Paint and Body Chythar's 94 Cobra Clone Paint thread

Chythar

Recently finished repairing my rear
15 Year Member
Aug 26, 2004
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West Los Angeles, CA
I guess it's about time I made this post. I've spent time during this pandemic learning how to do body work and paint, practicing on my 94 Cobra clone, and managed to fix its damaged rear quarter panel. That thread is right here - https://www.stangnet.com/mustang-forums/threads/recently-finished-repairing-my-94-cobras-rear-quarter-panel.920903/ I learned a lot fixing that rear quarter panel - mostly things NOT to do. Most of the problems I ran into would have gone away had I just done two things: a better job sanding at the primer stage, and laid down thicker paint when I sprayed the topcoat. But sometimes, you learn more from your mistakes than you do if you do it right the first time.

Now, it's time to apply those lessons and repaint the faded black paint on the car. I have the skills and the knowledge, but I lack enough practice to get a consistent result. I also don't have a large painting booth where I can paint half the car at once. Thus, the plan is to paint one or two parts at a time. This will not only give me the practice I need, it also lets me fix any issues on a single painted part. That way I won't spray the whole car wrong and have to do it all over again. I used cheap paint to practice with, but the new stuff is much more expensive. I want to waste as little of it as possible.

I have a used 'COBRA' rear bumper that I've wanted to put on the car for a while, which made it the perfect part to start with. However, it's been painted with some rattle can paint that was supposed to be Ford UA black. Sadly, the paint had some sort of metallic flake in it. Thick paint on a bumper tends to crack, so I need to take that paint off before respraying. I started sanding, and realized I had laid the primer on pretty thick. Since I originally painted this bumper, I've learned a LOT more about sanding and prepping primer and paint. I decided it was better to start over and strip everything off the bumper. In hindsight, I am so glad I did that - even though it cost me a lot of time and money.

I used acetone and a lot of the blue shop paper towels to dissolve the paint and primer. This first photo is partway through the process. Feel free to ignore the laundry basket and the nosy cat.

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Chythar

Recently finished repairing my rear
15 Year Member
Aug 26, 2004
2,318
97
98
50
West Los Angeles, CA
Not surprisingly. the acetone fumes were pretty strong in the house even though I had a fan blowing. So I stopped to set up a temporary painting booth that I've used several times in the past. It's made out of a wood frame and thin plastic sheeting stapled and taped to the wood. It's just big enough to fit the bumper in at an angle, with enough room left to move around the bumper without touching it. I have a small enclosed back yard that's part of my apartment, so that's where I set up the painting booth. Here's a shot of the assembled frame. It's made up of 1x2 strips that I've re-used many, many times over the years.

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Next up is the plastic sheeting. I have no weather-safe place to store the painting booth, just outside. The plastic sheeting eventually gets brittle and breaks, so it has to be replaced. The plastic you see is one continuous piece wrapped around the top, sides and bottom.

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Finally, finished. I laid separate pieces across the back and the front. The front piece is rolled up for easy access. When I paint, I use spring clamps to hold the front flap closed. It's not a perfect seal, but it's very close and more than good enough for painting.

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Chythar

Recently finished repairing my rear
15 Year Member
Aug 26, 2004
2,318
97
98
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West Los Angeles, CA
I finished stripping off the old paint, or at least everything that the acetone would melt. And found a lot of hidden damage. I originally bought the bumper several years ago from a guy on the Corral. He said the bumper was in good shape, primed and ready for paint. With everything off that the acetone would remove, I can now see that was a bald-faced lie. The bumper is badly warped in the middle, and someone used a lot of primer to fill it in. I knew the 'COBRA' letters were kinda warped, but at the time I figured it was no big deal. These bumpers are really hard to find, and I got it for a really good deal, so I figured I could fix the 'minor' issues. In the photo below, the three green pieces of tape mark three major low spots in the bumper. Those low spots are partially filled in with Bondo Bumper Filler, a flexible two-part epoxy that's intended for bumper repair and as filler. This is different stuff than the regular bondo, it's sold specifically as flexible bumper repair. When I bought the bumper, I had never seen a Cobra rear bumper before so I wasn't exactly sure how it was SUPPOSED to be shaped. Were the low spots I felt supposed to be low, and the high spots to be sanded down? Or should the low spots be filled? Or both? I'm really slow at this part, trying to figure out what the proper shape should be. My technique is to add some filler and shape it a bit, then repeat until the area FEELS right.

And there's still a lot more that's wrong with this bumper.

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I really thought that this bumper was ready for paint, but there's so much to fix now that I can't think about painting yet. And I ran out of the Bondo epoxy; they're small tubes, so no big deal. But with the pandemic, no one has any in stock. Not even Amazon. I had to go to eBay to buy more. This is already raising red flags with me - a bumper that was 'supposed' to be good, needs this much repair? Something is very wrong. I decided to do some internet research while I waited for the epoxy from eBay to arrive. It took a while, but I found some close-up photos of Cobra rear bumpers. Most were from eBay auctions selling 'COBRA' inset letters, but some were from 95steedamustang's 94 Cobra build. The photos told me this - the bumper should be shaped just like all the 94-98 bumpers, except for the 'COBRA' letters in place of 'MUSTANG' or 'MUSTANG GT'. No added curves or fancy shapes to further distinguish it from other bumpers. The bevels around the letters seem sharper than on the other bumpers, but that's another issue I haven't gotten to yet. Now that I can compare the shape of the Cobra rear bumper to my existing bumper, I can tell what's wrong. The low spots are really low, and one of the high spots might be too high. The bondo'd spots are getting bigger as I try to fill them in. AND, I found another high spot. Check out the new sanded area.

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Chythar

Recently finished repairing my rear
15 Year Member
Aug 26, 2004
2,318
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West Los Angeles, CA
I hadn't given up on the bumper yet, and I kinda couldn't since I couldn't find another Cobra bumper for sale. Hand sanding was taking too long, so I broke out my power sander with 80 grit sandpaper sheets. It did a great job on paint and the cured bondo, but not so good on the urethane.

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At this point, I've run out of the bondo I bought off eBay and I'm STILL not done. We're past red flags, and I've now got flashing red lights all over. I keep expecing a robot to roll up and shout "Danger danger, Will Robinson!" But again, no bumpers for sale. Even if I found a replacement bumper, it would be much more expensive than buying more epoxy bondo. So I soldiered on. I still couldn't find the smaller syringes of the epoxy bondo, so I decided to buy one of the larger kits I found locally. Those kits are for larger repairs, and require you to mix a lot of epoxy together at one time. If I didn't use one of those kits, the project would stop until I bought more from eBay. So I bought the kit. I mixed the two parts together, and there was so much epoxy I could easily fill in the three low spots. And I still had a lot of mixed epoxy left that would go to waste. I used most of it to fill in the spots between the letters as they were low spots too.

I waited a couple of days, then checked to see if the epoxy had cured. It should have cured in minutes, but I laid it down pretty thick. I could see streaks of two different colors of gray in the epoxy, a sure sign I hadn't mixed it well enough. Crap. Time to test if the epoxy was either strong enough, or I'd have to take it off.

Oops.

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Double crap. Gonna have to scrape off all the gray epoxy. The stuff from eBay mixed well and dried black instead of gray, so I figured I'd only have to scrape off the new stuff. Boy, was I wrong.

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That's all of the epoxy I put on. ALL OF IT. For some reason, I thought the brown color on the bumper was urethane. Nope! It looks like it was the factory primer, as the only thing under it is the tan-colored urethane. The epoxy attached really well to the paint, and the paint came off the urethane real easy with the scraper. However, some of the epoxy was laid down on the urethane directly and it did NOT want to come off. I'll have to sand it off. But this means I have to start all over again.

I couldn't.

I just couldn't.

Yes, I can properly strip the bumper down to the urethane and buy more epoxy. But even if I replace what came off, it's going to need a LOT more. And I'm having a hard time finding more epoxy. Even if I could buy more epoxy cheap, I could still spend $100+ on epoxy to fix this bumper. And I'm not confident I can fix everything. I can see several ways of modifying the bumper so it would look good, but it wouldn't be CORRECT. And that would bother me a lot. So I put the project on hold to figure out what to do next. I should have started sanding the front bumper, but eh.
 

Chythar

Recently finished repairing my rear
15 Year Member
Aug 26, 2004
2,318
97
98
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West Los Angeles, CA
After several Google searches, I finally found one web site that had a reproduction bumper in stock. It's made by Daniel Carpenter Mustang, and it's the same one sold by LMR - though LMR is out of stock. Everyone was out of stock, except for this web site. They sold the bumper for a cheap price, but it's only shipped by truck; and truck shipping from them to me is really expensive. Then I found a used Cobra bumper on eBay. It took a while to negotiate shipping with the seller, as he would take a few days to answer an email and then he would only answer once a day. But I finally got him to agree on a shipping price. Then he ghosts me and sells the bumper to someone else. ARGH! So, back to get the repro bumper. Bought it from National Parts Depot, and this was their very last one. Whew!

Or so I thought.

I checked my bank online, and I had a refund the same day NPD charged me. I called them up, and they said they can't find the bumper in their inventory; so they refunded me. Strike two.
 

Chythar

Recently finished repairing my rear
15 Year Member
Aug 26, 2004
2,318
97
98
50
West Los Angeles, CA
The rear bumper issues held me up for too long, so it was past time to get off my butt and prep the front Cobra bumper for paint. This one was fun - I bought it used when I did the Cobra conversion, and the paint at the time was in good shape. But over the years (it's been 14 years since the conversion, wow), I discovered it had a clear coat when it started to peel. My Mustang did not come with a clear coat, so the rest of the black paint has faded instead of peeling. This is what I have to work with.

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Ick.

I scraped off what I could with a plastic scraper blade, then started sanding. Gotta sand off all the peeling clear coat, or the paint will peel again some day. Started with 80 grit sandpaper on a foam sanding block, then switched to 120 and 240 when it felt right. The Cobra is my only car, and thus my daily driver, so I'm going to sand the bumper while it's on the car. When the sanding is done and ready for primer, I'll take the bumper off and finish sanding the few spots that are left. I'll end up taking the corner lights out to sand under them, but I'll leave the headlights and the Cobra emblem on as they're a PITA to take off.

I made decent progress until my arms got tired. I'm going to try my power sander next time, but I'm not sure how much good it will do since the bumper is all curves and the power sander has a solid flat base.

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As a side note, the Cobra emblem is the larger Shelby emblem used on the newer cars. It barely fits in the grille, with just enough room for a piece of paper to slide between the emblem and bumper/hood. No one makes a bracket for that emblem, so I made my own. When I paint the fenders, I plan on using the same sized snake emblem instead of the smaller OEM ones.
 

Chythar

Recently finished repairing my rear
15 Year Member
Aug 26, 2004
2,318
97
98
50
West Los Angeles, CA
Power sanding helped speed up the sanding a lot, but I still had to do more hand sanding with 80 grit to make sure all the holes in the clear coat were gone. More sanding with 120 grit, and finished with 240 grit. Almost all the clear coat is gone, and what little is left shouldn't make a difference.

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Chythar

Recently finished repairing my rear
15 Year Member
Aug 26, 2004
2,318
97
98
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West Los Angeles, CA
Several days after I lost out on the repro Cobra rear bumper, I found someone on Facebook Marketplace listing a Cobra rear bumper in Arizona. The seller wouldn't ship the bumper, so I figured I was out of luck again. Until I convinced a buddy of mine with a truck to go on a road trip with me to go get it. One sixteen hour trip and just over 800 miles later, and I have a clean and undamaged Cobra rear bumper. Finally!

For some reason, I feel rich right now.

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Your eyes do not deceive you, that's THREE 96-98 Cobra rear bumpers. The seller in Arizona had two Cobra bumpers for a good price, so I figured I'd buy both and resell one. The trip to Arizona wasn't free, gas and food isn't cheap. Any gas from the food was free, but my buddy's truck can't use it in place of fuel. The white one is for sale on Craigslist, it's in the best shape. The red one is the one I'm keeping, and the damaged one will go on Craigslist once the white one sells.

And now, we're caught up to today. Whew!
 
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