KYLIE Perry has a grin like a lottery winner as I shake her hand. “We’re finally here!” she almost giggles. She steps back from the task of masking to take a daydreamy look at the shape of her and husband Adam’s incredible Tailspin project. Then, with an almost unbelieving shake of her head, she snaps back to reality, darting back to the front of the car to continue getting it ready for its coat of colour.
As Street Machine has revealed with regular updates over the past couple of years, the building of Tailspin, a back-to-front FB Holden, has been an incredible task: from the original sketches by artist Linda Vesperman that appeared in our old Expression Session section in the early 1990s, to a mock-up created from a rusty FB and Nissan turret, and finally to the completed body you see here.
Now, with more than 8000 hours invested by Kylie, Adam, and their hands-on car-crafting mentor Howard Astill, it’s time for paint.
Just minutes before Tailspin is to be rolled into the booth, Howard notices a tiny inconsistency on the tail’s lower valance. He calls Kylie over; the craftsman and his understudy get their heads together, squatting down and eyeing the lines.
“You can’t do this just by sight,” Howard says.
Kylie completes the sentence: “You gotta do it by feel.” Thankfully, it’s an easy rectification, but it highlights the concentration on perfection that’s required for any top-shelf car build.
Right on midday the first coat goes on: a mist of Scansealer to promote adhesion between the primers and the top coats. Firing the guns in the state-of-the-art booth at PPG’s Sydney training centre are paint gurus John Hristias – known to many street machiners as a long-term Summernats judge – and wing-man Casey Calis.
“We had to do a bit more prep – surfacing – of the car when it got here,” John explains.
“That’s why it’s the two colours of primer. The Scansealer helps. With primer, you have two or three days’ window of opportunity to get the colour on. After that it goes rock hard and you don’t always get the adhesion. This assists with that.”
Twenty minutes later, the duo applies a coat of grey to conceal the two primers.
“That’s actually a base coat, not a primer,” John says as he and Casey click out of the booth for a breather. “It needs to be even under the top coats. The colour coat is a film; it’s see-through and if you don’t have a consistent shade under it you can run into problems with the appearance, especially when you wheel it out into the sun.
He offers another good tip. “People edge-in the door jambs and shut the doors and paint the outside, but they might end up with 10 coats of paint on the panel edges and only four over the surface; you can end up with an inconsistent finish.”
At 12:45pm, John and Casey are back in the booth, guns loaded with paint. It’s 24 years since Vespo’s sketch and nearly four years since Kylie, Adam and Howard began metal-morphing. With the paint about to be applied, this is the moment of truth.
But Howard slices his fingers across his throat – stop work! He enters the booth and checks something low on the passenger door.
Happy – or maybe deciding to deal with it later – he resumes his position outside the viewing glass of PPG’s broadly windowed training booth and the lads pull the triggers again. Five or six minutes later, there’s enough colour over the whole car for us to see the hue.
Kylie is absolutely beaming as the colour goes on. John and Casey are sneaking up on the coverage, Casey making sure the ends of the car are good, while John widens the fan of his gun and walks the length of Tailspin, making sure there’s an even colour basecoat from nose to tail.
After half an hour or so, the pair come out for a quick break, and 125
another three containers of paint mix go through the door before they get back into applying colour.
Just before 2pm, the boys consider the colour job done, clicking out of the booth and lifting their masks. In colour, the car looks incredible; as many street machiners know, applying the paint is an enormous step in any vehicle build, and the application of the glorious PPG Deltron/Vibrance custom lime gold has tied this car together; it’s made things whole.
We’re all enthralled, with grins like split watermelons. There’s lots of good-hearted banter between the crew, taking the mickey out of each other. John has obviously noticed Howard’s intense scrutiny of the car and its colour: “Oh, so you reckon you can paint, do you?” he chuckles to Howard.
“Yeah!” Howard shoots back. “And if I didn’t think you could paint, I’d tell you to fuck off and do it myself!”
There’s one person who should be here sharing the joy, but isn’t: Adam Perry is at work in Canberra, so Kylie is keeping him in the loop with smartphone pics. “Oh, looks okay I guess,” he texts back cheekily after seeing the couple’s five-year project in colour for the first time.
There’s one or two more serious discussions, too. Ever-vigilant, Howard leans up against the window with his hands beside his face, looking at the car’s bootlid. He seems to have spotted an issue.
“You can’t see it?” he enquires.
Later, Howard admits it took him a few minutes to realise what he was ‘seeing’ was in fact trick of the light – a reflection of the
booth’s doors that skewed his perception of the finely crafted bodywork. “I’m looking so hard at it,” he confesses. “I know where all the joins and everything are and I want to know: Did I get it right?”
The car is baked in the booth – 60°C, 20 minutes – before a couple of litres of clear top coat are readied for John and Casey by PPG colleague Terry Noble.
“We’ll put three coats of clear on this now to seal it in,” John says. “The real money is next week; we’ll cut it back with 400- to 1000-grit sandpaper and then flow-coat it with the car disassembled.”
The first clear coat takes around half an hour, Casey and John moving symmetrically, almost telepathically, around the car to build up a substantial coat of clear. They are in the booth until nearly 4:30, with more and more pots of clear being offered through the door as it is being consumed. Tailspin metamorphosises from a dry, dusty-looking green to a lolly-yummy sunny golden lime.
Colour on; clear on. The lads click out of the booth for the last time. There’s a cocoon of silence, everyone involved just staring at the car, soaking up the moment.
Eventually, Kylie quietly mutters one word: “Wow.” s