When you're building a restomod, stocker, or perhaps just having your classic Chevy painted, why make it look like everything else out there? You want distinctiveness from your project. Go with a color no one else has and lay down cool graphics like no one else in the world has. Rally stripes have always been popular and never seem to go out of style. They're at home on a box-stocker as well as a restomod. Rally stripes are one option available to you; however, you also have the option of going rally stripes one better—and that's what we're going to do on a 1968 Camaro.
We're at A.R. Auto Body in Lancaster, California, for a lesson on how to professionally apply stripes on a classic Camaro. Laying down stripes is not for the faint of heart. You must pay methodical attention to detail—every last detail—or you will wind up with body graphics you are stuck with once the paint has cured. Use the very best stripe tape available out there, which prevents paint creep and ragged edges. You want a fine line between the stripe and the paint.
You can make your own stripe templates designed the way you like or purchase stencils from Classic Industries, which are available for a variety of Chevy muscle cars. There are also stripe kits you can apply if painting isn't your forte. The best stripe tape out there is 3M's Fine Line Tape 218 in 1/4- and 1/16-inch widths for straight lines and FBS ProBand Green Fine Line tape in 1/4- and 1/16-inch widths for radiuses and a variety of curves. The 3M Product's Scotch Fine Line Tape 218 is a high-performance film-backed tape we got from Summit Racing Equipment with a low profile and high adhesion to achieve pinpoint paint lines. The 3M Company designed this tape with a special processed film backing that allows for taping over freshly painted acrylic lacquer, enamel, and urethane surfaces sooner and with less risk of damage.
You're going to need the tools of the trade: razor knife, mechanical pencil, tweezers, squeegee, measuring tape and steel rules, Nitrile gloves, PPG's SX330 Wax And Grease Remover to purify surfaces, and lint-free tack cloths to catch any stray dust and debris. Compressed air also gets rid of dust. You're also going to need masking paper designed specifically for automotive paint use, which is available from Summit Racing as well.
In the interest of safety, you will also need protective clothing to keep toxic paint fumes away from your skin, not to mention a good respirator. Eye protection is also very important because your eyes and mucus membrane can absorb paint fumes.
Ideally, you will apply stripes when the car is being painted to where they blend into the finish. We're applying stripes at the end of an Axalta paintjob, which gives the finish a different dynamic. This way, we're laying stripes over a fresh paintjob, which will tend to give the finish a 3D effect. Our Camaro has been painted with Axalta Cromax, which is being scuffed with 800-grit paper for good paint adhesion when we apply the rally stripes.
The guys at A.R. Auto Body tell us preparation is everything to good paint adhesion. CHP
Your stripe laydown must first begin with a plan. Computer graphics software programs allow you to see it before laying it down, enabling you to make changes before getting started. You just have to go out there and find the software that works best for you.
This rally stripe laydown begins with a paintjob already in progress. We've scuffed the Axalta Cromax finish with 800-grit 3M paper to get it ready for the rally stripes. The hood and header panel will be meticulously measured and masked off for the stripe painting.
We've done the same thing with the decklid and header panel—scuffing up the finish with 800-grit 3M paper. The stripes will be painted onto this surface then the entire surface will get a clearcoat.
Measuring and masking for the rally-style stripes takes an extraordinary amount of time. Our approach is to measure thrice and paint once. Stripe width dimensions are based on the width of the cowl vents. The main thing is to stay with one standard width throughout, which in this case is the width of each cowl vent. Measure the width in one-inch intervals from cowl to panel. Do the same thing with the decklid stripes.
We're working with two colors in both narrow and wide stripes. The narrow 5/16-inch-wide white stripes are meticulously masked off and painted first. The most challenging aspect of laying down stripes is ensuring accuracy during the masking process. Stripe width must be exactly the same throughout. As you apply the mask, measure the width along the entire length. Even the slightest variation will be seen. Pull on the tape while laying it down and measure the width as you go.
Do you see the extreme attention to detail here? The narrow stripe width has been checked repeatedly for the entire length. What's more, heavy pressure is applied to the tape to ensure sealing. Although this tape is designed to prevent paint creep, it needs help. Take your fingertip and apply solid pressure along all of the tape, taking care not to let your finger touch the painted surface. Skin oil will screw up paint adhesion.
Two coats of Cromax white are being applied and allowed to cure between coats. The first coat should be thin, followed by a heavier second coat.
The white narrow outer stripes are allowed to cure before changing the mask.
The decklid gets the same treatment. Masking paper from Summit Racing Equipment is used along with 3M's Fine Line 218 masking tape to cover what we don't want painted in white. To prevent any risk of overspray, the entire body is masked as shown.
To lay down the wide rally stripes, the narrow stripes are masked along with the rest of the body to prevent any risk of overspray.
As with the narrow white stripes, the wide stripe Fine Line tape gets moderate pressure to prevent paint creep.
The wide stripe masking should look like this with the entire body covered.
The wide stripes are charcoal in color to tie in with the cobalt blue. The first coat is light just like we did with the narrow stripes to ensure good adhesion. The light coat is allowed to cure, followed by the heavier second coat.
The reason we apply a light first coat is for good paint-on-paint adhesion. And because the color coat is flat, it will look dull as it cures.
The heavier second coat is the concealment coat designed to both cover the cobalt blue and enrichen the charcoal basecoat.
The reason we use 3M's Fine Line tape is that paint creep issue. Note that when the tape is removed none of the white comes off. We get a crisp line between the blue and white.
We like this edgy rally stripe look. Instead of radiused corners, the owner has chosen 90-degree corners.
The Axalta Cromax clearcoat has been applied and is ready for color-sanding and buffing.
Photography by Jim Smart