Painting Traditional Flames

Once again, you can buy a box o’ tools, but you can’t buy a bag o’ tricks. The only way to obtain one of those is to build it from an empty bag. One trick at a time that bag will take years to fill, and inevitably as those years roll by, certain tricks will settle at the bottom. About a month ago, yours truly was asked to reach in deep and pull out a flamejob for the first time in, well, quite a long time.

As y’all may recall, there’s a 1940 Ford DeLuxe coupe receiving a major face-lift at Highway 99 Hot Rods. The coupe is a dark-side solid blue. The mission I’ve accepted involves travel to create a sort of mid-’60s and later style, traditional-colored flamejob. Coincidentally, it’ll be the style that fueled my fire as an aspiring pyrographic artist.

Now, I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m reachin’ into my own bag o’ tricks, I’m thinking of the person who taught me the trick I’ll pull out. In this instance, it’s three custom painters: Richard McPeak, Corky Root, and Al “Gormo” Norman. In and around Riverside, California, they’re known for hot licks on hot rods. Allegedly growing up there, I stalked ’n’ studied all three.

So, just to catch us up, we concluded part 1 with a finished, symmetrical layout. Truth be told, it started out slowly. Early on I wasted some high-end 3M masking tape, but I’m glad that was wasted. If there’s one, single-most important step in any flamejob, it’s the layout. If you’ll take that from me, you might not have to learn it the hard way, as I did, as a know-it-all kid too proud to accept guidance from mentors.

Earlier I might have mentioned my first flamejob. When it was fresh ’n’ shiny, it was fairly well received. Even so, it was bad. It’s still bad, it still exists, and it’s helped a lot to keep me humble. Perhaps if it’s not too late, you can do better. From here that’s our primary goal. If you have basic automotive painting skills and you’re tempted to try T-word-traditional flames that’ll flow with smooth blends ’n’ symmetry, this is all for you.

Now, let’s begin the living color part of our story. Since we’ll be working in Tulare, California, we’ll be using the types of paint materials that are available and acceptable for use there. For the very first time, I’ll give PPG’s Omni basecoat colors a go. Since I’ll begin without a fresh respirator, I won’t be shootin’ the initial white epoxy sealer. That product and the urethane clear to follow will be chosen by the second ’gunman.

From here as before, the step-by-step stuff will focus mainly on tools and technique. There’s more than one way to colorize a flamejob. Indeed, there’s more to it, but here’s how we do it.

Further Prep ’n’ Pinstriping
Since the coupe will be cleared again, color sanding is necessary for a proper mechanical bond. At the same time, color sanding will reduce our tape edges as it levels texture, and of course whatever dirt we may have picked up so far. In this instance 800-grit, wet, on a flexible hand pad would be a good call, but methods vary and I won’t be sticking around for that anyway. Later on, the color-sanded coupe will be transported back to Dan’s Customs where a special guest ringer is scheduled to stop by.

The area’s premier pinstriper, Ruben of Visalia, has agreed to ’stripe a red outline all the way around the edges of our flames. I’m already gone, but as a Ruben fan, I’d really like to include him in our story. As it works out, Highway 99 Hot Rods’ proprietor Don Dillard has a camera, too. If I can persuade him to cover in my absence, we can show y’all a little more.

A little later with pinstriping completed, the color-sanded fenders, hood, decklid, and doors will be affixed to fixtures. At that point Danny Garcia will step back in to shoot the final application of urethane clear. He’ll also cut, buff, ’n’ polish all body panels as necessary for a showtime shine. If we’re not careful, those steps could add up to another story. Let’s just finish this one with finished flames.

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