FAIRFIELD — The family that paints together, stays together. My daughter is an artist. I paint... cars, walls, stuff like that. The two of us came together to work on the doors of our family 1999 Buick Regal last week.
Neither of us knows much about body work, when it comes right down to it. I have a long history of bad Bondo jobs, throwing mud is what we used to call it. As a body man, I specialize in jobs that look good from 30 feet away. I know it's possible to make Bondo look good (at least for a little while) but that secret was never passed along to me.
The Buick got its doors bashed in during a fender bender, and we drove it for a while like that, but you needed real muscle to get those portals open. Plus, it really looked ugly. I tried the new high-tech junkyard sites, which let you search nationwide for parts. I found a yard that — suspiciously, I think — said it had the exact right parts, down to the trim level and color. But they were like $500 a pair, including shipping (from Texas!) and I didn't trust they'd ever arrive.
Fortunately, a recycler in Bridgeport had my doors, for $109 a pair with no transportation add-ons. Getting them in place was an all-day affair with the aid of my 85-year-old stepfather, and they don't fit perfectly, but close and lock so all is good.
Or it would be if my kids weren't horribly embarrassed at the prospect of driving a silver car with white doors. I thought it looked kind of cool, but I'm not in high school or college where appearances matter. So, after being told that a professional job would be something like $300 a door, I decided to do it myself. With my principal-driver daughter (the one in high school).
She was a reluctant accomplice, but we managed to do a fairly professional masking job, sprayed a coat of primer, and then one-coat acrylic mixed to the factory color. We used the same tools as the pros — spray cans. Since I hate the idea of working with paint indoors, we did our work in the driveway, on a sunny day with minimal wind.
With the masking off, I'm looking at the results now. Let's just say it's a mite…rough. Though it looks good from 30 feet away, provided the light is right. The surface gives new meaning to the phrase "orange peel." It's more like dinosaur skin.
I know some body shop guys are reading this and laughing. You probably know exactly what we did wrong. Study the accompanying photo and feel free to send in your comments as to just where we went off the rails.
Even better, how do we fix it now? It seems we're supposed to wet-sand, or go over it with rubbing compound, stuff like that. I doubt, given our collective level of talent, that we'd do anything but make a mess. This is what the media is for — pooling information, for the collective benefit of all. I'll share the most insightful comments.