When I restored my 1958 Apache, I painted it myself using ordinary acrylic enamel with a hardener in it. I didn't want to sink $10,000 into a professional paint job, and I knew I could make my relatively cheap paintwork look dazzling with a couple of modern products the pros use. And yes, I know the new basecoat-clearcoat urethane systems are beautiful and tougher than the old finishes, but you need a proper spray booth and a fresh air pack to spray them because of the paint's toxicity. That's why I stuck with the old tried and true, but I doubt you could tell the difference.

Years ago, people painted cars with lacquer or enamel, sanded them with 400-grit wet-and-dry sandpaper, and then rubbed them out with fairly aggressive compounds. This produced a pretty nice finish, but it still left a lot of spider web scratches, and it took a lot of paint off in the process. But thanks to 3M microfine sandpaper that comes in 1,000- to 2,500-grit, you can now achieve a beautiful, smooth finish without taking off too much paint. And thanks to Tom Horvath, inventor of System One polish, you can have a show-winning finish in just a few hours.

Tom is renowned for his Pebble Beach-winning paint jobs, and he owns a body shop in Anaheim, California. Until recently, he kept his polish secret, but the demand for it became so great that he started manufacturing it. He came up with the idea for the polish after seeing an optometrist polish scratches out of precision plastic eyeglass lenses with a special high-cost compound. Tom figured out how to use the same superfine aluminum oxide abrasive in the optical polish in a water-based solution safer for painted surfaces and less expensive to make.

The result is his System One polish that can buff out a vehicle to a show-winning finish with just one solution and a couple of pads. Anyone who has been around the paint and body business knows that the old way involved three or more compounds and a fair amount of skill and experience. That's all changed now because you can do the whole job safely with one compound in half the time it took the old way. Also, though designed for pros, System One is perfect for amateur restorers like myself who want to make a cheap paint job look good.