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Stripping Paint from a Classic Car: All You Need to Know

There are about a billion things that can go wrong during the process of extensively restoring an old car. We’ve already talked about the challenges of getting a quality paint job, but what few classic car enthusiasts consider is how difficult it can be to properly remove the old paint before the new one can be applied.

“I’ll just have one of the classic car paint shops in my area do it,” we hear you say. We agree that leaving it to the professionals is never a bad choice. After all, custom paint jobs are well-worth it. Still, learning as much as you can about the unique problems of oldtimer paint stripping can help you immensely when it comes to choosing which paint shop you’ll entrust your classic ride to.

Read on to discover the most effective ways to strip car paint, and where to find a great muscle car paint shop in Orange County. It goes without saying that choosing the right paint for your oldtimer is something you should consider very carefully before you start removing the old paint.

Scraping, sanding, media blasting, and chemical stripping

Removing paint is a laborious and time-consuming process that’s nonetheless essential if you want your favorite ride to look its best. There are only a handful of ways to remove paint from metal. These are sanding, scraping, chemical stripping, and media blasting.

Scraping or sanding, with or without a paint stripper, is the simplest and easiest way to do it on your own. Media blasting is extremely quick and effective, but it can’t be done without specialized equipment, runs the risk of distorting the metal, and makes an awful mess.

Dipping the whole vehicle in paint-removing chemicals is, of course, the ideal way to go about it. However, the car must be completely disassembled, and then shipped to a facility where the paint stripping gets done. Needless to say, not every town has such a facility.

How to sand off paint from a classic car?

Many classic vehicle experts believe that, if a car has a largely intact factory finish, the best thing to do is to scuff it with 220-400 grit sandpaper. However, if your car is sporting multiple layers of paint, stripping it with only sandpaper isn’t going to be effective.

Do you have an air compressor? If so, a dual-action sander loaded with 80-grade paper is going to remove the old paint like nobody’s business. Are you doing the whole car? Then get a roll of self-adhering discs and replace them often to avoid grinding with a plugged-up disc.

Be careful not to push down the dual-action sander on a single spot for too long. Doing so can cause heat buildup in one area, which can result in panel distortion. Remember to fan the sander over a larger surface in the same way as you would a buffer.

How to remove spray paint from classic car emblems?

Unlike other types of paint, spray paint can be quite easy to remove. Acetone, or nail polish remover that contains acetone, is your greatest ally in this regard. These chemicals are designed to strip the enamel layer from fingernails, making them ideal for enamel-based spray paints.

Take a bottle that contains a high percentage of acetone (the higher the better) and pour some onto a cloth. We recommend a microfiber towel or a terrycloth as these won’t scratch the paint on your car. If they start to dry, add more acetone.

Wipe the spray-painted emblems with the acetone-dampened cloth. Do it in small, circular motions. The spray paint will dissolve and transfer from the emblems to the cloth, so make sure to switch out the cloths once they get dirty.

How much does it cost to strip car paint?

Removing paint from a classic car is a process that differs greatly depending on many factors such as car model, the condition of the paint, how many layers of paint there are, and so on. Then there are also the four different paint stripping methods (chemical stripping, media blasting, sanding, and scraping) to choose from.

Due to these many variables, it’s impossible to arrive at a universal price for classic car paint removal. The surest way to go about it is to take your beloved oldtimer to a paint shop, have the licensed mechanics look it over, and give you a price estimate.

In the end, it’s all very much worth it. There’s no better feeling than slowly cruising along the Bolsa Chica State Beach at sunset in an immaculately painted muscle car.

Look out for UV light

Whether you’re a young person who discovered the joys of classic vehicle restoration through the Los Angels Children’s Project, or a longtime muscle car aficionado, you must never underestimate the negative effect ultraviolet light can have on car paint. To put it simply: don’t repaint your oldtimer if it’s going to be sitting out in the sun a lot.

Long periods of UV exposure cause a chemical process called oxidation, which results in your vehicle’s paint developing a white, chalky look. This is made worse by the fact that most older cars don’t have a protective coat of clear paint.

Correctly clearing all contaminants from the paint, and then conditioning it using a sealer and resealer glaze can greatly minimize the UV problem. Keeping the car thoroughly waxed is another critical step you can take to protect it from future oxidation-caused damage.

Your go-to classic ride paint shop in Orange County

It’ll come as no surprise to you that the best way to paint a classic car is to have it done by the pros. Here at Chimera Motors, we’re proud to call ourselves the top classic car restoration and paint shop in Orange County. Our mechanics boast extensive experience dealing with all types of classic car restoration.

Need help choosing the right type of paint for your ride? Want to have the old paint removed? Planning to install a new air suspension? Whatever your particular classic car need, rest assured we can meet it. Visit our premises or give us a call at 714-907-0609 today.

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