Project MaxStreet Scores A New Hue Courtesy Of Axalta Coating

Project MaxStreet is a street machine that we’ve developed from the inside out. When we took possession of the worn and weary ’66 Nova II it was in dire need of attention on nearly all fronts. In classic budget restoration fashion, the paintwork, while gleaming, told a story of woe and deception upon close scrutiny.

In the years since, we’ve turned this diminutive Chevy into a serious performer. We started by ditching the 350 small-block in favor of a blown 555-cube Edelbrock/Musi rat motor, installing a TCI six-speed automatic gearbox, and swapping in a Moser 9-inch rearend. We modernized its handling capabilities with a Chassisworks g-Machine subframe system and a Detroit Speed four-link setup, adding a roll cage, and… the list goes on.

It has finally come time to turn our attention to the bodywork. A quick evaluation of its condition indicated that getting it up to snuff would be no minor effort. Before we could lay down the new coating, we needed to address a number of issues that included welding various cracks, addressing rust spots, and smoothing out some uneven sections.

Like most half-century-old vehicles, our '66 Nova II had collected its fair share of bumps, bruises, and other transgressions. Before we could get into the paint process, we needed to sort out the bodywork, addressing both the neglect and questionable repairs the car had been subjected to over the years.

With that work now in the rear view, we’re ready to get some paint on these panels. Here we’ll take a closer look at the prep work, paint process, and products used to transform Project MaxStreet from a serviceable 20-footer into a legitimate show-and-go stunner.

Better Coating Through Chemistry

To get the body ready for paint we selected Cromax 22880S Low Voc DTM – a two-component, non-etching primer that’s designed for direct-to-metal adhesion and excellent corrosion resistance – along with Cromax LE3410S Low Voc White Urethane sealer.

To give the Nova a clean, purposeful look, we opted to ditch the red hue in favor of Cromax Pro Corvette Arctic White (PN. B8949CP).  We used the white on all of the exterior body panels, inside the trunk lid, under the hood, and inside the car on the dashboard, door sills, and door jambs. On the cage and some interior elements we chose Cromax Pro Fusion Gray (PN. 874763) to highlight those bits and pieces for a little extra pizazz.

“These are waterborne paints – most everything that’s sprayed in California is waterborne now,” explains Harry Christman, Brand Manager of Cromax North America products for Axalta Coating Systems.

Cromax Pro’s unique wet-on-wet formula equates to not only a faster paint process, but a more cost-effective one as well, often needing as little as half the amount of paint required to achieve the same results as traditional “coat flash” paints.

“What’s particularly interesting about this line of paints is that it’s one-and-a-half coat, wet-on-wet technology,” Christmas continues. “Most every paint out there is what we call “coat flash” technology, which means you apply a coat of paint, let it dry, apply the next coat of paint and let it dry. Depending on how much coverage you’re getting from that paint, you keep applying and drying until you get the desired result. That’s the way all solventborne paints work, and it’s the way the majority of waterborne paints work. But with Cromax Pro, when you apply your first coat the chances are that you will come very close to getting full coverage.”

That’s not the only way in which Cromax Pro differs from traditional paint. “You don’t wait after you’ve applied that first coat,” Christman adds. “As soon as you’re done putting on your first coat, you come back and do a half-coat – an effect coat, which sets the flake and gets it to stand the way you want it to. Then you walk away and let the whole thing dry. It’s the fastest paint on the market, and you’re using much less paint than you typically would to get those desired results.”

After getting the bodywork nice and straight, the Nova headed into the booth for primer and sealer.

Christman notes that because of Cromax Pro’s unique characteristics, many shops remain somewhat leery of it. “It’s a very different process, and painters are often creatures of habit. But, what we find is that shops who use Cromax Pro never use anything else – it’s just that much of a game changer. Once painters get familiar with it, it seems silly to go back to the old stuff.”

He adds that for shops who are looking to make the switch to waterborne paint but would prefer to maintain the coat flash process, Axalta also offers the Cromax EZ line of paints, which deliver precisely that. “It’s actually very easy for a solventborne painter to pick up Cromax EZ and switch to waterborne – they really don’t have to change the way they paint at all.”

Selection And Prep Process

When it comes down to paint selection for a particular application, Axalta product specialist Steven Chaparro says that, more than anything else, it’s the color and effect preference that are the determining factors. “There are a few variables to consider depending on whether you’re building a show car or something that’s going to be more of a daily driver. With a custom finish, you’ll of course be turning to our custom line of paints, Cromax Hot Hues. That’s more of a candy/custom kind of thing – you’re getting into multiple graphics, muralist art, etc. That’s very different from a standard basecoat and clearcoat or solid single-stage kind of paint job.”

It’s a very different process, and painters are often creatures of habit. But what we find is that shops who use Cromax Pro never use anything else – it’s just that much of a game changer. Once painters get familiar with it, it seems silly to go back to the old stuff. – Harry Christman, Axalta Coating Systems

While applying the standard line of Cromax Pro paints is a simpler process, that doesn’t mean builders are limited in their color selection if they choose to go that route.

“We can make pretty much anything that you see in any dealership or driving around on the freeway,” Chaparro tells us. “The reason we’re able to do that is because we not only have a wide palette of options, we can also use our EFX camera to take images of paints that aren’t immediately identifiable, analyze the characteristics in that paint, and duplicate that hue.”

While the exterior of the car is coated in Cromax Pro Corvette Arctic White, the roll cage and other interior elements have been shot with Cromax Pro Fusion Gray for a bit of contrast.

Chaparro also points out that putting in the extra effort during the prep phase can have a significant impact on the end result.

“If you’re doing restoration work, you need to take everything off rather than masking around things. By doing that, you have complete assurance that you’re going to have good adhesion all the way around the car. And if you’re masking things, you run the risk of peeling issues because there’s a breakdown between the prepped surface and the area that hasn’t been sanded under those masked parts.”

Caring For Fresh Paint

When all is said and done, the next question becomes how to treat this kickass new paintwork and keep it looking sharp going forward. Chaparro offers some insight:

“After a vehicle has been painted and one-and-a-half coats of our LE8300-series clearcoat has been applied, the car is baked for 15 minutes at 160 degrees. Once that’s done it goes to cool down, which takes approximately five minutes. After that the car can be pulled from the booth and reassembly can start within an hour. Six hours after that the paint is ready to be cut and buffed.”

Waiting to give the car its first wash will require a little more patience though. “Any time after 48 hours has passed since the car has been painted, you can wash and seal it,” Chaparro notes. “After the paint is fully cured it’s pretty much good to go.”

After the cool down process is complete, reassembly can start within an hour, and it's safe to cut and buff the paint after six hours. Chaparro notes that after waiting 48 hours, the paint is fully cured and ready for washing, polishing, and waxing.

He also noted, if you care about the condition of your paint, proper hand washing is the only way to go. “When you spend the money to get a car painted, the last thing you want to do is take it through an automated car wash – wash the car by hand and dry it with a microfiber cloth. When you take it down to those car washes, those rollers will put swirl marks into your paint.”

And when it comes to hand polishing, there’s a trick you can use to minimize the chances of introducing new blemishes into the clearcoat. “Don’t go in a circular motion – go in a straight-across motion, with a clean microfiber cloth that’s dedicated to that panel,” he says. “Another clean microfiber cloth should also be dedicated to each panel for removal.”

Bodywork and paint now sorted, we are now in the process of getting Project MaxStreet back together so it can terrorize the streets and strips of Southern California once again. Stay tuned for our next installment in this mean machine’s build journey – it should be coming your way soon.

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About the author

Bradley Iger

Lover of noisy cars, noisy music, and noisy bulldogs, Brad can often be found flogging something expensive along the twisting tarmac of the Angeles Forest.
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