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The story of painting my 1966 VW Bettle is currently still on going. It starts where all paint stories start when the bug was purchased.

When we first purchased the bug (many, many, years ago) the bettle was a faded baby blue and mustard primer color. Immediately the plan was to have the car painted a ready to drive. As we looked at it more the car had to have some rust repairs done first, but I was still set on the painting.

After I decided the body had to come off the pan, I decided I might as well paint the pan while it was out. I ended up painting the pan with an oil based paint that was thick. While I don't remember the exact type of paint it was, its the same stuff that is often used on tractors. The particular oil based paint does not cure to a hard surface, instead it is slightly rubbery. The idea was that rocks and other things that will hit the bottom of the pan will not crack and chip the paint off, instead the oil based paint will end up being able to heal itself and keep it from rusting. So far it appears to be working. I went with first a nice red color coat and then followed it up by a more traditional black coat.

After the pan looked nice and new with its black paint, I moved along with the rest of the restoration. After quite some time I decided the body work was done and it was time to move onto the painting of the body. The first steps were to sand the old paint off the car. For this I was able to convince my wife, my brother, and a friend that they wanted to help. THis is by far one of the most labor intensive, boring, and dusty tasks that I have ever performed. With four of us working on it, we were able to sand most of it in the first day leaving only the fenders, hood and decklid to be done another time. We used plenty of sandpaper, sanding blocks, a couple orbital sanders, and even some airplane paint stripper. The paint stripper was needed to remove some of the glue in the rear package shelf that was destroying sandpaper. If you choose to use the paint stripper, make sure you were gloves, and not just the thinnest rubber gloves you can find. The paint stripper made short work of the glue, the first two pairs of rubber gloves, and some of our skin.

With the old paint off and the car looking bare, I loaded up the paint gun with some self-etching primer and learned how to use a paint gun. After adjusting the air flow, paint flow, and working distance, I quickly was able to learn how to efficiently use the gun for primer. I was able spray the inside and outside of the shell. After I applied a couple coats and it dried thoroughly I moved the shell out of the garage and began preping and priming the fenders, hood, and decklid. Everything looked pretty good and I was ready to get moving on the paint part of things. I decided that I really didn't want to try to learn the actual paint applications since I didn't have an ideal workspace and didn't know if I would be happy with the results if I did it myself.

This led me to go out and look around for a paint shop that was willing to paint my bug, was able to get to it in a reasonable time, and one that was reasonably priced. The first thing I learned was that most of the shops were quoting about the same price. They were all very happy that I had the car disassembled and that they wouldn't have to do that or put it back together. After narrowing down the shops that were willing to paint the car within a reasonable time frame (within about a month), a loaded the car onto a trailer a drove it around for them to inspect. They were all very happy with the primer condition and the body work done, most noting that they don't ever get cars in such nice condition. I ruled out one paint shop that seemed disintrested in looking over the car before giving an estimate. At every paint shop I ended up going through a few books of paint colors and talking about what they thought would be good. I knew I wanted a green color that was not stock but wouldn't look completely out of place. Many of the shops gave me the good advice of sticking to a factory color (from any car) so that if it ever needed repairs the color could easily be matched and mixing was not a big problem. Eventually Cosmic Green was choosen after looking at hundreds of different green colors.

I finally settled on Top Gun Collision Repair and Paint Shop in Frederick, MD. The guy who owned the shop, Tommy Sulluvin, looked over the car, made some notes, came up with an estimate and time frame for finishing the painting. We agreed to drop the car off at his shop in a week and that he would bring it in and start working on it. In a week I brought him the car and thats about where things went down hill.

More on the paint shop problems soon...