A colour library containing over 250,000 shades, original paint formulations that extend back over 75 years and archives that cover virtually every factory finish in the history of automotive manufacturing in this country, mean that Manchester-based HMG Paints represents an invaluable resource for classic vehicle restorers and refinishers.
One enthusiast who discovered how helpful HMG can be is Richard Jones, a website developer from Nantwich, Cheshire, whose latest classic vehicle restoration project has taken over thirteen years. Now entering the final coachwork panelling and paintwork phase in the capable hand of specialist refurbishers Cheshire Racing & Restoration (CRR), the vehicle's topcoat and original paint system has been analysed by HMG paint experts, so that it can be faithfully restored to its authentic finish.
The cherished vehicle in question is a Dodge VK62B truck, originally built in Detroit in 1940, and it is thought to be the oldest original racing car transporter, once owned by former British hillclimb champion and a competitor in two post-war F1 Grands Prix, Dennis Poore.
Not only was Poore an accomplished racing driver, he funded the launch of motor racing magazine 'Autosport' and was formerly Chairman of Norton Villiers Triumph, then the country's biggest motorcycle manufacturer, and Carbodies, builders of the iconic black London taxi, so his place in British motoring history is assured.
Paint systems play a key role in protecting and preserving historic vehicles of this kind, at the same time helping to minimise their 'dust-to-dust' environmental impact, and HMG Paints' MD, John Falder, who is also Chairman of the British Coatings Federation Vehicle Refinish Group, is committed to maintaining suitable supplies.
"There is great concern amongst restorers and enthusiasts about the continued availability of classic car finishes," he says "So we have invested around £100k in taking our nitrocellulose car paint scheme back to the 70's, 'retrofying' it if you like by removing modern tinters and colours, leaving only authentic shades and pigmentation. We're launching this scheme through our network of independent retailers, to ensure local availability, but serious enquirers can always talk direct to the factory for technical advice and supplies."
That was the case when Richard Jones contacted HMG to determine the precise shade of green used on the Dodge's panelwork. After the war, Dennis Poore had purchased the former RAF crewbus to transport his ex-Nuvolari Alfa Romeo 8C-35 racing car to circuits, modifying the truck for its new role with a winch, ramps and canvas side awning.
The car, truck and streamlined trailer were all painted the same shade of green and Poore competed successfully in many race meetings until 1955, when he hung up his racing gloves. The vehicle was stored inside for many years, although by 1995, when Richard first came across it, the Dodge was parked outside and in a seriously dilapidated condition.
With the understanding support of his wife Lidia, Richard embarked on a painstaking restoration process, scouring the world for original parts, actually moving to a new house with a large enough garage, and eventually enlisting the help of specialist restoration firm CRR of Newcastle-under-Lyme, to move the project along at a faster pace.
Through CRR, Richard made contact with HMG's John Falder, who has a keen interest in vintage motor vehicles and agreed to inspect the Dodge's panels himself, in order to determine the historically-correct paint colour. A suitable paintwork sample was found for initial analysis by John and, later, Richard visited HMG's Collyhurst Road, Manchester works with several more panels, enabling the company's experts to identify the main system and topcoat.
The bodywork colour was revealed as Westminster Green, a shade originating in the late 40's, early 50's, which predated modern mixing schemes and was made by blending two shades of Brunswick Green with Black and Turkey Red Oxide.
Thanks to what HMG describes as 'the ultimate in weathering', the green topcoat had changed radically to blue over time, an effect caused by the lead-chrome yellow pigments darkening and weakening due to exposure to sulphurous and nitrous oxides in the atmosphere.
The other paint layers were identified as two primer coats of India Red Oxide, followed by a light brush-applied undercoat and two coats of an earlier Light Beige finish. As its corporate statement declares, HMG is 'passionate about paint' and the firm will be donating the paint system for Richard's project free of charge, because it is happy to support the preservation and restoration of historic vehicles and structures, from famous houses to warships, and since this provides a perfect showcase for HMG's revamped classic car finishes.
Once it's applied, the topcoat will be M99 High Gloss Cellulose, an automotive nitrocellulose delivering ultimate gloss straight from the gun, although in the meantime CRR has painstakingly repaired and primed the Dodge's chassis, coach body frame, cab and front panels.
Once it's complete, Richard and Lidia plan to display the Dodge at historic motoring events, like next year's Goodwood Revival meeting and the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power, especially as there has been a revival of interest in historic race car transporters of late, with Mercedes Benz recreating its high-speed vehicle of the 1950's and Audi constructing a replica of the transporter used to carry Auto Union grand prix cars in the 1930's.
But with a fuel economy of just 5mpg, such outings will be restricted to 'high days and holidays'. "This is the biggest classic vehicle project that I've taken on to date, by a long, long way," says Richard, who also boasts a collection of 30's, 40's and 50's classic cars. "With all the time, money and effort that has gone into this project, I can't see me ever parting with it!"