Pearls Before Swine

I dig painting bikes.

Not that I’m terribly good at it. Okay, I am willing to say that I am pretty good with a rattle can and some tape – a Rustoleum Renior, if you will. That said, I won’t even begin to pretend that my best rattle can job can hold a candle to what a good pro painter can do.


What would happen if I ditched the hardware store Rustoleum and picked up my game with some better automotive grade paint? Enter Roth Metalflake.

The name Ed “Big Daddy” Roth will be familiar to those of you out there who either dug custom cars or built plastic model kits back in the early- to mid-1960s. Roth was a true original; an innovator, an artist, and a larger-than-life personality. A genius, if you will. Cars like the Outlaw, Beatnik Bandit (yes, the same one that was one of the original group of Hot Wheels toy cars that we all played with back in the day), Orbiton, and the twin-engined Mysterion each pushed the design envelope by taking advantage of the wild shapes that were possible through the use of a new and exciting material for car bodies – fiberglass. I spent many an hour as a kid assembling 1/24th scale plastic models (by Revell) of these wild 4-wheel works of genius. Roth is perhaps even better known as a graphic artist, his masterpiece being his “Rat Fink” characters – monsters and other weirdos that were much beloved by the Hot Rod culture of the early ’60s.


Getting back to the subject at hand, Roth was also one of the pioneers of metalflake paint – deep translucent colors with tiny shiny metallic flakes in it that capture the light and make it look wicked cool. Metalflake was (and is) de rigeur on most custom car and motorcycles, even to this day. While Roth eventually farmed out the painting of his own cars to others and focused on design and building of his customs, Roth is forever associated with helping to develop the wild paint and design that goes along with the “kustom” scene.

Ed Roth passed away in 2001, but one of his sons (Lil’ Daddy Roth) has partnered with AB Kustom Painting to offer up some pro-quality ‘flakes, candies, and pearls in a rattle can that would make Big Daddy proud.

I decided that Number Three would get a “Kustom” paint job kourtesy of Lil’ Daddy Roth. After noodling it around in my head for a few days, I figured that I would go with a pearl paint job instead of a metalflake, and that Yellow Fang Pearl would look absolutely tits. The difference between pearl and ‘flake is the size of the metallic bits in the paint that catch the light; pearl is much, much smaller than ‘flake. It’s more subtle; very classy.

Shooting a ‘flake or a pearl paint job involves three basic steps: laying down the “base” coat, spraying on the flake or the pearl coat, and then finishing up with a clearcoat. The base coat is usually some sort of solid color – since the other two coats are either translucent or only semi-opaque, the base provides the foundation color for the paint job. Because I chose yellow and wanted it to end up a fairly bright color, I picked a solid white for my basecoat.

The pearl coat is really more of a tint than a solid color – you build up the color by adding many coats of the pearl over the base. The benefit is that you end up with a really nice color with a lot of depth. The downside is that you need a lot of paint. It took me four cans of the Yellow Fang Pearl to get the bike a nice, uniform shade of yellow.

A couple of words about actually spraying the Pearl coat; it’s tricky. The first coat I just sort of misted the surface with a “tack” coat to give the following coats something to hang onto and keep it from dripping and running.  After it flashed (i.e, got a little tacky from the solvent starting to evaporate), I started adding coats.  Because the paint is not opaque, you have to really work at spraying it on evenly, otherwise you get light or dark patches. As you lay on more coats, however, this becomes less of a problem as the color gets richer and darker.

As I said, I used four 12 ounce cans of paint to get the coverage and color that I wanted. This stuff is the real deal, and the result was worth the effort –

White base


Four cans later….




The paint went on very, very nicely. It is an automotive grade urethane, which is a bit of information that is necessary to keep in mind as you buy supplies, etc.  Because it is urethane, you do have to think a bit about keeping the various paints and clear coats compatible – you could not spray the pearl, for example, over a white coat of Rustoleum. Rustoleum is an enamel paint, and the solvents in the urethane would lift up the Rustoleum and ruin your job.

The frame is now quietly drying in the garage. Next up are decals and the clear coat. Stay tuned….



6 Responses to “Pearls Before Swine”

  1. 1 Touch0Gray
    August 11, 2014 at 2:14 am

    Omg……. Pearlescent yellow…… Back in 5!

  2. 4 Roger 'Snow Goose' Curtis
    August 11, 2014 at 11:49 am

    More great work and stories, Greg. I enjoyed the trip down memory lane: models, RF, and, of course, painting everything in sight!

    • August 12, 2014 at 1:51 pm

      Goose! My Canadian Caballero! Thanks for the kind words – for some reason I’ve been mentally checking out from 2014 and setting up camp in a happy place that I like to call 1967. When I was a kid we had a local five and dime in our neighborhood that had a whole aisle stocked with model kits, most of them cars. I used to hang out there for hours, looking at the models, comparing which ones were cooler, etc. When I could scrape up the $2 that they used to charge for a 1/24 scale kit I would drag it back home and spend the next few afternoons building it up. Mom didn’t mind because I was quiet and not tearing around the house. I think that this uncharacteristically calm behavior was a product of the sedative/hallucinagenic effect of the fumes eminating from the model glue that you used to be able to buy. Whatever. Like most of my peers, my skills as a model builder never lived up to the hopes and expectations that you had as a kid whenever you would buy a model kit. Most of my efforts, those paint spattered and glue smeared plasticine dreams of youth, eventually met their demise under a hail of fire from my bb gun or, better yet, were blown up and burned to a crisp with the help of some illegal fireworks. Those old styrene plastic kits used to burn pretty fiercely…

      • 6 Touch0Gray
        August 12, 2014 at 7:35 pm

        Kindred spirits…..I can only assume some of these models were “welded” together with either hot wires from a fire or old time sparklers! Also, no matter what you do with an Estes engine, a model car cannot be made aerodynamically stable. I taught my own kids how to assplode stuff with m-60’s and m-80’s, however they learned all by themselves that toy soldiers cannot be sent into orbit with bottle rockets!

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