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That’s a wrap! Vinyl wrap that is.


Words and photos by Richard Kratz

How to completely change your vehicle’s personality and look more professional with vinyl wrap.


Want a whole new look for your car or truck, but don’t want to paint it? Or, you want the option to easily reverse the new look back to your old look? Or perhaps you have a race car and you need to change the look for your current marketing partners and sponsors with an eye towards flexibility to change with new sponsors in the future? Then you need to wrap your mind around vinyl wrapping.


Repainting a car is a lot of work and expense and it’s not reversible. Vinyl graphics have been an option for commercial vehicles for a long time (a work truck with “Drain Master’s Plumbing” on the side). The advent of modern vinyl materials and techniques made it easier and cheaper for big time race teams to change their race car graphics than the same changes done in paint. But “cheaper” was a relative term for a long time, cheaper for a big race team didn’t mean affordable for the average car enthusiast.


Vinyl snuck into the car scene mainstream like a stealth fighter sneaks over a border, murdered out and non-reflective. Cars started showing up at races, shows and on the street with matte monochrome wraps around ten years ago. Some people loved the look, others hated it, but these cars always made an impression. Success leads to more success and as more and more car owners sought to make their cars stand out, the manufacturers and dealers in vinyl graphics and wraps upped their game with better materials and more options on colors and printing.


We’d been thinking about changing the look of the MoparMax Maulin’ Magnum, Maggi as her friends and family call her, for a while. The car came from the factory in a beautiful TorRed paint that we didn’t want to lose. But, the now full-time race car needed a more professional appearance. At the race track we get asked a lot, “How do you get a sponsor?” The real answer is complex and nuanced, but the simple answer is to ask what can you do for a sponsor? What do you have to offer them that will allow them to see a return on their investment in you? The days of slapping a sticker on your car and getting some money are long gone. You need to show potential sponsors that you can help drive business and customers to them and help them grow their sales.


There’s an old adage, “Dress for success,” which means to make yourself look like you’ve already succeeded and then success will come more naturally. Race teams need to do the same. Walk down the pits and look at the successful teams, their cars look neat and professional and their crews do too. Now walk back to your pit and look at your car and crew. Are you doing everything you can to look like a professional team that a potential sponsor would be attracted too?


Maggi had become a mess of decals and stickers that had grown organically over the years. She needed to be cleaned up and organized. A wrap was the most obvious solution. But not just a plain Jane wrap, we wanted the car to look like a race car from a quarter mile away.


There are three aspects to a wrap, design, production and application. For us, the design was critical, we wanted the car to really stand out and attract attention. Our current primary sponsor, Liquid Glow, has a good color theme for this, black and gold. Full disclosure, MoparMax Editor-Publisher, Richard Kratz, is also President of Liquid Glow. But we have other marketing partners (a term we prefer to “sponsor” because we think “partner” is a better indicator of the two-way relationship that’s involved) at various levels that all needed to be represented.


Step one was to gather vector artwork for all of our marketing partners. “Vector” means artwork that is in a mathematical format that allows it to scale virtually infinitely without the artwork deteriorating or pixelating. Vector artwork is usually created in Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw or other drawing programs. You can’t just take a low resolution graphic off a website and blow it up to car size.


Since we knew that our color scheme was going to be a base black with most of the marketing partner graphics in monochromatic white, we also had to get each partner’s permission to render their logo in white as well as to procure appropriate artwork.


As we gathered the artwork we searched for a company to do the actual design and install of the wrap. A friend tipped us to 2WRAP.COM in Westlake Village, California. The owner, Peter Van Tilborg, is a wildly creative guy, 2WRAP.COM’s website is full of the kind of exciting, different looking wrapped cars we wanted to have. Anyone can master a technique like printing and applying a wrap, but design is a talent. You’re either an artist or you’re not. We’re not.


With logos in hand, it was time to make a design. We are good at many things (at least our mom always told us that), but art/design is not one of them. You have two directions you can go with a wrap company, give them a totally free hand with colors and design and see what they come up with. Or, provide some direction with color scheme and approximate size and locations of the needed company logos. We choose the later route.


We gave Peter all of our gathered artwork/logos and the general color scheme. He came up with a design that knocked our socks off, the concept was great. But the design needed refining; so we gathered input from our partners and team members. We’d give the feedback to Peter and he’d refine the rendering. After a few rounds of this, we had the design finalized.


We should note here that not all wrap companies do all parts of the process in house the way 2WRAP.COM does. Some companies do color change wraps only, they have the material but don’t do design or printing. Sometimes design is done in one place, printing in another and the actual application of the wrap in a third place. We’re not saying this is inherently a problem, for many people this works just fine. But advantages to having a shop that does every step in house is that the shop has expert knowledge in all aspects of the process, plus, as Peter mentioned to us at the beginning, if something doesn’t turn out right, there’s no finger pointing between different companies as to who’s to blame.



Here’s all you need to know about our design skills vs. Peter’s. This was our concept…

…and this is Peter’s final rendering. ‘Nuff said.


The design process is done with special software. The wrap designer downloads a digitized version of your make and model of vehicle (2WRAP.COM does cars, trucks, vans, even airplanes) and the design is done in this virtual world. Your design can be as wild or mild as you wish. A good vinyl shop will be able to print and apply just about anything you imagine. Make sure you know if the design and printing are being done in the same shop. If not, you should ensure that you know all of the players and talk them. Make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to your goals for the wrap.


A good vinyl company has every aspect of vinyl wrapping linked through software. Design work is done to scale, the computer generated design is fed to computer controlled printing machines and then cutting machines. From the rendering on the screen to the wrap on your vehicle, expensive, high quality software is behind it all.




With a finalized design it was time to print it out. This step is both easy to understand and kind of mind blowing at the same time. Peter showed us his printing equipment and we learned that not all are created equally. Peter’s HP latex six-color printer uses environmentally friendly ink and prints on 62” wide rolls of vinyl. A more typical shop uses 54” printers or even narrower. Ten inches may not sound like much, but on a lot of cars and trucks this means the difference between being able to do the hood, roof or trunk with a single piece or having to use two pieces of wrap with a seam. The fewer seams the better, less opportunity for errors in application and also a cleaner overall appearance. A single piece of vinyl for your hood (and in our case the roof) means no seams that can fail and start to peel.


There’s a good reason 54” vinyl printers are more common, that extra 10” in width doubles the price of the printer. We looked online and found printers like Peter’s for sale for $30,000. So you can buy a clean, low mileage 2010 Dodge Challenger R/T for the price difference between a 62” printer and a 54” printer. An investment like this speaks to a shop’s commitment, we’d advise asking what width a shop prints on when you’re shopping for a wrap vendor.


Printing is really a three step process, the actual printing onto the vinyl, putting a protective laminate on top of the printed vinyl to shield it from UV damage and fading (kind of like a clear coat on paint), and if needed cutting the printed and laminated artwork. All of this is computer controlled.

Printed vinyl panel coming out of 2WRAP.COM’s 62” 6-color HP Latex printing machine.


There are many different types of vinyl material that can be fed into the printer, even non-wrap products such as banners. Some materials are good for temporary applications such as putting up in a shop window to advertise a sale. These are very inexpensive, easy to apply and remove and not intended to last very long. There are intermediate materials that are more durable than the least expensive short lasting ones, and these are sometimes used in fleet or industrial applications that are very cost sensitive.


2WRAP.COM has at its disposal over a dozen different brands of vinyl material; each brand has three quality levels, temporary, intermediate and high grade so that’s a lot of choices of material. Which material is used depends on the project, budget and usage. For our car we went with a high end, durable material which includes air-release channels. The high grade vinyl is very thin and very flexible, yet very tough and durable. The air-release channels make this type of vinyl easier to apply (more on that in a bit).


After a panel is printed out the next step is to feed the panel through the laminating machine. These machines also come in various widths and obviously for a shop like 2WRAP.COM with 62” printers they need the more expensive 62” laminating machines. The laminate layer seals and protects the printed layer and is a step that cannot be skipped.


When printing die-cut decals instead of whole panels, during the printing process small cutting guide marks are printed on the vinyl. These marks are part of the whole computer design, printing, cutting software integration we have talked about. 2WRAP.COM’s software puts the marks on the design, their printer prints the design with cutting guide marks, and after laminating the 62” wide printed sheets are fed into the Graphtec cutting machine which cuts and trims the graphics.


You can care for your wrap when it’s done by simply washing the vehicle with a good pH balanced car wash soap to keep it clean. If you have a glossy finish wrap like we do, any good, pure wax car wax will preserve and further protect the paint. Just make sure that the wax contains no abrasives or polishing compounds, you want just a pure wax. If you go for the matte finish look ask your wrap installer to recommend products to clean and protect it, they make stuff just for matte finish vinyl wrap.

2WRAP.COMs Graphtec cutting machine reads the cutting marks printed on the vinyl sheets and automatically cuts and trims the sheets.

A detail view of the Graphtec cutting machine.




While the design phase was in process, we went to work on preparing our car for the big wrap. As you can see in the photo, Maggi the Maulin’ Magnum had grown a lot of decals over the years that all needed to be removed. We also needed to remove the side moldings on the doors, the badges on the fenders and the rear hatch. You can either pay your wrap shop to do this or do it yourself. We choose to save money and do it ourselves.


On late model vehicles almost all of the exterior badges and moldings are glued on with heavy duty two-sided body tape. The process of removing these is referred to as “Debadging,” and involves using nylon fishing line from a sporting goods store. You cut about a two foot length of line and wrap the ends around your fingers. Then you work the line under a corner or edge of the badge or molding and with a sawing motion cut through the two-sided body tape. It’s easier to do than to describe, if you want to understand this technique better, just use your favorite search engine and search “How to debadge a car” and you’ll find lots of videos and pages.


Once the badges and moldings were removed, we started on the decals. We had over 100 decals all over the car. And a lot of them consisted of individual die cut letters, so they were like taking 15-20 separate decals off. We got a pack of brand new single sided box cutter razor blades and went to work. Very carefully, with the blade as flat to the car as possible, we worked under a corner of each decal until we could grasp it and pull the decal off. Of course, some would tear and come off in a few pieces.


Afterwards, Peter told us that you should not use razor blades. Oops! There are specialty plastic blades made just for doing this that cannot cut, nick or scratch your paint. Just do a search for “Plastic razor blades” and you’ll find lots of brands and places to buy them. And we learn yet another lesson, at least we now have a pack of these plastic blades in our tool box for future use.

This is Maggi the Maulin’ Magnum before we began preparing for her new wrap. All of the decals had to come off, the side moldings on the doors and the badges on the front fenders and rear hatch.


Anyone who has ever taken an old decal off a car knows that there’s an icky residue left behind. And that residue can be really hard to get completely off the paint. And with all of the decals, molding and badges we took off we had a LOT of residue on the paint. Peter at 2WRAP.COM gave us a great tip that we’ll pass on. A company named Rapid Tac sells a product made just for this job, “Rapid Remover Adhesive Remover.” It comes in different sizes, spray bottles and refills. All you need is a bottle of the stuff and one of those plastic squeegees usually used to apply decals. You spray Rapid Remover on the decal’s residue and wait for 15-30 seconds. The residue will turn into a gel and then you use the plastic squeegees to shovel the gel off the paint. Any small amount of residue left you can remove with a paper towel and Rapid Remover.

The best way to remove decal residue from your paint, Rapid Tac’s Rapid Remover Adhesive Remover. Used with a plastic decal squeegees it makes quick and easy work of the job.


The whole process of prepping Maggi for her wrap took us two full days. But, if you count the individual letters in many of the decals as a decal in itself, we had about 300 to remove and clean up. Maggi was a special case and we doubt many people will have such extensive decal removal to do. For a typical late model car, we could have done the job in a half day. Finally we put Maggi outside and give her a wash and dry before going over all of the paint with 3M paint prep solvent. The solvent is designed to be used before painting a vehicle and ensures that every last bit of wax, fingerprint oils, etc., is stripped off the paint.

Here’s Maggi, ready to wrap. No doubt about it, Dodge created a hella good looking sportwagon, or should we say Magnumwagon?




With a stripped and clean Maggi in the shop 2WRAP.COM proceeded with applying the wrap to the car. This process is made easier with the new generation of vinyl that 2WRAP.COM used for our car. If you remember earlier we mentioned that this new vinyl has air-release channels in it. If you’ve put a normal decal on any surface you know that once you peel the backing away and the decal touches a surface, it sticks immediately, there’s no “working time” to get a decal into position. This kind of vinyl forces the installer to start at one corner or edge of the panel and slowly peel away the adhesive backing inch-by-inch while trying to get the panel into the proper position.


With air-release vinyl, the installer can peel the backing away from the entire panel and work with it repositioning until it is in the proper place. When in place, pressure is applied to fix the panel in place. Another bonus to the air-release vinyl is that it does just what its name implies, it makes it much easier for air to escape from under the vinyl; there are virtually no air bubbles to worry about.

Air-release vinyl wrap material makes it much easier for the installer to position entire panels at once. It also virtually eliminates air bubbles under the material from occurring.



What a difference a few pounds of vinyl made in the car’s appearance.


It was very exciting to pick up the car from 2WRAP.COM. The new livery looked very impressive. We were literally heading right from the shop in Westlake Village to Las Vegas so that our driver and MoparMax Contributing Writer, Jennifer Caputo-Armstrong, could get her Super Gas license at the Frank Hawley drag racing school.


While having time to scrutinize the car in Las Vegas, we found a few things we'd like done differently. If you recall, earlier in this story we told you that Peter at 2wrap.com said that one of the advantages of having a single shop do the design, printing and installation of your vinyl wrap comes to the fore if something is not the way you like, there's no issue with one company pointing the finger at another company. When we took the car back to Peter, he readily agreed to make the changes we asked for to make us completely satisfied. He stands 100% behind the work that 2wrap.com does.

The car looks good from all angles, even from above, which for a race car is an important consideration—how does the car look from the stands. Jennifer, posing here next to the hood, had a pretty good looking car while she was getting her Super Gas license at Frank Hawley’s drag racing school at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.


We’re extremely pleased with the car’s new vinyl wrap. The design is fantastic and eye catching; the car presents the team very professionally on track, in the pits and at shows. There’s no mistaking this car at any track we run at. And if we ever want to go back to a TorRed car, that gorgeous paint is being perfectly preserved under the vinyl wrap—in fact that’s a reason in itself that some people wrap their vehicles, to preserve the paint for later resale value. And if we want to change to a whole new look in the future, it’s a lot easier to remove a vinyl wrap and install a new one then it is to repaint a car.  




Website: www.2wrap.com

Address: 31328 Via Colinas Unit 101, Westlake Village CA 91362

Phone: (310) 775-0717



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