GM A-Body Paint Detailing

Correct color selection for engine/body/chassis components

GM A-Body Paint Detailing


All of the General Motors engine compartments are very similar. Each division may have made small changes to suit their individual applications, and each have their own engine colors, but the major components, color of parts, and plating that are used remain essentially the same. Research is the key. When you take your engine out for rebuilding or detailing, photograph the components before they are disassembled. Remove the parts and note whether they are plated, painted, or just natural, When the car is being reassembled the parts should be returned to their original condition.

  • Frame or sub frame: The frame and sub frame on all Sixties through Seventies GM muselecars were painted semi-gloss black. Some restorers like the frames a little more on the shiny side, while others like a flatter finish. There are a lot of different formulas for this and different paints you can use. Most restorers use acrylic enamel or acrylic urethane finishes with a flattening agent for frame components because of their durability, One formula that you can use is as follows:
    3 qt. PPG Delstar mixing black
    1 qt. flattening agent
    PPG DTR601 quick-dry reducer
  • Inner fenders, firewall, radiator support: As with the frame, there are many different formulas that can be used to achieve a semi gloss black paint to match the factory finish. Some restorers like to mix their own paint to get the shine they desire, but. many restorers also use a premixed PPG paint for their engine compartment. We have used PPG 9423 lacquer on our cars and it is about as close as you can get to the factory finish, We usually buy it in quart cans because that's enough to do a complete engine compartment. Many of the spray can manufacturers (e.g. Krylon, VHT) make a semi-gloss black that also looks good on, engine compartment components if you don't have professional spray painting equipment. If you have spray equipment here's another custom lacquer formula that you can use:
    2 qt. PPG mixing black #386
    1 qt. universal flattening agent
    1 qt. mixing clear #3 10
    PPG DTL16 thinner
  • Radiator: All GM cars of this era had Harrison radiators that were painted gloss black. We paint them with PPG Deltron gloss black acrylic urethane.
  • Radiator cap: Radiator caps were not painted, they were plated.
  • Radiator shroud: Radiator shrouds should be left natural plastic. Some shrouds on early GM cars were steel and they should be painted semi-gloss to gloss black.
  • Fan blades: Fans on GM cars differed from brand to brand. Some divisions, like Chevy, painted the fan and blades black, while other GM divisions used natural stainless fan blades with black center hubs. If the fan was a clutch-type, the clutch was natural aluminum with a gold cadmium center. The clutch shaft and spring are natural finish.
  • Exhaust manifolds: This is another area where the GM divisions differed. According to restoration sources, Chew exhaust manifolds were over-sprayed when the engine was painted. According to Pontiac sources, Pontiac engines were painted first, then the exhaust manifolds was installed. Whatever the case may be, if you are going to drive the car, any over- spray that may be sprayed on the exhaust manifolds will bum off quickly.
  • Exhaust manifold locks: The exhaust manifold locks were natural finish unless the exhaust manifolds were painted; then they were oversprayed.
  • Hood hinges, hood latch, hood catch, hood springs: These components look like they are natural finish, but they were actually gray phosphate plated. This process is available from several plating companies including Delco Moraine Power Brake Booster Restorations by Sieve Gregori.
  • Upper and lower alternator brackets: Most pulleys and brackets used on GM cars were painted semi-gloss black, but there are some exceptions to the rule. Research your particular car because on some GM brands, individual pulleys could have also been gray phosphates, zinc, or cad plated. Some of the GM divisions also used large aluminum brackets that were natural aluminum in color.
  • Alternator: Natural aluminum finish, no paint or plating.
  • Alternator fan: Zinc plated (silver).
  • Alternator pulley: Silver cad plated -or gold cad plated (depending upon the application). Most plating shops can handle either application.
  • Master cylinder: Most of the GM cars came with natural finish master cylinders. For a lasting natural look, they can be painted with cast-iron gray paint, which is available from a variety of sources such as The Eastwood Company, VHT, and Krylon.
  • Master cylinder lid: The master cylinder lid should be cadmium dichromate (gold rainbow cad This type of plating is available from several sources, including Delco Moraine Power brake Restorations by Steve Gregori or from the ASL company. The master cylinder bail clips are natural metal.
  • Power brake booster: All GM power brake boosters were cadmium dichromate. The two companies mentioned above can rebuild and re-plate your power-booster.
  • Brake distribution bracket: Cadmium dichromate.
  • Power brake hose clips: Black oxide.
  • Brake lines: Natural steel, no paint or plating.
  • Brake line clips: We've seen these clips in natural finish, black oxide, and zinc chromate (green) finish.
  • Fuel lines: Natural steel finish, no paint or plating.
  • Horns: Gloss black finish.
  • Windshield wiper motor: Gloss black finish.
  • Clutch cross shaft: Gray phosphate plate.
  • Clutch linkage parts: Gloss black finish.
  • Clutch fork: Natural steel finishes that can be painted with cast-iron spray paint
  • Clutch return spring: Natural steel or gray phosphate.
  • Clutch return spring bracket: Natural steel finish.
  • Battery box hold down clamp: Semi-gloss black.
  • Water pump pulley, crankshaft pulley: Semi-gloss black, some crank pulleys were cast and left natural finish. Some water pump pulleys on early GM musclecars were zinc plated.
  • Engine dipstick handle: Natural steel finish.
  • Steering box: The cast-iron portion of the box is natural finish. The access lid is natural aluminum; the bolts are black oxide.
  • Stabilizer bar: Depending upon the GM division, these can be natural or semi-gloss black.
  • Stabilizer bar brackets: Depending upon the GM division and supplier, the brackets can be semi-gloss black or natural.
  • Tie rods, steering components: natural steel finish. These components can be painted with clear or cast- iron colored paint
  • Control arm cross shafts: Semi-gloss black enamel.
  • Control arm bolts and large-end washers: Natural steel.
  • Control arm adjustment shims: Natural steel.
  • Voltage regulator cover: Gloss-black enamel.
  • Horn relay: Natural, no paint.
  • Accelerator rod, accelerator lever: Black oxide.
  • Engine accessory braided ground strap: Natural, no paint or plating.
  • Fender bolts, fender bolt washers: Black oxide.
  • Heater/heater shroud: Semi-gloss to gloss black lacquer. Generally, more shine than the engine compartment.
  • Front springs: Natural metal.
  • Shock absorbers: Gloss gray enamel.
  • Power steering pump: Gloss black enamel.
  • Power steering brackets: Semi-gloss black enamel. Some brackets may actually look like a cross between semi-gloss and gloss black.
  • PCV- hose clips: Black oxide
  • Ignition wire dividers: Black plastic.

Another place this information appears, and includes some very useful hints on detailing your car's components as well, is the Resto Shop at Team Chevelle.

A different source lists the following data:


General parts
  • Frame/Chassis: black
  • Front unibody subframe assembly: 30% Gloss black
  • Firewall: 30% Gloss black
  • Core support: Gloss black
  • Inner fenders: 30% Gloss black
  • Fender-to-inner fender bolts: Neutral steel or aluminum/ Black oxide

Transmission components
  • Transmission: Neutral steel or aluminum
  • Driveshaft: Neutral steel or aluminum/ Color coded
  • Transmission and driveshaft yoke: Neutral steel or aluminum/ Color coded
  • Differential housing: Gloss black
  • Clutch linkage: Neutral steel or aluminum

Brake components
  • Brake drums: Semi-gloss black
  • Disc brake shields: Neutral steel or aluminum
  • Calipers: Cast-iron gray
  • Master cylinder: Cast-iron gray

Axle and suspension components
  • Axles: Neutral steel or aluminum/Color coded
  • Third member: Gloss black
  • Upper control arms: 30% Gloss black
  • Lower control arms: 30% Gloss black
  • Inner and outer tie rods: Meganese phosphate/ Color coded
  • Tie rod adjustment sleeve: Semi-gloss black
  • Center link: Meganese phosphate/ Color-coded
  • Idler arm bracket: Meganese phosphate/ Color-coded
  • Strut rods: Cast- iron gray / Color coded
  • Coil springs, front: Gloss black/Color coded
  • Shocks: Gray (some were also 30% Gloss black)
  • Coil springs, rear: Semi-gloss black/ Color-coded
  • Trailing arms: Gloss black
  • Rear end U-bolts: Neutral steel or aluminum /Color coded
  • Rear leaf springs: Semi-gloss black/Color coded
  • Front and rear spring shackles: Neutral steel or aluminum
  • Backing plates: 30% Gloss black
  • Spindles: Cast iron gray/Color coded
  • Anti-sway bars: Meganese phosphate/Color coded

Steering components
  • Pitman arm: Cast iron gray/Color coded
  • Steering box: Neutral steel or aluminum/Color coded

Exhaust system
  • Muffler hangers and clamps: Neutral steel or aluminum
  • Exhaust system and mufflers: Neutral steel or aluminum

Gas tank components
  • Gas tank: Neutral steel or aluminum
  • Gas tank straps: 30% Gloss black
  • Gas and brake lines: Neutral steel or aluminum

Cooling system components
  • Core support: Gloss black
  • Radiator: Gloss black
  • Core support bolts: Neutral steel or aluminum/ Black oxide
  • Core support-to-fender braces: 30% Gloss black
  • Fan shield: 30% Gloss black

Brake and steering components
  • Master cylinder: Cast iron gray
  • Master cylinder cap: Cold chromate
  • Power brake booster: Gold chromate
  • Steering box: Neutral steel or aluminum
    Power steering pump: 30% Gloss black

Engine components
  • Distributor: Neutral steel or aluminum
  • Coil: 60% Gloss black
  • Generator: Neutral steel or alummum/Gloss black
  • Alternator: Neutral steel or aluminum
  • Voltage regulator: B w/script
  • Fuel and brake lines: Neutral steel or aluminum
  • Throttle linkage: Neutral steel or aluminum

Accessories
  • Wiper motor: 30% Gloss black/Neutral steel or aluminum
  • Heater motor cover: Gloss black
  • A/C upper evaporation unit: Gloss black
  • Horns: Gloss black

Hood components
  • Hood hinges: Black or Gray oxide
  • Hood hinge springs: Gray oxide
  • Hood catches and latches: Neutral steel or aluminum
  • Ram Air boxes: 30% Gloss black


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