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Posts: 877
Reply with quote  #1 

Ok when it comes to painting your BIG RED gas tank and front ends I understand that the base/clear option is not feasible for most. The materials and the equipment to do it can be expensive. If you want more details on this option click HERE.

I have been used to the automotive base/clear option but have not used spray paint (rattle cans) in awhile for the tanks and forks. I got a question from a member here and I thought it would be a good idea to do some testing as I could not find definitive answers as far as color matching and resistance to gasoline. I too was curious about this so here we go:

BIG RED tank used: I used a 1984 BIG RED tank that still had original paint on it. As you can see the paint was not in great shape but this is what I had at the time.

Paints used: For reds I used Majic tractor paint (Massey-Ferguson red) that can be bought at tractor supply and rustoleum (sunrise red) that can be purchased at most hardware/Home depot/Lowes stores.

For the clearcoat I used rustoleum acrylic lacquer clearcoat

Test Setup: I used masking tape to break up the tank into 9 sample areas.

Four samples (two each) for the sunrise red and the Massey Ferguson red on one side of the tank. 

Four samples (two each) for the sunrise red with clearcoat and the Massey Ferguson red with clearcoat on the side of the tank. 

The top of the tank was used as the control and the test area of the tank for gasoline resistance of the original paint.

Each paint type is broken up into two sample areas. I did this for the gas resistance test. The left side sample area will have gasoline (ethanol free) dripped on it and left alone. The right side sample area would be wiped with a gas soaked paper towel (about ten wipes).

The paint was left to dry for 3 full days before tested for gasoline resistance. Based on the information on the cans this is well enough time for full cure.

Below are some images with captions to describe the test and results. I will include a conclusion at the end.

Tank with paints

Paints used

IMG_2791.jpg  IMG_2792.jpg 
Samples masked and painted

Control area (original paint)

Color Match Test

Removed the masking tape and here is the results of the Massey Ferguson . Note I waxed the original paint to get the best shine out of it I could.

Removed the masking tape and here is the results of the Sunrise Red. Again I waxed the original paint to get the best shine out of it I could.
Here are the color match results (no clearcoat used) side by side. Note that anytime you are color matching it depends on the sample. It's hard to find a 30+ year old tank that is in good shape and not seen the elements to use as a "standard". In my opinion the rustoleum red is a better match. Another thing to consider is that I was painting over the original paint. I just scuffed it up with 400 grit sandpaper. If this tank was completely stripped the shade of the primer used can influence the color of the red topcoat.

Here is the Masses Ferguson with clear. Not sure what happened here as the top half looks like I used a chemical stripper. Note that I tried this twice and got the same result. I speculate that there is some chemical incompatibility here.

Sunrise red with the clearcoat. Better but some issues at the run in the sample.

The clearcoat didn't make a difference in my opinion as far as color match goes but we definitely have some compatibility issues with the MF red.

Gasoline (ethanol free 90 octane) resistance test

On the left side of the sample area I used a straw to drip the gas onto the test area. I left it there for it to evaporate and didn't touch it. This would simulate a spill when filling up.

For the right side of the test area I soaked a section of paper towel in gas. I would then rub the test area lightly about 10 times. This would simulate wiping gas off of the tank when spilled. Yes 10 times is excessive but I wanted to push it a little here.

IMG_2808.jpg  IMG_2809.jpg 
Here is the pics of the left side of the tank (no clearcoat) with gas being dripped on the test area. In both cases there was a rainbow stain once the gas evaporated. It could be wiped off and the rainbow stain was gone. No paint was lifted from the paper towel used to wipe the area.

IMG_2815.jpg  IMG_2817.jpg 
Results of wiping the right side test area 10 times with a gas soaked paper towel. Note there was some paint lifting. The paint lifting was worse on the MF red. Note the paint was scratched during this test most likely due to the paper towel.

I did the same wipe test on the original paint and you can see some paint getting lifted.

IMG_2818.jpg  IMG_2820.jpg 
Final results of the gas resistance tests (no clearcoat)

IMG_2825.jpg  IMG_2826.jpg 
Moving on to the wipe test with the clearcoat samples. In both cases the clearcoat was being stripped off by the gas. This test proved that the clearcoat did not add any extra gasoline resistance it actually failed.


Based on this testing the rustoleum sunrise red spray paint without clearcoat provided the better color match and gasoline resistance as compared to the majic Massey Ferguson red. The rustoleum acrylic lacquer clearcoat had no gasoline resistance and also had some compatibility issues with the Massey Ferguson red.

I hope this post helps those who may be considering spray painting their BIG RED tanks and front ends red. Note that if you are using different paints it may be a good idea to do some testing like this before you spend a lot of time prepping and painting only to find compatibility and gasoline resistance issues. If you try different products please post your results so we can all benefit.


Junior Member
Posts: 6
Reply with quote  #2 
Thanks for the work! This was great!!!
phil anderer

Senior Member
Posts: 135
Reply with quote  #3 
How did you find the rustoleum  on curing ? I used it few years back on some antique brass blade fans and it had to be left for weeks on end and even then you could mark it with your finger nail …. but you could get a nice finish with it with practice ,but you had to be careful not to mark it by lifting... left it alone after that

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Posts: 877
Reply with quote  #4 
The rustoleum seemed to be cured in 24 hours per the data on the can. I let it sit for 3 days to be sure.

Posts: 90
Reply with quote  #5 
Thanks for the testing.

I always had the same result with the rattle can clearcoat, no gasoline resistance whatsoever. It was frustrating to have a decent looking tank after many hours of work, to only ruin it all spray bomb clearcoat.
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