Fifty Shades of Red

My 1976 Corvette Stingray left the St. Louis, MO assembly plant, sporting a fresh Silver Metallic (code 13) paint job.

According to the story, as related by the seller, the original owner, who bought it brand new from a Chevy dealership, didn't drive it much, and the car sat in a garage for many years, eventually serving duty as a shelf of sorts for piles of boxes and old rugs that scratched the paint beyond repair.

When the second owner purchased the Vette, he took it to a local body shop for a paint job. However, he decided that red would complement the car a lot better, so—the story goes—he picked a shade of red he liked out of a Mercedes Benz color chart.

He chose well.

When I asked him about the paint code, he did not know it and he was also unable to recall the year of the Mercedes Benz color chart. Not having the paint code would lead to problems down the road.

Fast forward to early 2015 when I became the third owner.

The car had a few paint blemishes here and there, and the front bumper cover that was removed for the color change was installed incorrectly. The gaps were horrible and that bothered me to no end.

The T-tops were also scratched and the chrome trim around the edges looked horrible and showed the tell-tale signs of a poor masking job. So I decided to have the T-Tops repainted by a local shop.

The shop's owner assured me they would scan the paint since I did not have the code.

However, when I picked up the freshly painted T-Tops and asked him for the paint code, he gave some excuse about the guy who was supposed to scan the paint being unable to do so, and he just mixed his own paint to color-match the original.

Otherwise, he did a good job, but once the T-Tops were back on the car, there was a slight difference.

A few months later, I had the same shop fix the front bumper body gaps and portions of the nose and fenders. I also had them patch the holes for the front emblem since I did not care for how it looked.

And while the car was at the body shop, I also had them shave the alarm keyhole. Unfortunately the filler they used (it is obvious they did not use fiberglass), shrunk with the obvious results.

If you look carefully at the photo above, the yellow arrow points to the bottom of the hole and you can almost make out the area where the alarm keyhole used to be.

I admit that they did a pretty decent job blending the colors but there's a slight difference when you look at the car under the right light conditions.

In case you are wondering, the work was done by a "reputable" body shop.

Aren't they all?

A year or two later, I bought a urethane Pace Car air dam for the front of my Vette, but I picked a different body shop for the job since they were highly recommended by several local car people.

This time they scanned the paint, or at least they told me they did. They even gave me a paint code which, according to their story, was actually Dynasty Red, a GM color.

I thought it was odd the previous owner would make up a story about picking a red he liked out of a Mercedes Benz color chart, but what was I to do?

So I picked up my front air dam a couple of days later and it looked great. But again, the red was "too red" when compared to the paint color of the doors, however, once installed—because of where it is located—it was almost impossible to tell it was a different shade of red.

Since my Vette was looking really good, I decided it was time to finally have the body shop repair and repaint the rear bumper skin. The previous owner had hit a garbage can years before while backing out of his garage, and he performed a DIY repair that looked horrible.

So I removed the rear bumper skin and brought it to the shop that had painted the front air dam.

I specifically told the manager to either scan the paint on the bumper or just color-match it since this piece was painted years earlier in the original mystery red.

No problem, I was told, only to receive a phone call a couple of days later from the body shop manager, asking for the paint code! WTF?!?! I told him we had already discussed that there was no code, and either scan it or color-match it.

He kept arguing with me telling me that he had given me the code when they painted the front air dam, and I told him that that shade of red was not 100% correct, so he said they would just color-match it.

Well, when I picked it up I could tell just by looking at it, that it was the wrong shade of red. It looked almost like a dark orange.

And when I hung it in place, the difference was obvious.

I called the shop and the guy said to just reinstall it, bring the car in, and they would color-blend it. I told him I was going to get a second opinion, which I did, from two body shops. Both places told me it would be impossible to color-blend it, just like I suspected.

I decided to have the body shop closest to me to repaint the bumper skin and told them I would have Ben's Paint Supply in DeLand do a color match.

So I brought my gas cap to them and ordered a quart of color-matched paint. They did a pretty decent job but paint can react in strange ways based on something as trivial as the primer underneath, for example.

The body shop that repainted the rear bumper cover a second time did a good job and, although it is a shade lighter than the original, it is a lot better than what the shop in Orlando did.

So that's yet another shade of red on my 1976 Corvette Stingray. 

Honestly, it's somewhat hard to tell, and depending on the light and other conditions, you have to know where to look to find some of the differences. The problem, however, is that I know, and sometimes it bothers me. And once you see the color difference, you cannot unsee it!

Above: Perfect from afar, but far from perfect.

The only solution is to have the whole car repainted. Unfortunately, I don't have the money to have that done. Otherwise, the car is fine and looks awesome despite all the different shades of red.

What can I tell you?

Next to the excruciating experience of buying a car from a dealership, I hate dealing with auto body shops.

Thank you for following my '76 Vette Blog!

Product Links... (#sponsored)

How to Paint Muscle Cars & Show Cars Like a Pro