The True Value of Original Paint

Author: Andre Clemente, Founder of New Old Cars, LLC ©
About the author
Last updated: April 23, 2020

 
 
 
 
 
A car is only original once.

This applies to every aspect of the car, including the paint.

Finding one that retains its original paint 20 or even 30 years later says a lot about the car, and even more about its owner.

For one, it means it’s never been in an accident. It means it’s been garaged most of it’s life (or all), and hasn’t been driven much. Most importantly, it means it’s been owned by a responsible and diligent individual with an impeccable desire to keep the car looking new for as long as possible.

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Many times you can judge the originality of a vehicle’s paint by studying any wear and tear you find on the finish. The paint chips on this 914 make it obvious that the panel has been repainted – factory paint doesn’t chip this easy.
 
Keep in mind that the cherry old cars you see on this site don’t just look that way because they sat untouched in a massive collection their entire life. Vehicles in this condition require a smart, patient owner (and yes, a garage to sleep in when not in use). Someone, for example, who knows how to properly wash and dry a car with care. Someone who knows how to keep the paint protected both when driving and in storage. Someone who knows to never “over detail” a car (or detail it too frequently), wearing down the paint. Possessing this kind of knowledge is more important than owning a massive climate controlled garage, as there are big collectors out there who don’t have a clue as to how to maintain their vehicle’s paint.

You see, it’s one thing to keep a car mechanically running strong for 30 years (we applaud you). But it takes someone uniquely special to keep the original paint looking beautiful for that same period (while driving it, I might add).

Seriously, just think about how difficult that is. Someone who can buy a car new (or slightly used), drive the car, and keep the original paint looking fresh for almost 30 years.

A car that retains its original paint 20 or even 30 years later says a lot about the car, and even more about its owner.

Too many vehicles are wrongfully (or intentionally) marketed as “original paint”, hogging the spot light from the true survivors and forcing the buyer to overpay for the wrong car. New Old Cars was founded on the dedication to put an end to this immorality, which is why I wrote the ultimate inspection guide explaining everything you need to know when confirming whether or not a car is wearing all of its original paint.

But possessing that knowledge is pretty pointless unless you understand the true value of original paint.

 

THE TRUE VALUE IS IN THE SCIENCE

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A great example of how a repainted panel holds up to damage. The recently painted fender on our GTI was bumped again. Look closely at how the primer layer separated upon impact, exposing the sheetmetal underneath. Factory paint and primer do not chip like this – only a respray would. The factory primer layer is far too strong to tear apart in this manner (you can tell it was a light impact because no dent was formed. The sheetmetal still retains its shape).
Zooming in. This what 150 microns of paint thickness looks like. Notice how the primer/e-coat layer is lifting at the edge of the chip. Not factory! You couldn’t replicate a paint chip like this in a million years on factory paint!
 
 
Original paint is stronger and longer lasting than a respray. Period.

If you’re thinking of buying a car that’s been re-painted, here are some facts you should know:
 
 
– A re-paint is far less resistant to chipping and peeling.

– A re-paint will not survive as many car washes as the original paint, nor can it be machine polished as many times. This has nothing to do with thickness and everything to do with the bonded strength of the paint to withstand the machine polisher. Paint that is bonded, cured, and adhered to OEM standards will survive substantially more punishment than a respray ever could.

– The shade of color may be slightly different from factory, and the metallic flake alignment will not mimic the factory orientation.

– If a panel was replaced, it will rarely be aligned to factory specs with proper gaps.
 
It does not matter how pretty and shiny the re-painted finish appears – resprays are not designed to last the life of the vehicle, as opposed to the factory paint. The stringent, state of the art process at the factory’s multi million dollar paint shops cannot be matched by your local body shop.

For these reasons, a re-paint will hurt the value of any car, whether it’s collectible or not. As a collector, you should put an incredibly high value on a car wearing all of its original paint.

Now while factory paint is by no means indestructible, it’s ability to withstand wear and tear is pretty incredible. As an example (assuming the paint on your car is original) go look at the road rash at the front edge of your hood. Despite the fact that stones slam into the hood at 80+ mph on the freeway, you’ll rarely find a paint chip that punctures all the way to metal. The depth of a paint chip on original paint is usually limited by the hard factory primer, not the metal body panel.

Of course, this wouldn’t be an NOC article if we didn’t explain why a respray can’t match the strength and longevity of factory paint. To witness the complete, rigorous paint process a new car goes through, you can read our separate article on the factory paint process. Otherwise, the keys to superiority over a refinish are reflected within the images below:

 

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To ensure a clean surface, the factory must ensure a clean environment. Pictured is a Jaguar receiving a scrub with Ostrich feathers, which are phenomenal at catching contaminants. Workers go through a complete air shower with lint free clothing before entering the paint shop, and even the robot arms are sealed in lint free wrap to minimize contamination.
Photo Credit: Mark Rodway @ Tangerine Films
The factory dips a charged car body into a bath of oppositely charged primer. The primer immediately sticks to the surface panels, forming an incredibly strong bond. This process provides the best adhesion for primer. Anything less results in decreased resistance to paint chipping and overall durability. Body shops obviously cannot replicate this, which is why many of them do their best to preserve the original primer on the car.
Waterborne coatings require high baking temperatures to fully cure (water evaporates at 212 degrees). Factory ovens can reach 311 degrees. The refinishing industry, on the other hand, cannot cure paint at those temps, as it would melt the trim and electronics on the car. As a result, these shops are forced to use paints formulated for low temp curing. Unfortunately, the low temperature curing process results in a finish that has nowhere near the strength and longevity of the original factory paint.
Photo: Core Jr of Core77.com
An Audi R8 in the oven! The factory oven provides complete, even baking at all corners of the car – the whole shell is completely engulfed in heat to provide uniform curing. When painting a single panel, many body shops use only one large heat lamp. This single lamp heats up the part of the panel closest to the lamp faster than other parts of the panel. This leads to uneven, incomplete curing.
Photo Credit: Megafactories – Audi R8
 
 

Factory paint is HARD

When you have a high temperature curing process that practically melts the paint to the body (and evaporates all the water from the waterborne paint), you are left with a finish that has an incredibly high cross-link density (a simple explanation of what this is can be found here). The high cross link density means that factory paint jobs are much harder than any respray done by your local body shop. This helps explain the superior scratch and paint chip resistance over a respray.

The goal here is not to put down the refinishing industry – they do an incredible job considering what they have to work with. Unlike the manufacturer, they aren’t worried about ensuring the thinnest coat possible, nor are they under a rushed factory setting. And while this article emphasizes strength and longevity, most body shops who put the time in are easily capable of producing a far more beautiful finish than what comes out of the factory. Unfortunately, many insurance repairs don’t see this level of dedication, and the quality shows.

The goal in the end is to shine a brighter spotlight on the cars wearing their original paint. It’s a guarantee – not a gamble – that a re-painted car will chip easier, offer less scratch resistance, and wear at a faster rate than the factory paint job ever could. So, collectors – you aren’t just chasing the factory finish for its originality – you are after it’s strength, uniformity, and longevity.
 

Author:

Andre Clemente, Founder of New Old Cars, LLC ©
Article last updated: April 23, 2020

About the Author: Andre Clemente, a member of the Society of Automotive Historians (SAH), has spent over 12 years in the business of buying and selling of cars – half of which were spent in the classic car/sports car business. As an automotive paint fanatic, he spent those same years detailing and learning paint correction on all sorts of cars. Andre has been inspecting automotive paintwork in the field since day one, working alongside veteran dealers, brokers, and a licensed concours judge in the process. Years of real world practice and application exposed him to many inconsistencies and myths in the practice of authenticating a vehicle’s paint job. Rather than keep his knowledge as a trade secret, he has decided to expose everything he has learned with the goal of educating the collector car community, and ultimately shine a brighter light on the cars wearing their true original paint.

Other articles you may enjoy:

How To Confirm Original Paint On Any Car
Orange Peel: Why Your New Car’s Paint May Look So Bad
Those Paint Defects Most Likely Aren’t From The Factory
Why “Factory Overspray” On Vintage Cars Is So Misunderstood
What A Paint Thickness Gauge Really Tells You
…and more, in the Tech section!

Additional Article Sources:

The top coating manufacturers in the world (BASF, Axalta, PPG, as well as paint evaluation tool suppliers like BYK) spend hundreds of thousands of dollars conducting tests, case studies, and other forms of research. This material is supplied to car makers to help educate them on why they need to invest in their tools and equipment in order to save money in the paint shop and produce a better looking product. Much of this material is available online in the form of textbooks, brochures, in-depth papers, and more. While highly technical, NOC’s silly obsession for knowledge on this topic means we dissect virtually anything we can get our hands on, pick out the interesting stuff, and highlight it in our articles. Below you’ll find some of the material used for this article:

Streitberger, Hans-Joachim, and Dössel, Karl-Friedrich. Automotive Paint and Coatings, 2nd Edition. WILEY-VCH Verlag GmBH & Co, 2008. 

Streitberger, Hans-Joachim, and Goldschmidt, Artur. BASF Handbook on Basics of Coating Technology, 3rd Revised Edition. Vincentz Network, March 2018

T. Brock, M. Groteklaes and P. Mischke, “European Coatings Handbook,” Vincentz Verlag, Hannover, 2000.

Evolution of the Automotive Body Coating Process — A Review

Color Matching for Metallic Coatings

…and many more! NOC takes incredible pride in posting only the most accurate information with the help of credible sources. Now, because some links are no longer active, not all sources are posted here. These links have been removed from the source’s website for unknown reasons. However, NOC downloads and retains all sources used to stand by every statement in this article. This is done for all articles on our website, and NOC is happy to share this information with the public. Your trust is our number one priority.

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