Leaving an automobile unadorned isn’t new, but it’s resurging. Can’t see it? Consider the 1980s gull-wing DeLorean. It’s not the same, but it’ll give you an idea. Even if it appears to be a low-maintenance method to get into the hot rod scene, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. After all, it’s not just an automobile that someone began but couldn’t finish. A bare metal finish is a deliberate choice that demands constant maintenance. Doubtful? Consider why cars are painted. It’s for both protection and style. Because most bare metal cars aren’t stainless steel, rust is virtually always a concern.
A Look at Bare Metal Cars
A standard production car is baked with numerous coatings of primer, paint, and clear coat, which protects the car’s exterior surfaces from minor damage. A paint finish’s purpose is to protect the body metal from the elements. The metal’s structural integrity may then begin to deteriorate. Consider how quickly a little paint scratch can turn into a rust patch. The average car owner might not notice, but the show-car audience does. Exposed metal and rust spots can quickly grow, which is an issue on any automobile, show-worthy or not. The rust can penetrate the paint and eat away at the car’s metal underneath.
If a good paint job is so vital, why do some people who are enamored with their cars’ aesthetics choose to bare it all? A unique and eye-catching car is what makes the extra challenge worthwhile for some. Styles, tactics, techniques, and even the purpose of a particular car are constantly up for friendly dispute. Even though bare metal cars are a minor subculture of hot rodding, there are several pathways to explore. A quick Google Images search reveals that bare metal cars can be rough or elegant. Some cars are rat rods, displaying both the good and the terrible, while others are polished and clean.
The builder’s skills often impact this selection. Restoring a hot rod takes patience and talent. The welds and other evidence are usually hidden by a few coats of primer and paint. When building a bare metal hot rod, every step of the process is scrutinized, therefore clean, quality work is critical. Inexperienced fabricators and welders should practice first, especially if perfection is important.
A bare metal car’s appearance is appealing, but it’s not the only factor. The engine and the interior are also influenced by hot rod culture. However, it’s unusual to find a project car with all original mechanicals, so upgrades and modifications are completely permitted. A few builders go so far as to forsake practically all creature comforts and interior embellishments. Seat cushions are a typical concession, but the shift mechanism and drivetrain components are rarely exposed. Even the most ardent hot rodders wouldn’t criticize you if you wanted a comfy cabin to help make your drive more enjoyable.
Just remember that not every hot rod project car is a good fit for this design, and it all depends on the owner’s aesthetic preferences. Whatever the goal, the car’s structural integrity is critical. The car’s body panels, and other bolt-on items must be made of metal. Composites, plastics, and aftermarket parts will not work. Some of the more skilled metalworkers use this opportunity to design and fabricate unique metal components for products that need repair or replacement.
After selecting the specimen, the first step is to strip its paint. Sanding is vital, and there are many methods. Angle grinders and rotary sanders are efficient equipment but lack the delicate touch that the most discerning builders require. The pickiest sand their cars by hand, using sandpaper or other abrasives, such as steel wool. Perforating and removing layers of finish from an automobile, especially an old hot rod, requires a lot of arm and shoulder power. Power tools for big areas and manual sanding for smaller, more complicated sections is a good strategy. Another method is to use a media blaster to clean the car’s shell, using abrasives such as sand, plastic or glass beads, or even walnut shells. This may include transferring the automobile to a well-equipped body shop or custom-build shop or purchasing a cheap kit that allows you to do the job yourself. Chemical strippers also exist. Whatever method you use, don’t skimp on paint removal. Getting the metal as smooth and rust-free as possible will make the rest of the process much easier. The bare car may expose problems that were hidden behind the paint. Metalworkers will welcome the chance to show off their skills and make things great again, but others may choose to ignore small aesthetic adjustments. It’s a matter of personal preference. In any case, now is the moment to fix metal.
Color is typically quite important to car enthusiasts, especially those working on a show-worthy build. Choosing between factory paint and custom color is a challenging but rewarding option. Choosing bare metal eliminates those possibilities, but there are other ways to customize a car’s panels. For example, polishing the car with an angle grinder creates a textured finish, and flash rusting can be utilized to create contrast or even stencil-like images. In some areas, exposed metal cars rust almost immediately upon contact with any moisture, even the stickiness of the air on a humid day. To keep the raw metal look, you must prevent or minimize this effect. This method lacks authenticity and moisture can sometimes penetrate the surface, revealing rust beneath the purportedly impenetrable gloss. You can also use a clear coat to cover bare metal, such as Diamond Clear Gloss.
Waxing also works, although it’s a temporary fix. It’s “semi”. You’ll need to do it for maintenance, and “permanent” because you can’t go back. Although the wax layer must be maintained, the initial application of wax to bare metal sticks absorbs irreversibly. If a bare metal hot rod owner waxes only once, that one coat will almost certainly cause issues when it comes time to paint. The metal will never be clean again. Lubricants may also be used. Although WD-40 is one of the most well-known lubricants, using it on bare metal might bring the same difficulties as wax.