The BIG RED Three Wheeler Resource
1984 Honda Big Red 200ES Technical Article - Gas Tank and Front Fork Red Basecoat Clearcoat Paint Job
This article is a combination of posts showing the process of how I painted a gas tank and front forks during a restoration of a 1984 Honda 200ES BIG RED. I hope you find this beneficial and feel free to ask questions or make suggestions.
The restoration is at the point where I need to repaint the red front forks and fuel tank on the BIG RED. I look forward to this task as I am trying to improve my painting skills. Before I start the painting process I need to do some more inspections and collect some data. The data collection consists of taking dimensions to make sure I can get the decals back in the right locations. I just measure, mark the measurements on the tank, and then take a digital picture for reference in the future. This is an original metal (steel) gas tank so in many cases these tanks have rusted over the years and many are leaking or are close to leaking in the future. After the tank is flushed of fuel and fumes I will take an angle die grinder in areas that are leaking or suspected areas. This will let me see what I am working with. In many cases the pinhole will be much larger than you think. If that is the case most coatings will not work so I will have to weld and grind to repair it. This tank had one area that needed weld repair. The reason I like to coat the inside of the tank is to protect it from future leaks that can ruin that new expensive paint job you spent soo much time on. In this case I used the Redkote coating. I always do the coating BEFORE painting since the coating can ruin the paint if they come in contact with each other. After I mask the gas tank openings I will work on stripping the old paint and the decals. I have not done too many tanks that did not need to go down to bare metal to restore. Maybe it is due to the climate I live in. I have a media blast cabinet but though experience I have found it saves a lot of time using a paint stripper first to take care of most of the paint and then use the media blast cabinet. Media blasting works great since it can get into a lot of areas that are difficult with sandpaper or a wire brush/wheel. After the tank is stripped I then look at the dents. Small dents (1/4” depth or less) can be filled but large dents should be pulled and then filled. All the dents and dings on this tank were small. After the tank was wiped down with wax and grease remover I filled the dents with Evercoat Rage filler. After the filler dies I sanding and feathering the filler using 80, 180, and 400 grit sandpaper. I am not the best at bodywork so I used 3M powdered guide coat to reveal the low spots. Once the bodywork was done I wiped down the parts again with wax and grease remover and masked the areas that did not need to be painted. Then it was time for primer. I used a Nason 2K primer. After the primer was dry I wet sanded it level with 600 grit sandpaper.
I took note of decal placement before the tank was stripped
I typically use paint remover first and then I will media blast the tank
This is the guide coat I use to help me sand the filler correctly
Body filler sanded and ready for primer.
UPDATE 2019: I have since painted the tank with epoxy primer after it has been media blasted. I then do the bodywork over the epoxy primer. Once the bodywork is done I will put on another coat of epoxy primer. I changed my process because I believe the epoxy primer will provide more corrosion resistance as compared to the urethane primer.
Epoxy Primer Used
First Coat of Epoxy Primer
Body filler and spot putty applied
Body Filler and Spot Putty Used
Tank primed and wet sanded using 400 grit. Also a pic of the primer I sometimes use. Ready for basecoat once the weather gets warmer here.
Painted the base coat and the clearcoat. Used a Nason paint. Paint color match is pretty good. I took a picture of the can label so you can see the paint code. A few runs and some bugs got in the clearcoat. I will color sand and buff the tank next.
Base coat applied
Results after clearcoat
I finally got around to working on the BIG RED gas tank again. Before I start I used some angle iron, wood, and a vice to brace the gas tank. I color sanded the tank with 1000 and then 1500 grit. I use a water soap solution when I am color sanding. I use a rubber square to remove the water residue from the tank. What you are doing is leveling the clearcoat so it won’t look like the surface of an orange. Color sanding is how you get that clear refection in the clearcoat. When the color sanding is done the paint will look dull. It should be an even dullness with no shiny spots. You do not want to sand through the clearcoat. I always put a couple extra coats of clearcoat to help avoid this. Using the water soap solution helps lubricate during sanding and helps taking too much clearcoat off. After the color sanding is complete I move on to compounding and buffing. This is done in several stages using different compounds and pads. I use a variable speed Makita electric buffer. The results were good – the issues were done during the painting. I painted the tank outside and some tree sap and bugs got into the paint before it dried. The color sanding and buffing helped this but didn’t totally correct it.
This is my setup for bracing the tank. Tank bolted to angle iron. Angle iron bolted in vice. Wood used to stabilize tank.
1000 and 1500 grit sandpaper used with flexible sanding block to wetsand
Rubber pad used to clean off residue during wetsanding
Picture after sanding is complete the clearcoat is dull and even - no shiny spots. Now on to buffing
I did 5 stages of buffing using 5 different Meguires compounds. I used my Makita electric buffer for this job.
Results after buffing. Now on to putting the decals on
The Color sanding and the buffing of the gas tank is complete. On to putting on the replacement decals. With the tank clean of grease and wax I will use a product called sticker on to let me adjust the decal placement without ruining the decal. The sticker on lets the decal slide on the tank for a short period of time and then it will dry so the decal will stick where you want it. The sticker on gets sprayed on the adhesive side of the decal. Like I mentioned in an early post it is important to take measurements of the old decals before they are removed. I typically measure using a flexible magnetic ruler. Then I will use a paint marker to mark the dimensions on the tank. I will then take a picture or make a sketch so I can install the decals in the correct place. I used the magnetic ruler and masking tape as aids to locate the new decals. I will use my fingers or a plastic body filler spreader to work the bubbles and wrinkles out of the decals. The decal install for this tank went pretty smooth. See pics below. Also I did a review on the sticker on product. Here is the link. http://forums.justbigreds.com/post/sticker-on-decal-application-spray-review-8214593?pid=1293151309
Make sure you get your decal locations before you strip the tank for paint
Using masking tape and magnetic ruler to locate decals
Used Hardline Sticker On to let decals slide on tank surface for easier location. You can also use a water and dishsoap solution
Results of decal placement
I wax the paint a week after the buffing and decal install is complete