So You Gave Your Car A Terrible Paint Job, Now What?

Where’s the truck, right? (Images by the author)
Where’s the truck, right? (Images by the author)

There are loads of guides for DIY car painting floating around the internet. But like all complex processes distilled down to something you can “learn” in ten minutes of YouTubing, it doesn’t always look as shiny as you might have hoped. So how do you fix it? But seriously, I need help.


After years of casual searching I finally have my dream car– a running International Scout. Specifically a long wheelbase Scout II Traveler with a 304 V8, four-speed manual and freaking disc brakes up front believe it or not.

I look forward to regaling you with the tale of how my oldest friend and I talked each other into getting it over afternoon beers but for now I have a more pressing problem– what to do about this godawful redneck militia motif.

Once upon a time this truck was a beautiful Omaha Orange. I know that because there are little flakes of it showing through the door jambs and inside the tailgate. And because the previous owner told me it was “this ugly seventies orange so we had to make it a little more badass.” [Sigh.] In the original color, the truck probably would have commanded about twice his asking price. Looking at it that way, I kind of lucked out.

Anyway my man’s interpretation of “badass” was to get the four flavors of camo spray paint you’ve seen at the hardware store and make big peanuts to make the truck, well, camo.

As far as the actual execution, it actually came out surprisingly decent. I mean it’s flaking in a few places, there was absolutely no attempt made to mask the weather stripping or chrome and a close examination reveals a whole heap of prairie pinstripes (scratch marks from blazing trails through bushes on off-road adventures.)


Objectively speaking the guy successfully painted the truck. It’s just too bad he had to go with the desert meth-runner design. Also I keep losing the damn thing.

Get it? Just a little camo humor.

I would like the truck to be orange again, or teal, or green. Or maybe a nice blue. Yellow? Pretty much any single color would be fine to be honest.


Have you figured out where this is going yet?


My first thought was just to try and remove the spray paint, at least as much as possible. Maybe give it the derelict look. Then I started thinking I should just paint over it. Then I realized I might have more fun by crowdsourcing ideas from Jalopnik readers.

I want to change the color of my truck but I don’t want to spend a lot of money. I am willing to experiment though. That’s where you come in– help me figure out the cheapest and easiest solution. I will take your suggestions on advisement, and then I’ll do another post with the results of our tests. And yes, we’re recognizing that this is a temporary fix and maybe someday I’ll throw down for a real respray.


So far I have identified my options as:

  • Have a professional paint the truck. My local mechanic has said an “okay job” could be done for $3,000 with a quick-and-dirty “desperation job” at about half the price.
  • Get an even cheaper “pro” paint job.
  • Drive the truck over the border and take advantage of Mexico’s lower labor rates.
  • Chemically strip the spray paint with paint thinners and/or graffiti removers.
  • Mechanically strip the spray paint with a shitload of sand paper.
  • Some combination of those?
  • Treat the camo job like a primer, prep it and spray paint over it.
  • Brush paint it?
  • Find some unemployed hippies to paint some peace and love murals into the camo.
  • That fancy version of Plasti Dip I am so fascinated with.
  • Just fuckin’ leave it.

Normally I’d shake my head at any rattle-can paint job, but this one seems to have held up well enough. The truck was allegedly painted to its current condition in 2012, by the way, but I don’t know how it was “prepped” if at all. As in, the original body could be sanded to hell before the spray paint was applied or it might be smooth under there.


Now’s the fun part, folks. If you have ideas on how to change the color, share them! If you have insight as to what different approaches might do to metal or pitfalls I may not have considered, even better.

Jalopnik Staffer from 2013 to 2020, now Editor-In-Chief at Car Bibles


Tom McParland

Grow a big beard and wear all camo clothing. Then get one of those utility belts with all kinds of pockets for “survival stuff.” Throw a machete in the back of the truck...start saying things like “Yeah’s coming” When they curiously ask “What’s coming?” Just get real close and stare at them...then whisper very slowly “It’s coming.”

No one will ever bother you again.