A square portrait photograph of Nick Licata posing for a picture with his arms crossed
Remembering Your First

hen starting a project car, there’s a beginning, middle, and end. Although the end is subject to change, as “finished” is usually a fluid term to most car folks, they never really are finished. We typically have a direction in mind to get things rolling, and the path of progress can shift due to available funds, unavailable parts, and outside influence. Then there is the process of conveying the look you are going for to the painter of your project. That person is very important, as he or she is almost solely responsible for the outcome of the paintjob, which typically has the most impact as your car crosses the finish line. The variables to its success could be using the right color, quality of the prep, and, of course, fit and finish. Some body shops do it with the utmost precision and deliver a work of art, which pretty much defines what painting is … in most instances. Art is subjective, but we’ll save that topic for another time.

Now, in speaking with owners who have pristinely painted cars—and having one myself—I can tell you firsthand the anxiety that goes along with owning such a car is real. We all want that paint to stay perfect forever, but if you drive your car hard on the track or even casually on the streets, you know it’s just a matter of time before an unsuspecting rock will have its way with your car’s finish, and unfortunately, chip happens! (That was bad, but I couldn’t resist.) Will it be the first outing, or will it be a few months down the road? That’s to be determined by fate, luck, and even karma, but rest assured, it will happen.

Just remember, when it comes time for your project to hit the paint booth, no reputable shop has a menu offering “good, better, or best” paintjobs for you to choose from as your car will be a calling card for the shop once you get it out to shows and events, so they want it to look top notch. I learned that when my car was in the paint process. Knowing full well I’d be hitting the autocross and road course, the car was going to get beat on and scarred up fairly quickly. I let the painter know this and told him he might not want to put in too much effort into the paint as it was just going to get hammered on immediately after the paint dried. He told me his shop doesn’t do “just OK” paintjobs. It’s all or nothing.

I don’t remember exactly when or where the first chip came from, but thankfully I made it through without the help of counseling, but I did have a few bad days soon after discovering the new blemish. Today that first chip has been joined by many others of various shapes and sizes. I consider them little reminders of how much fun it is driving my car and how just admiring it in the garage is not an option.

Yep, dealing with my first wasn’t easy, but I soldiered on and made it through to the other side. So, if you are having problems with your first, email me and I’ll talk you through it and save you the time and money you’d otherwise spend on unnecessary focus groups.

You in?

’69 Camaro
Mark Stielow once said taking a freshly painted car to a track day usually costs him about $1,000 in paint repair. That explains why he built this ’69 Camaro a few years back and kept the original paint. He was definitely onto something.
Photo by Robert McGaffin.
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