Curbside Tech- Addressing the El Kylemino’s Cosmetic Issues

A couple of weeks ago I shared a current picture of the El Kylemino. After two years of ownership, I’ve made a number of cosmetic changes, both to address degraded paint and minor rust issues, and to improve the overall appearance.

At present, I don’t want to invest in a new paint job, as I still use this car as a truck. I’m hard pressed to spend several thousand dollars on a paint job and then expose it to parking lot dings or other in-use damage. In other words, I wanted to fix things on the cheap.

As this collage shows, at purchase the paint suffered considerable sun damage. In several spots the paint had worn down almost to the metal, and the sharp character line running along the top of the tailgate, fenders, and doors also suffered from thinning coverage.

Despite its desert origins, rust had made an appearance on the hood, cowl, and A-Pillars. In this picture you can see some minor rust under the windshield trim, and there was a spot about the size of a nickel a bit further up.

This image shows the left edge of the hood. The red circle shows an outbreak of surface rust, while the blue circles show where that nice, flat hood panel saw several solid impacts, leaving small dents and enough paint damage to create crescent shaped rust spots.

This is the worst rust on the car. While relatively minor for most climates, the rust had attacked from the back, and perforated the sheet metal right at the very leading edge. I’m not sure why the hood took the brunt of the rust damage on this car, but it’s possible forty years of morning dew gained traction below the shut lines, since that paint lacked any wax coverage or other protection.

Outside of a couple nicks I’ll cover later, those were the major paint and rust issues on this big blank canvas. I wanted to address the issues inexpensively (no trips to the body shop), and also develop an approach that maintained a period look and feel.

Thinking about how to cover the hood and roof, this Camaro Rally Sport came to mind. A product of the GM design studio, replicating this layout would give my Chevy a sense of brotherhood with the F-body. Even better, the design laid black paint over the same surfaces as the burned paint on my truck and used body lines as a masking guide. Suitably inspired, I grabbed the masking tape and a few spray cans, and got to work.

Here’s the result. Prior to laying down the paint, I removed the windshield trim, sanded the rusted areas down to bare metal, leveled the dents with plastic fill, and laid down rust converter and primer on all exposed metal. I don’t consider this a permanent fix, but it will be some years before I attempt a major restoration, and the new paint seals over the previous damage and improves the look (at least to my eye).

Here’s a closer look at the design. In addition to the black out paint on the hood and roof, I laid a narrow accent strip of blue between the black and the factory paint, then used 1/4″ pinstripe tape to cover the mask line between the blue and brown (similar to the accent lines used on that ’78 Rally Sport).

While it’s certainly not the greatest paint job ever, if you’re going to use a rattle can go with a semi-gloss black. It lays down very nicely, and makes it tough to spot repair work. In this portion of the hood I removed rust and cut down to bare metal along the edge, then filled several dents near that character line. By and large, you can’t see this work.

I suppose with a couple hours of work I could wet sand the hood, lay another layer of paint down, and color sand the final coat for an even better finish. But I really hate finish sanding, so I’ll live with things as is.

I also laid some black out tape in the door handle indentation

Unlike the Camaro, I carried the black paint past the B-Pillar. To make the transition, I terminated the blue accent line at the drip rail, and switched to a pair of pinstripe lines along the paint line moving towards the rear.

I also laid black out tape over the chrome bed trim, which just leaves a thin bead of chrome

Here’s a close up of the pinstripes. You can also see there are a few spots where the damaged paint is still visible, but the black paint covers most of the issues.

To help the Olds wheels “pop” I decided to paint them blue as well. With a new coat of paint, the aftermarket center caps looked a bit cheesy, especially with text in the center telling the world they were a “Special Edition.”

To fix things, I picked up some reproduction Z-28 center caps. A cleaner design than the Olds cap, they ALMOST fit the wheel. I opened up the center hole about 3/8″ of an inch with a jigsaw, and used a big o-ring in the back of the wheel to cinch the caps in place. As a bonus, the caps also used blue as an accent color, and included a bow-tie. Score!

I’ll try and cover the headlight conversion in a future post- While not exactly “bolt on,” the Celebrity lamps fit with minimal hassle

In addition to fixing the paint issues, I made several strictly cosmetic changes:

  • One piece headlamps (glass, off a late eighties Celebrity)
  • Diamond grille insert
  • Reproduction front spoiler
  • Cutlass sedan front bumper (with turn signals)
  • Collapsed the front bumper shocks (moving the bumper back about 2″)
  • Shaved hood ornament

Plus a couple of “262” engine badges, which has confused a number of bystanders checking out the car-

Them: “262? Is that a V-8?”

Me: “Yeah, not so much…”

So that covers all the cosmetic changes except one- Those blue stripes on the rear quarters. They serve a purpose as well, and were also inspired by the GM design studio as I’ll explain below.

First the why- The rear quarter badges on an El Camino used a funky script that had to go, and one badge covered some surface rust, which I wanted to repair. Using a heat gun, I successfully peeled them off, but the process removed some paint, left some mounting glue, and exposed more rust. I ended up with an ugly patch similar to this image.

Thinking about how to cover the patch, this “Feathers” paint job came to mind. Also a GM design, but busier than I liked. Using the concept as a starting point, I designed a simplified set of feathers for the El Kylemino.

The final result covers the scar left when I pulled off the badges, and adds a nice graphic element. I also think it helps the visual balance of the car, but that may just be me. So with the feathers, I had addressed every cosmetic issue except one…

This gnarly dent and scratch. They were present at purchase, and were the only significant body damage on the car. I sanded out the rust and laid down some paint to protect the clean metal, but the dent remained. Adding the blue stripes covered up part of the scratch, but I felt more could be done.

Voila, O’Reilly’s Auto Parts to the rescue! The shape of this $12 sticker perfectly covered the damage, and nicely matched up to the blue stripe. The blue accents also help disguise the grey paint peeking out from between the stripes, giving them sort of a “cloud’ effect. Additionally, while your finger can still feel the dent under the moon, the artwork hides it almost perfectly. It’s a little cheesy and may fall off during the next car wash, but was much cheaper than panel repair and a new paint job.

As I said up front, all this work was done on the cheap. It took about 6 or 7 cans of spray paint, 5 rolls of blackout tape and some tape and sandpaper (call it $60).  I bought the headlights and bumper at the junk yard for about $85, which means the reproduction spoiler and center caps were the only big ticket items. As I recall, together they set me back about $250. It’s not Concours quality work, but for the price I’ll rock the look every day.