What are the solutions to make this baby look like new?
What sort of "ain't cheap price" are we talking about and is it really worth it?
You've discovered the great dichotomy of boat restoration. You want it to "look like new", but you want it cheaply. Ain't gonna happen.
Imron is very top end. About $100 a quart
. And it'll take a couple of quarts, plus primer, to do the job right. It needs to be sprayed. In a booth. With significant protection for the person spraying (respirator, not a mask - the stuff is really nasty). You're looking at about a $1000 paint job with that stuff. But the boat will
look new again.
Any painter will tell you that the paint job is only as good as the surface prep. Any high-gloss finish will gloriously display every single surface defect that you never knew was there. The glossier the finish, the more you'll see. You can't get away with half-assed surface prep.
All of that being said, many people have expressed success with the Interlux "Brightsides" product. It's reasonably priced (~$30/qt.) and can be rolled/tipped on with good results - as long as you're willing to take the time to prep the surface properly.
At the end of the day, though - it's still an old boat. It will work just as well faded as it will painted.
There's a lesson to be learned from the guy (on these forums) who did a fabulous job painting his old boat, then decorated it with a tiki-style design, only to have it break up the first time he took it out. He could have saved himself a whole lot of work by sailing it first.