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HTSpec TSX Redeux: Part 5, Tearing Down For Paint

  • Posted: 03-19-2014 02:00 AM
  • HTSpec TSX

Dawdling around, trying to decide what to do next on the HTSpec TSX, we escaped to procrastination by choosing an ironic task: Planning. The sun is peeking through grey skies with increasing frequency here in the Pacific Northwest, which is to say, it has a couple times over the last month. That got us thinking that spring may be coming. The following thoughts were with regard to the upcoming Eibach Meet, where we expect to show the TSX off to a couple Honda folks.

The Eibach Meet happens in Southern California in the first weekend in May. That gives us just a tad over six weeks to fit our body kit, strip the car down, and paint it. Then reassemble the whole works, try to do 100 other things to it before loading it on a trailer to get it down to Socal, which in itself is a two day drive one way. Initially, it seems as though there is plenty of time, given we have most all the parts we need.

Then we remembered a cardinal sin that is so often committed in time-sensitive projects. Never over-estimate the importance of your job to a total stranger who has other things to do. We have no idea where the car is going to be painted, or how long it will take to be completed. If this were Orange County, we’d have a shop all lined up. But here, we were starting from anew.

Without getting into the details of the interviews that were conducted and which shop had been chosen to do the work, yet, this writing is to share some of the fun moments of our teardown and test fitting.

This paint job entails two important factors that each raises the complexity, and cost, of the job. First, an aftermarket body kit is being put on. Aftermarket body kits are notorious for not fitting correctly at first whack. The Mugen aero package that is being installed consists of a front bumper and year wing made in fiberglass, as well as side sill garnishes and a rear under spoiler made in polyurethane. That means that, if infamy holds water, two of the most obvious and distinctive styling elements of the package won’t fit well. That means possible custom work, and that freaks-out body shops.

The second complexity is that this is a color change. There is one really great time to paint a car; when it is being manufactured. Any time after that is not so great. It is a trying task of attempting to hide the fact that the car has been repainted at all. Are the jambs done? Is the engine bay done? What will pulling the door handles reveal? Is the old color under the rain gutter moldings? License plate lamp covers?

Fabrication and depth of paint application increase both the man-hours and materials needed to complete the job. There is that moment when the paint-man needs to tell you the cost of the job at hand. They must quote enough to scare you away in case you are not serious, but also not so high to scare you off if you are. That balance must coincide to cover the expense of the job in case you do take it, which even when priced on the high end can not be enough sometimes.

Suffice to say, we found a shop to paint our car. We’ve agreed to tear down the car as much as possible (or desired), fit the aero pieces prior to painting, and deliver the car ready for prep.

On to that task!

The first part of the HTSpec TSX we tackled was the rear and trunk areas. It is surprising the amount of “stuff” attached to the car back here! One thing just leads to another. Fastline spoiler and emblems; off. Then we proceeded to remove the tail lamps which meant stripping the inside of the decklid and much of the inside of the truck. The bumper cover came off to reveal a mirad of other bits, such as the drains for the sunroof pan and the vent that allows air out of the cabin when the “fresh air” button is pressed on the dash. Taking off the trunk latch and striker? Why not? Oh, back here we can access the fuel-door release actuator? Let’s dig in. It seems like more bits came off this area of the car than any other single area.

With the rear torn down, it seemed to make sense to drill the hole for mounting the Mugen wing. Conveniently, this wing uses factory mounting locations (see the little dimples? Drill there). Thank you, Hirotoshi-san.

Ok, so when we say 17x9 +48 with 255/40s with natural camber don’t rub, that is a stretch of the truth.

This TSX did have some form of an altercation prior to our ownership. We bought the car knowing that the left rear had been repainted. Careful inspection at the time revealed that much care was taken in repairing it, although with the bumper and all other parts that would hide damage removed, we can see a residual scar. We call this “character.”

After the rear end and trunk, we cleared out the rear doors, stripping them nearly to the bare metal. It really is best to do this job as completely as possible. The best way to keep overspray off components where paint is not wanted is to remove them. Along with the doors, the sill garnishes were removed which involved rmoving the rear seat bottom. Under it we found many leaves and Cheerios. Unfortunately, there was no change.

Due to the positioning of the car on a 2-post lift, the front doors were not accessible enough to tear those down. We moved on to the front end of the car next.

This image gives a pretty good lay of the scene. The scuffed, worn, pitted, tired front end of our TSX really is due to come off, while Mugen boxes in the distance hold parts waiting in the wings, so to speak. The Bridgeport Kingpin Double Red Ale in our tool cart stands watch and eases things along.

Our CT Engineering intake horn is looking rather dirty. We’ll be cleaning, or replacing, all the items we take off while the car is in paint.

Our JDM bumper support, awaiting a test fit of the new Mugen bumper.

Before removing the headlamps and with the factory bumper cover removed, we test fitted the Mugen front bumper. We were pleased to find it fit quite well, and required very little fiddling or fuddling fit it in place. Perfect? Not quite. But anything this close is saying a lot for a fiberglass part so large and complex.

We pulled as much as possible out of the front frame areas after the headlamps were removed. Tucked the wires into the engine bay (yuk yuk). And even now, reviewing these pics, there is more to pull off.

Even though a carbon fiber hood is to be installed on this car, we are electing to paint the stock one. Why not have the option? To paint the hood completely, it makes sense to pull the hood insulator down.

We removed the cowl and got a good looking at our long-overdue-for-a-change cabin air filter.

We are stopping short of painting the engine bay. It might seem lazy or silly to skip this process right now, but there are a few reasons to avoid getting into that job now:

  • The engine is still in the car. Without removing the engine, it is not possible to get paint in all the nooks and crannies of the engine bay.
  • We don’t really have a lot of time to pull the engine. Well, in truth, we could pull the engine, but that turns into a slippery slope. These days, “engine bay” work involves shaving, tucking, polishing, plating, and otherwise massaging bits that don’t make the car perform better. We aren't about to dig into the engine bay without really making it unique and customized.
  • While making the car look presentable is important to us, we’re not out to win the show circuit. Frankly, removing items from the engine bay are not on the agenda, and won't likely ever be until this car becomes a dedicated track machine.

We’re lumping 40+ lbs of supercharger in there, and keeping the AC and ABS. It doubtful the engine bay will be anything more impressive with the hood open than it will be from behind the wheel. So while it is probable that the engine will come out at some point soon, and we may well be having the engine bay painted at that time, it is not important to do that immediately.

In our next installment, we will present the wrap up of our tear down, as well as dropping the car at the body shop.


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