“A car has it's own emotions and heart... you have to love it accordingly.”

That's the thought that runs through my mind whenever I go and check out my car, a 1993 Mitsubishi Lancer GLXi. It's no sports car or dedicated racing machine but judging by the way Juan Manuel Fangio used those famous words, any car owner who takes pride in his or her ride can relate.

The years had taken quite a toll on my car that it looks like a shadow of its former self. The photo above was taken in 2005.

The sun had really gone to work on fading her (yes, my car is a 'she') paint. Her interior had seen far better days. The bumper and fender have been misaligned by a collision with a dog during a drive to Tagaytay; thankfully the dog survived. Her left rear door was hit by a student driver who was still trying to figure out the difference between the gas pedal and the brake pedal while I was having dinner. Oh, and she also went for a bit of a dip during Typhoon Ondoy... right up to the door handles.

The time had come for some work to be done to the car, so we set out to work on it as the AutoIndustriya.com Lancer Restoration Project.


The right partner: MJ Autoshop

Mechanically, the car was still fine, but she needed serious bodywork. Bumps, dents, scrapes, scratches and faded paint meant that it would need a full scrape.

For this project, we tapped the expertise of MJ Autoshop. The shop owned by Mon and Jem is located conveniently at the back of Metrowalk along Meralco Avenue in Pasig, and they've got quite a few great custom cars under their belts. If you remember, they were the team that handled the race-spec Chevrolet Cruze that competed in the Philippine touring car scene.

Simply put, these guys know their stuff and stand by it. Most shops out there have a tendency to prey on people with too much money and/or too little taste when it comes to customizing automobiles, chasing the all important bottom line: sales and profit. All too often new car owners end up like they went a little mad whilst shopping at Concorde, Blade or Banawe.

Mon and Jem won't let you do that, especially if their shop's name is at stake. They won't let you blow your money on gaudy wings, exaggerated paint jobs or over-the-top accessories. They'll give you proper advice on how to sensibly modify and customize your car. Some are so stubborn and insist on their wild ideas that MJ Autoshop would flatly deny that they did that car.

So, after meeting with them, we agreed upon a straight restoration, focusing on making my Lancer as period-correct as possible with a straight and simple paint job.


Picking paint with Axalta

After consulting with Jem, we headed on to High Land Trading, International, the company that distributes DuPont automotive paints. As it turns out, DuPont has undergone a rebranding internationally, and thus the new name for the product is now Axalta.

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The shop itself, located along Shaw Boulevard in Pasig City, has so many color swatches for you to pick from, but I already had my eyes set on a striking shade of red. To put it bluntly, I wanted a shade of red similar to the one on the new Mazda6: Soul Red.

I knew that I simply had to have a similar paint job on my car. As it turns out, candy tones such as Soul Red have very complex painting methods. In the case of this shade, it involves a lighter, metallic base coat (in this case, metallic pink) and a tinted clear coat (red tinted) to achieve the candy tone effect.

Given the paints at HLT International it's very doable, and the paint experts there -through the use of specific formulas from their computerized paint mix database- there were able to give me a spray out of a color very similar to Soul Red. However, after consulting with MJ (who can do the job without a hitch), doing touch-ups for the inevitable stone chips, dings or scratches would mean repainting the whole panel. Candy tones aren't very easy nor are they cheap to maintain.

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As such, I settled on a simpler shade from Axalta, and it's a metallic color from the Renault swatch: Rouge de feu. Fire Red, in english.

With that chosen and with a variety of other supplies needed such as paint strippers, primers, clear coats and other chemicals, I headed on back to MJ to deliver them.


Stripped and ready

Arriving at the shop a few weeks later, I saw my car in a state of being stripped.

MJ Autoshop's had been working to remove the original coats of paint. I had acquired the car in 2005 when I got my first job after college. Seeing it stripped of paint is bittersweet to a car owner, but it's necessary for a new, incredible shade of red.

After removing the thick layers of primer meant that the bare metal of the shell was exposed for the first time in a long time. Being the second owner, it appears the car had undergone a collision repair before, as evidenced by the taps and bumps on the bare steel next to the fuel talk cap.

MJ will get to work on that and the many other bits and pieces on the shell, and get it ready to take on a new, prouder color from Axalta.

As with any project, this is going to be a journey. Catch Part 2 of the AutoIndustriya.com Project Lancer in a few weeks' time. Next up is priming the body, reviving the 2-liter 4G63 and restoring the interior.