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Project Long-Range Clunker: 1994 Dodge Ram

Posted in Project Vehicles on May 1, 2011
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"The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray," or so the saying goes. So, too, was our plan to paint our '94 Dodge Ram, affectionately known as "The Clunker," quickly and easily at home. The plan was quite simple, really: Paint the truck in a three-tone to mimic the factory paint scheme, making use of some paint that we already had from Summit Racing for another project. However, we wanted to make the hood a darker color to reduce eye strain on those long drives, so we decided we'd move the upper belt line to just below the windows.


Since we were doing it ourselves, we decided to throw in some custom touches. We snagged a '72-'93 tailgate from a junkyard with the stamped "Dodge Ram" and mated that with our original '94 tailgate. We also went ahead and grabbed some updated emblems and side molding to update the truck's look.


What they say about a paint job being 90 percent prep is true. Over the course of a few months and between other projects, we have put a lot of time into the prep. It is even more important to get the metal straight with a darker color than it is with a lighter color, and our plan of a darker blue on the bent hood just made more work in the end.

Sand, sand, and sand some more. This truck was a ranch truck and then was run into a guardrail, so there were plenty of dents to go around. Every time we thought we had it good enough to paint and had it set up to paint, the temperature would drop and it would snow. Higher humidity and lower temperatures both conspire to make the paint take longer to cure, making recoat times a crap shoot. Instead of rolling the dice, every time we got a snow delay we decided to go over the truck again.

Ultimately our goal of painting the truck at home was foiled by weather and deadlines. Automotive paint uses reducers and activators that are designed to work within a specific temperature range; we went for the medium range that works fine when the temperature is around 70 degrees. But every weekend we set up to shoot paint, the temperature dropped and it snowed outside. We couldn't use our diesel-fired heaters because of the possibility of paint contamination and overspray ignition. After four delays of game, we got the roof painted, then had to sand it down and re-paint it because the temperature wasn't right and it didn't cure quickly enough.

We learned a lot on this project and throughout the process we went to Reno Auto Body for technical assistance. After the fourth snow (at the end of May), bad paint on the roof, and looming deadlines, the company graciously offered us the use of their paint booth after hours one Sunday. And, yes, it snowed that day, too.

Remember that prep is the key, and even if you can't shoot your own paint at home, you can do all your prep and take it somewhere to get the paint shot. At the end of it all, we had a great paint job on the truck, and our neighbors no longer wish that we'd park it one street over. Naturally, as these things go, once we got this project finished the truck decided it wanted more attention and we started to have mechanical problems with it. More on that next time, though. For the time being, here are some of the tips to a trick paint job that you can be proud of.

Right around the time that truck tailgates went from stamped logos to double stick tape, things like power windows and automatic transmissions became standard items. Don't get us wrong-we are all for amenities, but we want to be able to order a truck how we want it. So in a throwback to a simpler time, we frenched the stamping from another Dodge into our tailgate.
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Summit Racing
Akron, OH
LMC Truck
Lenexa, KS 66219
Reno Auto Body
Reno, NV

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