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Road to Vegas: An Epic Journey Part 3

(If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, start at the beginning here. Part 2 can be found here.)

Red Dirt Rodz is a small shop, we build one or two custom cars each year, with lots of smaller projects in the middle. We don’t have a full-time painter, but we do have several that we use for big jobs. During the course of this build, we had so many issues with the paint and body process, most shops would have given up. Not only did the bodywork take 4 times as long as it should have, the paint itself was a nightmare. We ordered solvent-based paint. We received solvent based reducer and catalysts, and waterbourne color for the main blue. Everything else was solvent-base (clear and primer are always solvent). The problem is that we didn’t realize this until the car was in the paint booth, sealed and ready to be painted. Each label was not clearly marked “waterbourne”, it was marked with codes and names like Cromax. Cromax is DuPont’s (Axalta) waterbourne formula, but we ordered from the Hot Hues line. The issue here is that none of the major paint companies actually label stuff with their specialty line names, it is the generic product name, with the color codes. The specialty names are used for marketing, not actual product packaging, because it isn’t sold direct to the public, it is all a mix recipe. Because I am not a painter, I didn’t realize that Cromax was waterbourne. In fact, neither did my painter, until he mixed waterbourne paint with solvent reducer and it turned to jelly. All of this was just 2 months before the car was to be on the trailer for the SEMA show. It took a week to get the correct reducer for the waterbourne paint. It took another week to get the car sanded and re-prepped for paint and into the booth. Once sealer goes on, you only have a couple of hours to paint over it, otherwise it has to be sanded down and re-sealed. Things were getting stressful in the RDR shop to say the least.

Once the car was painted–we chose “Sonic Boom” blue, which turned out amazing by the way–the business of assembly and interior fab could begin. Because the car had been tied up in the body shop, none of the interior components could be fabricated. In less than 3 weeks, a custom 7-foot center console, 2 door panels, 2 armrests, 2 rear arm panels, and custom rear bucket seat mounts and flush panels were built and upholstered. Normally, I would take a couple of months to work this out, and in reality, I was working 16-18 hour days to make it happen. Squeezing that much work into 3 weeks is tough. Considering all of the compliments we got on the interior at the show, it was all worth it.

With just 3 weeks until the show, the bumpers were sent to the powder coater. We do a lot of powder coating in house, but the bumpers were too big for our oven. We had spent 3 weeks shaving all of the bolts, license plate recess, and the turn signal holes, using lead body solder to smooth it out. This is the standard process. When the powder coater called to tell me that the bumper outgassed and popped the lead work in a couple places, I was devastated. 3 weeks down the drain and we just did not have the time to do it over. The decision was made to paint the bumpers. The lead that was messed up was replaced with body filler. Lead takes so much more time to get right, where filler is nice and easy. In the end, the black bumpers look better for it.

Read the final installment, Road to Vegas: An Epic Journey Part 4 tomorrow.

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