The S15’s Makeover Starts Now – With a Colour Change

I wouldn’t say things have escalated; rather, the timeline has just been rearranged a bit.

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From the day I first saw the S15 I knew a repaint would be a required component of the build. This poor thing had been cheaply and crudely resprayed in the past, then vinyl wrapped, then unwrapped, then touched up with spray cans…you get the idea. However you want to describe it – ruined, destroyed, been through hell and back – that was this car’s paint.

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There was nothing that could be done to salvage the paint it had, so as shown in prior updates on the car the worst of it was temporarily mended with some basic bodywork and vinyl wrap as a way to make the car semi-presentable until the day came that it finally received a respray. Happily we managed to get the Silvia to a state where it didn’t look half bad, from a certain distance. Dim lighting also greatly helped.

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As part of the plans I had originally put together for this season I was intending to get the front end resprayed as it was next in line if I was to continue working through the paint issues in order of major to minor. There were marks all over the panels, the bumper had cracks and scuffs in the paint, both fenders had been accidentally sanded when the hood was stripped (remember how the headlights had been marked up by the sandpaper? It wasn’t just them), and the original hood obviously had just primer underneath the wrap. I pulled the fenders and bumper, picked up the original hood from storage, and dropped them off at the body shop along with a few new pieces, as well as the fuel door for reference.

Then I realized this was stupid.

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As per my initial plans for the car, that front end respray would be the grand total of the paintwork for 2020, and in a future season the car would be stripped down to be fully resprayed inside and out. It would save me time and money this season, but in the long run would cost me more in regards to both.

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I think it was only a few days before I texted Devon to say I’d changed my mind.

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As I looked around the car more, and was reminded of just how bad the rest of the paint was, I also knew that I wouldn’t be happy to have fresh paint sitting right next to the remainder of the existing coat…

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…and its many, many issues.

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“Do it once, do it right” is an approach I always endorse, and I’d only be going against my own advice if I were to do anything less than give them the entire car to have it painted in one fell swoop.

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So that’s exactly what I did. I parked the S15 in my driveway for a few days (hence the tape covering all of the holes, and the lovely layer of dirt on it), stripped it down further, called in a flatbed, and had it carted off to the shop with a new game plan for the guys.

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Not only did the original plans call for the car to be fully resprayed in the future, but we’d been entertaining the idea of a colour change as well, for whenever that would take place. Given that the entire exterior had to be refinished and things like the jambs could use fresh paint as well, changing the colour of the car wouldn’t be that much more work relatively speaking. It would of course entail a lot more prep work for parts like the rear body panel and the insides of the doors, trunk, and hood, but just fixing the issues while keeping the car its factory pearl white would already see most of the visible surfaces getting fresh paint anyway. In essence, within not much time at all my request for the team had gone from “please paint just these few parts” to “please colour change the car”. I hope they don’t hate me too much.

Side note: spy the E30 in the background – that’s my neighbour Doug’s, in the final stages of its own restomod. It features an E39 swap backed with a 5-speed, and a number of OEM+ modifications and custom touches throughout. Doug and a friend rebuilt it from the ground up, before handing it off for the exterior’s respray. This is the same Doug that has helped us numerous times with custom-fabricated parts for the cars. 

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Truthfully this will not be a full colour change as the inside of the shell will be left alone (I intend to keep a full interior in the car so none of it will be seen) along with the engine bay – though the latter will be addressed at a future date. The reasoning here is that given we know the SR20 will be coming out at some point, I didn’t wish to pull everything out now, have the bay painted, put it all back, and then remove it all again in a few years. As well, if any alterations would need to be made to the bay at that time then it would just have to be repainted again anyway. Besides, I had to draw a line somewhere before this thing was no more than a shell on a rotisserie.

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A lot of the interior had to come out as well for this job – the door panels had to leave so the doors could be painted and the rear trim had to go so that the glass could be removed – so I went a bit further and pulled even more in order to address other to-do list items. Before the car left I was able to remove a couple of accessories no longer needed and there will be more wiring to attend to once I have it back in my possession. Until then however I can keep busy repainting brackets, cleaning up all of the panels, and tracking down replacements for various little clips, trim pieces, and so on.

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In keeping with the “do it once, do it right” approach, I want every piece that goes back on this car to have been either cleaned up, restored, or replaced entirely with a brand new component.

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Given 2020 will have effectively no car season – with no shows or large meets taking place – this is our opportunity to take the S15 off the road and make an enormous dent in its restomod process without missing out on anything. We can take our time, run through the car front-to-back, and tackle jobs both large and small so that come 2021 (hopefully) this thing can be brought out to events looking worlds better than it did…

…and all of that starts with the biggest job of them all, this colour change. I cannot wait to see the Silvia with fresh paint, nor can I wait to see how the chosen colour looks on its panels and what people think of it. Mario’s exact words were “If you don’t paint it [insert colour here], you’re a ****ing idiot”. Haha


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