Painting an Airstream Argosy on a Budget

Airstream Argosy Renovation

We did a lot of research before we painted our Airstream Argosy. Everyone had different idea’s, but we were on a specific budget and didn’t or couldn’t have it professionally done. We wanted good results and to be proud of the paint job but prices varied from a few hundred dollars and “just roll it on” to thousands and “bake” it on. What to do? What was the happy medium? We really wanted to do it ourselves, but were scared out of our minds it would turn out to be a disaster.

The trick here is that the Airstream Argosy is primarily made of aluminum other than the two end caps that are made of galvanized steel. So how to prime and paint aluminum was what we started with. So we started looking at a different group of people who knew aluminum better than anyone. The Marine boat people. Fisherman from all over the world have one thing in common, they have all had, owned, and fished in aluminum “john boats” and they have all painted them at one time or another. So that’s where we started. What was the best Primer for aluminum?

After a ton of research we found some of the best primer for Aluminum was Rust-Oleum Marine Metal Primer. It’s what all the Marine people use to restore aluminum boats. For a 28 foot Argosy we used 5 quarts and sprayed and brushed the primer on. We couldn’t have been happier. The cost was under $100.00

We found that it’s really in the prep work and that if you choose the right paint, you CAN really save a lot of money and have the final step look great. Especially a DIY project.

The next step was to prime the Galvanized Steel End Caps. Again we went with Rustoleum Surface Etching Primer for metal. This is a fast drying primer that is sand-able and easy to roll on the end caps. The best part of using this primer was sanding it down to hide imperfections to get a very smooth finish. Our cost: $18.94 a quart. We used 3 quarts for a total of $56.82

Now for the Top Coat. This was tricky because we used a air compressor and a spray gun. For the project we bought the 20 Oz. HVLP Gravity Feed Air Spray Gun from Harbor Frieght and used a 200 psi Compressor. The top half of the Airstream including the top, we painted with Rust-Oleum Marine Topside Paint, Gloss White. This is a oil based Urethane paint that will really make your project shine. At $15.80 a quart and what the reviews on Amazon said, this was the right paint for us. It was very easy to use in our Spray Gun and we didn’t even have to thin it. It sprayed right on.

We primed and painted over half of our Argosy for around $180.00 dollars with quality oil based urethane paint. Oh, specifically made for aluminum. Thank you Marine Boaters!

The final color for the bottom half was where we spent a few dollars but didn’t break the bank. We sprayed it on just like before using the same spray gun. We went with Sherwin Williams Automotive Body Paint. It was a bit tricky since your not buying just paint, but a mix. There is a hardner and finisher that has to mixed in with the paint. We went with a Copper color and a glossy finish. The mixing is quite easy and I was able to it all myself. Again, the time is in the prep work, not the actual painting. The cost for Automotive Paint was $600.00 for 3 quarts including Mixer and Hardner.

Using the Spray Gun was easy but there is a difference on how you pain with professional auto paint. Side to side with the first coat. Up and down with the second coat. Check your spray width and practice on something first.

All in all the biggest headache was wrapping the Argosy twice in plastic since we are doing a top half different from the bottom half. Seemed to take three times as long to prep than actually paint. Total cost of painting the Argosy was around $800.00. Not bad.