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Paint for a '32

Earl B.

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It's getting time to think of paint for the 901. It came in lacquer and is now wearing a 1970's repaint in lacquer, that has faded terribly. I'm not anxious to put the time and money in a paint job that will eventually look so bad. Any suggestions as to paint type? Clear coat/base coat? Acrylic lacquer?

Those of you who have early '30s cars, what have you used and had great success with? thanks for the help, Earl

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Hoo Boy--this is one of those questions where you will get many answers, and every one of them is right!

If you ask 5 experienced body/paint men how to restore a particular body you will get 5 different answers, and they will tell you that they are right and the others are wrong!

I like acrylic Lacquer. It ages exceptionally well (I know of cars painted in the 1970's that still look fresh) and is relatively easy to spray.

Base coat/clear coat is big these days, but it takes a really good painter to make that style of finish look right for the vintage of your car and not have that "dipped in plastic" look. I've seen it done, but the painter has to be damn good.

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It all depends on who you are trying to impress.

My first choice is to impress....ME ! Way down at the bottom of the list is what others think of MY way of enjoying MY old cars!


What kind of car show, if that is your primary focus, are you planning on showing your car off at? If it is one where the general public's opinions are a consideration, then by all means use the latest multi-part paints to get that "super shiny" look.

But suppose you are thinking of car shows where other Packard enthusiasts will be attending. Especially people like me who like classic era Packards.

We like to see some attention paid to the technical history of the era that your Packard is from. That means nitro-lacquer. Why ? Because the DIFFERENCE IS OBVIOUS !

The way light strikes the modern multi-part paints, compared to the way it bounces off the authentic paint material, is obvious.

The other consideration is how you will use your car? You are probably not going to use it as a daily "beater". If you were, of course I'd recommend the modern multi-part paints; their durability is vastly superior.

But if its primary function is to drive occasionaly, but keep indoors when not in use, no reason not to use nitro-lacquer. I painted my '38 Packard V-12 in 1970. Authentic Packard colors & authentic nitro. (from Turnquist).

I drive it at least once a week, and here in northern Arizona, be assured it sees a wide variety of abusive conditions, ranging from bitter cold and ice, to brutal utlra violet from the hot mountain sun.

Of COURSE there is no sign of fading - it is leaving cars outdoors for long periods of time that causes fading.

Another reason I personally prefer the AUTHENTIC nitro-based paints, is a) how easy it is for an amatuer to get a factory-quality job AND B) how easy it is to "touch up" when you get the occasional blemish. With the modern multi-part paints, you are lucky if you dont have to re-shoot an entire panel to get undetectable repair.

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OK, I need some education. I was told not to use lacquer, because it would crack. Is the cracking a result of a poor paint job.

Also wouldn't an acrylic enamel give you a similiar authentic look, but without the bc/cc shine. I personally would not paint it with bc/cc.

I do have to agree that a lot of people are impressed with the bc/cc. There's a 36 120b sedan that is done mostly correct but has a root beer metal flake paint job. The paint job impresses a lot of people at local car shows, tho Packard enthusiasts thumb there nose at it. Funny thing about this car and the owner. About three weeks ago he showed up at a car show that I attended. After seeing my car, I was told he attempted to enter the import class instead of the 30s because his car was built in Windsor, Canada cry.gif

Not to derail the topic, but I do have a question about gloss black for under the hood. I have used black acrylic enamel for under the hood parts that are suppose to be gloss black, but it just seems too glossy. Is that the paint, or are these black gloss items supposed to be that shiney?

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I get very frustrated when I try to train new judges for Classic Car Club Of America judging events ( or where CCCA rules will be applied) Here's why. The BEST of our most expensive classics were NOT built as custume jewelery. They were built to be USED as functional machinery. That means they were VERY well done to the highest standards, BUT THEY WERE NOT PERFECT ! If you are fortunate enough to see a REALLY low mileage "mint" luxury car from that era (in past years one of our So. Calif members had two "new" early 1930's Cadillacs). THEY should be the "standard" for a 100 point car IF you are concerned with historical accuracy. But again, if you are setting the car up to please the average spectator at a public car show, you wouldnt win a prize in a dog fight for a AUTHENTICALLY restored car.

To answer your specific questions, yes, the modern paints are much more flexible, and are LESS likely to cract.

The problem with cracking is, lacquer is NOT as flexible, and will start cracking under conditions modern paints will take longer to.

I personally have not had a problem with my lacquer jobs cracking. But that is in part because they arent continually subject to very rapid temp. changes - meaning, yes, I do go out in my Twelve on winter nights, and yes it does go into a heated garage, but I sure as HELL do not wash it on a hot day after its been sitting in the sun.

Also, cracking is less likely to develop if you dont use lots of body filler. I am lucky - I got my Twelve when it was just an old used car - wasnt all rusted and screwed up. So I used a conventional lacquer - based primer over nice REAL Packard steel - not tons of bondo and/or body putty.

As for your under-hood question - you are correct - the stuff was SEMI gloss, NOT HIGH GLOSS when it was new.

Again, read my first "post" for suggestions on making a decision WHO you are restoring the car for, and what you need to do to please your target audience.

Each year there are fewer and fewer of us "old codgers" around who will smirk at the fancy costume jewelery jobs that bear little resemblence to what rolled out the factory door. So do what is best for YOU !

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Quote: “I was told not to use lacquer, because it would crack. Is the cracking a result of a poor paint job?"

False--the reason Lacquer (or any paint) usually cracks is because it is sprayed on too thick. Not a problem initially, but trouble up the road as the job ages.

If someone pooh-poohs Lacquer, look at what they own. 9 out of ten they are Ford/Chrysler heads and can't fathom Lacquer.

The Black items under the hood have too much gloss on many restorations. This is where a "great survivor" car is invaluable. The Detroit public library has the entire Packard photographic collection, and those pictures are available online through the making of modern Michigan website http://mmm.lib.msu.edu/search/results.cfm?

There are additional photos that the library has that are not yet digitized and available. While black and white, they do indicate whether a finish is gloss or not!

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RE : Diff. visually between nitro and "acrylic" lacquers?

I dont think even I could tell the difference, and I have been involved in car paint technology off and on for a few weeks now...! ( I got my body shop training as a kid in jr. high school in the early 1950's....my "teacher" used to be paint shop foreman at Murphy Of Pasedena...- yes...THAT Murphy)

The problem is, we used to have fits trying to get it to work unless we bought a primer-surfacer from the same company as the acrylic lacquer. It is NOT chemically compatible with ordinary "lacquer based" primer-surfacers, and, to my knowledge, that is all you can get any more, since, to my knowledge, hard to find acrylic, and you can get ordinary nitro cellulose lacquer at many of the shops that cater to us old car nuts.

Oh...and its odor - spray is even more toxic than ordinary lacquer.

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First of all, folks who say lacquer doesn't hold up need only look at some of the original cars around that have 70 or more year-old lacquer paint that still looks great. Granted it doesn't do well with some metallic pigments. Cracking is from paint too thick, though nitrocellulose lacquer is less flexible than acrylic. Pretty hard to tell the difference between a well done nitrocellulose or acrylic lacquer job, but pretty easy to tell either of them from the base coat/clear coat paint jobs, even when the clear coat is blocked down to kill the plastic look (and you need a really good paint guy for this). But you sure can't beat the durability of the newest paints. In the end it comes down to how much you want to replicate the correct original appearance. That's my 2-cents worth.

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How about powder coating? I'm thinking about powder coating my rims on a 1947 Super Custom Clipper. I know that not much of the rims show with the rings and hub caps installed. But what would the judges say or would it be that noticeable? I would like to use this car for show, sometime in the future.


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