We've been following the construction of Jason Scudellari's Chevy pickup as its come together in the Source Interlink Tech Center and its at the point where much of down and dirty work is done and it's time to start making some things pretty.
Jason's truck has a multi-faceted life ahead of it. Destined to be driven on the street, raced on the track, probably used to chase parts, and most likely have the wheels driven off it, this truck is going to be anything but a pampered show piece. But just because Jason has been concentrating on the pickup's performance potential doesn't mean its appearance isn't important. That's why he has turned his attention to applying a good-looking, durable finish to the frame by having it powdercoated.
Powdercoating has been around for quite some time. Developed in Germany, it was first used in the U.S. during the mid 1960s to cope with problems the Navy was having with protective coatings on helicopter components. At first the application procedure did not lend itself to industrial use, but the elimination of solvents required for conventional coatings, the hazards that came along with spraying them, and tightening government regulations restricting their use and disposal made powercoating more attractive.
By the late 1960s a procedure for applying powder that was similar to the electrostatic application of liquid paint had been developed. The electrically charged powder is attracted to the grounded metal surface that is to be coated. Basically, you can think of powdercoating as paint without solvent. When paint is applied the solvent evaporates and the paint cures. With powdercoating, the charged particles stick to the surface and are cured with heat. When the powder is exposed to the proper temperature (around 390 degrees) it begins to melt, flows out, and then cures. The cure time can vary, but it's normally 10-15 minutes.
Powdercoating has a number of advantages over paint, particularly in applications like this truck frame. More parts can be coated in less time and there are no drips or runs, the cost is lower than liquid coatings, powder is tough and resists chipping from flying debris and dropped wrenches. If there is a downside it can have a certain amount of orange peel when the application is too thin.
Before parts can be powdercoated they must be properly prepared by removing any contaminants such as dirt, grease, rust, welding slag, and so on. While there are a variety of chemical and mechanical methods of accomplishing this, abrasive blasting is the most common. The medias used include: silica sand, aluminum oxide, garnet, glass beads, plastic media, walnut shell, wheat starch, steel grit, and steel shot. Simply put, what is used depends on how hard the contaminants are and the strength of the surface below.
To clean and powdercoat his truck's Fatman frame and components, Jason turned to brothers Gabino and Raul Perez. After working in the industry for 10 years they created the family-owned Millenium Powder Coating. Five years later they run a large-volume production operation with a staff of 20. Known for their ability to carefully and completely strip even delicate sheetmetal and apply smooth, glossy powdercoating they have a loyal following of automotive enthusiasts.
Jason dropped off a trailer-load of stuff, including the frame, rearend housing, and almost all the suspension parts. A short time later all of it was back in the Tech Center and Jason went to work assembling a rolling chassis. Finished in black and with big rubber at all four corners it has a somewhat sinister look. Stick with us as Jason completes his truck, it hits the street and gets tested on the track.