This is a large subject and, I guess, anyone who has restored an old car could find a great deal to say. One document won't do it. I may have to write several chapters and this could turn out to be a major project. Nontheless, I feel that we owe it to the hobby and sport to share what we know. A tentative outline of my presentation follows:
I welcome your comments on this outline and your feedback as I expand on it. Please remember, the information is only what I know. It may or may not be the best information. It has been gleaned from nearly thirty years of tinkering with old cars and should probably be viewed as a very personal account.
I think this is one of the most important things for a restorer to get right. Unless your mind is right, your work won't be. Many of the cars I have owned were "failed restorations". Someone had started on the project and given up or become distracted after just doing a little work on the car. Typically, taking it all apart. Disassembly is, of course, the easiest part of the restoration. Within two or three days, nearly any 50's or 60's Brit car can be taken down to its last nut and bolt. But then, what does one do?
My answer is to develop an internal vision of the restored car. In fact, I do this on each one of my projects. You have to be able to see the finished vehicle and each subassembly within it. You must be able to feel your hand moving over the newly painted fender(no wobbles, please) or over the freshly reupholstered seat(no wrinkles). Your vision must be complete down to the type and fit of each fastener and the washers underneath them. Each rubber grommet must be visualized and located. Wiring must be seen and mentally rearranged until it is right. You must be able to see the finished shape of a metal body part as you are reworking it. Each gasket on the engine must be mentally fit prior to the physical installation.
How does one get this vision? Buy a parts manual for the car and study, indeed memorize, each and every parts diagram. Visit a local car club meet and study the restored cars there, but, be careful when you do this. Not all cars are restored correctly. You need to set your own tolerance here. Take lots of photos for future study. As an aside, I use an 8mm camcorder for this and find it extremely useful. Most importantly, adjust your mind so that you look forward to the "restoration" rather than the use of the car when finished. I generally only work on my projects on the Weekends. During the week, I spend my time planning and visualizing what I will be doing on the weekend. This mental planning is extremely detailed and, when the Weekend comes, I can enter the garage and go on autopilot, replaying the script I have written during the week. It works! The quality of my restorations is directly related to the quality of the vision I have generated. If I visualize a 1/2ass fender straightening- that's what I get. As a real bonus, the Weekend turns out to be mentally refreshing and I return to work the next week with a clear mind.
If you are suspecting that commitment and focus are required - you are correct. Doing a restoration, even assuming you have the required skills in metalwork, trimming and the mechanical portion of the project, is a time consuming activity. My schedule allows me to fully restore one car per year- about 30 weekends. You had better have a low maintenance family.
It is also very important to know when you are not in the proper frame of mind to work. On occasion, I will make coffee, get into my shop clothes and zoom into the garage with visions of a productive day. But, when I get started, I notice that I have no feeling for the item I am working on-I get no feedback from it. Things don't fit. Bolts break. Tools mysteriously disappear. Tubes of Permatex get stepped(or worse, sat) on. When this happens-I stop. I suggest you do too. Go do something else for the day and don't try to force yourself to overcome your poor relationship with the project. I have trained myself to know my frame of mind and look for these signals. When I see them, I know that, for whatever reason, I shouldn't be dealing with this project today. Forcing myself to continue has generally resulted in a disappointing outcome. What many people don't understand about this hobby is that most of the work you will do relies a lot on your senses. Sight, touch, and hearing all must integrate and you need to be very alert to what they tell you. Metal does talk but you can only hear it if you listen.
One of my favorite examples of "metal talking" has to do with a tool that, in my opinion, has gotten more people into trouble than any other tool I can think of. The torque wrench is so dangerous because it encourages us to rely on the position of a pointer or the presence or absence of a "click" to determine when a fastener is properly tightened. Tightening a fastener is not that simplistic. Your senses and practice will serve you better than that silly wrench. Reflect for a moment on what happens when you tighten a fastener, a main bearing capscrew for example. Assuming the main cap is properly seated, the capscrew is in good condition and the threads in the hole in the block are O.K., the capscrew should run down into the hole with ease until it meets the cap. Torque will increase rapidly to correct value after that point(less than a turn of the fastener). Suppose torque doesn't increase rapidly after a turn or two. Something may be wrong-big time. The torque wrench encourages a person to keep turning the fastener until: (a) you collapse the maincap (b) you break the fastener, or (c) you strip the threads in the block. Rely on your senses. Sure, the absolute torque value is important but, how it gets there is more so.
A fellow named Robert Persig wrote a book entitled "Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" which describes, much better than I can, what I am trying to say here. On a good day, I literally can't tell the difference between me and the assembly I am working on. You become one with your tools and the piece you are dealing with. Persig does a great job of describing this and you should strive for this state because this is when exceptional restoration work occurs. If I can't generate that feeling within a half hour, I quit for the day.
You should set high quality standards and adhere to them. If you honestly could say that you could have done a job better, do it better. Don't let it go. This principle is particularly important in metalwork. Metalwork is a layered process. The rough work occurs first say, for example, cutting some rust out of a panel and welding in a replacement section. However, this work forms a foundation for the next steps. If you didn't get all the rust, your welds were poor, you warped the replacement section or you warped the entire panel, your intermediate work will never be able to compensate for this. If your intermediate work, grinding down the welds, planishing the welded areas and removing minor ripples, isn't perfect, your finish work won't help. Strive for that perfection. Remember, it's the restoration that's the fun.
I guess to summarize this Section, I recommend you do the following:
I am not going to write a book about body and fender work here. There are a number of good publications out on metalwork and you might want to acquire them for your library. Some of Peterson's pubs. are good and you can generally find them in softback in bigger autoparts stores or bookstores. What I will say is that metalwork takes practice - years of it. Sheetmetal has a memory. It can be stretched. It can be shrunk. It can be ruined very easily. Practice is the key here. Whatever you do, don't undertake much more than you are capable of. Start with very small repairs and work up. You should also be aware that the panels on many older cars were essentially, custom fit at the factory. So, even a new old stock replacement panel might need to be adjusted. Therefore, a "small" project would not be the replacement of a rear fender on your MGA.
Replacement panels are not all alike, to boot. Some panels are made from the original dies but, in many cases, those dies are long gone and the panels may be formed around dies copied from an old panel. Depending on how they are made , they may or may not fit your car.
To further complicate matters, many old cars have been so bashed, ding'ed and bondo'd over the years that the metal has lost any notion of the shape it should take.
I was fortunate enough to learn the trade when I was fifteen. Two old coots(Otto and Gordon) ran a small body and fender shop that was located on my route home after school. I got to stopping in and talking with them. Pretty soon, I was pushing a broom. One day I asked Otto, a big old Swede with hands like ping pong paddles, if he would show me metalwork and he said "sure". He gave me a body hammer and dolly out of the toolchest, showed me a couple of crumpled fenders he had scrapped and said "straighten them". After a great deal of enthusiastic hammering, I had one "straighter" and asked him to look at it. Of course, I had done everything wrong but the old guy patiently pointed out the mistakes and showed me how to avoid them. Otto, Gordon and I screwed with those fenders for months before I wore them(the fenders) out. I spent the better part of three years after school and on Summer vacations hanging around at Otto and Gordon's watching them work and trying to apply what I thought I saw to some scrap panels. After about a year, they let me do some minor bits on customer cars. I learned the fundamentals of Oxy-Aceteylene welding, metal shrinking and stretching and how to help a panel remember what it looked like from those guys. It was great fun and I often think of them and thank them. Thanks Gordon. Thanks Otto. The attention and respect you gave me encouraged me to learn a skill which has lasted a lifetime.
Anyway, metalwork is truly learn by doing. You can't pick it up from a book but books can help with your technique. Your tools will tend to be specialized and some will be expensive. It's dirty, noisy and can be dangerous. Protective clothing is mandatory and steel toed shop boots essential.
Good. Then buy a couple of books on metalwork so you will appreciate it and will be able to communicate with the body and fender person of your choice. Limit your efforts to the occasional touch up of a rock chip in the fender.
I'm sorry, but I will try to help. Firstly, the application of heat is a cornerstone of body and fender. You need an Oxy-Aceteylene welding outfit and you need to know how to use it. The equipment isn't that expensive, $300.00 will buy you an outfit that will last you the rest of your life. I am using the outfit I bought used when I was 20, thirty four years ago. Tell the salesman what you will be using this outfit for and he will fit you out with the appropriate tips. You do intend to buy your outfit from a proper supply house don't you? Welding can really be dangerous so you need some good training in how to use the equipment and use it safely. A local Vocational school could be the answer. A basic gas welding course gives you about 80 hours of instruction and should get you to the point where you can glue some metal together adequately. Lacking that, visit your local welding supply store and pick up a good welding text. Hint: some of those stores will offer instruction in the products you buy from them. This route will take you longer but welding is learnable on your own. Buy some "black" sheet metal from a sheet metal fabrication shop and practice-practice-practice. Do Not practice on galvanized sheet metal, the stuff that's most commonly available at your local hardware store.
Secondly, start to accumulate some tools and establish a relationship with your local body and fender supply outlet. At least where I live, there are a substantial number of Weekend body and fender bashers. Us weekenders generate a surprising amount of business for these stores and are generally welcome. I am down to my supply house so much that I have an account there and pay shop prices for most of the stuff I buy. The following list is a list of equipment I won't do without. I have *ed the items that you should consider essential in your start-up toolset.
The above should get you started. Remember, you gotta be serious to want to do this.
Thirdly, pick a starting project. I suppose what I will now say will raise a few eyebrows but the best starter project I can think of is the repair of a fiberglass body section. Glass is butt ugly to work with. Those miserable little fibers go everywhere and, unless you protect yourself, you will itch for days. I use paper painters' overalls. They run about $10.00 each and have elastic around the cuffs. A stocking cap and dust mask and I am all set.
Although glass is ugly to work with, it has a lot of advantages for the beginner. You can glue parts together and repair cracks easily. About the only thing you can't do is whump down the high spots. Perhaps, to give you an idea of what's involved, I should take you through the restoration of the glass components on my Lotus Seven.
The Lotus Seven has fiberglass fenders and a fiberglass nosecone. The apparent problem with the pieces on mine was primarily millions of stress cracks on the panels and lots of star shaped cracks where rocks had flown off the tires and hit the underside of the fenders. After I had them stripped down, more fundamental problems became apparent. One fender had been repaired before and badly. The repair needed to be redone and involved cutting a section of the fender out and laminating in a replacement section. The fenders had been painted twice before and the paint was too thick for proper adhesion.
Rough Work Phase
Strip all pieces down to the original gelcoat. I used the rotary sander and 36 grit. The disadvantage to this method is that it leaves a lot of scarring and gouging that will have to be filled later. On a metal peice, I would have used heat to soften the paint and old filler. Paint remover is another option but, with multiple layers of paint, it takes forever and is expensive and leaves you with a bunch of usually toxic junk to get rid of.
Be careful with that sander! 36 grit cuts like a knife. Try to do this work outside where the dust won't do as much damage. Keep the sander moving on the work surface and only use the weight of the tool as pressure on the work.
Survey the damage and plan what needs to be done. Each one of those millions of hairline cracks in the surface from stress or rock damage needed to be routed out and re-glassed in. Depending on the size of the crack and its depth, the routing ranged from about 1/8th inch to entirely through the panel. Glass cloth patches were cut and layers of cloth and mat were saturated with resin and catalyst and laid into place. After patching and before the resin cured, I placed a layer of saran wrap over the wet resin and smoothed the patch out with a spatula.
Reinforcements were bonded to the underneath of the fenders in high stress areas.
The badly damaged area was cut away with a saber saw. A cardboard patch was taped to the underside of the fender covering the missing portion. The edges of the cut were vee'd back about one inch. Layers of glass cloth and mat were alternated and applied to build up the required thickness. The saran wrap trick was used again on the top surface.
Damaged edges of the fenders were ground back to undamaged glass and built up again to the aproximate shape.
All pieces were visually checked to determine whether they had any deep wobbles in them. By that, I mean Ripples that couldn't be worked out in subsequent stages. The roughed in parts were trial fit to the car and locating holes drilled as required.
Dirty work. It was incredibly boring searching for all those hairline cracks and routing them out. Molding up the new portion of the fender was fun though and I found the reinforcing of the high stress areas gave me a chance to be a bit creative. Discouragement tends to set in at this time. You have been at the project for weeks now and all you have is a bunch of dirty, lumpy looking parts.
The Intermediate Phase:
Get your long board and sand it over each panel using 80 grit. Your objective is not to remove much material but to locate the high spots. Stroke your board diagonally across the panel-not back and forth. When you find the high spots- it's decision time. On a metal panel, you would probably try to pick up the low spots by hammering from underneath. You could also try to hammer down the high spots. The peaks and valleys could be a sign of stretched metal which you could shrink thus pulling out both the high and low spots. Can't hammer on glass so you either need to file/sand/grind down the high spots and/or fill the low spots. Depending upon the thickness of the panel, you might be able to grind enough off the high spot without undue weakening of the panel. Since Lotus panels are very thin, I built up the low spots with Bondo.
Now we are not talking much build-up here. About 1/8th inch max. Think about this. Your rough work has to be pretty good to leave ripples of 1/8th inch or less in a 4-5 foot fender. Identify the low spots and squeegee on a layer of Bondo. Wait until the Bondo "just" sets and scrape the excess off with your Vixen file or what's called a cheese grater. You have about 5 minutes to work with the Bondo. After that, it sets up quite hard and will dull your tools. Now use your long board again to identify remaining low spots. Repeat the bondo process until the panel is smooth. Smooth both fore-and-aft and sideways. You will get lots of practice with your long board at this stage.
Start to make use of your hands now to detect surface imperfections. Continually rub your hands along the surface of the panel. They are quite sensitive to surface imperfections and will, if you train them a bit, detect warps and wobbles in the panel your eye will not see.
Still using 80 grit sand down the entire panel with your long board and sanding block. Pay particular attention to edges and corners of the panel. Edge repairs need to be properly blended into the main portion and the agressive sanding you used to remove the original paint might leave sharp edges on the panel. These edges need to be radiused.
Spray on a heavy double coat of primer serfacer. I like Ditzler's "Kondar". Primer surfacer is a prime coat that has a heavy solids content. The solids will fill scratches in your panel and very minor wobbles. After the primer is dry, sand most of it off using your long board and sanding block. Don't be surprised if more high spots appear. Go back one step if they do. Prime and blocksand until ripples and surface scratches disappear. Don't let the primer build up on the panel. You need to sand most of the primer coat off before you apply another one. Your objective is to use the particulate matter in the primer to fill in surface imperfections.
Change to 120 grit. Prime and sand until 80 grit scratches disappear. Fill minor imperfections with spot putty.
Change to 200 grit. Prime and sand until 120 grit scratches disappear.
This finishes up the intermediate work. You may have primed the panel 5-7 times during this process. Its important that the primer be dry thoroughly before you proceed. Depending upon the weather, you might have to leave the panel 1-2 weeks for your primer, bondo and spot putty to thoroughly cure.
This phase is tedious and repetitive. Don't get discouraged. You need to strive to get every scratch and wobble out of the panel. It's disappointing because a smooth panel can mysteriously develop bumps when you go to the next finer grade of sandpaper. Keep at it.
This is the paint prep phase. Depending on your choice of topcoat, you may be able to get away with a final sanding of 220 grit, but, since I use lacquer, 400 grit is required. You also now need to be careful of any contamination of the surface from grease and oils(including the oil on your body). For my final sanding prep phases, I generally wear rubber surgical gloves.
Sand the primer down with 400 grit wrapped around a sanding block. Your objective is to get a smooth surface, not to remove a great deal of primer. Mysterious lumps may again appear in the panel and you will need to repair them by going back to an appropriate phase in the procedure. Sand and prime bare spots until the surface is smooth and flat. Tack off with a tack rag. You are now ready to paint.
Things start to get fun about now. The end is in sight. Resist the temptation to hurry.
Painting the Color On
This step comprises under 5% of the total effort of a paint job yet this is the step most people talk about and think about. The color coat(s) is only a very thin layer of material. It can't cover up any imperfections in the prior step nor can it stop any sort of rot or corrosion from spreading. It has no structural strength. Pardon me for not spending a great deal of time with this step but, I am of the opinion that, if your basic bodywork is good, you can spread color on with a rag or brush it on and, after suitable wetsanding and compounding, will have a pretty fair paint job.
I use acrylic lacquer for my color coats. It is more labor intensive to apply and requires a little more upkeep but, in my view, is much more suitable for the amateur than other systems. It is a very forgiving system. For example, if you make a mistake, you can wait a very brief time for it to dry, sand the mistake down and respray. Try that on some other systems. It is also much less toxic than other systems. I won't touch some two-pack systems without a forced air respirator and you shouldn't either. So, for my money, it wins hands down. Here's how I do it.
The first thing you need to know is the paint code of the old paint if you are going to match the original color of the car. This paint code will translate into mixing instructions which will let your body supply place mix the correct color for you. Finding paint codes on old cars that translate into usable mixing instructions is getting tougher and tougher as the years go by. Paints themselves are changing. Newer pigments are replacing older ones and some pigments are discontinued altogether. My best advice is to look for a supply store that has been in business for a while(the longer the better). They tend to hang on to their old mixing instructions and paint codes and you will have a better chance of finding a match. Failing that, have the paint supplier call the manufacturer and ask the manufacturer to research the code. I have found PPG to be particularly good at this.
The next thing to do is decide how much paint you are going to need. You should always add a quart to your estimate to provide extra paint for touch up down the road. A roadster body and both sides of the hood, doors and fenders takes me about 6 quarts of color(plus that extra quart). Get the store to mix the paint in gallon cans and ask them for a generous supply of stirring sticks and strainers(which should be freebies). Ask also for an empty one quart can to store your excess touch up paint. Lacquer needs to be thinned about 1.5 to 1 with a thinner so, pick up a couple of gallons of thinner. Thinner comes in several different temperature grades for spraying in different room temperatures and ranges from very "hot" which evaporates quickly, to "slow" which evaporates slowly. Use slow thinners for hotter temperatures and final coats and hot thinners for cooler temperatures or spot repair. However, I would suggest that you wait to spray your finish coat until the temperature is between 65-70 and the humidity is low. I turn out the best paintjobs when the temperature and humidity are just right. You can force the color coat to behave by using a hotter or colder grade of thinner to compensate for ambient temperature but, I think the paint goes on just that much better with a standard grade of thinner on a 65-70 degree afternoon.
OK., you have your color and thinner. What's next? Clean up the spray area and I mean clean. Don't even think of trying to spray paint outside. There's just too much dust and too many bugs, birds and pets waiting to be magnetically attracted to your wet paint. Roll the car outside and blow it off with an air hose-every nook and cranny please. Tack it off again. Cover up all the dirty things in the garage with dropcloths and wet down the garage floor. Finally, clean yourself. Take a bath and wash your hair. Change into some clean clothes that fit tightly. Button the sleeves. One speck of dark dust embedded in a coat of white paint will make a believer of you. Check your equipment. Drain the water out of the compressor tank and all line filters. Clean your spraygun and then clean it again. Blow the car off with compresed air and get that air into every nook and cranny on the car. Tack the car off and blow it off again.
I am not too sure that your equipment has a great bearing on the quality of the finished job. I have done quite nice paint work with a $29.95 gun and a little 110v compressor but, better equipment does save time. My gun of choice now is a gravity fed Binks which really talks to me. I have about a 10cfm nozzle on it and use a 5hp, two stage compressor. I regulate the spray to about 20psi and get a nice pattern. Anyway, the only thing you don't want is a gun that leaks from its seals or around the cup or that won't cleanly shut off paint flow when you release the trigger. If you get one that does anything like that, take it back or throw it away. It will materially shorten your life.
Are we ready to paint yet MA? No, not quite yet. We have to mix the paint with the thinner and this can get tricky. Your paint gun has a one quart pot-most likely therefore, you will need to refill this pot with a paint-thinner mix of exactly the same viscosity perhaps a dozen times. Lacquer is finicky about thinning. A little(and I mean like one splash) too little thinner and you will blow on a color coat that has the texture of a sandy beach. A little too much thinner and your paint will wind up on the floor. Get it just right and it will flow out as smooth as a baby's bum. READ THE THINNING AND APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS ON THE PAINT CAN. They were put there for a reason and they will give you a good place to start. I use different size paper cups for mixing. If you want a 150 to 100 mix, get cups that solve this equation. 16ounces=1.5T+1.0C Where C is color and T is thinner. I know, this is one equation in two unknowns but, don't worry. A six ounce cup(or one marked at six ounces) will do for C and then 1.5 times that or 9 ounces will do for T. They total 15 ounces which is close enough for government work.
Open one of the paint cans and stir the snot out of the paint with one of your stir sticks. Heavier tints will tend to separate out of the mix so keep that paint well stirred whenever you are mixing. This step is important with any color but is vital with metallic paints. Pour six ounces of color into the paint pot and then nine ounces of thinner. Stir well. Assuming the ambient temperature is 65-70, a standard grade of thinner should work for you. If it is a little bit hotter, you might want to thin your mix a little more.
At this point, you need to spray a test spray. You know what it a spray pattern should should look like so I won't bore you with that. An old piece of cardboard works fine. Adjust the gun until you get a proper pattern. Your adjustments are air pressure and fluid quantity. You want a sufficient quantity of air passing through the spray tip to atomize the paint and you want enough paint flowing to deposit a full, wet coat of paint on the surface. So, play with those adjustments until you can slowly pass the gun across the test panel and leave behind a full, smooth coat of wet paint on the panel. You should be leaving about a 10-12" stripe of paint on the test panel and it should be very glossy and wet.
The rule I use in painting is three double coats of paint are enough. In other words, you will paint the car three times, each time leaving a double coat of paint on it. You might want to paint the inside of a fender first, or the inside of the trunk so, if your mix and adjustments aren't right, the results won't be terribly obvious. So start painting. Once you start, don't screw around, paint it quick. You shouldn't be spending more than 1-2 minutes on a panel. Lacquer dries super quickly and, if you piddle around, you will never get a smooth coat. Start out by putting a bonus coat around the edges of the panel. One good heavy coat. Then put your first coat on the panel horizontally. The paint should be going on wet and should look glossy. Without stopping, place your next coat on the panel vertically and again, the paint should be going on wet and glossy. Look at the panel now. Has the paint flowed out and absorbed the drier paint on the edges of each stripe of paint you sprayed? Do you have a uniform level of color on the panel? Is orange peel minimized? Is the drying paint glossy? Is the paint sagging or running ? Do you see sanding scratch swelling? If you can answer yes to the first of these questions and no to the last two, go for it and put the first double coat on the rest of the car or panel you are working on. If not, back off and think about the problem.
If you are getting just a little orange peel or roughness on the coat and you know you weren't moving the gun too quickly across the panel, you might want to go to a 1.75 to 1 mix. I wouldn't go any thinner. If the coat is grossly rough and the overspray looks like grains of sand embedded in the coat, you are either grossly out of mix or your thinner is way too "hot" for the temperature in your spray room.
When you get to the exterior of the car, start your painting on an inner panel, like the center of the hood or the center of the roof. Why? If you paint the fenders first, you will have to lean over wet or semi-dry paint to paint the middle of the panel. Air hoses, zippers and stuff like that can make a mess out of semi-dry paint so start from the inside and work out.
Let's assume you have the first double coat applied to the car. Leave it alone for about an hour. The paint should be dry in that time. Now go back and look at it. It won't look great. At this point you don't have enough color on for the paint to really look good but you shouldn't have seriously rough spots or sags or runs. Anyway, if you do, don't get discouraged, the paintjob will still be OK, you just have more work in store for you. Wetsand the first coat with 600 grit wet or dry sandpaper. Your objective here is to remove overspray and the millions of little imperfections that will appear on the first coat. Wetsand off the roughness and prepare for the second double coat. Depending upon the quality of your first pass, this can be 1/2 hour of sanding or it can take you the rest of the day.
Anyway, when you are done wetsanding, blow off the car and tack it off again and mix some more paint. Put on the second double coat. Repeat the process for the third double coat.
Assuming your paint is flowing out well and the results of the third double coat look OK, you can call it good and go have coffee or you can have some more fun. Lacquer is very friendly and you can do some neat things with the final coats. Regularly, I will mix up a fourth coat of a 2 to 1 mix using very slow drying thinner. This places very thin layer of paint on the car which, because of the slow drying thinner, flows out beautifully, melting all the overspray from the third coat into the paint surface and leaving you with a very high gloss finish. Or, you can get a couple of quarts of clear lacquer and put a fourth double coat on. This, when wetsanded and compounded out leaves the paint looking about a foot deep. Or you can do both.
Leave the car alone for about a week after you are done painting. Then go over the paint with 1000 grit wet or dry sandpaper to remove the last vestiges of orange peel. Wetsand until you have dulled the entire paint coat then use rubbing compound to bring back the shine. I use a power buffer and Ditzler's Power Buffing Compound. If you use a power buffer, you need to be careful. Although it seems as if you have put a lot of paint on the car, you really haven't. Your color coat might only be .004-.005 thick and a power buffer will grind that off in no time. So take care particularly around the edges of the panels(that's why I always put a "bonus" coat of paint around panel edges).
You can buff the paint by hand and it's really good for your upper body and arms. Do maybe a square foot at a time. If you have done your wetsanding completely, the shine and depth of the compounded area will just about knock your socks off. It will look good!
Well, congratulations. You have done a paint job. And, as far as I am concerned, you can be real smug about it. Just wait until someone asks you who did that really cool paintjob on your car. Someone will and there's nothing like replying "me".