How To Repair Problem Areas on Your Imperial's Paint


Imperial Home Page -> Repair -> Body -> Paint -> Spots

Tips from Bill:

There is an easy and professional way to spot touch up your car. Go to your local auto paint store and buy a quart of lacquer in your cars color, and a can of lacquer thinner. Most auto paint stores also sell these nifty little sprayer paint units which consist of a jar with a screw on aerosol power unit. You simply mix your paint with the lacquer thinner to the desired consistency, in the jar, then screw on the power unit, and it's like having your cars color in a spray can. Then all you have to do is feather edge the nicked area so it meets smoothly with the rest of the paint, and shoot it. I have been using this method on all my cars for years now, with excellent results. Once the paint is on for a while, say a month or so, I just rub out the spot, and then polish it. I just got the paint, and intend to do this on my '59 Imperial, until I can afford a real paint job. Just waiting on the fickle southern California climate at this time of the year.

Question from Clay:

Has anyone heard of , or used computer color scanning to match the existing paint on your car?. My 60 Custom has two doors that need re-doing and I was curious if this computerized "gun" that the paint supplier places on the existing paint to match colors really works.


From Kerry:

It works pretty well. The thing to do is make sure the spot to be matched is typical of the rest of the car. Old paint jobs tend to be several slightly different shades based on UV deterioration.

From Bill:

I've used the computerized color matching gun on 4 cars with awesome results. My 56 Dodge Custom Royal original 3 color car, 56 Imperial 4dr Sedan 2 color car, 64 Galaxie 500 XL 2 color 4dr HT, & 65 LeBaron. I'm convinced the colors would not have matched as well using the old chip mix method. Find a quality custom paint shop, preferably owner/operator & you too will be impressed.

From William:

It works awesome...however the NEW paint area and the old paint area can have a bit of a different "sheen" or texture. Washing and general wear will have some effect on that. It is very helpful to know what color primer was used under the old the primer can shift the color a bit on the top. ASK about the "value shade" ....... New paints CC paints are more opaque than the older single stage paints. You might just want to have them mix some "Centari" to factory formula...paying critical attention to the color of primer beneath the old paint area. If you get a 10 or 20ft "pretty close" that should satisfy you on something really old like that. If not, consider an entire repaint.

Question from Raffi:

When I first got my car going, I cleaned the dull and stained paint with rubbing compound and got decent results: the shine and texture came back. The car has the original paint job. Anyway, their were a few thin sections, especially on the deck lid, where after the car has spent a year outside, the paint on that section, which always had hairline cracks, has now started to ripple and chip off, exposing the metal underneath. I don't yet have the money to do a proper paint job on the car, but I want to keep the paint from deteriorating any further and rusting, which has probably already started to rust a little. I will probably need to sand and prime those sections which have chipped, but I have never done that before and am wondering if its easy or what, and if their are any tricks I should know. If anybody has some advice, please pass that knowledge along.

Reply from Dick:

The problem with just sanding off the rust and then priming the bare spots is that primer is porous, not waterproof - it will allow the rust to quickly attack the metal again. What you must do is coat the primer with some top coat to prevent this. If you do not have access to the right color paint for the car, you'll have to substitute something that isn't too offensive to your eyes, but don't just prime it and put it out in the weather again, you will cause more harm than good with that approach.

Also, sanding it not the best way to remove the rust, as you will drive tiny particles of rust into the surface of the metal. A better approach is to get some "metal prep" (phosphoric acid, dilute solution) and follow the directions for rust removal. Then neutralize the area with some basic solution (perhaps ammonia and water, but others may have better suggestions), then finally, when the area is totally dry, sand off the loose paint flakes etc., and prime/top coat the area. This will last for a few months, but you are going to have to have the car painted before long or risk serious damage to the metal.

When faced with this problem on a car with serious rust bubbling up on the roof, I took a sample to a paint store (I used the gas tank door) and had them mix up some paint of the proper color, and used that as the final coat - it looked surprisingly good, and protected the metal for at least the year that I owned the car after that. The new owner totally repainted the car, as I had advised her was necessary.

Question from Elijah:

Yesterday, someone decided that my car would look better with some orange paint on it. Yes, someone spray painted my car in one of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville's parking lots. They made sort of circular blob about 10 inches in diameter on the front fender.

Now, the car's paint is not in very good condition, but it doesn't need an orange blob on it. Can anyone suggest a way I can get this stuff off?


From Chris:

I've heard that oven cleaner will work on this, removing the top layer but not the rest, but I've always been afraid to try it.

Also, if the paint's still pretty fresh (a few weeks in winter might qualify), there's a "wonder product" I found about two years ago that's pretty amazing. It's called Magic Clay (about $20 in the wax dept of most auto parts stores, and it will last you years) that removes overspray, tar, even some swirl marks and many surface impurities (of which spray paint would surely qualify).

I've used it on all my cars (before waxing) and it leaves an unbelievably glass-smooth surface (on good paint, and a decent finish on older paint if there's still some gloss to begin with). I'm not sure how the paint is underneath the evil graffiti, Elijah, but it's worth a try. (And, no, I have no financial interest in this product!)

From Jeff:

You might try using solvent or varsol . I've removed day old acrylic enamel this way with a really soaked rag of varsol and lots of rubbing. You have to act quick before the enamel hardens. if that doesn't work try acetone but test it on your paint first because it might raise your paint.

From Paul:

I would try Lacquer thinners on it first, should work without too much rubbing.

From George:

1. Polishing compound, RUB HARD!...but just on the part you want to come off. This is like Bon Ami in a cream. KEEP THE SPOT WET


2. Rubbing compound...RUB at little less hard, this is like COMET, likewise KEEP IT WET.


3. The coarsest sandpaper that you have the guts to try....wrap it around the tip of a padded dowel or a piece of foam rubber and rub verrrrrry lightly.

Lacquer remover will do the trick quickly....but will take the entire finish/primer with it.

Depending on: 1. How big the spot is and 2. your insurance 3. The chances of a body shop being able to match the existing paint, you might be better off letting someone else try.

From John:

Try ordinary cigarette lighter fluid (Naptha). I was caretaking a friend's VW bus and it was spray painted by a vandal. The Naptha took the graffiti off very easily with no harm to the original paint. I suspect it will dissolve any wax you may have on your car, but I wouldn't worry too much about your paint. I'd get on it quickly before the spray paint has a chance to cure.

Solution From Elijah:

I successfully removed the offending paint from my car today. My solution turned out to be a soft cloth and mineral spirits. A moderate bit of rubbing and frequent applications of the mineral spirits did the trick with absolutely no damage to the car's finish. Needless to say, I am very happy to no longer have "foreign" paint on my car.

Question from Matt (1966):

The gas filler door on a '66 is black with a chrome Imperial Eagle. I want to repaint the black. What should that be--flat or gloss?


From Zub:

I took mine to a shop that does rechroming and had it done in black chrome It looks great.

From Chris:

I confess I have gilded the lily on my 66 Convertible and painted the gas door body color. That was how it was done on LeBarons, and I really liked the detail. Especially with the gold backing plate around the eagle also used on LeBarons.

But my Sequoia Green convertible is almost black anyway, so it is unnoticeable to anyone but me.

If I were painting it the original black I would do it in gloss. I suspect that is how it was originally, although almost every one I have seen has dulled to a satin finish over the years.

From Loyal:

The black on my gas filler door is flat black (same as on the three original hubcaps I have). I'm pretty sure that's right because I have 3 original hubcaps that have the same flat black color on them & they were in the trunk.

From John:

I believe the paint was of a low luster black, not flat but not real shiny either. Plasti Kote sells such a paint , as well as Eastwood Co.

Question from Mark:

I took my Imperial out barhopping with me the other night and when I came out of the last place I looked down and discovered that someone had thoughtfully left a lit cigarette on my hood. Kind of like keying a car, only more damaging. I guess somebody was envious of my nice car and decided to let me know about it.

I removed the cigarette, but of course the burn is still there. I went over it with Meguiar's Cleaner/Wax, and that took some of it off, but I'm afraid I may not be able to get this out - even with a stronger wax or rubbing compound. It feels as if the paint was actually melted in that spot.


From Bill:

I have not had a cigarette paint burn, but on my '63 Custom someone was once kind enough to key my car all the way down the side, and then flick their cigarette into the back seat. I had already had the front bench seat recovered in the original factory fabric but could not afford the back seat, so even though this was a malicious vandalism, it was covered by my insurance. The repaint on the left side was a perfect match, and the interior was flawless. That was a great car that I regret selling, it would have been/was a great daily driver and I could keep the convertible in the garage without feeling like I could have had more fun in it. Indecently, the car was a Hunter/Forest green with a bluish gray vinyl/fabric interior that apparently was the rarest of color combos offered in the '63 model year (124 cars in the Custom model line). Riches Custom Upholstery here in Seattle had the book for Imperial interior fabrics with mini swatches and Rich made one call and got the last of the original fabric known of from some mysterious secret commando place in Portland, OR that only he and a few select international intelligence agencies in the world know about.

From Ray:

Okay, this isn't Imperial per se, but a similar problem occurred when my brother wrecked my 69 Pontiac and they had to cut the hood latch to open the hood.  If the paint's melted, or worse, blistered, you're going to have to repaint it.  I don't know your car's paint status, it might be worn, it might be pristine, but likely in a place in between. You could just have the hood painted, only with the paint reduced so it fades a bit in order to match the other panels.  If rubbing compound doesn't take it out, I'm afraid that this is the only course of action you're going to have, outside of painting the whole car. Still, you're looking at maybe $4-600 just to paint the hood (S.E. Texas prices). Not a nice price to pay for something a 20 cent cigarette flung by a filthy slob.

Advise from Norm:

Today I painted the upper portions of the driver's side doors where they had been totally sun bleached. After painting, I sanded with 1000 grit, then 1500 and then compounded and waxed. Much to my amazement, I did a passable job.

Now, to many of you accustomed to doing body work, this is no big deal. For me, however, it is nothing short of a miracle. After having been exposed to 4 years of mechanical drawing, architectural rendering, solid geometry and much more in my early schooling, I still cannot draw a straight line with a ruler. No Joke. But patience and understanding are both wonderfully positive consequences of age and I can now not only rebuild a carburetor, but paint a panel.

Tips from Bob:

I did the same thing to my '66, which was "missing" several large areas of paint on one side. For anyone else who wants to try:

1. Find a good paint store that can mix to match your color (by eye or machine). Paint codes may not help on faded paint. My mix was "good", not perfect, after two previous tries.

2. Acrylic enamel - in any good brand - is the easiest to deal with for nearly all applications. The paint shop mixed up a quart and split it into 4 aerosol cans for about $50.

3. Surface prep is obviously important. Sand the area perfectly smooth and use a primer recommended by the paint shop. "What you see, and feel, is what you get"

4. Mask & spray the paint - don't worry about runs & lumps - acrylic enamel can be sanded to glass smoothness. Let it dry a few days.

5. Start sanding with 400 or higher grits - WET - with a lot of water. Work your way up to 1000 & 1500. Don't worry if the paint looks dull, but make sure it's smooth.

6. Rub out, not too strenuously, with a good polishing compound. I've had good results with the liquid stuff from Blue Coral. This will bring up the shine.

7. Use finer polishing liquids - like Meguiar's No. 7 - then wax. You should get a great result! If not, do it again! You've still done a great "priming" job.

After 3 years, my mismatched color isn't too bad, except in bright light. As the paint has shrunk, more imperfections have shown up, but the paint is still solid and will be fine until a pro can do the whole side.

This page last updated February 18, 2004.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club