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Series Land Rovers

Spray Painting your Land Rover

Painting a more modern way (ie using a spray gun ) by Alan Richer

After asking endless stupid questions I finally worked up the nerve to take a spray gun to my old compatriot Churchill (a 109 pickup). Not being over-endowed with money and with the local shops charging 600-1K for a paint job, I decided to attack the problem myself.

Warning: This is NOT a job for the faint of heart. These are NASTY chemicals which can wreak some serious hell on your biochemistry if you get too intimate with them. At a minimum, consider a good dual-cartridge respirator and safety glasses a cost of the job - you'll thank me.

A word on materials: The paints and such I used are not considered top of the line, but I saw as the easiest and most cost-effective way to get a good-looking Rover for a good price. What I ended up using was the Delstar line of paints sold by PPG - Ditzler, I believe, on the other side of the pond. This is a multipart acrylic enamel paint formulation that is tolerant of mistakes in mixing and such. The paint was a 3-part system, requiring the paint itself, reducer dependent on the temperature you'll be spraying in, and hardener for best gloss and abrasion resistance. You don't absolutely need the hardener, but to my mind it makes a world of difference in the paint's flow characteristics and gloss.

Under this, I applied a one-part etching metal primer to the bare aluminum spots, and PPGs DZL 34 lacquer primer over the etching primer and the old paint. If you strip to bare metal, you will need to use the etching metal primer everywhere. If your old paint is still good, you really don't need to do this.

I ended up buying 6 quarts of finish colour and a gallon of primer, as well as 2 quarts of the etching metal primer. With this I ended up using 2 gallons of lacquer thinner (to thin the primer and for cleanup) and a gallon of 70-85F reducer for the finish colour. Add a quart of hardener to your shopping list, and you're ready to go. You won't use all of it, but it keeps for years in tightly closed cans.

This was not $1.98. I believe the whole mess ended up costing me in the neighbourhood of $200. If you can still get lacquer paints (I am told that they are now banned in the US because of VOC restrictions by the EPA) this can be done considerably cheaper, as the multipart chemistries are pricey.

Tools Required: For this job, I ended up buying a Wagner FineCoat HVLP spray rig from Damark for $119.00. It was a factory-reconditioned unit which looked new when I took it out of the box. I figured that I could resell it with little loss, as new they're in the $200 range. However, nobody's getting it out of my hands now . Seriously, if you do any shop work at all the blower itself is handy for cleaning and the sprayer does a good job with non-latex (light-bodied) paints. The rest of the tools I used were part of my standard compliment of shop toys. Most of these can be rented our bought used cheaply.

  • Power sander (a must, unless you LIKE carpal tunnel syndrome);
  • Sandpaper, grits from 120 to 400 (I used 120, 220 and 400);
  • Large numbers of disposable lint-free rags (sheets from Goodwill and a cooperative 10-year old with scissors and a talent for destruction);
  • A hand sanding block for small areas the sander won't penetrate Dual-cartridge respirator with organic solvent cartridges (the shop that sells you the paint can help);
  • Safety Glasses (A MUST, AND USE THEM!)
  • A relatively dust-free area to work in (inside if possible, outside under a tarp to act as a windbreak);
  • Lot of old newspapers 2 or 3 rolls of quality masking tape - splurge and buy the blue stuff at the paint store.
  • Patience and a realistic attitude, and a VERY understanding spouse.
  • Auto Body dolly set with hammers (I bought my cheap ones for $10 in a flea market new)
  • Wire brush on an electric drill (for rust removal)
  • Drum sander on above drill (for SERIOUS rust removal - grinds metal nicely)
  • Propane torch and aluminium solder for aluminum crack repair

Beginning to paint: Surface inspection and preparation: Before I lifted the first tool to the body of my car, I spent the better part of an hour carefully inspecting all of the surfaces I wanted to recoat, determining what needed doing and where. Some areas were fine, with only weathering damage to the paint. Others were not so good,showing dents, corrosion, torn aluminum, rust on steel parts and completely washed-away paint under the Diesel filler neck. The floor of the cargo bed was a disaster requiring scraping and removal of all the galvanized strips because of thirty years accumulation of minerals and crud. These got painted separately, as the galvanizing was completely gone.

Each one of these areas needs to be treated differently. The weathered areas I simply finish-sanded at 220 grit to get the new primer to adhere. Badly damaged paint I stripped completely with 120 grit sandpaper in the power sander, or spray-on paint stripper for the really tough or curved bits the sander couldn't handle.

The body damage was another matter over and above the finish. The torn aluminum I ended up soldering closed with low-temp aluminum solder and a propane torch, then sanding and spot-puttying to level the damaged area. The rusty metal was treated much the same, grinding out the rust with a drum sander on a drill, rust inhibiting, then puttying the pits. Most of this type of damage showed up on the leading edges (the breakfast and front wings). The little dings and dents I pretty much left alone - a Land-Rover with perfect bodywork would look awfully silly.... All of this bodywork took my spare time over a day or four - doing repairs and such. I didn't sand the body sections until I was ready to spray - fresh sanded areas take paint better.

Spray Gunning - A manual of arms: If you've never used a spray gun before, your Rover is NOT the place to start. Before you start spraying the aluminum beast, buy a quart or two of Rostellum and repaint your patio furniture, your cat's litter box or anything but your car. Seriously, getting some inexpensive paint and painting other items is a good way to get the basic technique down before you do it for real on your car. Even just spraying sheets of cardboard or hardboard from appliance cartons is a good way to get the basics down. Make all your mistakes on something you're not going to regret for years. The best advice I have is to go to the local library and locate an Audels manual or any reference on spray painting. it isn't hard to do, but a little forewarning about it can make a world of difference in the quality of the final job.

If you use the same device I did, it only has one adjustment, and that's for paint volume sprayed. It's very easy to adjust, as all you have to do is test-spray until you get a volume that is comfortable to your movement style. As a piece of advice, turn it all the way off, then increase it a quarter-or-half turn until you're happy with it. The manual with the gun set can give you other suggestions.

The basics are:

  1. Always start and end your passes OFF the surface at both ends, This eliminates blotching where you begin and end.
  2. Hold the spraygun a constant distance from the work. This gives even paint distribution.
  3. Spray a good wet coat, but don't overdo - it will run on vertical surfaces. Remember, you'll be putting on multiple coats - so the first coat doesn't have to cover it all. If you blow it, you can always resand and do it again. This ain't life or death - relax.

Alas, unto the breach, dear friends - let's get to work. Finally - he's actually going to talk about painting the car! The approach I took was to do one part of the vehicle at a time, working within my own limitations. With me, this meant shooting a fender and the breakfast, or a door and a fender or some similar area at a time. I find this to be the easiest approach, as trying to do the whole car at once will quickly drive you scatty. First of all, remove and paint any items you can off the car. F or me this was the bonnet, the wings, the doors, roof and other bolt-on bits like the tailgate. As I had very little interior space, adopting this tactic let me paint in a clean environment for much of the vehicle, saving the outside work for as little of the car as possible.

I began by prepping the surfaces I was going to work with. For most of the car, this took the form of sanding with 120-grit emery to remove damaged paint and smooth good painted areas, then resanding with 220 after washing the area to remove dust. Another wash came after the 220, then a quick wipe with a paint-thinner dampened rag to knock out the last traces of dust.

Before actually spraying paint, use the masking tape and newspapers to mask off any adjacent areas or other colours to prevent contamination by overspray. The HVLP gun doesn't blow much overspray, but there is some and better safe than sorry is the watchword here. I removed lights, mirrors, headlight rims and other small parts for cleaning and repainting, you can do this also or simply mask as necessary. I then sprayed the bare metal areas with etching primer, following the dilution instructions on the can. Once this was dry, I sprayed the area with 3 coats of primer, then power-sanded the top coat with 400-grit paper. Another wash-down to remove dust then a dry cloth wipe, and I spray on 3 coats of thinned colour paint, following the manufacturer's directions as to mixing of the paint with reducer and hardener.

After painting was completed (give it a half-hour or so to let the paint surface harden) remove the making tape on the adjacent areas to avoid it ruining your paint job by peeling up. I was averaging about 4 hours per section, counting sanding, priming and painting. Masking of areas not to be painted was an extra half hour or so.

Conclusion: There is no cheap and cheerful way to get a good paint job on a Rover. Brush painting works and works quite well, but is very laborious and not inexpensive in materials cost. The Wagner method, while requiring a bit of machinery purchase, has the advantage of giving a clean level paint coat in less time than brush methods, and with a similar materials cost.

Reprinted from the Ottawa Valley Land Rovers newsletter, September, 1995

For Smaller Items:

Quick and simple paint spraying for small items: The Preval Sprayer:

Not sure if such a thing is available in UK/Europe, but here in the States we have this neat little item called a Preval sprayer. It's a pressure cartridge like the top of a spray can, with a removable glass jar on the bottom.

You fill the jar with your item-to-be-sprayed, attach the pressure cartridge and off you go. I've used these many times for one-off auto paint jobs for things too small to get out the HVLP gun for and had very good success.

They're a great time and paint saver - often the amount of paint needed to cover a particlar item is a small fraction of what you'd need to waste minimally-filling a regular spray gun or a detail gun - even if you have a compressor.

If cleaned properly after use they are quite reusable - and the jars are available separately so you can keep things premixed and just attach and go (for the 2AM garage-door dings you don't want SWMBO to know about...8*) ).

Alan Richer, July 2005

Copyright Dixon Kenner, 1995-2011. Last modified March 15, 2005.
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