What paint is possible?

'51 Special

Active Member
I very recently stopped at a body shop/rod builder/restoration shop to ask about some work on my 51 Buick Special 2 dr. sedan. It needs rust repair near the very back edge of the trunk floor and in the panel just below the trunk lid, about 2 square feet of metal repair on the side of the left rear fender to correct work done poorly many years ago, and should be painted. I asked about repainting over the existing (original, with a repaint likely done when the rear fender repair was made), and was told that paint would have to be a primer, base, and clear coat process, that all of the old paint would have to be removed, the windows removed, the interior stripped, the bumpers and all trim removed, and then the repair and painting could begin. As I had proposed that I would remove and rehang the bumpers, grill, and side, deck and hood trim as part of the project, he suggested that the job would run $13,000 to $15,000 or more (and that he would agree to cap it at $16,000). When I pointed out that the car, with the work proposed, would likely not be worth the cost of the proposed paint job, he agreed that it probably would not. (And suggested that the value would likely increase in the future as the hot rodders have run out of old Mercurys with a similar body look.)
When I pressed him about the reason that the car could not be repainted without removing everything to the bare metal, he explained that the modern paints will not adhere properly to the old material, that there are differences in shrinkage and expansion of the paint materials that leads to paint failure. He also mentioned that the old style enamels and lacquers cannot be had, and the original colors are unavailable. He said that, if repainted in the way I had asked about (over the old paint) potential future buyers would recognize that it would need new paint, and the car would lose value.
I still would like to get the work done. And I would still like to have an old school paint job, without the primer, base, and clear coat process, however much this seems to be how body shops expect to do things. I Understand that stripping the car down to bare metal, and starting fresh might produce a "better" outcome, but most of the cost lies in the monumental amount of prep work necessary. If he pays his staff what they are worth, he has to charge me more than I can pay.
I can't be the only guy who has faced this problem. Any suggestions as to how I go about looking for a shop willing to "repair", rather than "replace" the paint? I'm not asking for leads about specific shops, but perhaps ways of describing what I want, or specific techniques I should be asking for. Any suggestions are welcome.


Active Member
Start reading some books, buy some tools and do it yourself. When you are done it will be very rewarding. You will then be the expert and you will a lot of money left over to take your wife on a nice trip for putting up with you out in the shop all those evenings.


Active Member
I had the same thoughts when doing mine ten years back. Was making me sick. So, did the body work, prepping I could do and then had Macco paint with their Polyurethane . Single stage. It still looks good. Does it compare with the high dollar jobs? Nah, but I did not spend $15,000.00 either. Only a little over $1000.



New Member
I think he is being honest with you and that price is not outrageous, I own a shop and have been doing this for over 30 years, what he is telling you is correct and the right way to do it. Also doing it right will also last without issues.

'51 Special

Active Member
Thanks for the tip. As I have neither the place nor the skills to do the necessary bodywork and paint, I will mention this to any shop I can find. Oddly, when I visited the tcpblobal.com website, the 1951 Buick colors list made no mention of Geneva Green (paint code no. 4) on my car's tag.