Stephen Bell has added a second 7,600-square-foot building to his shop Classic Investments, which has a showroom and dedicated paint and body department.The crew at Classic Investments performs service and restorations on Italian, German, and British vintage cars.A Garmat Zephyr downdraft paint booth (left), complete with a custom logo cut from the surface metal, is the centerpiece of the new paint and body department at Classic Investments. A new Mattei rotary vane air compressor supplies air to the paint and body department. In the foreground is a 1967 Maserati Mexico, a barn find from Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jason Hallmark)

Classic Investments opens dedicated paint and body department

It’s not uncommon to spend three months prepping the body of a car that takes only one day to spray

Englewood, Colo.—When the paint job is the first thing the customer sees after a restoration, it’s critical to get it done correctly, says Stephen Bell, owner of Classic Investments, a shop specializing in the sales, restoration, and service of Italian, German, and British vintage cars.

It’s not uncommon to spend three months prepping the body of a car that takes only one day to spray, Bell said. Since the shop works on rare cars such as a 1960 Aston Martin DB4 with an estimated value of $1 million, paint is vital, he said. “Paint is visual, so it’s very time consuming.”

Every step of the body restoration process is examined under the proverbial magnifying glass, Bell said. “We look for cracks and defects that could spook us after it’s painted.” 

Rather than rent paint booths at nearby shops with varying conditions, Bell decided to purchase a 7,600-square-foot building across the street from his existing shop on South Mariposa Street, converting it to a dedicated paint and body department with an attached showroom. The vacated body area in the original 8,000-square-foot building will allow more space for metal fabrication and a detail department, Bell said.

Parts & People visited with Bell after he completed the $300,000 Aston Martin project in July.

A large supporter of local business, Bell said the choice, purchase and install of a 31-foot Garmat Zephyr downdraft paint booth was an easy one, especially since they’re manufactured less than a mile down the street. The installed booth also features a Classic Investments’ logo cut into the surface metal above the doors with the booth’s mechanicals in the rear to accommodate a tight space.

In addition to painting their own jobs, Bell said the booth can also be rented by discerning painters.

Bell said he purchased the booth from John Baker, owner of John Baker Sales, Colorado’s authorized Garmat distributor, who also supplied the shop with a new Mattei rotary vane air compressor.

“It was simpler in design with less moving parts,” Bell said, comparing the Mattei to the more common rotary screw design that is less forgiving due to tighter tolerances. “It’ll be able to supply adequate air to the booth and four bodymen at the same time,” he added.

The Mattei compressor, rated at 31.8 CFM, contains no bearings that eventually wear out, Baker said, adding that it uses bushings that spin at 1,800 RPM or less, resulting in 50,000-hour life expectancy before needing to be rebuilt on the air end.

Paint David Bernheimer joined the shop’s eight-man crew, Bell said, an experienced restoration painter from Utah. He’ll be spraying PPG’s Deltron solvent base coat supplied by Finish Master.

LED lighting is used exclusively throughout the body and paint department illuminating it much the same way as a detail bay. A fresh coat of epoxy has also been applied to the floor for durability and cleanliness.

Now that paint is performed in house, the only thing the shop doesn’t do is machining and chrome plating, Bell said, leaving his crew to do everything from powertrain rebuilds, rearend rebuilds, electrical, aluminum and metal fabrication, and even upholstery.

“Many of the cars contain aluminum, which has a higher degree of difficulty to cut into, weld, straighten, and shape,” he said. “We try to repair them like they did back in the day,” he said, “even using lead on steel panels.”

Attention to detail is what separates Classic Investments from the competition, earning awards for many of their cars.

At any given point, the shop is working on approximately nine vehicles, whether they’re partial restorations or complete ones.

Currently, the shop is performing a complete restoration on a rare 1969 Lamborghini Miura.

The owner of the car wanted to make sure the restoration was accurate so he paid for Valentino Balboni, Lamborghini’s original chief test driver in 1968, to visit the shop to examine the restoration and help the technicians with the accuracy of the job.

One car that Bell is particularly proud of is an award-winning 1960 Aston Martin DB4, he said. Period photos were sourced to replicate factory “his and her” leather luggage that fits snugly in the trunk of the car. The car has won concourse de elegance awards in Florida, Michigan, and Colorado.

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.

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