Paint your rig for under $100!?

Discussion in 'General Tech' started by SHINTON, Feb 5, 2019.


    SHINTON Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2005
    Triad area of NC
    I wrote this article YEARS ago for and it has been long enough I cannot find it or link to it any more so I feel safe in posting my content here now.

    I will try to put up before / after pictures as well but for now, here is the written content.


    Cheap Paint Job:

    Just like painting a room in your home, you will find that taping a vehicle is time consuming and will often take longer than the actual painting! In our case we removed the gas tank filler/license plate holder and tail lights. I had a set of fender flares that were already off the Jeep, and you can choose to either tape up yours or remove them to get a cleaner job. I left my rocker guards on the Jeep since I was painting them the same color as the rest of the YJ, but before installing them we did shoot underneath them with a fresh coat of primer.

    I had literally scraped every inch of this body with a scrap blade, removing the camouflage paint, but we still need to sand the body before shooting the primer. We used 180 & 220 grit sandpaper to make sure the primer will stick to the old paint. This was one of the steps missing in the previous camouflage paint job and the main reason it was literally flaking off!

    Note: you can use 80 to 220 grit over bondo and old paint assuming you are priming the vehicle, 320, 360 or 400 before painting the body]

    If your old paint sands “smooth” then it is ok to paint over it with this paint, and you can skip the primer step. However, if your paint is various colors (in my case, blue, old primers, etc), you will want to primer the entire body to get an ‘even color’ before painting. Again, with my rig, I had green fenders, yellow doors, blue body with some gray primer thrown in, so I needed that primer coating.

    At this point, we finished taping off the headlights, front/rear bumpers, windshield and interior. For the “cleanest” possible job you can purchase clean white paper for taping, but Dad has been using newspaper for years and it seems to work fine. You are “risking” that the ink from the paper could seep onto whatever you are taping off.

    In our case, we simply use the “masking” tape you find at the store and usually use some in ¾” to 1” widths. We do NOT use the cheapest possible tape in this case, but a “name brand”, simply because it sticks better and the super cheap stuff doesn’t want to hold as well. For example, on a windshield, we take the tape and stick about ½ of it on the newspaper and the other half is left for running along the edges. Any excess simply gets folded/tucked and taped out of the way.

    If you are doing a “true show car” the taping is much more important and you will see them use the “blue tape” which sticks good and has a smaller chance of pulling off the paint from the area you are taping off. This is a rig built to take off-road and masking tape and newspaper worked just fine!

    We covered the work areas with acrylic lacquer primer and let it dry. You will need to put down however many coats it takes to “fill” old sand marks or file marks. Usually a couple coats will do this.

    NOTE: Lacquer primer 4 parts to 1 part thinner

    In our case, we actually painted the rig in a gray primer and then drove it for several months in primer gray. I had several trips I wanted to make and there was a good chance I could end up with body damage so we figured we would wait until those were over and as luck would have it I didn’t receive any body damage until AFTER the new paint job!
    rodney eppes and shawn like this.

    SHINTON Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2005
    Triad area of NC
    Here is a bondo tip for you, using the old style bondo you will find that the longer it sits/drys out, the more it will ‘settle’ and what was previously a nice smooth body panel, will start looking ‘wavy’ When we were restoring my 72 GMC Jimmy, we literally did the body work 1 year in advance before we painted the truck and by that time all the bondo work had settled nicely. We re-primed the worked areas and block sanded it again before shooting the paint, which came out looking REALLY nice! (BTW, we did NOT use the el cheapo paint on that restoration, I think my final cost in materials was closer to $700!)

    At this point, it has been about 6 months since we shot the primer, I had just returned from Tellico with only a busted right rear tail light thanks to Upper 2 and I was ready to move on with the final paint job. Some friends and I had “photo chopped” various ideas onto the Jeep, just to get some ideas on what it would look like with just a single color, flames, scallops, rally stripes, etc. I wanted something ‘different’ from the standard Red Jeep that you see on every trail ride and decided to go with a 3 color scalloped look.
    Rust-O-Leum’s protective enamel line of products has 35 different colors to choose from and I decided to use Sunrise Red and Gloss Black. For my silver paint, I actually used the Silver Hammered paint, from the “Hammered Enamel” product line. I purchased a quart of each of those 3 colors, which was $7 per quart for the protective enamel and about $10 for the quart of hammered enamel.

    I would not suggest using the spray cans unless you just do not have access to an air compressor. The paint is MUCH cheaper by the quart and you will get a nicer looking coat of paint using a spray gun. You will need to mix the paint with their recommended reducer(Mineral Spirits), in the amount they suggest, which is about 4 parts paint, 1 part reducer. You cannot simply pour the paint in the gun and shoot!

    I bought all of my supplies at the Lowes and Home Depot, you will see that Rust-O-Leum has a lot more colors available than what is actually carried on the shelves so I had to hit a couple different stores to find the 3 colors I had picked. I am not sure if they would be willing to order a specific color at the store, but you might ask if you cannot find your choices.

    Rust-Oleum | Spray Paint, Wood Stains, Floor Coatings and More

    We sanded the entire painting area with 320 grit sand paper, for the flat areas we just used the sand paper dry, and for the areas with curves I dipped the sand paper in water and sanded it “wet.” With my finger tips, I could feel a NOTICEABLE difference from the regular primered area and where I had just wet sanded. The wet sanded area was really smooth to the touch, versus a ‘rough/textured’ feeling in the un-sanded areas.

    NOTE: Newer & more expensive paints require use of 400 grit sandpaper or finer!!!

    Our next step was to spray the entire body with Rust-o-leum white primer and allow it to dry overnight. It provides reasonable “fill quality” and is sandable, but we used it more as a “non sanding sealer.” You will see from the final product pictures, the black area is the scallops and dad taped off around these first, using a thinner masking tape, ½” for the straight lines and ¼” for the curves. This is somewhat of an art form to get the scallops looking the way you want them. The nice part is at this point you can move the tape, add, subtract until you get the look you are wanting!

    I have mentioned my dad several times in this article and he is the true genius behind the painting as you can tell! He literally grew up working around his father’s garage where the entire family worked to fill cars with gas, work on the customer’s vehicles, etc. Dad’s specialty was auto body & fender work and that was his full time career in the 60s and 70s. The type of paint we are using for this project is very similar to the paint used in that era, along with the bondo, etc.

    Because of his experience I usually let him shoot all the paint, but in this case I really wanted to try my hand at shooting a few coats! I made the typical rookie mistake of wanting to “cover it” with the first coat, which resulted in a few runs on the drivers side. You may notice in the pictures that the floor is wet, we hosed it down to keep dust from kicking up as we walked around the Jeep, you will want to minimize dust if you are not using a professional paint booth.

    On the second coat, Dad had me hold the spray gun about a foot away from the body and give it a lighter coat, which actually had a “faded/greyish” look instead of glossy, this is what my dad refers to as a “tack coat” which is the next to final coat. The final coat was back up closer (6” or so) and was glossy as usual, but I moved fast enough to not compound my earlier runs. We allowed the paint to dry for about 20-30 minutes between each coat.

    We used 40lbs of air pressure for the black (using a pressure feed gun) and 60-80lbs for the primer and other colors (using a siphon feed gun)

    We purchased the pressure feed gun from Harbor Freight for about $15, and despite cleaning it with the recommended Mineral spirits after shooting the black, the gun still was gummed up and not wanting to shoot “the right way” any longer. Dad has several siphon guns that he has used for years and so he used one of those for shooting the Silver and Red paint.

    Dad suggest using whatever gun YOU are most familiar or comfortable with and when in doubt use the “siphon.” The main reason for this suggestion is on a siphon gun you can also regulate the amount of air/paint ratio. Thus, you can use a lot of air and little paint to help avoid runs! (Remember you don’t have to “COVER” on the first coat, learn from my rookie mistake!)

    I am not sure what caused the gun to stay fouled in our case, you should be able to clean it up with the mineral spirits (spraying it thru the nozzle like paint, to clear out the interior/nozzle) and the mineral spirits will evaporate. We used the Mineral spirits to “clean” the Harbor Freight gun, but used normal paint thinner on Dad’s other paint guns and they cleaned up fine?

    After waiting for a day, Dad taped off the black section and sprayed the Hammered Silver on the nose of the YJ. The first couple coats really had the “Hammered” look but on the final coat, Dad thinned it out more and the final product has a texture, but very little of the “two-toned” silver look. If you want more of a ‘two-tone’ look, you may wish to experiment with how much you thin down the paint, until you find the desired amount.

    The final taping for shooting the Red, involved “re-taping” the scalloped area, which in this case he used a razor blade to cut off the ends/tips, be VERY careful here that you cut the tape and not the paint underneath!


    As you can see from the final pictures, the paint job came out looking sharp and I have received lots of compliments from fellow jeepers, especially those who saw the rig in the 3 tone camouflage/rust/Islander blue days! If you get up close and look at the paint, you will find flaws, such as my runs, but from five feet out the rig looks really nice.

    We finished the paint job up back in October and I have wheeled it several times since then and the paint is still holding up well. In my Crackers Neck article here at you will see that the trails are covered with lots of Laurel and I have a fresh set of “brush marks” down the hood and both sides of the Jeep. Since we did not use a clear coat over the paint, I can simply polish (not wax, but polish which is slightly grittier), the paint and the marks will fade or disappear entirely!

    For me, this is the perfect paint job, we have less than $80 in materials (see below), and the process is simple enough that even I can do it! At some point in my hobby, I fully expect to flop the Jeep and I can repaint the entire side again for less than $40! The paint photographs well for the POSER shots on the trail and is tough enough to stand up to brush striping and other abuse as well. My right rear corner now has a large 8” dent below the tail light thanks to a tree limb at “the Waterfall” (Welder, Callalantee article) but the paint did not break or flake off.

    I know we are not supposed to be worried about how our trail rig looks, since we are “hard core wheelers”, but maybe you are just interested in preventing further rust, or you are just getting tired of being “another Red Jeep?!?” I wanted to stand out and have the added benefit of my wife actually willing to ride in the BUG, now that it isn’t rust and camouflage any longer! (Big Unique Geep now?)

    Here is the final breakdown on estimated materials cost:

    Sand paper $3
    Rust-O-Leum White Primer $10
    Rust-O-Leum Red $7
    Rust-O-Leum Gloss Black $7
    Rust-O-Leum Hammered Silver $10
    Mineral Spirits $5
    Harbor Freight spray gun $15
    “Hidden” costs, include:

    We already owned an air compressor, pressure regulator, hoses, etc.
    We used some grey primer for sealing the Jeep after doing bondo/rust repairs.
    Bondo work & materials, brazing rods, acetylene and sheet metal for fixing rust holes. by Sam Hinton

    Tape and newspapers
    ….cheap (freebie) labor from Dad!!!!
    Use of Dad’s “garage-ma-hal” (beats working in the wind/rain! However, Dad has done several of these paint jobs outside in nice weather (“no wind”), with decent results!)
    Bogleparsons likes this.

    SHINTON Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2005
    Triad area of NC
    bug kodak.jpg BUG ON FLOP ROCK.jpg
    bug poser shot.JPG
    Before, during and after
    paulevans76 and rodney eppes like this.
  4. Caver Dave

    Caver Dave Just holdin' it down here in BFV Moderator

    Mar 10, 2005
    Hooterville (24171)
    I'd totally forgotten about that rig! Any idea where it went?

    SHINTON Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2005
    Triad area of NC
    It was in a tragic accident while being flat towed by the new owner.
  6. ord.sgt.26NC

    ord.sgt.26NC Gott mit uns!

    Mar 23, 2005
    thanks for posting this up...helping out with my paint project on old unit10-2.0
  7. Ron

    Ron Dum Spiro Spero Moderator

    Apr 16, 2005
    Sharon, SC
    that rustoleum has nearly trippled to about $27 dollars these days....might cost $125 now.
    Inflation is a bitch
    McCracken likes this.
  8. RatLabGuy

    RatLabGuy You look like a monkey and smell like one too

    May 18, 2005
    Churchville, MD
    Lol. I remember he old days, their forums are where I got my start way back in the day. And actually how I found @Caver Dave and eventually this place. Everybody's loss after that lol.

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