patina perfection, revealing the original paint that was hidden under the surface

Paint codes

It’s great to be back on the road again with my ‘new’ vintage VW bus, and with spring slowly turning to summer, there are lots to look forward to in regards of getting stuck into working on my new bus! The two buses could not have been more different! My previous Canterbury Pitt camper was pretty much fully sorted with nothing really needing to be done, this bus, however, has lots of potential and scope to put my mark on it and make it my own.

One of the first things I wanted to look at was the exterior paint finish, especially on the lower half of the bus. Having cracked the code of the Volkswagen m-code plate, I knew the original paint combination was L472 (Beige Grey) over the bottom half of L53 (Sealing Wax Red). The top half L472 (Beige Grey) was in pretty good condition, however, for some reason, the lower half L53 (Sealing Wax Red) had been treated with a light overspray of red oxide primer?

before and after – removing the over coat of red oxide primer
before and after – removing the overcoat of red oxide primer

Under the primer

To explore what was underneath the primer, I wanted to clean a test patch on the rear tailgate to see what was under this primer topcoat. First impressions seemed promising, there was defiantly some paint underneath waiting to be revealed…

enlisted some family help to work on the bus
enlisted some family help to work on the bus

Luckily enough, I managed to recruit my youngest son and his girlfriend into giving me a helping hand using some Halfords Rubbing Compound with plenty of elbow grease to help remove the overcoat of red oxide primer as we worked our way around the bus.

beautiful patina and VW factory panel gaps
beautiful patina and VW factory panel gaps

Patina perfection

Apart from revealing some interesting patina and paint combinations underneath, it was a chance to get up close and personal to the original metalwork. Previously, someone was thinking of prepping it for paint. There were traces of a dark guide coat (helps detect low spots, sand scratches or other minor imperfections prior to priming/painting) that had been applied. The original factory L53 (Sealing Wax Red) paint was thin in places with some areas where the factory primer was just showing through.

beauty is in the eye of the beholder – original VW factory panel gaps
beauty is in the eye of the beholder – original VW factory panel gaps

Nothing quite as satisfying as seeing the factory panel gaps mind you. It means the bus has not been messed about with or badly repaired in the past. The door shuts and original factory spot welds all visible as we slowly worked our way around to remove most of the red oxide primer.

paint cleaning up coming along nicely…
paint cleaning up coming along nicely…

It’s a labour of love, but slowly and surely it’s revealing its own colour ‘character’ that it has developed over its lifetime. The buses honest patina tells a story of its life to this point. It has a kind of urban camouflage feel about it? However, understanding its story is another thing. I might try to trace the last Californian owner detailed on the US title to find out some more of its history?

Original once

One thing is for certain, it has loads of beautiful character and I think it looks amazing just as it is, so I will be making sure to protect and preserve this moving forward! You can paint a bus a hundred times, but you can only get originality once!

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