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We Custom Paint our Project Truck in a Matte Finish with Auto Air Colors, LGE-CTS, and LMC Truck

Project Over/Under, 2003 Chevy Silverado: Part 5

Jeremy CookAuthor, Photography

When we left off last month, we had installed the SnugTop shell and giant Yakima rack, and we were pretty much out of things to do except tear the truck down for paint, so we can bolt on all the cool parts we've been collecting. Behind the scenes, we've slowly been taking care of the prep for paint, first by getting rid of all the stock trim, then roughing out the really bad spots on our junkyard bed and tailgate with some rudimentary metal shaping and filler work. Then we found a reasonable body man for hire who knocked out the rest of the bad spots for us. From there, we spot-primered the whole truck, then gave it a wet sand with 220-grit sandpaper. We did it all again with 400-grit then finally attached the new HD hood from LMC Truck and hit the road for LGE-CTS.

Project Over Under Part Five Rendering

While this quick and dirty paintjob is not Theresa Contreras and her crew of painters' forte, Theresa is an old friend of the magazine and agreed to let us roll the truck in after hours and get some paint on it. We weren't expecting perfection, but a nice booth with a controlled climate (and a skilled painter) goes a long way in making mediocre bodywork turn into a pretty nice paintjob.

Another old friend of ours is Craig Kennedy of Auto-Air Colors. We have been fans of the company's groundbreaking water-based paint since its inception and have a long history of using it. Craig set us up with a supply of Autoborne Sealers in various base tints so we could mix up the light khaki color we were envisioning. We also tried out the new Scenix clear topcoat. It's made for industrial applications (think matte coatings on electronics or handrails in heavily populated areas), but we decided to be the first to use it as an automotive clearcoat—although we're pretty sure you'll be seeing Scenix moving into that market soon.

Follow along as we (mostly Theresa) make quick work out of Project Over/Under, and don't forget to come right back next month to see us bolt on a whole bunch of cool parts!

Before: Project Over/Under had to come a long way in a short time to be ready to roll into the paint booth at LGE-CTS. For starters, we removed the decals, side trim, and stock fender flares.
During: Thanks to our friends at Daley Visual, we found a quality body man to do some quick but quality work. When we got the truck back soon after, we spot-primered all the spots in white primer and wet-sanded the truck with 220-grit sandpaper. Once we had a date with Theresa Contreras at LGE-CTS, we repeated the primer and sanding process with 400-grit paper.
The only new part from LMC that had to be installed before the truck was painted was the HD hood. This will be a big part of the overall look of the truck once completed.
We performed the simple remove-and-replace process in our driveway in just a few minutes.
Anything that wasn't going back on the truck was removed before we headed to the shop—except the headlights, of course. They needed to be used one more time.
Once we arrived at LGE-CTS, we wasted no time in performing the final giant step before we began masking and painting: stripping the doors. The mirrors, handles, and outside trim were only half the battle.
Everything outside of the pinch weld was also removed. Then the tedious task of sanding it all was next.
Meanwhile, we took the LMC hood right off and Theresa prepped it for paint. We also removed and stripped the shell of its rack mounts and rear hatch.
We decided to put the LMC hood and SnugTop shell in the booth first. We masked everything off, blew it off, and wiped it down with solvent.
The paint we were using was actually a tintable water-based sealer from Auto-Air Colors. Autoborne Sealers come in 13 colors, so the possibilities are endless as far as colors you can create. Its primary purpose is to provide a solid base for Auto-Air's candies and metallic, but we've seen lots of success using it as the final color, too. We've been having fun with Auto-Air paints since the company's inception more than a decade ago, so why not continue the tradition!
New to the Createx Auto-Air line is Scenix, a water-based aliphatic acrylic urethane industrial-grade clearcoat. Scenix SSR Clear is chemically resistant to acid rain, solvents, and sunscreen and cures to a durable, hard clear in less than an hour when mixed with the Createx 4015 Cross-Linker. We're told we're the first to use it on a complete vehicle. Hey, that sounds like a challenge!
To make our color, we got the formula for a similar color we saw from Auto-Air's Craig Kennedy. But LGE-CTS's Theresa Contreras was already ahead of the game. She knew the light khaki color we wanted would be comprised of white, black, yellow, and orange. We mixed and sprayed several variations before settling on one. As you read on, you'll see a slight green tint in certain light, but there ain't any!
Auto-Air recommends at least a 1.4mm tip (pretty large) for the spray gun, which is why we started small: to get used to the different-than-usual paint and spraying technique. But it didn't take long for Theresa to get into the groove.
The shell was an easy first target, but we still sprayed the smaller areas first to see how everything felt, looked, and reacted before we went full bore.
Our LMC hood got a scratch coat next.
After a few minutes, we liked everything we were seeing, And Theresa completed the first coat on the shell.
The hood soon got its second and third coats.
Theresa made quick work of the subsequent coats on the shell, and soon we were mixing up the clear.
The Scenix clear required another learning curve, and after dusting on the first coat, we applied the second and third coats quite a bit more wet.
Our LMC hood got a scratch coat next.
Once again, Theresa wasted no time getting the bed into color. She hit all the corners and weird spots before making the long, straight passes.
Here's a very good example of how much the paint changes colors between wet and dry. It looks like we're two-toning the truck, but it's really just the third coat! After about an hour, the three coats of clear were sprayed.
Finally, it was time for the cab to be rolled in the booth (and the front fenders). At this point, some serious masking took place. Especially since the interior of Project Over/Under was already finished!
We gave the jambs a couple of coats and let them dry before closing the doors and continuing.
This editor finally got into the act, spraying a couple of coats on the roof and tailgate. It's not our first rodeo, but we were admittedly rusty with the gun!
With the spray gun back in the hands of a professional, Theresa worked her way around the truck a few times.
The tailgate was far from straight when we found it. We were stoked to see it looking so good when the clear was going on.
At this point, everything was in color and clear, and we were feeling pretty good about our quick and dirty after-hours paintjob.
We showed up the next day to set the bed and tailgate on, unmask the truck, and finally see it out in the daylight.
Man, we are liking the results! This is a straight opaque color topped with matte clear, but depending on the light and the angle, we swear the truck goes from straight tan to khaki, to gray. It's really a cool color we came up with, if we don't say so ourselves!
With the truck ready to put back together, we can't wait to show you all the cool stuff that's going on with our project. Make sure you check back next month! And another big thank you goes out to Auto-Air Colors for the supplies and LGE-CTS for all the help!