Perfect any paint job with some sandpaper and Mother's polish!
In the May issue we showed you how a top trade tech school like Los Angeles Trade-Tech College (LATTC) teaches their students to perform show quality paint and body work the right way. They took our '68 Mustang coupe with it's heavily oxidized finish and transformed it to better than new with a fresh coat of DuPont waterbourne 2-stage paint.
As gorgeous as the 1968 Brittany Blue looked straight out of the booth, we knew would be more to be done. No paint job is 100% without flaw, and we had a few bits of dust and a run in the clear coat to take care of. On top of that, it takes a solid 30 days for waterbourne paint to fully air out and that process tens to leave a slight haziness behind. It's not enough to make the color any less good looking, but the reflections just weren't as crisp as they could be.
The answer to both of those problems lies with a bucket of water, a small stack of sandpaper, and some Mothers polishing products. Wet sanding and polishing is as old as custom painting and is still used on every high-end show finish to achieve the ultimate shine.
The good news is that it's much easier to learn than painting and can be done to any finish- provided it's still thick enough and hasn't oxidized or degraded beyond the point of return.
We've done it ourselves before, but to show you how the pros do it to the very best show winning cars, we head over to Elite Restorations in Paramount, CA. There, Santiago Andrade took time to show us what he had learned in his years of experience.
The first step is to get the paint clean and free of dirt. Then, take a deep breath, wet the first panel you want to work on, and start rubbing it with 1,200-grit sandpaper. Trust us, just getting started is the hardest part- especially when the paint is already great. Just keep the faith; it will be better.
The goal is only to level inconsistencies, such as orange peel, so the sanding is only removing a tiny amount of material. There's no need to be overly aggressive with the sanding; keep pressure moderate. 1,200 will do most of the cutting and removal, so once you've gone over each panel, you can step up to 1,500-grit and follow the same path. Finer grits beyond aren't really required, but they will make the polishing process easier and faster. The highest level show cars will go to 2000+ before polishing.
The only real way to see how good our wet sanding went is to start polishing. We're using Mother's Professional Rubbing Compounds, available on their website and in some paint supply stores, but they also have a consumer version that you can find at any parts store. The heavy duty version vs. the standard comes down to how fine you sanded the car, what pad material you'll be buffing with, and plain 'ol personal preference. Andrade used a wool buffing pad on a 7-inch polisher and alternated between the standard and heavy duty rubbing compounds. The heavy duty version has more abrasiveness and will cut more quickly. In either case, these new formulas are so good that they leave a finish that will make you think the job is done. It's not quite, though.
At this point you've got a decision to make; you can go straight to the Foam Pad Polish (Finishing Polish) or use an in-between stage like the Machine Glaze. Since we used the Heavy Duty Rubbing Compound on much of the car, Andrade opted to use the Machine Glaze to refine the finish even more before moving onto the Foam Pad Polish.
Mothers Foam Pad Polish is where we get to see the true potential of our paint. The polishing properties of the Foam Pad polish paired with a 3M pad on the 7-inch polisher brought our Mustang's paint to a level we weren't aware was possible. It looked great before; it was jaw-dropping afterward. Once he was pleased with the shine, Andrade protected it with Mothers Hand Glaze. This gave the finish an additional touch of glassiness and sealed out harmful contaminants.