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 Interior Panel Refinishing

Everyone knows that newer cars (70's, 80's and up) with plastic panels get scratched up, scuffed and faded over time.  Unless you luck onto a seriously low mileage car for replacement parts, you have two choices when it comes to bringing those interior plastic pieces up to show quality:

Number one is obviously not much of an option.  Occasionally NOS (new old stock) interior parts will pop up on eBay or extremely low mileage parts will surface.  But trust me, those are fairly rare and you're gonna have to fight me for them first! 

Option #2 is really the only way to go...

Anyways, here's what I did.


  • I purchased a case (5 cans) of Dark Charcoal 1984-86 LACQUER paint from www.metromustang.com.  The part number for the paint is PF19
  • I got a big ass can of Mar-Hyde Total Prep (aka Vinyl Prep) from Pep-Boys.  This stuff eliminates grease/grime and any other crap on the surface you're going to paint.
  • I also got a can of BullDog Adhesion promoter.  This stuff bonds the paint to the plastic.  You can get this at Pep-Boys/Autozone too.
  • You will also need masking tape/newspaper and a fairly clean area to work.

    The Metro Mustang lacquer paint is a dead-on color match for factory charcoal grey panels.  It is also very pliable and covers well.

    The Vinyl Prep is just a cleaner.  It eliminates all grease/grime/wax marks/dirt/whatever so that you have an ultra clean surface to start with.  I got a tip about using denatured alcohol and it should work as good or better but I went with the vinyl prep for now.  The denatured alcohol will leave a white haze on the material you're working with.  That's ok for things like kick panels that are going to get completely painted, but for the console lid, I wanted the black "frame" on the underside to not be affected.  The spray worked perfectly.  When I go to work on the all grey panels, I will probably switch to denatured alcohol.  Its far more cheaper in bulk.

    The Adhesion Promotor, softens or opens the pores of the outer layer of the plastic.  This lets the paint penetrate the top layer and really get into the plastic.

    Rule #1, BE SMART!  PRACTICE! 

    These kick panels were the first victims.  They were extras and I could have cared less if they came out ruined.  To my surprise, they came out AWESOME!  (Unfortunately the picture shown is what the final result was.  The BEFORE pictures did not come out.  I expect to have better before and after shots when I get working on the large panels.)

    The fading/scratching/discolorations/scuff marks and even light scratches faded away.  The texture was not "rounded" by the paint and is extremely crisp.  I'm a tough customer as to what constitutes "like new" and these are it.  The only thing I can knock them for is that the holes for the retainer clips are out of round from just being used.  (and yes, I PAINTED THE BACKS.  Rule #2 Do the best, most complete job you can!)

    Let's move on to the console pad.  I have slightly better "before" pictures for that.

    Victim #2 - Console Pad

    NO, I DID NOT PAINT A BLACK CONSOLE PAD GREY!  It may look black but that is a REGATTA BLUE console pad.  If your pissed I painted a regatta blue pad charcoal grey, then you should have snagged it on eBay cause I watched the auction go without nary a bid (TWICE!) and emailed the seller after the second auction closed.  This pad is nearly perfect all around.  The bottom black frame is NOT cracked and the vinyl covering is not pulling away.

    Anyways, here is what I did...

  • First thing was to tape off the black frame on the bottom so it didn't get painted.

  • Next I used the Vinyl Prep and sprayed it over the whole thing.  The can of vinyl prep says to wait a few minutes but the stuff dries FAST.  You can let the first coat sit in order to work and loosen up the dirt.  Just apply some more and wipe with a CLEAN and preferrably WHITE cloth.  I did this twice as per instructions and I still got fisheyes on the back of the kick panels.  I recommend cleaning the part at least THREE times or until the cloth ceases to pick up any more dirt.  With the console pad, I did it six or seven times until the white cloth came up clean.  The texture and material of the pad grabs and holds dirt far more than the kick panels.  The fronts of the kick panels were done in three sprayings of Vinyl Prep and they had ZERO fish eyes!  Just to add one last note, I had put the kick panels in the dish washer and run them through TWICE with Cascade.  The Vinyl Prep STILL removed dirt.  It is a necessary step, don't skip it.

  • OK, now on to the ADHESION PROMOTER!  SCARY STUFF!  The AP instructions say to use two coats.  The problem with this, try as I might I could not put on a very good light coat.  Trying to do a fine coat resulted in a spattering which didn't cover well.  On the back of the first kick panel, I used two even coats as light as I could.  I waited between coats as per the instructions.  However, It took A LOT of paint to build up layers to get the correct satin sheen.  Too much AP seems to give the part a flat look when it dries.  I resorted to using only one coat of AP as thin as I could do that left the part covered and almost "wet" looking.

  • Now for the GOOD STUFF!  I let the AP sit for a minute or two, before I started painting.  I painted light coat after light coat.  I just kept covering it until the color was even and it had a wet look again.  Always use very thin coats.  Even if I got a little too much paint in an area, it dried ok and all the texture came through.  As things dried, there were areas that appeared "flat" or "smoky".  If you have gone over the part A LOT and feel that you've covered it far more than necessary, let the whole piece dry.  What has happened is that you've gotten too heavy a coat on for the temperature your painting at.  Get a hair dryer.  Warm up the piece.  Give it a few coats until it is "glossy" or wet again and hit it with the hair dryer again.  This should prevent a smoky appearance.  I used one whole can for the kick panels and the console pad.  The stuff seems to get used up fast.

    The Results (Trust me, any discoloration you think you may see is from image compression):


    I just sit and stare at this stuff all day.  They look like new parts.

    The Paint Vendors all say that you should use dye for flexible parts and lacquer for rigid parts.  If you look at dash pads and console lids, they really aren't any more flexible than the kick panels.  Additionally, the lacquer paint appears to be very flexible and I have a hard time believing that it would ever crack.  If we were talking enamel paint, then I could see problems.  Likewise, if I were to do door panels with their VERY flexible vinyl (cloth-like) material, I would opt for vinyl dye.  I have "squeezed" the console lid and the paint flexes with it perfectly.

    A side note about SEM products.  A lot of people have said that they have extremely good luck with SEM's interior paint.  If you want to match the Dark Charcoal color, SEM makes a color called "Graphite" in interior paint, color code 15303.  SEM products can be purchased at any good autobody supply outlet.  I have seen pictures of results and they are extremely good too.


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