Restoration » Paintwork


As the name suggests, coach painting developed to decorate horse drawn coaches and carriages and its origins date from several thousand years BC. The art form flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries when lead and linseed oil-based paints were used to produce highly coloured, glossy decorative and protective surfaces.

Finely hand painted and positioned lines known as coach lines further enhanced the shape and appearance of coach bodies, wheels and chassis parts, and these decorative processes became elevated to folk art with diverse applications such as narrow boat painting, furniture decoration and illustrative sign painting.

The age of steam saw new advances in coach painting techniques and further refinements in paint technology as huge locomotives and accompanying rolling stock needed to be efficiently and consistently decorated to a very high standard using the ancient method of applying liquid paint by hand held brush.

Today at Thornley Kelham we use all paint types available; wherever possible consistent with your car's original finish. We still offer coach painting by hand, and regularly use - and prefer - nitrocellulose, which gives a deep finish which improves with time and polish.  Solvent - based two pack paints, both solid and metallic, and occasionally, modern water -based paints. Whether we purists like or not, water-based materials will be need to be adopted increasingly in the classic car world. 

Regardless of the paint type, we achieve a consistently fine finish through meticulous surface preparation followed by careful application in a fully controlled environment. We have invested in two modern paint booths with all current features - low bake cycle, large volume air circulation, temperature and pressure sensors and so forth. 

It is easy to forget the time and care required to prepare and finish the underside, interior and engine bay of a car, and we offer various options in terms of underbody protection.

Our services also extend to detailed airbrushing - we can repaint old dials and gauges either as original or to match other instruments on your dash; and sign writing, which will be used in house on both commercial and historic competition vehicles. Finally as shown on our Automobilia section, we can design and paint a sign for your garage to you requirements - great fun - they add a splash of colour and humour to your car's home!

We also ensure that all componentry is fully prepared, primed and painted as necessary prior to reassembly - no bare metal surfaces anywhere, and an attention to detail that maximises longevity.