Bare Metal Car Finish – How to Preserve It from Rust?

It’s becoming very popular to make project cars not only powerful and fast but also beautiful and unconventional. You may have heard about dozens of methods to change the way your vehicle looks. Painting, using different films, applying alternative materials, etc. But there are some really unusual ways that can surprise you.

Today, we’ll tell you about the bare metal finish for cars and how people achieve it. It’s not that easy to make and maintain, so you will obviously want to know the secrets. We’ve talked to some guys who have already done that to their cars and now we perfectly know what you should and shouldn’t do once you want a bare metal finish for your vehicle.

Here’s what you will read about:

  1. Bare metal finish – what’s this and why is it popular?
  2. What problems can you have after sanding off all the paint and primer?
  3. How to preserve the good looks of your bare-metal vehicle?
  4. What are other alternatives you may like?

Let’s get started!

What’s a bare metal car finish? And why is it so popular?

Well, we can’t say it’s a very popular way of treating cars. But talking about project vehicles, more and more car enthusiasts tend to choose this option. It doesn’t mean you’ll see a lot of bate-metal cars out there on the street, but if you visit a special meeting of a club with car tuning enthusiasts, you will obviously find a couple of such vehicles.

A bare metal car finish actually means that the metal parts of the car body don’t have any paint on them, so they are bare. At the first glance, the car looks like someone forgot to paint it. But eventually, this looks beautiful and draws attention. And that’s why a lot of car enthusiasts started opting for this way to deal with project vehicles.

Here are some important things to consider:

  • most of these vehicles have some chrome parts, but they are not very shiny, they are even clouded a little to not create any contrast;
  • such cars usually come with chrome or silver wheels and all accessories are also in these colors to make it look cool;
  • some owners buff the surface so that it looks like aluminum while others prefer to leave it untouched after they sand off all the paint coats;
  • this method is mostly used for older classic cars from the middle of the previous century, not for newer vehicles;
  • the method requires an absolutely great body with no rust and other defects on it, otherwise, the replacement of a car body part is needed;
  • this is a really hard-to-achieve car finish, so you will have to spend weeks of your life tending to it.

Well, now you know what’s bare finish for a car and you remembered some vehicles you saw on the street that seemed to be unpainted. Whether you like it or not, this is becoming one of the mainstream in car projects, so it will be good to know how exactly they do this and what they use to prevent immediate rust spots on car bodies.

We understand that this type of car finish has nothing to do with practical driving. But most people will use it exclusively for aesthetical purposes, not for enhancing practical aspects of owning a vehicle. And you should also consider that not all cars will look good with a bare metal finish.

What problems can you get with bare metal finish?

As you may predict, to achieve a beautiful bare metal finish, you will need to work hard. Also, some problems may disturb you from getting a long-lasting effect that would make you satisfied with the results of all that hard work you have completed. Unfortunately, not all car owners who started the bare-metal-finish project with their vehicles were successful. Some of them decided to repaint their cars in the end.

The problems you may get are as follows:

  1. Once you finish peeling off the paint from your vehicle, rust will start working on it. The first rust spots will be there in two days if you don’t do anything to protect the vehicle.
  2. Bad looks. It may be that the color of the metal in your vehicle is not very much the same. One door may look darker than the other and this will create the feeling that your car is Frankenstein.
  3. Poor design. Some accessories and other parts of your vehicle may look bad like door handles from plastic, rims, bumpers, rearview mirrors, etc. All of these parts may be too different from the overall bare metal finish and this may lead to problems.
  4. Problems with the vehicle design. Some cars look good with a bare metal finish while some other vehicles don’t. And you can do nothing with this – just put up with the fact and paint the car back.
  5. Not a shiny surface. Bare metal doesn’t always look really good. Sometimes, your vehicle will look like someone took off all its clothes from it and it’s not always beautiful. Of course, you may do something to enhance its looks.
  6. Damaged car body parts. When your vehicle is painted, some small damages are not very visible. But when you are working under a bare metal finish, even a tiny spot of rust or any other damage will be crucial.

Old cars are almost never perfect. They may have some rust, deformation of body elements, welded elements, etc. You will have to replace some elements and this also may be a problem. Where will you find a fender for some vehicle that was made in the 1960s? Even more, this fender should be with no rust, welding, and any other damage on it.

So, preparing a bare metal finish and ensuring it looks good may take a lot of power and money from you.

How to protect the bare metal on your vehicle?

One of the most important questions is how you should protect the metal. If you don’t come up with a conclusion, the metal will just rust away and leave you with a bare-rust finish. This is also one of the streams in project cars, but it needs more money and enthusiasm to maintain the vehicle in a certain condition.

So, the metal will start rusting almost immediately. After you sand off the last coat of primer from the vehicle, you need to apply some protecting materials without leaving the car even for a day with no protection.

Here’s what you may do:

  1. Cleaning the body of the vehicle to remove all dust. Checking up the car body for any remains of paint or primer and sand it off. Then, the final cleaning is needed.
  2. Letting the metal body parts dry in a safe place where no dust will stick to them.
  3. Using a protecting material like boiled linseed oil (BLO) or some other oils that will create a firm film over metal. The main task is to prevent air and moisture from penetrating this film.
  4. You will most likely need several coats because after a single coat of BLO it’s almost impossible to ensure the perfect sealing.
  5. After that, you will need to let the protective material dry. It may be a couple of hours for BLO or some days for other oils. Follow the guidelines.

Then, your finish is ready. But remember to refresh the coats of BLO or any other oils you have used. If you don’t refresh them, in half a year you will see the first rust spots on the car body.

Boiled linseed oil is often used on a car body if you need to preserve the original metal finish. This material is relatively affordable, its drying time is not that long, and it’s a very easy-to-use oil to apply to a car body. That’s why you should try it or choose an alternative that will also create a good cover on the metal parts of the vehicle.

What are other alternatives to bare metal finish?

We should tell you that a bare metal finish is not for everyone. First of all, you may not like the way your vehicle looks after you invest a lot of time and money. Secondly, this is a very demanding type of finish and you’ll have to invest constantly in maintaining it.

So, you may find some alternatives:

  • using an aluminum-like paint on your car body;
  • using special films that cover the car body parts and may be of any design;
  • artistic car painting with different effects and patterns;
  • using matte silver paint to create the effect of bare metal.

Nearly all of these methods will allow you to use bondo to level some car body parts. Also, these are less demanding finishes that are also more affordable.

Final words

We perfectly know that not all of you will want to agree with all that headache that bare metal finish brings. But if you have a project car that just asks for this, now you know what it takes to achieve a good result. We also recommend getting all the job done in a special place where dust control can be carried out. Otherwise, the finish will not be as smooth as you want.