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The Finishing Touch: Get A Great Wrap For Your Race Car

Star Graphix owner Justin Starnes shows the mockup that the car owner and see and approve before printing begins on the wrap.

Star Graphix owner Justin Starnes shows the mockup that the car owner can see and approve before printing begins on the wrap.

It is no secret that practically every racer at every level is on the constant lookout for sponsorship to help defray the costs of their chosen sport. After all, it’s money that makes the world go round, and racing is no different.

We’ve done stories before on ways to attract and keep great sponsors. In case you missed it, you can check out a great one here. The most important factor potential sponsors are looking for is a race team that will represent them well and provide maximum bang for the buck. You can’t visit Victory Lane every weekend, sponsors understand that. But win or lose, you can look professional and well organized.

And the first step toward that is bringing a car to the track that stands out from the crowd. Gone are the days when sign painters travelled to shops to hand-letter race cars–at least mostly. Today, you can do much better with a full printed vinyl wrap that looks great and is easy to replace whenever any sheet metal gets torn up. Plus, it’s becoming more affordable, especially if you do the install work yourself.

We recently posted a story about hanging a body on a new race car owned by racer Jason Gulledge. After that story was complete, we followed the car to be wrapped by StarGraphix in Lancaster, SC. StarGraphix owner Justin Starnes wraps race cars of all types, and even ships wraps all over to racers willing to do the installs themselves.

We were impressed that while many wrap designers prefer to stick with just the Late Models on both dirt and asphalt because their bodies are more uniform, Starnes has developed templates that work with many cars that typically race in the lower classes. And the quality looks just as good as anything racing Lucas Oil or the World of Outlaws. Starnes says that when working with a race team that plans to install the wrap themselves, he can provide a list of measurements he needs to help make the wrap fit properly. Applying the wrap yourself isn’t too difficult, and you will get better with practice. Thankfully, manufacturers now produce films that are called “permanently removable,” which means that as long as you don’t press the wrap against the sheet metal, it can be pulled back and reset numerous times.

Read on for more tips and tricks.

Unlike Late Models, Street Stocks and other lower class cars can vary quite a bit on their bodies, so Starnes takes measurements and maps out a plan for the design before laying any vinyl.

Unlike Late Models, Street Stocks and other lower class cars can vary quite a bit on their bodies, so Starnes takes measurements and maps out a plan for the design before laying any vinyl.

Finally, it is design time. Once Starnes has a wrap design he likes, he can email the proof (like in the opening photo) to the car owner so that he or she can see and approve the design. Once it is approved, Starnes will either wrap the car himself (if it is local) or ship out all the materials to the racer's location.

Finally, it is design time. Once Starnes has a wrap design he likes, he can email the proof (like in the opening photo) to the car owner so that he or she can see and approve the design. Once it is approved, Starnes will either wrap the car himself (if it is local) or ship out all the materials to the racer’s location.

Wraps are printed directly onto vinyl in what's essentially a giant in-jet printer. But one drawback is the current inks aren't good at flourescent colors. So Starnes will cut those areas from separate pieces of vinyl and lay them in place. Afterward, the entire wrap is overlaid with a UV protective laminate which also protects against scratches.

Wraps are printed directly onto vinyl in what’s essentially a giant ink-jet printer. But one drawback is the current inks aren’t good at fluorescent colors. So Starnes will cut those areas from separate pieces of vinyl and lay them in place. Afterward, the entire wrap is overlaid with a UV protective laminate which also protects against scratches.

Starnes spends a lot of time laying out the long panels that cover the sides of the car. Use painter's tape to hold the long sheets in position while you ensure the sheet runs level and the number is where you want it over the door.

Starnes spends a lot of time laying out the long panels that cover the sides of the car. Use painter’s tape to hold the long sheets in position while you ensure the sheet runs level and the number is where you want it over the door. There should be plenty so that you can adjust the panel either direction a few inches without coming up short.

Make sure the car is sitting at ride height when laying out the vinyl sheets. Find a straight line (Starnes uses the row of contingency size logos) and measure to the bottom edge of the sheet metal or the floor.

Make sure the car is sitting at ride height when laying out the vinyl sheets. Find a straight line (Starnes uses the row of contingency size logos) and measure to the bottom edge of the sheet metal or the floor.

Trying to keep a piece of vinyl that's 10 feet long straight and wrinkle-free is practically impossible if you try to do it all at one time. Instead, run a few length's of painter's tape down the middle of the piece to create a "hinge."

Trying to keep a piece of vinyl that’s 10 feet long straight and wrinkle-free is practically impossible if you try to do it all at one time. Instead, run a few length’s of painter’s tape down the middle of the piece to create a “hinge.”

Instead of pulling away the pieces of tape used to hold the wrap in place, carefully cut it with a razor blade leaving half on the vinyl and half on the car. Next, roll the vinyl up on one side all the way up to your hinge. To separate the vinyl from the backing paper, Starnes simply pulls the paper away and then runs his arm straight down to the bottom to create a tunnel. Now you can cut the backing paper without damaging the wrap.

Instead of pulling away the pieces of tape used to hold the wrap in place, carefully cut them with a razor blade leaving half on the vinyl and half on the car. Next, roll the vinyl up on one side all the way to your hinge. To separate the vinyl from the backing paper, Starnes simply pulls the paper away and then runs his arm straight down to the bottom to create a tunnel. Now you can cut the backing paper without damaging the wrap.

Use a squeege, slowly work from the center of the wrap outward. The material Starnes uses is called "air release" which means it has a nearly invisible matrix on the adhesive side that provides channels for trapped air bubbles to escape. So if you notice any bubbles, instead of pricking the vinyl to allow it to escape, just work the bubble to the closest edge with a squeegee.

Using a squeege, slowly work from the center of the wrap outward. The material Starnes uses is called “air release” which means it has a nearly invisible matrix on the adhesive side that provides channels for trapped air bubbles to escape. So if you notice any bubbles, instead of pricking the vinyl, just work the bubble to the closest edge with a squeegee.

Besides teh air release, the vinyle Starnes uses is also repositionable. So if you don't get it exactly right, you can pull a section of the vinyl away from the sheet metal and try again. Pressure locks the adhesive in harder, so just don't squeegee everything down hard until you know you have it right.

Besides the air release, the vinyl Starnes uses is also repositionable. So if you don’t get it exactly right, you can pull a section of the vinyl away from the sheet metal and try again. Pressure locks the adhesive in harder, so just don’t squeegee everything down hard until you know you have it right. Use the pieces of tape you left in place on the sheet metal to find your marks once again so that everything goes back in place right where you had originally laid it out.

Once you have the front half of the panel applied, do the same with the back. Now you can pull of the hinge and remove the backing paper from your original cut and work back.

Once you have the front half of the panel applied, do the same with the back. Now you can pull off the hinge and remove the backing paper from your original cut and work back.

A trick that we really like is Starnes trims away the top portion of the wrap. Many sources for wraps leave their's square but it is practically impossible to get everything to line up with the top line of a race car all the way down its length. This way all you have to do is line up the bottom edge and let the top fall where it wants.

A trick that we really like is Starnes trims away the top portion of the wrap. Many sources for wraps leave their’s square, but it is practically impossible to get everything to line up with the top line of a race car all the way down its length. This way all you have to do is line up the bottom edge and let the top fall where it wants.

Cut a slit in the vinyl over the wheel opening to help you get the section behind opening to help everything to lay flat.

Cut a slit in the vinyl over the wheel opening to help you get the section behind the opening to help everything lay flat.

The vinyl will stick to sheet metal no problem, but it doesn't like transitioning to flexible plastic quite as much. To avoid frustration on down the road, go ahead and trim the vinyl away from the front and rear bumper covers.

The vinyl will stick to sheet metal no problem, but it doesn’t like transitioning to flexible plastic quite as much. To avoid frustration on down the road, go ahead and trim the vinyl away from the front and rear bumper covers.

Now you can begin trimming away the excess. Trim the vinyl right against the edge of the lip around the wheel openings. But for flat edges leave a little extra and wrap it under. This will help protect the vinyl so that the edges don't get sandblasted and start pulling away from the metal.

Now you can begin trimming away the excess. Trim the vinyl right against the edge of the lip around the wheel openings. But for flat edges leave a little extra and wrap it under. This will help protect the vinyl so that the edges don’t get sandblasted and start pulling away from the metal.

Whenever you are trying to get the wrap to lay across compound angles, a little heat can help the vinyl to stretch and lay flat without any wrinkles.

Whenever you are trying to get the wrap to lay across compound angles, a little heat can help the vinyl to stretch and lay flat without any wrinkles.

The hood can be difficult to reach, so move it to a table for easier access.

The hood can be difficult to reach, so move it to a table for easier access.

If you are trying to freehand your cuts with a razor blade you can wind up with more waves than your local water park. For straight lines, mark your cuts with painter's tape beforehand.

If you are trying to freehand your cuts with a razor blade you can wind up with more waves than your local water park. For straight lines, mark your cuts with painter’s tape beforehand.

Here, you can see how the wrap integrates with the color of the sheet metal underneath instead of simply trying to cover everything up.

Here, you can see how the wrap integrates with the color of the sheet metal underneath instead of simply trying to cover everything up.

The tools you need for this job of pretty simple: painter's (or Scotch) tape, a sharp razor, and a couple of squeegees. The orange one on the left is for broad flat areas and really helps you bear down for good adhesion without scratching the vinyl. The one on the right is a felt squeegee that's softer for areas where you are trying to work across angles or curves.

The tools you need for this job are pretty simple: painter’s (or Scotch) tape, a sharp razor, and a couple of squeegees. The orange one on the left is for broad flat areas and really helps you bear down for good adhesion without scratching the vinyl. The one on the right is a felt squeegee that’s softer for areas where you are trying to work across angles or curves. If you don’t already have squeegees, a good wrap supplier should be able to include a few in your package.

The race car all finished up and ready for the track.

The race car all finished up and ready for the track.

Source
Star Graphix

[email protected]
803.804.0617

 


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