An emerging trend in the custom car and motorcycle world is exotic finishes. No longer just eye candy, today’s modern finishes are durable, long lasting and cost effective. So when Dan Schneider heard that Streetwerkz was powder coating car bodies with conventional paint shop body work practices, Dan knew where his one of a kind ’29 Ford hot rod was going to be coated.
For the past seven years, Streetwerkz Custom Powder Coating in Columbus Ohio, has worked at developing techniques to meet the demand of custom auto finishing clients using 100-percent powder coat and related products. Finding there was not a lot of support in this new technology, Streetwerkz starting developing techniques and processes within the walls of its own small company.
Utilizing practices borrowed from large automotive manufacturing companies, job shop coating companies, knowledge learned in any training programs, books or online they could attend or get their hands on, coupled with plenty of trial, error, investment and perseverance until owners, Josh and Michelle Robinson felt ready to bring their service to market.
Now, restoring the finish of sheet metal parts – believed to be impossible or unprofitable in the past – is obtainable in an environmentally-friendly powder coating. Motorcycle tanks, fenders, car parts, even entire cars can now be powder coated without sacrificing appearance due to seams, pitting, dents that powder is thought not to be a good candidate for due to lack of filler products and proper processing technology for these parts.
Dan Schneider commissioned Ray Gollahon, founder of Brookville Roasters, to build a custom 1929 Ford roadster pickup body that Dan could finish building at home. A one-of-a-kind truck with 6-inches of extra length in the body and a shortened bed sitting on a ’32 Ford custom chassis. It actually took building three entire trucks before Ray found the proper formula, look and proportions for the truck. Because of that, Brookville has said they will never build another custom bodied vehicle again.
Dan decided he wanted a traditional style hot rod color scheme; picking satin black, gloss black, sparkle silver and bead blast aluminum powder coats.
Step one was to remove all foreign contamination from the substrate. This was achieved with media blasting. Its Streetwerkz belief that removing 100% of foreign contamination and creating a slight “tooth” is the best way to achieve proper coating adhesion. In this case, all of the primer applied to the body needed removing.
Once the initial blasting is complete, the crew at Streetwerkz applied their metal finishing processes developed in-house for use in powder coat finishing practices. Streetwerkz found that to accomplish a good finish they had to incorporate a hybrid point of view when preparing vehicles for powder coating. By using technology and practices used for centuries, coupled with technology and practices of today, Streetwerkz has found the secret to make this process successful. Once sheet metal work is finished the vehicle body is ready for the final blasting process.
When the initial block sanding was completed, Streetwerkz applied a high temp filler to raise any low spots that powder cannot raise. When necessary (it was for this project) between sanding sessions Streetwerkz will “spot in” powder for additional rising to ensure the surface has a proper shape throughout the entire panel. Using steel rulers and custom made contour gauges to check the surface Streetwerkz can eliminate panel inconsistencies from right to left.
Josh stresses the importance of the substrate shape condition, “The panels have to be metal worked into shape to very tight tolerances, even though we may apply several light coats of powder to level off the surface, we make sure to keep mil thickness as low as possible to help prevent coating failure.”
Another technique that was used was applying multiple colors for sanding. This gave Streetwerks the ability to “read” the panel to know when more sanding is needed, or when one needs to stop in a specific area.
Primer sanding complete it’s now time to apply a high temp calking, used much the way automotive manufactures do to seal seams in car bodies. Commonly referred to as seam sealer, (although this product is not a standard automotive product) this product helps eliminate moisture in panels that have been lapped on top of one another.
After hours of sanding, the body takes its final shape and was ready for its first color coat. Josh likes to apply a thin 1-2mil coat of powder coat in the final color to help eliminate the possibility of bleed through.
Josh explained, “We learned the hard way that color sanding is the best practice and will not make that mistake again as it was a costly one.” Recounting his experience with a white BMW project that the client who traveled from North Carolina to Ohio to pick up. “[With the] deadline fast approaching, we applied what we thought was the one and only coat we would need of color. Boy, were we wrong. We ended up having to put our client up in a hotel over night so we could color sand and reshoot the vehicle.
“My guys and I worked all night and into the next morning to finish the job to get our client on the road ASAP. After my guys and I pulled an additional 9 hour shift sanding, preparing the vehicle and applying the final color coat you could hear a pin drop a mile away as we waited for the body to oven cure. While the client was happy and the project turned out great I couldn’t help but feel as though we failed by missing the deadline and having to explain to a client that we had to fix a problem.
“This is why we now color sand every project and apply a second color coat. We do not want to trouble our clients; we want them to leave our shop and enjoy their projects, which is why we take additional steps to ensure their happiness.”
After the first color coat was applied and block sanded, we were finally ready for the final color coat. This is where it’s critical to have a clean shop, and then hold your breath until the project comes out of the oven. As any powder coater will tell you waiting for the item to come out of the oven to view the final results can test ones patience.
After approximately 120 man hours, only hundreds dollars in materials (compared to thousands in wet paint for a similar quality finish) Dan’s ’29 Ford roadster pickup was ready for re-assembly, upholstery and countless hours on the road enjoying the freedom that comes with owning a custom hot rod.
For owner Dan Schneider, his dream of owning a custom truck built by hot rod icon Ray Gollahon came true. “Knowing that the metal treatment and finish will keep my dream truck from rusting for decades is important to me. I want the legacy of Ray’s work to live on and want to pass this on to my son one day. It’s comforting to know that by powder coating my vehicle both of these things will happen. My only regret in this is that Ray did not get to see this truck completed, I think he would have been happy with the way it turned out.”