dirty work JOHN ROOTH

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - JOHN ROOTH

FOR most ve­hi­cle own­ers the prospect of a fresh paint job is pretty daunt­ing. To get it right means ag­o­nis­ing over sur­face prepa­ra­tion, run­ning down through grades of wet and dry, and then paint­ing and pol­ish­ing to per­fec­tion. The re­sults are worth it, though, es­pe­cially come re­sale time.

As a teenager liv­ing in the coun­try I used to tinker with all my cars and bikes. I didn’t have much money and I didn’t have any­body telling me what I was do­ing might be wrong. There were some classic stuff-ups along the way, but the first time I spray-painted a car was one of the most glo­ri­ous ex­pe­ri­ences I’ve ever had.

It was an FJ Holden. The doors were three dif­fer­ent colours and the bon­net dif­fer­ent again. About 20 years’ worth of wear on the old paint meant the car looked like ab­so­lute crap, which was a pity be­cause me­chan­i­cally it was pretty much sorted.

Orig­i­nally I was go­ing to at­tack it with a brush us­ing a ‘warm-the­p­aint’ method I’d read about in an old mag­a­zine. How­ever, the local hard­ware store had just got this new­fan­gled elec­tric spray gun in stock, so – armed with a tin of enamel, some turps to thin it and a copy of the Sun­day pa­per – I launched in.

It went on with more than the odd drib­ble but by late that after­noon I couldn’t re­sist pluck­ing away the mask­ing pa­per. The re­sult, from about 10 feet back, was like a new car. I was in love. Un­for­tu­nately, my girl­friend of the time al­most fell out of love when she saw the strange yel­low colour – it looked great on the brochure – and the ‘orange peel’ sur­face. A week later, after I’d hand-painted orange and red flames up the side of the bon­net, she was ready to leave.

Dur­ing our min­ing years, my brother and I painted all our trucks, bikes, lad­ders, hoists and any­thing else made from steel much the same way. The years taught us much about air com­pres­sors, thin­ners and get­ting the sur­face right, but noth­ing ever killed the joy of peel­ing back that pa­per and tape and see­ing a new ma­chine emerge in all its glory.

We mostly used roof and me­tal enamel be­cause it han­dled the sun and stuck to al­most any­thing, and our gear used to han­dle cor­ro­sion a whole lot bet­ter than most be­cause of it. The ad­di­tional facts that it looked bet­ter than it was, didn’t cost much, and in­volved an ex­cuse for a carton of beer on a Sun­day were al­most ir­rel­e­vant.

When I bought Milo some 20 years ago she was a dirty white colour and al­ready had a few bits of rust cut from the rear pan­els thanks to our local scout­mas­ter’s camp­ing trips up the beach. I don’t think he’d washed it in 20 years of own­er­ship. (Al­most) the first thing I did was in­vite my neigh­bour, Long Bruce, over for a Sun­day of fun with a litre of enamel and a carton of beer. By the end of the day Milo looked great in a shiny coat of green and, thanks to a late after­noon breeze and the slow-dry­ing prop­er­ties of thinned enamel, most of our street was colour­coded green, too.

Now I’m think­ing I’ve prob­a­bly painted Milo ev­ery second year or so since then. Some­times it has been be­cause of ma­jor body work, some­times a change of spon­sors – which has meant plenty of paint peel­ing off be­hind the old stick­ers – and some­times just be­cause the old coat looked shabby. But you’ve only got to watch the rain bead up and trickle off a coat of enamel to re­alise fresh paint is the best way to keep the rust at bay.

You know what? Even now, some 43 years after I peeled the pa­per off that FJ Holden, I still get an in­cred­i­ble buzz when re­veal­ing a fresh paint job. How­ever, this time around was even bet­ter, be­cause half­way through I re­alised the paint was ac­tu­ally a dif­fer­ent shade.

Yep, dur­ing one of those ‘meet and greet’ ses­sions at a show the guys from Lux­ury Paints in Toowoomba handed me a four-litre tin of enamel and said: “There you go Roothy, a lit­tle con­tri­bu­tion to Milo’s next paint job.”

It was meant as a joke, but after sit­ting in the cup­board for more than a year I fig­ured I’d save a few bucks on the usual roof and me­tal and give this stuff a go. It stirred up re­ally well with the elec­tric drill and spin­ner, thinned nicely to ‘slide off the stick’ vis­cos­ity and blew on with no prob­lems at all.

You’ll have to wait un­til next month to see the re­sult, but when it dried it was glossier, too.

Milo’s now brighter and bolder than ever – and pretty soon I’ll get the green tinge out of my beard.

Milo in a state of un­dress. New old doors, new old bon­net and a new front panel hold­ing the whole plot to­gether. All it needs now is paint.

1 1 3 Tom work­ing the chas­sis and un­der­body. After an hour on the sprin­kler and a cou­ple of ses­sions with the water blaster it’s still nec­es­sary to go over ev­ery­thing with a wire brush to get it scratched enough to hold paint. A $25 low-pres­sure spray unit, a litre of black un­der­body and a lit­tle brother to hold the card­board. The shed’s open for max ven­ti­la­tion, some­thing this old ex-smoker wishes he’d paid more at­ten­tion to decades ago. With the un­der­body freshly blacked, Joe started ‘scratch­ing’ the pan­els with wet and dry. Rather than get­ting it per­fect, the em­pha­sis here is on get­ting the paint to stick. 2 4 It’s about now I re­alise the free paint is a slightly dif­fer­ent shade of green. No wor­ries, any­thing looks good on Milo! 1 2 3 4

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