Monday, July 15, 2013

Finishing the Exterior Floor: Raptor Spray Bed Liner from U-POL

We’ve been on a bit of a hiatus over the past few weeks as a remodel of a bedroom took precedence over just about everything.  I think my return to the shop was actually as much a relief to my family as myself as I get rather irritable with thinks like painting walls, installing flooring, assembling furniture, hanging pictures and other nefarious crap like that.  But once I got back to my beloved project, I was just about as excited as a puppy and darn near rolled over and peed all over myself!  Yep……it was good to get back in the shop……

As milestones go, the work that Ted and I were set to accomplish was significant.  Finishing the bottom of the car would represent the first “finish work” we would do since the project began and it’s been a LONG time coming.  We would finally get a chance to see what all of the tedious detail work we had toiled over for the past several months would look like when the final finish was applied and we could stand back and see first-hand if what we had imagined in our minds’ eye would be reflected in reality.  It was “go” time and we were ready…..
Almost from the beginning of the project, I decided that I wanted the bottom of the car to have a very smooth and integrated look, while still maintaining exceptional durability, ease of maintenance and subtle “stealth” that would not give away its many secrets so easily.  The looks I wanted was achievable by using spray bed liner material and is the “secret” that countless pro-built rods have used over the past few years.  As trick as the finish looks, it is one of the easiest finishes to apply that you will ever experience.  Now, we are not talking about the roll-on coatings or the spray-can variety.  Indeed, there are many less-than-desirable DIY bed liner coatings out there.  However, the products that actually work are the catalyzed urethane products that are applied with a Schutz gun.

After many weeks of research, I settled on a product called Raptor Liner from U-POL.  I was fortunate enough to talk to local industry experts that use massive amounts of the stuff and confirm their results by researching the same product on the internet forums.  I was very impressed with the virtually 100% satisfaction rating of the product in both professional and hobbyist hands.  Again, it was a matter of following the directions to the letter and the results would come.

The process began by spending lots of time carefully masking all of the previously scuff-sanded surfaces, the areas that needed protection from over spray, and establishing the clean edges we needed everywhere else.  This is not the time to get in a hurry or be careless with your work as it will be reflected directly in the finished product.  So, Ted and I spent several evenings making sure all of our masking was complete and all holes were plugged.  Then…….we waited.

The weather had been pretty hit-and-miss the past few weeks with fairly frequent rain and that wasn’t going to work on a product that would need to be sprayed outside.  Alternatively, the summer temperatures have started to creep up into the higher 80’s and the humidity has been up there as well and neither of these conditions was ideal for spraying the Raptor Liner material according to the directions.  After about a week of careful weather-watching, we saw our window and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  So, we rolled the car outside and let the fun begin!
Like any coating application, the first step was to lightly swab the surfaces with wax and grease remover and then blow off any dust with compressed air.  Then, one more careful inspection of the masking and plugs to make sure we hadn’t lost anything and we were ready to apply the Raptor Liner.

The instructions were about as simple as it could be in that the catalyst was added to each bottle then shaken for 2 minutes and then applied with the special Schutz-type spray gun supplied in the kit.  However, before turning the gun loose on the car, I decided to test the spray pattern and texture on a piece of old sheet metal to make absolutely sure I would get the results I was looking for.  The final setting on the air pressure was a “triggered” 45psi at the gun and that is where the regulator was locked down for the entire process.
I began spraying the floor at the back of the car and moved forward, keeping the spray distance at about 15-18 inches from the surface.  I concentrated on the most difficult and intricate areas of the floor first to make absolutely sure I would get all of the nooks and crannies covered well and then moved to the open, flatter areas.  Each bottle took about 7-10 minutes to spray and we found that things were really moving at a very quick clip.  In about 30 minutes, the first coat was on and we allowed the entire coating to flash off for the required 60 minutes before returning for the second coat.  This also gave us plenty of time to look over the entire job and identify any areas that would need extra attention to ensure the coating was even and complete from front to back and to clean up the gun with acetone so we would be ready to roll for the second coat.  It is also worth noting that this was yet another time where the rotisserie proved an invaluable tool in ensuring that this type of work could be done at a professional level as it allowed the body to be carefully positioned to ensure complete coverage of every area.

After the flash time had elapsed, we applied a second coat in the same fashion as the first and made sure to cover all of the light or missed areas left over from the first coat.  Again, about 30 minutes was all that was required and the job was done.  Almost immediately after cleaning the gun for the final time, we started removing the masking and plugs to ensure the edges were crisp and the holes clean.  Once this coating dries, it is monstrously tough and would pretty well permanently seal any leftover plugs or masking in its place forever.  By removing the masking while the coating is still somewhat tacky, the edges are left very sharp and clean.  After another hour of flash time, the finish retained a bit more gloss than I expected, but I knew that would dull a bit over the next several days to just the right satin finish I was looking for, so no worries.
With all of the masking removed and plenty of daylight to observe the finished product, we were extremely pleased with how the Raptor Liner material looked and the finish was everything that I had hoped for.  The bottom of the car looks amazingly smooth and uniform; almost as if the entire floor was one smooth stamping.  The 4-link mounts look as if they were there from the factory and all of the sealed seams are absolutely beautiful.  The rear wheel wells are stunningly clean and uniform and will look fantastic when the car is finally finished.  In short, I couldn’t be happier with the outcome and U-POL Raptor Liner is absolutely everything it is touted to be.  Brilliant!

After heavy research, I settled on U-Pol's Raptor Liner 2K urethane spray bed liner kit.  I found a great deal on two kits from TP Tools (one of my favorite restoration tool suppliers) and each kit included the proper Schutz-type application gun.

Several evenings were spent masking everything as carefully and cleanly as possible.  While over spray is rather minimal, anything sloppy here will ruin the job, so we took our time and made doubly sure everything was right.
Here is a look at the lower edges of the trunk drop off/quarter panel and the tail light panel fully masked.

The rocker flanges were also m asked along their length.  You can also see we had previously scuffed the PPG DP90LF primer to ensure a good foundation for the Raptor.

Fuel tank aperture is masked to the inside of the opening to allow the Raptor to create a "soft-edge" along the inside flanges which looks nice and is easy to feather.

The rocker flanges and wheel opening lips are carefully masked where the two come together.  This is a rather intricate area that rewards taking your time.

In the center of the photo you can just see the silicone plugs on the e-brake flange and shifter hole flange bolt holes.  Also, this clearly shows the scuffed surface on the DP90LF primer.

The upper coilover mounting bracket sockets are masked, including the oval hole where the fasteners must pass through and seat when tightened.

The firewall transition seam is where the bed liner material would be terminated and again, careful masking was the key to a fine finish.

A quick swabbing with wax and grease remover and the floor was ready to coat!
Here is the assembled U-POL spray gun that is designed specifically to fit the Raptor bottles.  I added the red filter ad quick connect fitting to the inlet for good measure.  Air pressure was set at 45psi "triggered" at the gun and this proved to be perfect for the application of the material.

Some may recognize this piece of scrap as the original roof skin off the car.  As it turns out, it made an excellent spray test panel to dial in the gun settings before moving the work to the "real" surfaces.  Glad I hadn't thrown it away just yet!
We started at the back and worked out way forward, concentrating on the intricate and hard-to-reach areas before moving to the flatter sections.  After only one coat, you can already see how uniform everything is starting to look and how evenly the Raptor Liner is adhering to the surfaces.

Spray distance was kept at about 15-18" from the surface and the material was applied in even, sweeping motions.  I can't say enough how much of an advantage having the car on a rotisserie was during this phase of work.

Straight out of the gun and still wet, the first coat is done!  Each coat is allowed to flash off for a full 60 minutes before application of the second coat.

During the flash period, we took a close look at every nook and cranny to spot any areas that needed attention during the second coat application.  One area I went light on can be seen here at the front of the transmission floor brace, just to the left of center in this image.  This was easily and quickly addressed when the second coat was applied.

After the second coat, the entire axle tunnel area looked fantastically smooth and tidy.
Wheel tubs looked especially good and should be exceptionally durable and easy to maintain.

Even the area where the spare tire bulge was pounded out and smoothed up looked factory fresh with a coating of the Raptor Liner.

Another shot of the completed axle tunnel shows how nicely the final finish looks.  To the untrained eye, even the 4-link suspension modifications take on an integrated, factory-built look.

Another shot of the wheel tubs and 4-link details.

After the masking was removed while the second coat was still tacky, the panhard mount and upper coilover saddle brackets looked very clean.

Rear frame rails and trunk drops are absolutely pristine.

The final finish looks incredible and the entire job took only about 3 hours from the time the car was rolled out of the shop to the time it was rolled back in.  Amazing!