For the last few weeks, I've been totally obsessed with a new project, fixing, building, and revising the ghost of some of my past Maker failures at the same time.
I decided to update my aging Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, spiffing it up and reversing some of the ravages of time. It's still a daily driver, so anything I could do to make it better would make my commute more enjoyable.
This is my car on the day I drove it home twenty years ago. It has been my constant companion, having followed me through many happy times and countless life changes.
Yet, the years have resulted in a fair amount of wear and tear -- for both me and the car -- but at least for the car some of that can be undone with a little skill and significantly more effort.
For the interior, this included stripping it down and replacing the stanky carpet (top picture), cleaning up and touching up all the plastic surfaces, fixing and covering the upholstery, upgrading the gauges and lighting (LEDs!), and cleanly rewiring the radio and all the accessories into a separate fuse box case I made on the laser cutter because I could.
For the engine bay, I got inspired by some online modding communities to do some largely unnecessary upgrades. I cleaned everything up, replaced all the belts, upgraded the hoses with silicone and stainless steel, detailed some items, and upgraded the intake (little more pick-up, nice vroom-vroom sound!) just for fun.
The most painful part was that it was all my fault, and the latest example of three failed previous hood paint jobs:
Failure #2 (2008) - To cover up the uneveness, I repainted the hood with custom mixed paint, but decided to save money using inexpensive clearcoat from OReilly's. It looked good at first but developed spider cracks after a few years.
Failure #3 (2012) - The spider cracks wouldn't make a good surface to paint on, so to avoid stripping the hood, I purchased a new aftermarket "primed" hood I found for sale on Amazon. Since it was already "primed" I assumed I could just scuff it and paint it. I also used extra materials to repaint and clearcoat the front bumper. Neither surface was apparently prepped well enough though as they both started cracking and chipping after a few years.
So this is where I began try #4.
Since I still had the original factory hood around, I decide to strip it down and start from scratch, doing everything possible to help the paint stick. This was a painful process that involved paint stripper and a lot of scraping and sanding with a dual-action sander (thanks Harbor Freight!). Once all the old cracked clearcoat was gone, I wet-sanded it smooth.
The bumper got a similar treatment with sanding off of all ugly bits and really scuffing up the rest before wet sanding to smoothing it back out for primer and paint.
Ignore the hood in this pic. It's actually the bad one and while it kind of looks OK in this picture, it looked horrible from any other angle.
With that done, both parts were ready for paint. Time to put on my Breaking Bad costume. Safety first.
First, I primed both parts using a two-part primer that you mixed together before spraying. It was expensive, so surely it must be good and give maximum stickiness. I used a $10 spray gun, also from Harbor Freight.
Then came the color coat. Looks better already, just not shiny.
Now the all important clearcoat. This time I used a pricey urethane clearcoat that, like the primer, comes in two parts that you mix together, which starts a countdown clock for you to apply it before it hardens by chemical reaction. It's supposed to yield a super hard clearcoat, which I needed because I don't want to do this again...again.
Fingers are crossed.
Incidentally, I purchased all the paint materials together at automotivetouchup.com
It was getting dark by the time I did the bumper. Even the dark can't hide that shine though!.
The next day, everything was looking promising, but the hood had picked up some bubbles and specs of stuff while it dried. I really should have sprayed it propped up. Oh well. Good to know for the fifth time.
There better not be a fifth time..
There better not be a fifth time..
To smooth it out I ended up doing a WHOLE LOT of wet-sanding with successive grades of sandpaper (1000, 1500, 2500, 3000), then buffing with rubbing compound and polish. The good news is that this got rid of any orange-peel like bumpiness in the paint at the same time.
This was a PITA. I knew I needed to wet sand enough with each grit for the buffing to work, but was constantly afraid of accidentally sanding through to the color coat. That would have force me to repaint everything again. In the end, I had to go back a few times over the course of two afternoons of messing with it to re-sand everything before the hood would polish up well.
This is the result, with the hood swapped back onto the car. Not too shabby, if I say so myself (though still waiting on a new logo badge)
Maybe even a 5/5 car now.