Low cost paint job or Vehicle Wrap?
July 23, 2012 1:25 PM   Subscribe

Should I spend 2-3 thousand on a "premier" Maaco job, try my luck at a mom and pop (WPB, FL area if you have any recommendations), or go for a vehicle wrap? Any MeFites with experience with either?

I have a 1957 Chevy Bel Air, I just sank a ton of money into the mechanics, so it's running pretty sweet. Unfortunately, I had NO idea how much it would cost to do the paint work on this when I bought it. I've received a few quotes in the $10,000-$12,000 range. There's not too much rust on the chrome, and no visible rust/damage to the body panels or undercarriage, but the 10-12k range are the restoring quotes I received.

It is highly doubtful I will ever possess this much money to spend on a paint/chrome restoration job for a car. Even without the chrome restoration work, the quotes I received are in the $6-$7k range for paint alone.

Now for the horrific part.... I unfortunately lost my mind a week or two after getting the quotes, and I tried to blend some discolored areas on the car with touch up auto spray paint. Of course, this didn't go too well, and then... I tried to "fix" the areas I initially sprayed by painting blue flames on the car and... well... ahem, I'm sure you can imagine the rest.

So now... I'm left with a partially self-painted car, and I desperately want to undo my dumbass mistake. I don't plan on selling this car for the foreseeable future, so I would like something I can look cool in for at least 4-5 years and revisit the actual paint job a few years from now. I just don't know if I should go with a vehicle wrap or a 2-3 thousand dollar paint job. I'm in the West Palm Beach, FL Area. Any advice?
posted by Debaser626 to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Anecdata: I used Maaco's cheapest-of-the-cheap paint deal on my last car (needed repainted after some bodywork). It looked totally fine. If you're not gonna try to sell it/enter it in car shows/etc. and just need it to look, well, like you DIDN'T try to paint it, Maaco should work.
posted by julthumbscrew at 1:28 PM on July 23, 2012

I live in a town with quite an old car culture (American Graffiti was shot here), and have gone bike riding with someone who owns a body shop in town. He's commented that he loves having hot rods with no fixed deadline in his shop, because it lets him keep his crew busy even when there are no accidents to fix.

Have you asked at a mom & pop place whether they'd give you a discount if you got it painted sometime in the next six months, but could let that happen on their schedule? You might have to let them have the car for quite a while, but it could save you many thousands.
posted by straw at 1:39 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There's nothing cheap about car restoration, and body work/paint is the king of that.

Is the current chrome and paint original? If so, it's probably worth trying to preserve as is... although it's hard to judge how much damage to it you've done. Any chance you've got pictures? (And not JUST so I can laugh, I promise.)

You can do a lot of rust removal and basic bodywork yourself for relatively cheap. Rust removal is definitely something you can do yourself, if you've got surface rust. You could prep the car yourself: taping everything up, removing bumpers, etc using wire brushes and sanding to get the rust off and getting eevvverything ready for painting. Hell, you could even paint it yourself after that if you can invest in the tools.

I'd be concerned that a lower end paint job is going to make a mess of things, and that you'll end up paying for it in cleaning, polishing, and sand blasting later on when you wan to do it right.

Re-chroming is SERIOUS MONEY. You don't want to go down that road right now, I promise. Be thankful for the chrome you have. ;)

Lastly, go talk to the nice folks over at the antique auto club of america: http://forums.aaca.org/ It's a great community of enthusiasts and you'll get fantastic advice.

Be glad you've got the car you have, that's a pretty slick machine! Glad you're enjoying it, and don't let the cost/effort get you down too much.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:34 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 2 or 4 door Bel Air?

I painted cars for a living, high-end cars, show cars, restored cars, concourse cars and, at the time I stopped painting in the early 80s, $10-12K would have been a low figure then for the kind of paint job that a truly restored, low or no rust, 57 Bel Air destined, say, for Barrett-Jackson deserves. It is easy for a competent, high-end paint job to consume 800 to 1000 hours of labor and even more. A lot of that time is spent in carefully disassembling and reassembling the car. Glass has to come out, all the rubber off, doors, deck lid and hood off, chrome, etc. It's a huge job.

I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to advise you unless you want to learn how to do paint work yourself. You really need to consult a pro to understand what you can do for the moment that won't hurt the car in the long run.

I wish I had a cheerier outlook but, the car is effectively irreplaceable and I think the greatest of care is needed.

A couple of points:

As Stagger Lee points out, what you really don't want to do is have a stop-gap paint job now cause problems for a good paint job later. One of the things that can happen with graphics (your flames in this case) is that after a while of exposure to the elements, sun and time, hard-edged patterns seems to get into or alter the very sheet metal itself and can be very difficult to prevent from telegraphing through a new finish no matter how well prepared. I don't know the exact cause but have seen this with my own eyes. This is often seen with commercial vans where a company logo is sanded or even chemically stripped, the vehicle is repainted and, yet, after a few weeks a faint outline of the original logo begins to reappear (telegraph) in the new finish. So, in my opinion only, the sooner the flames come off, the better.

As for rust, unless you know what you are doing, trying to deal with surface rust yourself is a bad idea. Rust is really never confined to the surface but embeds itself into pits in the metal and will come back to ruin a paint job (small bubbles/blistering) weeks, months or years after the paintwork is finished. Sometimes, sand, bead or walnut-shell blasting is used to remove surface rust. Such blasting has to be done with great care as, done incorrectly, it can deform the sheet metal in ways that can never be recovered.

Some restorers use acid etches and gentle brushing for surface rust removal, especially phosphoric acid. Naval jelly is sometimes used and has phosphoric acid in it. I looked around a bit and came up with this article from Hot Rod magazine where they dealt with surface rust.
posted by bz at 3:15 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do not wrap it, under any circumstances. Take it to a restoration place, and tell them you want to preserve the patina of it, and get recommendations on how to do that (beyond simply garaging it all the time) and prevent rust from getting worse.

Their guidance will help you protect what remains of the original finish until you can finally afford to paint it properly. A car like that, if you're going to keep it, you will only kick yourself hard in the long term if you cheap out on the paint now. Besides, right now keeping the original patina is trendy, so you're ahead of the curve!
posted by davejay at 3:26 PM on July 23, 2012

1. This is a high net-worth community and
2. A lot of people want to recapture their youth with an age-appropriate vehicle.

Having said that, a friend just sold his fully restored 1961 Continental for a cool $67,000, so your investment is probably well-protected. Do the job right, and then when you are ready to move on, it will finance your next move.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:31 PM on July 23, 2012

Does Maaco do a complete paint job for that price? Under the hood, inside the door jambs, under the trunk lid, etc? Or is it strictly the exterior exposed surfaces?
posted by Thorzdad at 3:43 PM on July 23, 2012

I'd ask the pros who've already checked it out to see if there are any areas that HAVE to have immediate attention. Hit those spots and maybe get a quick overall clean up and primer.

Put 2 or 3 grand into it for the sake of preservation.

This isn't my biz, but I totally agree with Stagger Lee, bz and anyone else saying that shooting a bunch of crap paint and clear coat on this will not only make it harder to restore later, but may also be detrimental and cause additional cost when the time comes to do it right.

Like any restoration when money is tight, do it incrementally. Do what NEEDS to be done and save up for the next level.
posted by snsranch at 7:25 PM on July 23, 2012

Please, don't let Maaco anywhere near a '57 Bel Air. Honestly, every Maaco job I've seen looks like someone just shot it with a Wagner they picked up at Home Depot. Uneven coats, orange-peeling, you name it. Hell, most of the Maaco jobs driving around, they didn't even bother to mask anything and all the badging and placards are just painted right over. On their top-tier price level they apparently actually remove trim and placards, but there is no way they are doing a true inside-out job for 2-3 thousand. No way. You can't dismantle a car to the point needed to do it right, for only 2-3 thousand, let alone paint it and reassemble it as well.
posted by xedrik at 9:05 PM on July 23, 2012

Response by poster: This is a 4-door... I don't have pics of the "self-damaged" car, but I wanted to say thanks all for your input... strangely enough, when I fired her up last night for the weekly start up/ drive around the block, I noticed a rather loud engine knock when idling in Drive. So it looks like more mechanics is needed over body... c'est la vie...
posted by Debaser626 at 9:42 AM on July 24, 2012

A 4-door? Hmm. Perhaps you can find a good non-Maaco shop that will prep and shoot a decent acrylic enamel paint job for $3-4K. Although the 4-doors are becoming rarer, I feel less strongly about a restoration-quality paint job on that car. Just a competent one with proper prep and attention to halting corrosion is appropriate.
posted by bz at 4:19 PM on July 24, 2012

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