Paint Body On or Off Chassis?


Active Member
Hi, everyone. Please bear with me for a long question:
I'm slowly transitioning from the repair / restore phase of my 1966 Triumph Spitfire (full, body-off restoration) to the assembly stage. I've got the majority of my body panels ready for final blocking and the body itself should be there soon (weeks). I'm having an internal argument with myself on whether I should do BC/CC with the body off the chassis (the chassis is all done and rolling) and apart, or if I should assemble the car, body-wise, and then paint the exterior.
Before assembly, I would do all of the required interior portions (door jambs, undersides of hood, trunk, interior areas where paint will show) and then put it all together and get all of my gaps right, then do final blocking and epoxy sealer (taping off as necessary, of course). My biggest reason for doing it this way would be to essentially protect the paint from what I'm sure will be a difficult process of putting it all back together, especially getting gaps correct.
Otherwise, I would just BC/CC everything separately, at various times, and then put it all back together.
I have a feeling this may be a "duh" question where it should be obvious that it's better to paint with everything apart, but I think there may be some advantages to doing final blocking with everything together to try to get it as straight as possible across the gaps, but this is not my biggest priority (I'm okay with imperfections given my rookie status).

Looking for your opinions what, given the choice, you all would do.



I have a feeling this may be a "duh" question where it should be obvious that it's better to paint with everything apart,
Sounds like you know all the pros and cons, so I think you are the only one who knows whether or not you can do it. You didn't say if it is a solid color or metallic.


Active Member
Thanks, Shine. Chevman, I know I can do it, just never having done it I wasn't sure if there was a better order to do it in. I'm been flying by the seat of my pants the whole time, but I'm always looking for advice from those that have the experience. I'm doing BC/CC using SPI Medium Red and Universal Clear.

Thank you both,


if you assemble it to prime /block /paint/clear you will have a god awful mess . if you paint all the pieces the assemble it then little to no mess. if you have to color match or repair something you only have 1 coat of color then clear . i never paint all together .
Sounds like you know all the pros and cons, so I think you are the only one who knows whether or not you can do it. You didn't say if it is a solid color or metallic.
Thats my thought, if its a metallic how good are you? Triumph is such a little car, if you paint it apart they are such little pieces.


Trying to be the best me, I can be
Another thing to consider. Assemble twice, paint once. If you want it to turn out very nice you should assemble it before you do your finish bodywork/paint. That's the time to get the gaps right, adjust the doors, hood, trunk etc. Once everything is fitting correctly or you have corrected any issues, then you take it apart and paint it. If you wait to assemble it for the first time until after you paint it will be impossible to not chip up the paint in various places plus you will never have as good a fit as if you assembled it beforehand and got everything fitting correctly and gapped. Use a single layer of 3/4 tape to simulate paint thickness on the edge of the panels. Work out any issues beforehand and reassembly after paint will go so much more smoothly. Nothing worse than tearing up something you painted trying to put it back together.
As for painting in pieces, like Shine always says get enough quart cans so that you can evenly diperse your paint into them as soon as you get your paint(base). Doing so helps ensure color uniformity throughout the job. If it's mettallic when you spray, position the panels the way they are going to be on the car. Doors and fenders, vertical, hoods and trunk lids can lay flat. Make notes of your gun settings, air pressure, color of sealer, how many coats of base, temperature, humidity level, etc. That way you can more easily duplicate what you did in order to ensure color uniformity. This is especially helpful with metallic. Solids are not nearly as sensitive. Solid or metallic you still want to take your gallon (or however much you are using) and break it up into quarts immediately after getting your base.
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Active Member
I like that idea, Chris. I had the car most of the way together when I was replacing the rockers so that I had my gaps correct before I welded them in. That was a miserable time for me getting all of the gaps correct, but I eventually did get them. That was well before any body work, however, so maybe it would be a good idea to do that again and do final work.
Like anotheridiot said, the car is very small so SPI only recommended two quarts of paint, so that's what I have. SPI Medium Red.

I think I'll take that route. That way, I also know that I have all of the various pieces-parts necessary to actually bolt it all together, too.

Thanks, everyone!!


I assembled mine and then painted it in pieces. One tip I would offer that saved me a ton of time was to take alot of pictures, and write stuff down when you mock up. I took very detailed pictures of my gaps, door hinge alignment, fender shims, stuff like that. It gets you right back into the ballpark really quick if you know that this hinge needs to be maxed out on its slotted holes in this direction, this fender needs 2 shims on the front mounting hole.

Also, even though your paint is already in quart cans, make sure you intermix the two quarts back and forth a couple times.


Very good write up Chris Hamilton, I would just add that if possible I would drill two 1/8" holes through each hinge and nut plate before final disassembly so the doors can be put back on at the same location.


New Member
count your coats and keep track of the air pressure , consistency is the key to painting it apart. Not hard to do and it will be worth it.


I don't think Chris will mind if I hijack, my inquiry is very similar:

Can I get a little feedback from the "paint all at once" camp?

I was convinced I would paint my doors, hood, and deck lid off the car. I was going to fashion up stands so I could do the doors all at once. The hood and deck lid would need masked, spray the bottom, remask and flip, then do the top side.

In another session I would do the body shell.

My uncle (many years body/paint experience but kind of old-school, ie never used epoxy before) came over and looked at what I was doing and suggested assemble then paint everything.
I explained that I was worried about getting the paint gun in to do say the inside of the doors where the hinges are.

He suggested that when I'm finishing up, use blending agent to smooth those areas out.

He said there's plenty of risk assembling finished panels.

I can see pros and cons to both, I just have to make a decision and go with it.

Right now the body and all panels inside and out are in white SPI epoxy sanded to 320 dry.

The cockpit is staying black epoxy, and the engine bay and trunk are painted.

I've had the panels on and off many times, I have drilled locating holes and made shims so I'm confident I can reproduce my dry fit.

I'm using Motobase from Chad (solid color) and UV clear.

Thanks for any input, Happy 4th!



Active Member
On some cars i use a hybrid approach. Second gen Camaros get painted with the doors hung because they are so heavy and difficult to install without help. I still get good coverage because the fenders are not installed. If you have any difficult to hang panels you could consider the same approach.