Should I sandblast this car?

July 1, 2016 | By Staff


I have inherited a 1936 DeSoto Airflow from my grandfather’s estate and have managed to get it up and running and back on the road. The mechanical part of the car is very good, but the body has some surface rust and has been painted several times. I am thinking of stripping off all the chrome and having the body sandblasted for repainting. Is there anything I should be concerned about?


In a word, don’t. Sandblasting, unless done by a pro using the correct blasting medium, will ruin panels in a hurry. If sand is blasted in one spot even for less than a minute, it will eat right through your classic’s precious sheet metal. And even when the correct medium is used, panels often come out warped, peened, thin and brittle.

If you can find a good chemical stripping company nearby, they can remove all the paint without damaging the panels, but be sure to remove any non-ferrous pieces such as brass door latches, because the stripper will ruin them. Also, you will want to be extra thorough about getting any residue of stripper out of crevices and hard to get areas, because it can ruin your new paint job in a hurry.

The best way I have found to strip paint is to use Automobile and Aircraft stripper available from automotive paint stores. It is a messy, nasty job, but you will have total control, and you will save money too. Be sure to wear goggles, a particle mask, a long sleeve shirt and gloves while you work because the stripper will burn you and is toxic. Also work outdoors away from kids and pets, and don’t smoke.

Slop on a heavy coat of stripper about two feet square, and don’t go back through it with your brush. Let it work for about 15 minutes or more before scraping it off with a putty knife or plastic filler spreader. Wipe your knife on old newspaper and then dispose of the paper in a lidded trash receptacle. If the paint wrinkles, it is enamel, and if it turns to soup, it is lacquer.

If there is a lot of paint on a panel you may have to strip it two or three times, but sometimes you can get it all off with one coat. Paint tends to be thicker in valleys and thinner along sharp edges. Strip each panel separately, then wash it thoroughly with water and let it dry. After that, shoot on a coat of epoxy or other primer that is waterproof, in order to avoid rust. Panels can flash over with rust in a matter of a few hours.

If you want to know more, or perhaps repair and paint the car yourself, get my book “Pro Paint & Body” (ISBN13978155788563) published by Penguin Putnam and available at Amazon for $18.95. It will take you through all the steps you need to repair and repaint your DeSoto to a show-quality finish.