k sealer which may have helped the white cover, but it still would have been another item to buy & another step, so who knows if it would have been better.
Lookin good. You definitely got white car prepped door gaps.:thumbup:

For all the modern technology & overpriced sanding blocks on the market, sometimes it's just hard to beat the good ole paint stick, which was the first sanding block I was ever shown by anyone.

Now denim pads are new to me, though I can see where they could cut & polish good from the fabric profile.. Is that bought or made? On a full rotary or random?

I was noticing spi does have a white 2k sealer which may have helped the white cover, but it still would have been another item to buy & another step, so who knows if it would have been better.
I think a white sealer or even the white epoxy would have helped.
No matter now. I'm good with those extra coats.

The Car Pro Denim Pads are designed for removing orange peel. Using the pads with Menzerna Heavy Cut 400 compound was something I found online where a guy was using it with great success. I tried it and was really amazed. But what really impressed me the most is how it removes 1500 sand scratches and ends in a perfect shine in a single step. It will remove orange peel well but I think sanding was a better choice for me with the kind of peel I had on this paint. I use a DeWalt rotary with a 5 1/4" backer disc and work about a 2 to 3 sqft area at a time. You have to keep it moving so not to build up too much heat.
Headliner in and trim installed

I went ahead and put some foil-backed butyl sound deadener on the roof. This is a place that the radiant barrier foil should work well since there is an air gap between it and the headliner foam board. Between adding this and having it white on top instead of black, my A/C should work a bunch better on a hot summer day.

I really, really like the material my interior guy used for the headliner and visors! He told me this is just like what the OEM's use today. As always, superb job too.

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Your El Camino looks sweet, very awesome job. Great job on the headliner.
Here is a link with some interesting images of Mike Stoops Introduction to Wet Sanding and Rotary Buffer class from last week.

It shows their recommended sanding pattern.
It also shows a 3 inch pneumatic DA using top quality 1500 and 3000 grit papers.
Your El Camino looks sweet, very awesome job. Great job on the headliner.
Thanks! I'm anxious to see the seat when it gets done. I'm going to drop by the interior shop tomorrow. I'm hoping he's gotten some work done on it.
Here is a link with some interesting images of Mike Stoops Introduction to Wet Sanding and Rotary Buffer class from last week.
It shows their recommended sanding pattern.
It also shows a 3 inch pneumatic DA using top quality 1500 and 3000 grit papers.
Thanks. That looks interesting. I wish they would do a video on it. I'd also like to know exactly what products they use for compounds and papers.

I thought about trying to use a D/A for the first time to color sand this car but chickened out. It just kind of scares me. By hand is a lot of work but at least I knew I wouldn't screw it up. Anyway, it's all color sanded now. I got back to it a couple of days ago after finishing everything in the interior except for the seat and door panels. I also did a couple of electrical items that I needed to modify.

Today I started buffing again. I'm finding it to go faster than it did on the top and one door I buffed a while back. Evidently, it's because the paint is cured more. One pass with the buffer is enough now. So I decided it was unnecessary to do the 2000 sanding step. It didn't buff any faster than with just going to 1500.

So this photo shows the gloss I get going from a dull 1500 sanded surface with just one application of the Menzerna 400 on the denim pad:

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I've got the car all buffed out except for the hood, hood scoop and the egg crate portion of the grille. I started buffing the hood but I see some areas that need a little more color sanding.

I decided to take a break on that and work on a few other things for a couple of days. Today I started working on installing the headlights. Last week I decided to upgrade to Hella housings with H1/H4 bulbs and got them ordered. I'm also upgrading the wiring to a larger gauge connected directly to a battery source using 2 relays.

First, I used a carbide burr to enlarge the holes in the back of the headlight buckets. It would be too tight back there for bulb changes not to do this.

The rear bulbs will be nice if a headlight burns out. It's a kind of a PIA to get the sealed beam units in and out without dropping the screws or scratching the paint.

These Hella headlights look kind of cool I think:

A while back, I installed a Blue Sea fuse block under the hood as a distribution point for battery power. I did away with the wires and fusible links connected at the starter. The hub is powered with a 4 gauge wire from the battery.

I installed a 30A type 1 auto reset breaker into an empty slot in the hub and this will go to the relays for the headlights. So, not only will the wires be bigger, the headlight current will not go through the headlight or dimmer switches anymore.
I was a little surprised that the factory only used 16Ga wire for the headlights. I'm going to use 10GA from the hub to the relays and 12Ga from the relays to the headlights.
I'll get this all finished up tomorrow.
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Door panels on

I bought new repro upper door panels and used my original lowers that I prepped and sprayed with Duplicolor Fabric and Vinyl flat black spray cans. Arm rests are also original and sprayed with the same stuff. Got the new pull strap kit from Dixie.

Overall I'm very pleased with how they look. Very pleased with the new upper door panels too. These are made by PUI (bought from Dixie) and I believe the only maker of these out there.
I think they are as good as originals in every way.

The strap kit was very good. The strap itself is excellent and the end caps are just like original. The snap in caps aren't good at all though. They fit too tight and the tab breaks on one side. The decorative sticker inside the tab look bad too. I put carbon fiber wrap inside same as what I put on my dash. Look much better that way.

Also these are terrible:

10 are used on each side. They are way too hard. They go in and hold fine but too much so. No way they will come out without breaking them. A new set would be needed every time the door panel is R&R'ed.
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Per your request. I am posting a three part video by Larry Kosilla (Ammo NYC), Jason Rose (Meguiar's, now with Rupes), and Kevin Brown (Buff Daddy).

Note that they are using a dual action pneumatic sander with 1500 and 3000 grit disks. Then a large Big Foot Rupes 21 Random Orbital Polisher with Meguiar's microfiber cutting disks and Mequiar's M105 Compound. This followed by Meguiar's polishing pad and Meguiar's M205 Polish.
Thanks! I will definitely watch.
Btw, I have a Rupes Bigfoot 15ES orbital polisher and an assortment of Lake County foam pads for it. Bought them a couple of years ago. Only compounds I've tried with it are the v32-v38 from Chemical Guys. I don't seem to be having very good luck with it.
After I get what I'd call a perfect swirl-free shine from the Menzerna 400 using a Denim pad on the DeWalt rotary, I've tried the V38 on a blue foam pad on the Rupes just to see if I can make it any better. But, it actually doesn't shine as much afterwards. And, that's their finest polish. I just don't get it. Not only that but the V32 with an orange pad doesn't seem to cut much at all.
I am interested in trying the Meguiars compounds. After all, I paid a lot of money for the Rupes polisher and I'd like to put it to good use.
So you went White. I am a fan of white. Interesting you went the complete opposite of what you had? I would not put the graphics back on. Wheels? Those look good but I like are the 17's or even 18's. Torque Thrust II or the Ridler's with the Polished Lip and Anthracite Spokes.

I hope you might consider lowering it down. I would do the complete Hotchkis setup. Make it handle like a new Camaro.
Everyone will have their opinion on sanding & buffing, some say paint correction is paint correction regardless of color , but I strongly disagree. Being a white & a single stage , I'd expect it to react differently than clearcoat over a dark color. Some of these super fine compound expensive compounds I've never tried which are good at getting the finest of micro scratches out of clearcoat when used with the softest pads may not do much good if any for you.

Now ,as far as meguiars compounds go, the what I call newer blends labeled 105 & 205 are just 3-m products with more fillers in em, which can make scratches fill in faster only to reappear later. These are NOT true professional products. Only Meguiars I still use is diamond cut, which starts out with a coarser cutting & wears into a buffing rouge, giving you more result per time, though not the super swirl free in certain light for clearcoat.

I know you're a member on spi forums, read up much on buffing there lately? There are a few pretty long running threads on compounds there now, which by the way, don't remember seeing the denim pads mentioned there yet. I think you should start a discussion there mentioning the denim pads & white single stage, just to see what thoughts those more experienced than us may have .
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There are lots of tools and products available.

As Junkman says, technique trumps product.

The video I posted is meant to show some alternatives and filled a request of Roger to have one to see. Interestingly, the Mustang they worked on had an older $300 single stage black paint.

The old technology you refer to is called Diminishing Abrasive Technology (DAT). It is use in some of the earliest Meguiar's products, such as their wood cleaning products from the early 1900s. The abrasives start larger, then break down to finer particle sizes as the product is used for each section. With experience (back to technique), the technician learns when the particles are getting too small to provide work. Also they learn that new product on the pad means larger abrasive particles. With practice, they can get good at moving down the aggressiveness scale as the product on the pad breaks down.

Roger likely experienced a benefit of the diminishing abrasives. This may be why he found that following up with a polish made little difference. The abrasives broke down to the smaller size acting as a polish.

The newer style products use Small Micro Abrasive Technology (SMAT). The particles start out smaller and remain more consistent in size.

One advantage of SMAT is the addition of more product to the pad retains similar size abrasives. With DAT, the addition of product mixes abrasive sizes.

Another advantage is that the DAT technician must learn to tell how long it takes to break the abrasives down. This time varies with things like humidity, paint surface temp. The medium (usually oils of one type or another) provides a level of lubrication during the compounding/polishing and diminishes with heat and absorption into the paint and pad. With DAT, the spent product can be more difficult to remove. With SMAT, the technician has some advantage in that they can continue to work the surface with a similar size particle for a longer time if the paint responds better to that approach.

DAT and SMAT are different tools in the tool box.

Fillers in regard to paint care products is a fuzzy word. Pretty much anything left on the surface that could be left after a microfiber wipe off is a filler. That includes the medium used for lubrication and spreading of the product.

M105 Ultra Cut Compound is meant to be a compound. It isn't laden with what some would call fillers. The goal is to see if a follow up polishing step is needed before putting on a protection layer (wax, sealant or coating). If some of the medium remains from the lubrication elements of the product, that can be cleaned off with IPA or a product like Final Inspection. We would not want to use a detailing spray that included even a small amount of wax or sealant, as that will be left on the paint surface can be expected to hide minor scratches.

Although Meguiar's became part of MMM in 2008, I have heard references recently that they have their own product development and chemists. Clearly, being part of a broadly diversified corporation, they have some access to each others technologies and facilities.

Joe, by pointing Roger to the manufacturer of SPI, you have provided very good advice. Polyurethane paints vary widely. That range goes from the 1980's Dupont IMRON to a product of one paint shop's chain manager described to me as having a thimble of polyurethane in a gallon. SPI knows there product and has provided good advice to him and helped him get exceptional results.
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