Wish your car was a completely different colour? Then why not spray it at home… and if a spray gun is a step to far there’s always the humble paintbrush says Eddy Rafter…

A friend has just bought a 1975 Ford Mustang from California. At the time of writing it’s on the way, so she hasn’t seen it in the metal yet. The photos and videos she’s seen show it in matt black, which covers an old, poor respray in blue, which in turn covers the 1975 original silver. She has, naturally, been asking about getting it resprayed. Local specialists have given her estimates that exceed the car’s value, so she’s asked the internet and had replies ranging from “What did you expect?” to “Why not just brush it?” There’s a bit of damaged bodywork to repair, too.

Her range of options is wide. She doesn’t want it to be a showpiece, and she’s not afraid of “having a go” at most things, but her facilities are very limited, reminding me of some of my old cars from the dim-and-distant.

I did actually have a car resprayed once. It was a ten-year-old Cortina which, when I bought it in early 1991, had already suffered one brush-paint in more or less the original green. The neighbour who sold it to me was a self-employed car sprayer. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: buy the paint myself, do the prep, and he would lay the paint on when he had a suitable weekend, for fifteen quid.

Fifteen Pounds?! Obviously I bit his arm off (not literally, of course). Another neighbour worked at a local motor factor, so as John had specified what he would need and how much of it, all I had to do was choose the colour. I went for Peppermint, a green offered on Cortinas up to the 1980 facelift, but not on mine which was built after that.

A summer of filling and rubbing-down ensued. Most of it was accomplished in the back yard of the house next door, as I was renting the elderly lady’s double garage at the time. Molly was happy to have “two strong young men” working in her yard. The other “young man” was my mate Dave, who was in his late 50s at the time…

One glorious Sunday when we were rubbing down a side each (one of many such Sundays), we had both started at the front and were working to the back of the car. I think I’d reached the rear wheel arch when Dave announced he was at the rear lights. I came around the car to run my hand over the wing… then the doors… then I led Dave around to where I’d been working and had him feel those doors. He started again. We did make a lovely job of prepping that car, considering we were untrained and working outside.

I took the car round to John’s workshop early in September, as arranged. As soon as I walked in I knew my car wasn’t going to be painted that weekend. His right forearm was in plaster. I don’t remember now what he’d done, but it meant a further month of driving around with flat paint, primer patches, and much of the trim off the car. Finally, in October, he was able to fit me in. I walked round on the Sunday morning to collect it.

“If I’d realised you wanted it that colour I’d have charged you more!” was how he greeted me. Even on a grim October morning, the bright green Cortina shone in his workshop. I mean really shone. I should have worn sunglasses! This was definitely how I had hoped it would turn out. We had a happy hour of unmasking the windows and lights, and I took it back home to refit all the trim. I’d already bought a pair of new number plates and some striping tape for the finishing touches. It looked a treat. I still miss that Cortina.

A car I don’t miss nearly as much is the red Marina my parents bought in the late summer of 1986, when it was 11 years old. Within a couple of months I’d crashed it. A friend straightened out the front wing and bumper, more or less, and fitted the grille and bonnet from my old Marina Coupe. Since they were blue, he thoughtfully blew-over the bonnet and repaired wing. In Harvest Gold. Well I suppose that’s what happened to be left in his spray gun at the time. I wasn’t going to argue, the price was right. I and my parents drove the car around like that for over a year, until Easter 1988, which promised to be a particularly nice weekend.

I spent a few days in preparation: this car didn’t get nearly as much rubbing-down as the Cortina would. I had decided to brush it, and bought a sale tin of Crown “Field Poppy” along with a small tin of Magnolia for the bumpers. On the Saturday I came home from work just before lunchtime, backed the car halfway into next-door’s garage and set about masking it up. With occasional supplies of coffee and sandwiches from my then-girlfriend, I went straight from masking to painting, beginning with the roof.

Field Poppy is not, as I had thought, red. It’s more of a salmon pink. Trust me, I now know this stuff! Still, I’d started so I was going to finish, and when I had, the car did look a lot better than it had when I went to work that morning. Carefully not touching any of the wet paint, I pushed it into the garage and left it overnight.

Upon inspection the next day, I decided I could live with it, so I pulled it out, painted both bumpers in Magnolia, and unmasked it. A new number plate for the front and some white striping tape, and for a while it did look rather pleasing. Yes, there were brush marks visible here and there, but at least it was all one colour now. If only it drove as well as it looked, but that’s another story…