From Hand Painting to Electrocoating: The Evolution of Automotive Painting

First impressions are everything. That is why having a nice paint job on your car has everyone complimenting your ride. It is what is on the outside that attracts others to what is on the inside and under the hood of your car. However, it has taken decades of practice and technology to make automotive paint the attractive feature it is today.

More than 100 years ago, automakers applied paint to cars similar to how we paint walls today. Paint cars by hand, with a paintbrush took up to 40- days to complete. Before they were painted, cars were brushed with the same varnish was used on horse-drawn carriages. Cars were then sanded, refinished and polished.

Spray guns were invented and greatly sped up the painting process in the 1920s. It was imperative to speed the drying process so cars were complete upon leaving the assembly line.

In 1955, General Motors began to use a new acrylic coating, which, once again, sped up the painting process. The new process was more cost effective, but no longer created the glossy finish produced by enamels. In 1960 Ford started using an acrylic stoving enamel which brought back a glossy finish.

In the 1970s automakers began using two-coat acrylic painting systems, metal flake paint jobs and quickly adapted more durable, fast-drying paints. Polyurethane and urethane finishes started being used in the late 1980s.

The painting process is not done evolving. Automakers are still searching for new ways to improve the process to paint cars, including a new process known as electrocoating. Time will only tell what new advances automakers will have in the painting process of cars.

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