BENEATH THE SURFACE
Colton Hermosillo is the lead technician and shop manager here at SWAE. With years of experience in bodywork and automotive paintwork, Colton is the beating heart of all automotive projects SWAE endeavors. For this entry, we sat down to get the inside scoop on some of his experiences and gain insight into one of his specialties: painting.
How did you first get into painting and working on cars? Did you always know this is what you wanted to do?
For me, it was the family business. I grew up around cars as my brother and father are big automotive guys. I'd say working on cars was more Trevin's thing, the mechanical side. So i leaned more into the body work side of it and was always right there with him. We once built a go-kart with a chainsaw for a motor. We welded a bicycle sprocket to the axel and ran the chain from the chainsaw to the solid axle rear end. Just a throttle and brake hooked up to it, and that was it! Nothing but a computer chair on a piece of plywood.
Honestly, though, working on cars wasn't always what I saw myself doing. I liked plants and growing stuff when I was younger and saw myself going into botany. I worked in a nursery for a while. I worked under this experienced guy who took me in as his prodigy gardener. But after that feeling went by the wayside, and coming out of some tough times, my dad just asked me what I wanted to do for work. I thought about it and recalled a car I had crashed when I was young, a Lexus. The bodywork and paint jobs were expensive, and I couldn't afford them, so I did the work myself. It wasn't great, but for what it was, it turned out pretty good. My dad had a painter friend looking for a prepper, and it seemed to fit the bill. The next thing I know, I'm working for Dent Magic. The premier high production body shop in the Valley.
Painting cars is a lot more complicated than people think. Can you run us through the typical process and stuff people overlook?
Paint is only the top layer of a restoration job. Coming from a body shop at Dent Magic, the key component is fixing whatever damage there is. In high-level production body shops, you're always fixing whatever needs to be repaired first. The paint is a reflection of how good the bodywork is.
One of the most challenging aspects of painting is getting the panel to match the rest of the car comes with. I could put a perfect paint job on a door every time and make my clear coat show car quality without an issue. But if the surrounding panels are from the factory, they will be orange peel texture. My perfect door or panel is then going to stick out. A true master painter knows how to control your clear coat and match everything up.
Connecting into Creativity
Even though you are painting in a commercial setting, it's still obviously an art form and takes some inherent creativity. Is art or creativity something you pursue outside of work?
I like to get down on Logic Pro and jam the keys. I make some music, beatbox, and produce a bit. I know how to play piano and guitar, so they all mesh seamlessly together. One thing that working at SWAE has done is help nurture my creativity in painting. Working in body restoration, my job was always to match panel colors. What's cool about SWAE is we can try new stuff and customize jobs ourselves. That's been great from a creative perspective.
I know many painters like to blast jams in the booth. What are we likely to catch you listening to while you work?
I love listening to music while I work - it's a must. It has to be music without lyrics if I need heavy focus for a paint job or laying some wrap. Usually some lofi, or house music kind of stuff. But I like podcasts or audiobooks when I do sanding or cleaning. As far as a specific music type, I'm pretty across the board. Been listening to choir-style music lately, but it could be Muse one day and Deadmau5 the next. My taste is all over the place.
Outside of the paint stuff, what's your favorite project coming out of the SWAE Garage?
Probably the latest one with fixing SPOT when he was going into the ARGOS skin. It allowed me to utilize my creativity, throwing out ideas and pushing my limits. It was challenging but refreshing to show what I am capable of. I’ve enjoyed most of the projects I've worked on, given the cars and tech we work with. Also, overcoming certain conditions with our facility still being updated has added some unique challenges, which can make things fun.
So you're a bit of a gearhead. If you could personally take home and own any vehicle in the SWAE fleet, which would it be?
Honestly, the Gold Huracan - Aurum, so I could sell it and max out my M3 Beamer (BMW) that I'm madly in love with. I love working on these cars, it's amazing, but there is a reason I have the car I have.
Painting can be inherently dangerous in many ways people may not even realize. Go into that for a minute.
Any boss I've ever had in the profession can never stress enough the safety measures we need to take. To start, it's a simple respirator and a paint suit. Some companies use a wholly covered suit with a hose for breathing - like something you might see in scuba diving or on an astronaut. For many places, the faster a job gets done, the more money you make. But the cost is often the health of the painters. They can lose their sense of smell, have lifelong headaches, and suffer from migraines. The fumes are toxic, so it's essential to go slow and take all the safety precautions.
SWAE is primarily a dream company. What's an automotive dream project you'd love to see happen here? What would be something you haven't worked on yet that you'd love to get your hands on?
I used to have a late 60s Volkswagen Karmann Ghia on bags. I lost access to the shop I was working on it at and unfortunately had to sell the car, but I have never stopped thinking about it. If James Bond and Batman teamed up on a car, it would be that one. So if I could work on any car project, it would be to customize one of those for sure.