the Dune Buggy Archives

Paint or refresh the finish?

Paint Tips. How To Refresh your finish ...

How do you turn a 30 year old faded-deteriorated-grimey looking fiberglass buggy body back into an original metalflake gelcoat beauty???

Picture this if you can. I had just purchased my first buggy and the previous owner had left it out in the rain, sun, snow, hail, wind, and under a bunch of trees for the last 15 or so years. Well the end result is severely faded, blackened from tree leaves rotting on the surface, and a surface that is far from smooth. It actually resembles the surface of pavement, full of pits and black with dirt.

Myself being an auto mechanic supporting a family of five had to find a way of making my buggy look good without spending a small fortune. I figured out a way to restore the original hi gloss factory finish for approximately $50.00 Canadian. This was relatively easy to slip past my wife. The process is relatively simple but does require a lot of hard work. I do not recommend power tools as it is too easy to cut through the gel coat. Step 1 Preparing the body...

Find a willing daughter or son. If none are available you are on your own. Don't ask a friend as they probably won't be your friend when all is done. Get a copy of The Karate Kid. Watch and learn the scenes where young Daniel polishes Mr Miagi's cars. Wax on-Wax off This process is very important. The body must be clean before you start anythingelse.

To begin with you will need to get a good stiff scrub brush and a bucket of hot water and laundry detergent. Start washing the body with the brush and the detergent, Scrub it hard in circular motions getting every little nook and cranny. If the brush is too big find a smaller one. Get the car as clean as you can, the cleaner the better. Don't worry about the metal flakes floating in your water. Step 2 Smoothing the body...

Get yourself an assortment of wet/dry sandpaper in the following grits. 180, 240, 400, 600, 1200.

Roll out the garden hose and begin sanding with the 180 grit. Wetsand the entire body by hand using lots of water and sanding in circular motions. Don't try to sand all of the roughness out of the body as the whole idea is to get it smooth in stages and to have it smooth when you are finished using the 400 wet/dry paper. Go over the entire body with each grit paper going from coarsest to finest washing the body with detergent and a soft cloth between grits.. The goal is to achieve a perfectly smooth surface when you finish with the 400 grit.

You will know you are done when the paper glides over the glass with no resistance or sound. Remember the key here is to use LOTS of water and be careful not to cut through the gel coat layer.

I have only done this proceedure to the Kyote line of buggies and I know that Dean Jeffries was not cheap when he did the color layer. Other manufacturers may have cut corners so keep an eye on things. Once you cut through it is too late. Step 3a Paper Polishing...

Wash the body again, make sure that there is no trace of the previous sanding grit left on the surface.

Now that you have managed to get the body smooth and clean use the 600 grit paper in circular motions with lots of water. Again you have to go over the entire body. By now it should look fantastic as long as it is wet. When it dries it will start to look dull. Don't worry about it. When you are done with the 600 move on to the 1200 and repeat the process again. You must be looking like Popeye the sailor by now. Make sure no one tries to slap you as you will probably hurt them with your lightning reflexes. Step 3b Paste polishing...

This next step is going to sound rediculous and it is messy but trust me it is the most cost effective and the best way to get the final mirror like surface. Wash the body but this time dry it completely. Go to your local auto supply store and get a few tubes, or a tub, of AUTOSOL metal polish. Not Mother's chrome polish or Nevr' Dull or some other brand but AUTOSOL.

It may cost a little more but it is the best product out there for any metal and it is fantastic on glass. Throw out the instructions that come with the Autosol and get yourself a few cotton tee shirts. Take the Autosol and put some on your bare hand. Start rubbibg it into the body, yes in circular motions, doing small sections at a time. Back in the 60's the metal flake was made of real flakes of aluminum. As a result as you polish the Autosol will turn black. Really put your heart into this step as it will make a difference if you don't. As the polish blackens, rub it off with the tee shirts occaisionally turning the cloth over and polish it to a brilliant finish. When you are done go over the body again with a clean white cloth making sure that all of the polish is removed. Step 4 Sealing the shine...

I leave this step up to you. You have two choices. The first one is to do nothing but you will have to polish the body quite often with the Autosol as the exposed metal flakes will tarnish. The other is to spray the body with a clear coat of paint.

See your local body shop for quotes and products available. Tell them that you last used Autosol on the body so they will clean the surface with oil and silicone remover prior to spraying the clearcoat.

Thanks to Dan MacMillian for this tech tip.

mailto: davidsigouin