Heigh Ho Silver!
I'm fascinated by the wild artwork I see on trucks at shows and in magazines. I have a decent natural artistic talent, so I've been trying to master as many airbrush techniques as I can. I drive an older Chevy Astro van with a million miles on it. I've lowered the van and put better wheels and tires on it, but it's basically a beater. That works out fine because I'm using it for my practice canvas. I'm painting it inside and out, one panel at a time.

My question is regarding using silver paint with white paint as highlights. I've been trying to do graphics where it appears as if the metal is ripped or if one object is coming out of another. I've done airbrushing that looks like rivets and other fasteners. I'm trying to make white highlights along edges, for example. The problem is that in some light and from some angles the highlights look more like gray mistakes or goobers than how they're supposed to look. Can you suggest some way of getting better results? Should I use a different color for highlights? This problem seems more prevalent when the silver paint has the highest metallic content. Thanks for your help.
Dario R.
via e-mail

Your problem is due as much to the reflective qualities of metallic paint, especially silver, as it is to the paint you're using for highlights. In the right light, the metallic silver "metal" can be considerably more reflective than the white highlights. That can make those highlights look gray, dull, or like mistakes.

The solution for more reflective white highlights is to tint the white with a small amount of the same silver used for the main metal graphic. You'll need to experiment as to how much silver to add, but you just want enough to make the white more reflective. You don't want to overdo it and turn the white into silver or gray.

Adding some silver is the easiest, least expensive solution, but you can also make the highlights more reflective by adding pearl pigment or super-fine flakes to the white. You can also use pearl white for the highlights. House of Kolor offers a wide range of pearl and flake additives plus pre-mixed pearls.

A benefit of using opaque white with some added silver is that the white will cover faster. Pearl paints can be so transparent that they can take several coats to get the desired highlights. Like any custom painting technique, the best way to find a solution usually involves lots of experimentation.

Bumper Truck
I can't afford a new truck, and the prices of '67-'72 Chevys are getting awfully expensive, especially for the rusted old hulks we have around here. My solution was to find a very nice '84 Chevy 1/2-ton shortbed Fleetside that had always been stored during winter months. I'm slowly customizing the truck, which leads me to my question.

I think the stock bumpers look like highway guardrails. I know I could remove the bumpers and install roll pans, but I'd like to keep the bumpers and only make them look better. I'd like to make the front bumper fit tighter to the fenders and get rid of the rubber rub strip. Michigan doesn't require front license plates anymore, so I'd like to fill the factory license plate recess and make it smooth. I'd also like to get rid of the visible mounting bolt heads. What's involved in making a better bumper? Do you have any other ideas for modifying the bumpers? I want to keep them chromed.
Dave M.
Dexter, Michigan

We agree with you about the guardrail-looking stock bumpers. Building a smoother, more streamlined, tighter fitting front bumper would be a huge asset to the truck's looks. What you need to do is slice and dice the bumper. Since the bumper will have to be re-chromed, you'd be better off starting with an un-chromed bumper. Various aftermarket truck parts companies offer new replacement bumpers. Some companies offer bumpers without mounting holes. That saves the work of filling the stock holes, but you'll have to refer to your present bumper to make the attachment points for the bumper braces.

Since you're going to eliminate the license plate recess, that's the perfect place to narrow the bumper. Depending on how tight you want the bumper ends against the lower fenders, you'll probably need to take an inch or so out of the middle. A plate will be needed to fill the remaining recess. This will involve a considerable amount of welding and grinding. You'll need to make the area seamless, as you can't chrome plate over body filler.

To mount the bumper, you'll need to remove the heads off standard bumper bolts and weld them inside the bumper, so they align with the holes in the bumper brackets.

If you really wanted to make the front bumper more svelte, you could section it about an inch. This is much more complicated than narrowing the bumper. The cuts have to be precise, and you have to compensate for the bottom-to-top slant of the bumper ends.

The final touch is to find a quality bumper shop that can put a show chrome finish on your handiwork. The resulting bumper will be a great improvement, but it's a lot of work. When you add up all the work involved, you can see why many people opt for roll pans.

Bad News Bearings
I bought a '94 Chevy S-10 pickup with the 2.2L four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. The clutch was totally shot when I bought the truck, which was why the price was so low. I barely got the truck home it was slipping so badly. The previous owner said he had planned to replace the clutch but ran out of time and interest, and decided to sell instead. He already had a new clutch disc and pressure plate, which he included with the truck.

It was a lot of grunt work, but I installed the new clutch without any major problems. My problems started a short time later. Things worked reasonably well at first. There was normal resistance when I depressed the clutch pedal. Then, over the next couple weeks, it got harder and harder to shift. It just didn't want to go into gear.

I'm concerned that there was more wrong with the truck than just a worn-out clutch. That might account for the eager seller. Is there something else I should check? Is this something I can check and fix without going through the whole clutch removal/replacement drill? I hope you can help me. Thank you.
Bill B.
via e-mail

We hate to "shaft" you by "bearing" bad news (corny clutch humor at your expense), but it sounds like you forgot to replace the pilot shaft bearing, also called a pilot shaft bushing. You didn't mention anything about the pilot shaft bearing, and since you got the parts from the previous owner he might not have gotten a new bearing or neglected to give it to you. It's not a large part. It looks sort of like a thick washer.

Most parts stores will strongly suggest a new bearing when they sell you the other clutch parts. Considering its nominal cost, it only makes sense to replace the bearing while the clutch is out. Even if you think the bearing is in excellent condition, never take a chance. Always replace the pilot shaft bearing. If you buy a quality clutch replacement kit, it should include the bearing.

The pilot shaft bearing supports the transmission input shaft. A damaged bearing makes shifting difficult, if not totally impossible. Hopefully, you spotted the problem before the bearing got badly damaged. A damaged bearing can be a bear-we crack ourselves up-to remove. You may need to rent a special puller to remove the bearing. Using force such as a chisel will cause hard-to-repair damage to the mounting surface.

Inspect the bearing surface of the transmission input shaft. Check carefully for signs of scoring. If it's damaged in any way, it should be replaced. When installing the new pilot shaft bearing, use a pilot bearing installation tool so the bearing fits squarely and completely into its mounting area.

Wise Guys
As a graying member of the auto world, I found a lot to agree with in your column about the old speed shops. I had an occurrence similar to your own. I was looking for parts, and when I said it was a small-block Ford, I might as well have had worms crawling out of my mouth since it wasn't a Bow Tie engine. But, enough of that. I am a retired mechanic and hot rodder that works for one of those chain discount parts stores, and I know I'm the exception, not the rule. All of the things you mentioned are probably true in most stores. Heck, I've gone into several stores and never even been acknowledged for being alive-not only auto parts stores either. I am an ASE Master tech with auto body experience who got tired of the constant outlay of dollars for high-tech tools. So instead, I share my auto knowledge with our customers for their auto and truck parts needs. There are a few of us older guys that are doing that because of the love of the automotive field. I am beginning to realize that I am becoming one of the "old guys" I used to go to for answers. In short, I guess I'm trying to say not all discount auto stores are like what you mentioned. When customers go to the store, they should look around for the older guys because they may be able to help you out. But, you were fairly correct.John Cockie
via e-mail

Thanks for the letter, John. Indeed, you are the exception to the rule, and like Mr. Hankey, we feel the world needs more wise guys like you to make purchasing the right parts less frustrating.