Wednesday, October 3, 2018

I Love The Smell of Wrinkle Finish Paint In the Morning

It smells like Ham Radio!

Wrinkle finish paint has quite a history in high-end radio gear and test equipment going back to the 1930's, and probably earlier. Wrinkle finish is different than "Hammertone" which is more of a "splotchy" looking metallic paint. Wrinkle finish takes longer to dry and cure to full hardness than enamel or lacquer normally used, but it can be accelerated with heat.

And once it's fully cured, it's durable! That stuff is like shark skin, and just laughs off bumps and scuffs that would mar other finishes. I used it on the valves covers for my Firebird, and after a few heat cycles that stuff was vicious if you slipped and scuffed your knuckles against it. It felt like about 60 grit, and acted the same.



So anyway, it's durable, and all the "real" radio gear I saw as a kid was wrinkle finished. If you've ever seen any WWII radio gear from an aircraft, you know what wrinkle finish is. And it has a very distinctive odor to it, unlike any other paint or solvent I'm familiar with. Even years after it's been painted, if you have "The Nose", you can still smell it. Not unpleasant, but distinctive. Part of the allure of old vacuum tube radios is the way they smell. The hot tubes with dust and other dirt on them, the big power transformers, the paint and plastics used to make the radio; all give the radio a unique aroma, like that "new car smell", and the heat they emanate make them seem alive. All the Ham Radio projects I home brewed back-in-the-day were wrinkle finish black. It just looked so cool! So professional.....

I'm not sure when car manufactures started using wrinkle finish paint, probably soon after it was invented. The famous "Red Heads" on the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa were wrinkle finish red, giving the car it's moniker.

A REAL Testa Rossa:

Usually the fins and lettering are brushed after the paint is sanded off to make them stand out.

So with my fascination with wrinkle finish paint, and cam covers that woefully needed refinishing, I set off to refurb the set of covers I had collected. In previous episodes here I talked about using paint stripper to get the crud off the insides, and then I block sanded the fins and lettering to get all the corrosion removed. I solvent cleaned them, and took advantage of today's 80* weather to paint them.

Intake side cam cover:

Exhaust side cam cover:

After the paint cures, probably a week or more in this weather, I'll store them in the basement until Spring, at which time I'll bring them out, and sand the fins and lettering back to nice and clean, paint the lettering, and then shoot a coat of hi-temp clear engine enamel on them to keep them nice and shiny.

Should improve the view here considerably.


  1. I like the wrinkle finish you've chosen. Yes, it will be distinctive.

    1. Wrinkle finish and I have quite a history. Been using it on automotive stuff for years.

  2. Not as elaborate but took advantage of the nice weather to "restore" the headlight covers on the Taurus. First, a good cleaning with a Brillo pad then wash with clean water. After drying, masked off the body then sprayed them with a few thin coats of clear enamel. Looks better, and brighter last night driving.

    1. I've used plastic polish and a buffing pad in a drill before. Never tried a Brillo pad, but I'm sure it would work.

      I need to do the ones on my Jeep. They're really yellowed and cloudy.

  3. Wrinkle paint is awesome, those cam-covers will set off the engine nicely.


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