There’s one common ingredient required in every step of building a street rod: patience. From building the motor to the final phases of finishing a paintjob, you cannot rush the process and still expect outstanding results.

This seems to be especially true with finishing the paint on your hot rod. Modern paints are capable of unbelievable finishes, with a luster deeper than we could have imagined in the ’50s and ’60s. For those of us who cut our teeth on lacquer, it’s time to forget everything you know about buffing paint and relearn the process for the modern base/clearcoat paints. The process of buffing modern paints is basically the same, yet very different from vintage lacquers.

Every good paintjob begins at bare metal and works up to the final finish, poor preparation or application anywhere along the way will make achieving a high-quality paintjob impossible. We’ll assume you have done proper bodywork and paint and now it is time to begin sanding and buffing the car.

Unlike vintage paints that required cure time, modern urethanes are ready to sand within 24 hours of application and are easiest to sand for the first three days after application. With each passing day the paint will become a bit harder to sand, it can still be done but it will take more effort. So, when you buy your paint, purchase all of the sandpaper and polishing material too because the next day you will be breaking out the water bucket and sanding blocks.

Talking to your paint supplier will net you some good information, but remember a bulk of their business goes toward OEM repair standards, not necessarily the custom painting market. The best advice comes from talking to a shop that consistently puts out amazing paintjobs, and when it comes to amazing paintwork Alloway’s Hot Rod Shop is second to none. But after Bobby Alloway lays down a super slick paintjob the final finish is placed in the hands of Joe Bailey, the man who sands, buffs, and finishes every paintjob that leaves the shop. Bailey was more than glad to share his years of experience and buffing sequences for you to use when it comes time to finish your own paintjob. We can tell you how Bailey does it, but we can’t give you the 40 years of experience that gives you a feel for the paint, buffer, the product, and how the paint is responding.

Bailey has been buffing paint since the days of acrylic lacquer and during that time he has learned that most of the work is done with the sandpaper, not the buffer. And this is where that heavy dose of patience comes into play.

When a car is painted at Alloway’s Hot Rod Shop there are two to three extra coats of paint applied so Bailey has plenty of material to work with. That means five to six coats of clear as opposed to the recommended three coats.

If you are painting your own car at home there may be one more step prior to the start of sanding and that’s the denibbing process, where you spend time going around the car and carefully working out the larger pieces of dirt, dust, and debris that inevitably fall into the paint when a spray booth isn’t used. There are now special tools to help in this process.