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Feature Craft Week – Paintwork

Article by: Hannah in General - 24 November

The colour of a vehicle is far more than just red, green or black, particularly in vintage and classic automobiles; it contains emotion, heritage and character that is part of its history. The paint process itself is transformational for the vehicle, and can either herald a new era or revive originality. But the process is far more than a process, it’s a craft where experience and knowledge define the result. We’re incredibly proud of our Paintwork Department and are honoured to have had the privilege of painting some of the most iconic vehicles in history.

So to celebrate this, we’re shining a spotlight on them and last week I spent some time with one of our team, Nik, asking him about his experience and intricacies of his craft:

How has the product used in painting automobiles changed during your career?

We’ve gone through various technological changes in paintwork since I started and the products today are definitely better. When I first began, we were using cellulose based paints which, although the original product, weren’t fuel or particularly weather resistant and, in terms of upkeep for the owner, not the easiest to maintain. The modern products are much more resistant to fuel, weather and far more user friendly, particularly for the owner.

In regards to the application, it is probably more complicated! Whereas originally there was one primer for example, there is now far more variety and it needs our expertise to determine which one should be used.

Can you describe the process of re-spraying a vehicle, from start to finish?

First of all, all components need removing, such as lamps and chromework, the panels are removed and the paint stripped from the whole vehicle. On average, this could take around 2 weeks. All panels and parts are cleaned and sanded thoroughly to allow the first layer of primer to take. If required, this is where any panel damage would be passed to our panel beater and any major imperfections would be dealt with.

Next, the first layers of primer are applied, after which they are then sanded back. This is to achieve the correct shape and levels of the vehicle. A second layer of primer is then applied and again flatted, this time as preparation for colour. The colour is then mixed and the first coats applied. If required, we’ll flat this first coat back and then apply further coats of colour for a better overall finish. We’ll then flat back for the final time and polish to shine. All panels and components are refitted and the car is ready.

In your opinion, what is the most important stage of this process?

Definitely the surface preparation and using the primer to get the correct shape of the car.

How is the colour mixed? Can you match an existing colour?

If the customer would like swatches of colours to decide on the final shade, then we can send these over to them to help them choose. Once selected, we use a formula to mix the various tinters and blend together to achieve the final colour. Alternatively, we are able to match an existing colour by scanning a part of the vehicle as reference. The scan allows us to determine the mixture required and we then produce the perfect colour accordingly.

How do you look after the paint booth?

We’ll sweep and wash the booth out after every spray up, keeping it clean for each stage of a project. The filters also need changing, which we’ll do for every major project.

What has been your favourite vehicle to paint?

There have been so many that I don’t think I have a favourite in particular! I do enjoy a full re-spray though, seeing it from start to finish, giving it a new lease of life and looking as if it has just left the factory!

I would love to paint a 1950s Cadillac though!

Read more of our paintwork specific blogs on our Fiennes Classic Journal including ‘Understanding the Options for Re-spraying your Classic’ and ‘Creation of a Coachbuilder: Meet our Team’.