Painting Over Lacquer

Joe in NY

First off, I am NOT an experienced painter. In spite of that, a friend has asked me to help him repaint the roof on his '35 Ford coupe. He believes it's lacquer and is flaking. Does the old paint have to be completely removed to bare metal? What kind of primer/paint would be best to use here? There will be blending where the roof line meets the body so we'll be painting over some lacquer there at a minimum.


Paint Fanatic
Staff member
Must be stripped then epoxy, 2k primer, base and clear.
Blending into lacquer, I smell problems ahead.
My 2 cents worth shape of car your friend should pay the money for a professional to do, but most likely they would insist on stripping the whole car before they did a thing and a 20 to 25,000 bill would be involved.
The matching color will be another issue.
I remember working on a car and running out if icing, with a little spot left to repair around the jeep embossed logo. All the auto parts store had was the red bondo spot putty, which is lacquer based. Put it on. let it dry, sanded, primed and it bubbled. Sanded it all out, filled again, waited overnight, primed and it bubbled. There are a few things I consider alive. Epoxy flakes falling off plastic and burning into the urethane paint, brand new silicone masking plugs that usually raspberry around holes I plug when they are new, and lacquer. There might be a way to sand the lacquer, then wait like 2 months for it to solidify again, then seal and try to go on top, but I am not going to be the one to try that.

The million dollar question, or maybe 2 bits, is how can you find out if it is a lacquer or not? If it was recently painted, like over the last 20 years, there is a chance its urethane. Is there a test? I am thinking white, you would maybe, just maybe do some kind of a uv light test. Mask an area, then put a blacklight over it for a while, unmask and see if it changed?

Probably doing the usual of overthinking things, but if you could find out it was a polyurethane somehow, you would be saving alot of work. I would expect the poly to hold up well to the uv but the lacquer discolor. Any thoughts?


Trying to be the best me, I can be
Joe trust me when I say this, just say no, or convince your friend to do it correctly meaning strip the body and use modern materials.

The problem with lacquer is that it is not resistant at all to solvents and even using lacquer trying to blend into old lacquer is going to be difficult.The solvent will start to "melt" the old lacquer in blend area. If it's nitrocellulose lacquer (really old stuff) forget it. Hopefully it's acrylic lacquer. You may have a chance then, but if you are not experienced this could turn into a nightmare and you may even lose a friend.
Fresh lacquer in good condition, spot repair is relatively easy. Trying to do it as you describe the only way to blend it in to the existing finish is to use all lacquer products. Lacquer primer, then color and blend it in and rub it out. You will have to rub it out (blend area)to get a seamless repair. That assumes you can blend and have enough experience to see what is going on with the old lacquer as you are trying to blend. What color is it? Getting a match in lacquer will be an issue. But if it's old then color match is only going to be approximate anyways due to aging. It will stand out unless the rest of the vehicle is near perfect (paint wise).
Just a bad idea IMO.
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Wow, blending with acrylic lacquer! That brought me back to the 70's! Sorry, nothing to add here you have been well advised.