Wrap It 2011

By Brian Spiteri, UCR Member at Large

Have you ever thought about changing the colour of your car but hesitated because your thoughts go to a devaluation associated with “not original” paint?Now you can do just that with no fear. It’s a process called vinyl wrapping and in recent years the quality of materials has improved so significantly that with a good installer, it’s hard to tell the difference between paint and vinyl.I am the owner of Speedpro Imaging in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, and we’ve done our share of commercially wrapping everything from SmartCars to fifty-three foot tractor trailers. So when a new product was introduced that was manufactured in Germany and touted as paint replacement, my mind went to my 1981 911Targa SC, which needed a new suit.

There are some significant benefits to opting for vinyl versus paint.  First is the fact that original paint always remains an obvious option if resale value is a concern. A great side benefit of this is that the vinyl will actually provide a protective layer to prevent oxidation and UV fading on the protected surface of the car. Removal is safe within manufacturer standard timelines, but a good installer knows how to remove a wrap that has gone beyond those specifications. It’s not the vinyl that is the issue but an efficient removal of adhesive as well. There is no damage to a painted surface when this is done correctly.

Another benefit is the ability to choose between a variety of colours and finishes or a complete custom print job that can specifically match your personality. You can go from a matte black finish (any “gangstas” out there?) to putting your family tartan on display. Then there is also the option of replicating your favourite race car version, which is quite popular when you pass a police cruiser on the highway.Personally, being in the over-fifty set, I opted for a metallic azure blue material that is pre-laminated with a high gloss finish. Options for finishes include matte or luster top coats but I love the final outcome of a Sunday afternoon hand wash and wax. In this case, no wax is required. Wash and dry and ready to fly.First requirement in the installation process is a detailed alcohol rub down… on the car. This ensures that any dirt is not going to be saved for posterity and improves adhesion of the vinyl to the vehicle. It’s an important step if you want to ensure a high quality outcome that lasts. On commercial installations we have done, we expect three to four years of excellent performance. Under the hands of a loving owner, you can expect a longer time period. This isn’t paint. It is vinyl, so a wrap is generally considered a temporary cover-up.

That being said, one of the benefits of this process is that you can change the suit as you change your mood. You hit 40 and you might want to go bright red. You hit fifty and you might want to subtle down to azure blue, at fifty-five you go back to the red that you know was you all along.

Installation is not complicated but, like anything else, experience is important. You could do it yourself if you really wanted to, as modern materials have improved significantly with new air release systems and re-positional characteristics built into the adhesive. In reality though, experience counts a lot in ensuring a solid lay down of the materials, especially if you are laying down a printed design and you want your check patterns or lines to stay straight while going around a compound curve.

With care, a seamless installation can be executed. Materials come in widths at wide as 60”, so if you have a hood that is 55” long by 36” wide; using a 48” wide piece of media is not going to work without an overlapping seam somewhere on your hood. My 911 was easy to do in 48” material. Keep in mind that there are some places where a seam is inevitable (like behind the door handles and around mirrors unless you want to incur an additional expense associated with hardware removal). I also trimmed around the Targa badge on the tiara versus removal and replacement.

Coverage on the side can be one horizontal piece that can be trimmed by panel to fit. This procedure is especially important if you are applying a print and you want exact fit and finish. If you are doing a single colour, it’s less important and, if you decide to attempt this yourself, handling a smaller piece is always easier.

Other options in material availability include a wide range of specialty finishes. I chose to do the tired looking tiara in an embossed carbon fiber look. Clean and sophisticated. Materials are available through local distribution from Oracal, 3M and Avery. I chose Oracal to match the German pedigree of the 911 and the colour choices were better. This particular product is best handled by a pro as there are no air release channels built into the adhesive. That makes it extremely tricky to avoid air bubbles. The accompanying pictures illustrate the quality of our installation on the final finish.

I’ll do a follow-up piece in a few months to review how this particular media held up to road grime, stone chips and comments from other club members. Hopefully, those comments won’t be interchangeable.

There you have it. Basics 101 for creating your own Porschonality. If you’re ever in the Mississauga/Milton area and are looking for a new suit or have any questions, you can reach me at brian@speedprographics.com and I’d be happy to answer any questions (which may be responded to in the follow-up article).

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