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To be perfectly honest, painting tips from me will be about as basic as it gets, I'm no expert. Surface prep is where 95% of paint jobs go bad. That's usually where my paint jobs fall short.

If you want a show-quality finish there is no substitute for stripping everything to metal. If all you want is a better looking tractor, it is not necessary to strip all the way to bare metal. Seal openings and remove things like the carb and ignition components. Then give the tractor a really good power-washing. You will need some scrapers and wire brushes to help remove caked-on gunk.

Please do not skip the step "Seal openings and remove things like the carb and ignition components." Power Washing is not the preferred method of cleaning your tractor on a regular basis. There are very few ways to more quickly and thoroughly screw up carburetors, distributors, air cleaners, gauges, and electrical components than squirting them with high-pressure water.

Remove all dirt and loose paint. Sand smooth and feather-edge any drools and chipped areas. This is a good test for loose paint. If you can feather-edge the chip or scratch without flaking off more paint, it must be stuck pretty good. Now is the time to do any serious body-work or cast iron repairs. It is possible to braise or weld cast iron. You can even use liquid metal epoxy for some repairs or cosmetic work.

Air Compressor, Rattle Cans, or Brush?

Many very nice paint jobs have been done with rattle cans or a brush. Using a spray gun does not guarantee a better job. If you already have an air compressor, almost any cheap spray gun is a good investment. One quart can of paint, applied with a spray gun, will cover as much as about 12 rattle cans. Painting with a brush takes much longer and generally uses a lot more paint than spraying. For small parts and small jobs, it's hard to beat the convenience of the rattle cans. For over 30 years my preference was Rustoleum. Unfortunately that changed when Rustoleum forgot how to make a rattle can that would squirt without clogging. I returned the first 3 or 4 cans that clogged after reported the problem and lot numbers to Rustoleum. I assumed it was a bad lot of paint, but then none of the replacement cans worked well enough to shoot more than 10% to 25% of the contents. It appears that the paint is either full of lumps, or drying on the way out of the can. Even after shaking the can for several minutes before spraying, the nozzle soon starts to clog. I've cleaned and even drilled out nozzles only to have the cans clog up internally. I had very few issues with the old style rattle can with the little male nozzle. Plus, those little nozzles were universal. It was possible to swap nozzles from many different products to get different spray patterns. No more, Rustoleum redesigned the can valve and nozzle. This may have been intended to make the nozzle larger and more comfortable to use. As far as I am concerned the new valve and nozzle design is an utter failure. After doing a few web searches, obviously I am not the only person having this problem with Rustoleum rattle cans.

Final Preparation

No matter how you plan to apply the finish coats, DO use a good primer that is compatible the paint you are going to use. Without a good, compatible primer, finish coats of paint do not stick well to the bare metal. Spend some time making sure the surfaces are clean, smooth, primed, and ready for paint. This is the step that has the most effect on the quality of the finish. Start with one light coat of primer. Then inspect the panels and any repairs. How good did you do on the bodywork? I like to block sand with fine or medium grit sandpaper to reveal high and low spots. Small imperfections can be filled with primer by spot-painting them and sanding until you build up enough primer to fill the imperfection. The sheet metal is plenty thick enough for traditional hammer and dolly work. Some folks will use a skim-coat of bondo and then sand the panel, leaving bondo only in the low spots. Once you are satisfied with the bodywork, shoot one light coat of primer on everything. Let it dry thoroughly, then sand with fine (180-220) grit paper, or use clean steel wool. Finally, just before spraying the first finish color, go over the surface with a clean rag and mineral spirits to remove any dust or oils. A single finger print can mess up the finish.

Finish Painting

If using an air compressor and spray gun, one quart of primer and two quarts of each color is enough to do the red-belly paint scheme. This usually leaves some extra for small parts and touch-up.

My advice is to skip the hardener or any other paint additives, especially if this is a working tractor. Paint fumes are bad enough for your health without adding even more toxic substances to it. Plus, the benefits provided by the additives are mostly wasted on a tractor anyway. Few home shops have the proper respirators and other equipment required to shoot paint with additives. That stuff can kill you, D-E-D dead. Get the material safety data sheets for any paint additives you think you want to use. Just do a web search for the product and add MSDS to the search. If you become sensitized to some of these products, it may put you in the hospital, and cause permanent health issues. It just isn't worth the risk for a one-shot deal on a tractor. Leave those products to the folks who have the proper safety equipment to use them.

With most paint guns you will need to thin the paint for spraying. My spray gun seems to like 5% mineral spirits. Information about thinning and tip size should be printed on the paint can. The newer HVLP spray guns create a lot less overspray than the older type of equipment that I still use, but they are also more expensive. If you adjust the HVLP gun correctly, you should be able to get good coverage with a lot less paint overspray. You still need a mask. For a one-time deal even the disposable masks are better than nothing.


Some purists may whine about green and yellow Fords or 9N tractors painted with the Red-Belly paint scheme. Tough, this is your tractor, so feel free to paint it any colors you choose. Any future restorer is going to strip whatever paint is there and start over. No-matter what color you use any paint will protect the metal.

One story going around is that Barn Sparrows had been making such a mess of the Dark Gray 9N paint that Ford wanted a new color for the 8N that would not contrast as much. Yuck, thankfully I have not found any official reference to "Sparrow Poop Gray Paint" ever being an official Ford color. Some say the red was to make rust less noticeable.

Trying to match the original colors is tough. Modern paints are vastly different, and perform much better than the original paint. Nothing you buy today will appear EXACTLY the same as the original finish under all types of lighting, and it certainly won't age the same. What looks right in your garage might not look right in the sun. Camera and monitor settings vary so much I often get different looking colors in photos of the same tractor, taken under the same lights, a few minutes apart. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of disagreement between the various experts about the best match for the original colors. Some have their paint custom mixed to match the color on a part that has been protected from sun and weather. Some go to their local New Holland dealer to buy "original color" paint. By all accounts the Ford Red sold by New Holland dealers is too orange for the 8N tractors. It may be correct for the '01 series tractors that started around 1957. There are several shades of gray being sold as "Ford Gray". I prefer to use readily available paint that comes close to the original colors, without being too anal about the perfect shade.

The color swatches below are representative of the original Ford 9N/2N/8N colors. Since, these color swatches will look different on every computer screen, don't put any faith in what you see on any computer screen. The correct 8N red color should be a blood red, not excessively orange. The correct light gray color is hard to describe, not really light gray, more like tan with a very slight greenish tint. I have listed in each swatch the most-often recommended brands and colors of paint.

Ford N-Series Colors:

Rust-Oleum - 7762 Sunrise Red Rust-Oleum - 7786 Smoke Gray
PPG DAR 70075PPG DAR 31657PPG DAR 0049
TISCO Ford RedTISCO Light GrayTISCO Ford Dark Gray

My 52-8N Colors:

I decided to stick with what I know and use Rust-Oleum "Stops Rust" paint. I have had good performance in the past with this brand. Rust-Oleum used to have a color 7755 Light Olive, that was very close to the correct Ford Light Gray, but it was not available anywhere in this area. They used to list the color on their web site, but it is no longer even listed. For the 52, I decided to get a quart of Rust-Oleum 7786 Smoke Gray, and mix it 50:50 with a quart of 7792 Gloss White. The color I ended up with was a little too light, but since the correct color tends to fade to white, it was not a bad choice. The idea was to find an easy mix that would be easy to repeat for touch-up or replaced parts.

My 46-2N Colors:

After all that, the 46-2N should have been easy, simple, dark gray, right? Nope, that would be too easy. I decided to go with the 8N paint scheme. This time, for the light gray, I used a quart of Rust-Oleum 7786 Smoke Gray, mixed 50:50 with a quart of 7770 Almond. The color I ended up with is better, and still very easy to make.


The following table has all the information I could find regarding original colors of various parts.

Air CleanerRedDark Gray
Axle HousingsRedDark Gray
Axle HubsRedDark Gray
Battery CableBlack InsulationBlack Insulation
Battery CoverRed with DecalNA
Battery TrayRedDark Gray
Battery/Fuel Door KnobBlackChrome
Battery/Fuel DoorLt GrayDark Gray
Brake DrumsRedDark Gray
Brake PedalsRedDark Gray
Breather CapRedDark Gray
Cable Ends and HardwareUnpaintedUnpainted
CarburetorRed or UnfinishedUnfinished
Choke KnobUnpainted Metal or BlackUnpainted Metal or Black
Clutch PedalRedDark Gray
Cylinder HeadRedDark Gray
Dash PanelRedDark Gray
Distributor CapUnfinishedUnfinished
Drag LinkRedDark Gray
DrawbarRedDark Gray
Engine BlockRedDark Gray
Fan BeltBlack RubberBlack Rubber
Fan ShroudRedDark Gray
FanRedDark Gray
Fender BracketsLt GrayDark Gray
Fender Mounting BoltsCad PlatedCad Plated
FendersLt GrayDark Gray
Ford EmblemRed with Chrome Script and BorderBlue with Chrome Script and Border
Front Axle ExtensionRedDark Gray
Front HubsRedDark Gray
Front RimsLt GrayDark Gray
Front Timing CoverRedDark Gray
Fuel LineUnpainted-SteelUnpainted-Steel
Fuel TankCadmium-PlatedCadmium-Plated
Gearshift BootBlack RubberBlack Rubber
Gearshift KnobRed 1-Piece (early) Black Plastic (later)Dark Gray
GearshiftRedDark Gray
GeneratorRedDark Gray
GrillLt GrayDark Gray
Ground StrapUnpaintedUnpainted
Guage FacesBlack-White LettersBlack-White Letters
Guage TrimBlackBlack
Headlight HousingsLt Gray - Plated ScrewsDark Gray - Plated Screws
Hood Side SkirtsLt GrayDark Gray
HoodLt GrayDark Gray
Ignition SwitchUnpaintedUnpainted
Light SwitchUnpaintedUnpainted
Lug NutsZinc PlatedZinc Plated
Muffler and PipeZinc PlatedZinc Plated
Oil Filter BoltZinc PlatedZinc Plated
Oil Filter HousingRed Dark Gray
Oil PanRedDark Gray
Position Control LeverRedNA
Proofmeter FaceBlack-White LettersNA
Proofmeter TrimBlackNA
PTO KnobRed or PlainDark Gray
PTO LeverRed Dark Gray
PTO Shaft CoverRedDark Gray
Radiator CapBlackChrome?
Radiator HoseBlack RubberBlack Rubber
Radius RodsRedDark Gray
Rear End HousingRed Dark Gray
Rear RimsZinc PlatedZinc Plated
Rear Wheel CentersLt GrayDark Gray
Running BoardsRedDark Gray or None
Seat & SpringBlackDark Gray
Spark Plug Wire TubeCadmium-PlatedCadmium-Plated
Spark Plug WiresUnpainted-BlackUnpainted-Black
Spark PlugsUnpaintedUnpainted
Starter ButtonUnpainted-SteelUnpainted-Steel
StarterRedDark Gray
Steering Wheel NutPlated Acorn NutPlated Acorn Nut
Three-Point Hitch ArmsRedDark Gray
Throttle Lever BaseCadmium-PlatedCadmium-Plated
Throttle LeverCadmium-PlatedCadmium-Plated
Tie RodsRedDark Gray
Timing Cover BoltsZinc PlatedDark Gray
ToolboxRedDark Gray
Touch Control LeverRed Dark Gray
Transmission HousingRed Dark Gray
Valve CoversRedDark Gray
Wire HarnessUnpaintedUnpainted

In general all hardware bolting the major castings together was painted red when the entire assembly was painted. This photo is sort of what the tractor looked like on the assembly line when it was painted.


This is as far as I go unless the tractor needs to be split to replace the clutch or fix something else major. If that is necessary, I wait to prime and paint the tractor after I have it back to this point again. Some restorers prime and paint each casting separately. Then paint again, after the major parts are assembled, to cover scratches and hardware. I don't know if going that far on a tractor has any real value, but the guys who do go to that level, turn out some incredibly nice tractors, like this one:

[Image Just8ns Tractor]

Restored Tractor by Derek Barkley at Just8Ns.com

After painting, the hardware used to attach sheet metal and other parts during final assembly was generally just standard Cad-Plated hardware.

The Manifold is shown as UNKNOWN in the table because they may have been plain castings or painted. I have not been able to nail this down. It is almost meaningless anyway. Even if they were painted, the paint almost immediately burns off the exhaust portion of the manifold. If you don't like rusty cast iron, the best product I have found is a high temp natural cast iron coating for manifolds sold by Eastwood. Every other hi-temp coating I have tried fails as soon as I get the exhaust good and hot. Idling around won't get the exhaust that hot, so your trailer queen's exhaust might look nice longer. Putting a load on the engine for more than 20 minutes will cook off most hi-temp finishes. Even chrome plating tends to turn blue. Ceramic coatings are supposed to be able to withstand the heat, but the price is way beyond what I'm willing to spend to test that theory.

Ford Blue and White Tractor Colors:

This is a test area for my "new" 1971 Ford 3000 tractor color choices. The sheet metal is being repaired and painted to stop the rust from getting worse. The cast iron parts will have to wait till I have fewer projects in-progress. After removing dead decals and sanding, two cans of Krylon MAXX Gray Primer sprayed perfectly. Two brand new cans of Rust-Oleum Blue sputtered, spattered, and then clogged completely with paint still in the cans. I stopped using Rust-Oleum spray primers because they won't spray thru the new nozzle system. Apparently Rust-Oleum finish colors now have the same problem. Most of the first coat will now have to be sanded to remove spatters and globs. No more rattle cans for this tractor.

What I'm doing here (just for grins) is comparing various color swatch RGB codes copied from paint manufacturer's color charts on the web. I'm assuming the paint manufacturers have people who agonize over the exact RGB computer codes that best represent their real world colors. Of course that is completely impossible. All colors will always look different as the lighting changes.

Rust-Oleum Sail Blue50-mix-50Rust-Oleum Royal Blue
Rust-Oleum Sail Blue50-mix-50Rust-Oleum Navy Blue
Rust-Oleum Royal Blue90-mix-10Rust-Oleum Almond
Krylon Regal BlueKrylon Navy BlueKrylon True Blue
Rust-Oleum Sail BlueDupli-Color Royal BlueKrylon Global Blue
 White White White
 Classic Grey Krylon1Rust-Oleum Almond
 Smoke Grey Krylon2Rust-Oleum Almond
 Smoke Grey RustoleumRust-Oleum Almond
 Ford RedRGB Red Banner Red


Content and Web Design by K. LaRue — This Site Was Last Updated 06 JULY 2017.

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