When I was in high school I took an automotive bodywork class. The course included repairing dents, painting cars, welding, playing with a plasma cutter, etc. Great stuff. It was a good class and I learned a lot, but one of the most vivid things I remember is the teacher telling us that painting anything, cars or otherwise, is 80% prep work. You can have the most expensive paint, the best gun, a great environment to paint with, but if you don’t prepare it’s all worthless. I remember this as well as the fact that the teacher inexplicably drove his truck through the gate of the body shop yard, but that’s a different story.
With our kart clearly we’re not painting a full size car, but I did feel we needed to do a fair amount of prep work before we even could consider applying any color to our kart. The first thing we needed to do was remove the wheels, exhaust, etc. It was a bit sad in a way, to have put so much effort to getting the exhaust just right, the wheels in place, the steering linkage, etc. only to say “OK guys, now let’s take it all apart.” Amazingly the boys were not only fine with this, but they really dug in and helped… no really… seriously… what you don’t believe me?
Before we began they asked if they could sit in it one more time before we took most of the pieces off. Oh, and of course, they asked if they could have an Otter Pop as well.
With our Otter Pop break out of the way they got out their tools and went to work. First we put the kart up on our saw horses. The height was just perfect for the boys with the work right at eye level. You could almost say it was their car lift of sorts. Next I told them we first needed to remove the front wheels.
I had them each remove one wheel, pull it off and set it aside. With the front wheels off we then moved to the back. With the wheels off I asked them to place the washer and nut back onto the wheel axle so we wouldn’t lose them. One of the boy’s asked me “What did you call that Dad?”, I replied “What, you mean this washer?”.
He then asked me in a very matter-of-fact way “Why do they call it a washer, it’s not cleaning anything?”. You know he did have a good point. Leave it to a six year old to point out the obvious.
The rear wheels were somewhat of a two-man, or rather two-boy, job in that one of them had to hold a nut that ran through the frame while the other loosened it from the outside.
While they were doing this I was reminded of working in various repair shops years ago, and being under a car that was on the lift at roughly the same level. I was working at a local Montgomery Wards Auto Center.
I had just started working at this shop a day or so before and hadn’t had a chance to bring my own tools into the shop, so my boss graciously let me borrow his. He had a brand new Snap On roll-away. This was the big-daddy of tool boxes. Now things of this level tool box are commonplace, but this was roughly 25 years ago. This tool box had everything, including a built in stereo.
I had a small, front-wheel drive, car on a hoist in front of this tool box. I lifted the hoist, raising the car where the wheels were at my eye level. I then proceeded to remove the wheels, starting with the rear. Let me remind you we had a front wheel drive car, in the air… with no rear wheels. You can probably guess where this is headed.
Once I removed the second rear wheel I immediately realized I had the car a bit too far forward on the hoist… and it began to take a nose dive into my boss’ tool box. Yes, I soiled my pants, but only after I jumped on the rear bumper as it shot into the air to level the car.
Luckily it didn’t slide off the hoist, and my boss was never to the wiser. For at least a week after that experience I never lifted a car higher than 12″ off the ground on the hoist. Word of advice… don’t do that.
With our wheels all removed from the kart we then removed the exhaust. With this stuff out of the way we could sand all our rough spots and fill in the screw holes with a bit of wood putty. I say a “bit” but one could go so far as to say I applied it quite liberally.
Where we used the most putty was where I wanted to make as smooth a transition as possible to our moulding on the tail. This process required adding putty, drying, sanding, and repeating for what seemed like days. The weather was a bit cool so the putty didn’t want to dry as fast as it otherwise would have.
After some time sanding we were all covered in saw dust and powder from the dried wood putty. Without any suggestion the boys ran off and found some safety goggles to help them with the dust in their eyes. I was really surprised to see how much they were into our progress, it was great to see.
Once we sanded off all the rough edges we took some 3M painters tape and covered the steering spindles and the top of the steering column. Had I had the room and flexibility I would have preferred to use spray paint, but we went ahead with a foam brush and applied a nice couple of light coats of Kilz exterior primer/sealer to the entire kart.
The wood was all ready to have the primer applied. As for the steel part I wasn’t sure if it would stick. To be sure I went ahead and roughed it up with some really fine sand paper. The kart was really looking ugly at this point, but I knew it would work out in the end. Or at least I hoped so.
We let the primer dry for a day or so, then applied a second coat just for good measure. I’m beginning to see the result of our hard work. At this point I realized that in pretty short order I’d have to decide on a color for this thing.
Since day one I’ve been on the fence as to whether I should go traditional, “Bugatti Blue”, or something a bit different but with the same vintage feel. Decisions, decisions.
Until the next afternoon I can squeeze in some progress…