I just recently finished painting my '66 Mustang (I am not a pro by any means, the only other time I painted a vehicle was this same car back in 1984) and I can vouch for the effects of properly polishing a paint job. I too got a fair amount of orange peel in the finish (the temperature changed too much for my reducer) but I have a few friends in the business so I knew I could make it work. I had my three coats of clear but chose to start with 1000 grit working to 2000 and then using the polishing compounds. The difference is night and day. This method also works on solid colors if you accidentally chip the finish (smartguy me dropped the shop light). Touch up the spot with a small sable brush and overlay a few coats of clear until the touchup is higher than the paint level. Sand and polish and it becomes virtually invisible. You can see some pics here:
BTW, great write up and pics. Nice work!