I really enjoy changing the appearance of a car, and would like to give you some ideas on what you can do on a budget to make your car stand out.
(This story is also available as a VIDEO by clicking HERE)
Back in December 2019, I bought a 2004 Honda CRV to use for winter driving and to haul things when needed. I originally looked for a true project vehicle, but found a really nice one in Columbus, OH. This one checked all the boxes:
- Well maintained
- All Wheel Drive
- Spacious interior for passengers and cargo
My friend, Steve Clark, referred to this Honda as “Grandma’s Ute.” That is either a really nice compliment for Grandma, or a dig at the mild nature of this sport utility. I suspect he meant the latter.
Either way, I was planning on making significant changes to it. That description just accelerated my plans!
Tires and Wheels
The first thing I did was install larger tires and change the color of the wheels from silver to black. I only went up one size in the tires, but it made a big difference in how the vehicle sits. The wheels were “painted” with Plasti Dip, which I covered in another video (click HERE for that video).
Contemplating a Complete Color Change
This is where it gets interesting, as I decided to do some paint work on the Honda. This may seem intimidating for some, but hear me out. There are a lot of good resources to taking this next step. I painted a lot of wheels in my day, and even painted a 1970 VW Beetle (see the car in question in the article “Cheap and Fun Vehicles” for the whole story). In order to tackle a real repaint, I knew I needed some more training.
Learn Auto Body and Paint
I found a really good online paint course at LearnAutoBodyandPaint.com (LABAP). The young man who runs that site, Tony Richie, is terrific. He learned to paint at an early age and openly shares his knowledge and experience through really good instructional videos.
Whether you are looking to do a full repaint or just interested in spot repair, Tony can help you out with his instruction. He also has a YouTube channel where he conducts a weekly live session to share new ideas and answer viewer questions. I tune in to each of those, and always learn something new.
Tony spends a lot of time helping others, so I feel compelled to do the same for him. Thanks, Tony!
I am not going to do a step-by-step on the process I used to transform my Honda, but I would like to hit the highlights below:
Roof and Hood
While the paint was in pretty good condition, I did not like the dark red (“Chianti Red” in Honda terms). Within a three house radius of mine, there are FIVE dark red SUVs. That was just tioo much for me, so I decided to paint the roof and hood a SATIN BLACK to give the CRV a tougher look.
I used a satin black paint from Rust-Oleum to tackle this job. A quart can was more than enough. I thinned the paint with acetone and used my paint sprayer to apply. This was a one day job from start to finish (sanding, masking and painting).
Full Color Change
About two weeks after I did the hood and roof, I decided to go full speed on a full color change to the Honda. This project is NOT a one day job, but it is doable with some patience and time.
Preparation and patience is key to getting through a full color change. My paint was in good shape overall, but it had a lot of rock chips and a little rust. I was able to correct both with a lot of sanding.
After sanding and thoroughly cleaning the vehicle, the big time consumer was masking off the areas not to be painted.
This prep took me about 25 hours to do. It wasn’t hard, but since I wanted to paint the door jambs and inside of the doors a lot of tape and paper was needed!
Before I committed to a color change, I sought inspiration for color from some familiar websites: Pinterest and Instagram. Check out the pictures I pinned HERE.
I follow a lot of automotive accounts, so I had a lot of choices for ideas! I kept coming across Suzuki Jimnys, Jeeps and Toyota Land Cruisers in a khaki tan with black. I already had a lot of black trim on the CRV, so tan it was!
If you are considering a similar project, you have a good number of online paint sources. They all offer a nice color selection as well. Here are the ones I considered and the one I chose:
TAMCO Paint Products
Summit Racing has a series of paint products called “Hot Rod Flat” that I selected in Desert Tan. It was the right shade of tan for my project and Summit has awesome customer service! I ordered this paint on a Friday night and it arrived on my doorstep the next day before noon. Wow!
Once I got the paint and had the CRV masked off, painting began. Spraying this single stage urethane paint was fairly easy, and took maybe two hours to lay down two medium coats of paint.
Urethane paint dries pretty quickly, but I waited overnight before removing the masking tape/paper and reinstalling the weatherstip I moved to make way for the new paint. I am really happy with the result, and think the transformation is dramatic.
This inexpensive Honda CRV went from a basic SUV to a pretty bold looking truck. All said, I spent less than $200 in materials to do the wheels and body paint. Yes, it took time and effort, but so do all good things in life.
Not all vehicle upgrades need to be this involved. Let my project provide you with some inspiration to tackle one of your own.
Please reach out to me if you have any questions about your project ideas or if you want guidance on finding an affordable vehicle to fix up.
I am here to nurture your automotive interests.