By Bob Carpenter.
All classic trucks share this common trait: they're old. And old trucks usually have lots of coats of paint on them. What's underneath that paint is often a perplexing question, but if you want a beautiful custom paint job, you'll need to strip everything away to bare metal. How you get to that point can affect the outcome of your final paint job.
Sanding is the time-honored tradition but it takes a long, long time to get through everything. Chemical paint removers are a sloppy mess, and you need to reapply and reapply and scrape and scrape; and you'll still have to sand off some of the tougher materials. Some companies will dip your entire truck body into tanks of chemicals to strip it. [Followed by] baths in neutralizers and high-pressure washes designed to eliminate the chemicals trapped in your truck's sheet metal; but if the operator isn't zealous, traces of chemical will be trapped in nooks and crannies and later (sometimes years), it will eat away your beautiful paint job from the inside (I speak from experience). Sandblasting is too forceful (85-100 psi) for the relatively thin surfaces of an automobile. High pressures and hard-silica-sand particles can stretch the sheet metal or even remove pieces of material.
Plastic media blasting really is the perfect process for removing paint, primer, Bondo, and other assorted items. Low blast pressures (20 to 40 psi) and soft plastic particles are safe for the most delicate surfaces. You can use plastic media blasting on fiberglass , thin metals, trim, and more. In this process, little masking is required prior to stripping the truck. And the mirrors? Just wrap some tape over the glass and you're fine.
We took a visit to Hot Rods & Custom Stuff where owners Randy and Peaches Clark showed us how their Pro Strip plastic-media blasting system works. The Clarks have the blasting system set up in a self-contained booth similar to a paint booth. We watched a good portion of the blasting from inside the booth and our eyes were wide open. The results were nothing short of amazing. Hot Rods & Custom Stuff is a top-notch facility with highly skilled employees, but even if you're too far from them you should be able to get good results from local plastic media blaster.