All of us know a good-looking paint finish when we see one. Knowing and doing, however, are two different matters. Seeing is a long way from "doing" but it is a skill that you can learn and improve upon. To get this knowledge we looked to the pros in paint finish: PPG. The doing is up to you.

If we have any interest in painting our own street rods, proper prep is an absolute. It has been said that patience is a virtue thereby making painting a virtuous act. Preparation in painting is paramount.

There are a number of aspects to the "perfect paintjob" but let's begin with understanding some of the basic dos and don'ts to surface preparation, surface abrasion, plastic filler, primer, primer surfacer, V-seal sealer, basecoat/topcoat, and clearcoat. There's a lot of knowledge and effort resting beneath the vibrant and colorful topcoat all of us marvel.

Since we want professional results we should seek professional input and for that we visited the paint labs of PPG. The following are some basic dos and don'ts that each of us should be aware of before moving our project from bare metal (or fiberglass) to the final topcoat. Remember what you learned in first grade: "Anything worth doing, is worth doing well."

With book learning in hand we thought it would be a good idea to follow the process on a street rod. For this we visited the paint booth of Alloway's Hot Rod Shop in Louisville, Tennessee. Our subject is a fiberglass '32 Ford five-window coupe from the molds of Rat's Glass in Friendsville, Tennessee.

Surface Preparation
Our moms told us to wash our hands before sitting down to the table. Well, it's no different when painting. Not only should you wash your hands, and make sure all of your equipment is clean, but that the surface soon to be painted is clean and ready to go.

Wash the surface to be painted with warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly. The intent is to remove any waterborne contaminates. Clean, dry air is crucial to a successful paintjob. If there is water vapor or oil vapor coming through the airlines from the compressor, the success rate will drop drastically. Water and oil are contaminates in paint and will cause a failure, if not right away, in a matter of months.

Wipe the surface with a good solvent cleaner to remove all oils and grease; PPG DX330 will get the job done. The intent of having a clean surface is to ensure good adhesion of the fillers and finishes used. Any trapped contaminate will lead to future corrosion.

Surface Prep Dos
Use liberal amounts of DX330 to break up and loosen the oils and/or grease from the surface and use clean towels to prevent "new" contaminates coming from the cloth.

Next, use a clean, dry cloth to wipe contaminates from the surface after the DX330 is applied. So far we have been talking about metal, but should your project be with fiberglass use a water- or alcohol-based cleaner. For 'glass, DX103 will remove mold release as well as dissipate static.

Surface Prep Don'ts
Don't allow the DX330 to dry on the surface, the contaminates you just loosened will be reintroduced. If you wipe over an area where the cleaner has dried, any contaminates that were in that area will be spread around to the areas that are wiped. DX330 shouldn't be used on fiberglass as any solvent cleaner will penetrate too far into the porous surface of the gel.

Surface Abrasion
Gelcoated fiberglass requires only to be sanded with 280- or 320-grit paper prior to the application of a surface. If filling is required, sand or grind areas where filler will be applied with 80-grit paper.

Heavy steel, such as a frame, will need to be sanded with 80- to 180-grit paper depending on the amount of rust or damage that needs to be removed or smoothed. If there's a considerable amount of rust, it may be more effective to blast.

Sheetmetal may also need to be sanded with 80- to 180-grit paper depending on the condition of the surface.