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Most people find it hard to believe my 1973 FJ40 still wears most of its original paint (aside from the newer doors I installed and had matched, and a couple of repaired areas). Despite having sat uncovered in the Arizona sun for at least 26 years of its life, the paint still glows with a hand application of Classic Car Wax (until the brand disappeared) or Mother’s California Gold—no ceramic coatings, no polymers, just good old-fashioned “wax on; wax off” cleaner and carnauba. I’ve lost track of those who ask me where I had my Land Cruiser restored.

That is, until they walked around front.

Thanks to the thousands of miles of dirt roads the 40 has covered, it has over the decades collected what seems like thousands of tiny stone chips, which stand out like a bad case of acne once one gets closer than ten feet. I imagine as the paint has aged it has probably become more brittle and thus more prone to chipping, as well. When I had the new doors painted a few years ago I got an extra pint of the match and painstakingly dabbed dozens of chips on the edge of the hood, the front clip and fenders, and the windshield surround. In the intervening years, however, another couple hundred have appeared. The can of paint had long since petrified, so I went online to one of the paint companies specializing in touch-up matching, and looked up the chart for a 1973 Land Cruiser in white. The first company led me to a color coded 040, so I ordered a tiny $20 bottle of the stuff.

Not even close. It was way, way too white.

Back to the research. Several people online swore my color should be T12, Cygnus White, and linked me to a color chart of 40-series colors in the early 70s. And there it was, overlapping from 1970 to 1975. Perfect. Except . . . in looking for the paint I found this offering at Cruiser Corps:

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Well, my fiberglass top is and always has been a distinctly whiter shade of white than the body, which is distinctly off-white. Still, several forum members swore Cygnus White was the body color on their early 70s FJs. So, I ordered another $20 mini bottle.

And it, too, was too white. Not, perhaps as too-white as the first one, but not a match. Now I was down 40 bucks with nothing to show for it. Back to the forums, and this time someone suggested Arctic White, 022, which on another chart was listed as a 1973 color for Toyotas—but not specifically Land Cruisers. Ugh. Do I risk another 20 bucks for a few CCs of maybe?

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No. I decided on a different route. I pulled off the locking fuel filler lid and took it up to Finish Master, a professional auto paint supply store in Tucson. When I explained to the counter guy—whose name I should have recorded—he at first demurred. “We’re mostly a professional supply source; we don’t usually do small batches. And what we make is designed for spraying; it’s pretty thin. What kind of vehicle is it?”

When I said, “It’s a 48-year-old Land Cruiser,” he perked up. “Really?” He thought for a moment. “Well, look, I can match the paint with our camera, and you could just build up layers if it’s too thin. But the smallest amount I can sell you is a quart, and it will be $40.”

“Done,” I said. He thought for another moment, then said, “You know, since you don’t need that much for stone chips, I could take some of it out and make up two cans of aerosol. It would be an extra $24.”

“Seriously?” I said. “That would be great!”

He took the filler flap and scanned it. “When can I come back?” I asked.

“Do you have ten minutes? We’ll make it up right now.”

This just kept getting better. I waited; ten minutes later I had my paint, which proved to be an excellent match.

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I used the can to dab chips on the edge of the hood and fenders. I tried to fill in each one to slightly above the level of the surrounding paint, and then sanded it all flush with 1500-grit sandpaper, brought back the finish with rubbing compound, and finally applied the Mother’s California Gold.

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Looking at the front apron, which was particularly loaded with acne, I decided to try the aerosol. So I pulled off the apron, cleaned it and sanded it with 800-grit wet-and-dry paper, and started spraying on layers. The paint went on well but, as I’d been warned, in thin layers, and the stone chips still showed up behind it, so I bought some lightweight polyester filler and faired in most of the tiny nicks, then resanded and repainted. After three or four more coats I smoothed out the paint with rubbing compound, then went at it with the Mother’s California Gold.

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And, well, it looked pretty darn good when I was finished—certainly not the mirror finish a professional painter would have achieved, but it shines well and looks ten thousand percent better than it did. Since it is such a discrete part of the front of the vehicle, any slight contrast with adjoining panels is difficult to see.

Overall the improvement is astonishing. From a couple of feet away you can see the repairs, but from ten the work is nearly invisible.

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