Auto Paint Question

Can a 40 year old layer of black primer be removed without damaging the painted truck lettering underneath?

When I bought the boss’ business all those years ago, I had to remove his name from the truck door, so I just sprayed a flat black primer over it. Before I re-lettered with my own name, the door was damaged and replaced. Though that truck is long gone, I recently found that original door and am using it as Garden Art.

It works great leaning against the guy wires supporting a telephone pole and I’m going to grow a vine on it. The name underneath has meaning to me and I would like to expose at least enough to make it legible.

Assuming you primered it “quick and dirty” 40 years ago - and didn’t sand it - even with the “good” oil-based primer used then, you MIGHT have a chance of getting enough of the matte primer off the glossy underpaint to read it, by using various chemicals and a rag or really fine bronze/steel/aluminum wool.

The issue is going to be that the base enamel will probably stay in place on the door, but you never really know what paint the lettering is composed of…and it’s sticking up above the body paint, so it’ll get rubbed off first if you mess it up.

I’d go at it with carb cleaner, brake cleaner, mineral spirits, etc. in a side area and try to SLOWLY dissolve the primer - no sanding - until you see what it takes to get the primer off and then CAREFULLY go after the area with the lettering.

This is done pretty regularly when restoring vintage racecars and researching the old numbers/colors/history.

Go slowly.

mineral spirits can be a milder remover.

apply in nonlettered area. try differing amounts of time left on and amounts of rubbing with a rag. when you have what seems right then test in the lettered area.

Thank you for the speedy responses! I just went out to try the mineral spirits and upon close inspection, I see that the primer has worn off below the beltline and the original yellow & red lettering is almost gone, leaving a glossier area of the factory green paint where the letters were.

Looking on the bright side, maybe that’s a desirable look. Or perhaps some hand coloring in a trompe l’oeil antique weathered style. And I can plant the vine asap.

Thanks again for the very fast and enlightening responses.

Not sure if you’ll be successful, but I’d try wet-sanding before chemical application as you’ll be able to somewhat control how much material you take off. Your local auto parts store might not have 2000 grit wet sandpaper. If not you’ll have to try an automotive paint supplier.