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Old 12-08-2012, 06:21 PM   #1
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Finish Your Finish Panel (Slightly Unsat Version)

By now, your 4thgen Firebird or Trans Am has 2 discolored stickers on the back of your car. If you're going to replace them or go for that clean black-out look, you'll need to get rid of the old stickers and clean up.

You'll need the following:
  • 600-grit sandpaper
  • 1000-grit sandpaper
  • 1500-grit sandpaper
  • 1500-grit sandpaper
  • Meguiar's PlastX
  • applicator pads
  • paper towels
  • rubbing alcohol (optional)
  • beer (only if legal for you to drink)

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Start by opening your beer. I started with a Michelob Amberboch. Open new ones as necessary. You didn't need me to tell you that, did you?

You'll need to remove the finish panel. If you pull up the carpet from under the weather stripping in the hatch, you can see behind the tail lights 4 black twistable screws. If you remove these, you can push the tail lights out of the way and remove the tail panel. The safer way is to find the 5th screw and remove the lights, too, but I'm willing to bet that most of you don't do that.

I've been recommended to try soaking paper towels in rubbing alcohol and using them to absorb the red ink from the stickers. If I had completely used this method, I would still be removing ink right now. Having completed this project hours ago, I'm going to show you my results without doing that.

Having not removed all of the red ink the recommended way, I went ahead with wetting the sandpaper and sanding with 600-grit. The red comes right up. Maintain even pressure across the entire surface. It will eventually get white and bubbly. This isn't the head on that beer you just poured. It's the sanded debris mixing with the water. Rinse and repeat until you've got a smooth surface. It should be light gray. Don't forget to do the corners. Dry it off and take a look at the condition of the panel.

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Start with the 1000-grit. If you start seeing a ghosted logo from the Firebird or the words Trans Am or Firebird on top, it's time to go back and do it again with the 600-grit sandpaper. Move up to the 1500-grit. You may see the ghosted images again and need to start over. Move up incrementally to this level again. Now do it with 2000-grit.

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If you still see a ghosted image, like I did, try doing this sanding dry. Focus on the image. If you do a small area with 600-grit, do a bigger area with the next size up. Continue until you've got a smooth, dry surface with 2000-grit sandpaper.

I hope you've been using both hands to do all this sanding. Otherwise, you'll get one big arm and one little arm, and that just looks weird.

You're going to liberally apply PlastX to the applicator pad and make circles on the finish panel. Keep rubbing until it is shiny.

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Now, it's time to remind you that your car is from 2002 or earlier. Your finish panel is the blacked out region between two tail lights, which also have black portions right at the junction. If you have polished this panel to a perfect shine, it might not look like it belongs there, so make sure your tail lights are also shiny. If you did a slightly imperfect job, it'll probably match the car better.

This took me about 2 hours.

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