Cool Cars & Tech
By Jess Davidson for Wheels.ca
When it comes to capturing attention on the roads, a car’s exterior is the first thing people notice.
But when it comes to flashy finishes, what once seemed fresh and eye-catching can become a bore, or worse, an embarrassment, when trends change.
Enter vehicle wraps.
Fast becoming an alternative to paint jobs, wraps are specially designed, extremely high-resolution 3M polyvinyl digital prints applied directly to a vehicle’s surface. The choices of design are almost endless.
Unique Wraps in Whitby is one of several GTA wrap shops tapping in to this burgeoning market. It does a few hundred personalized jobs a year (the majority of their business is commercial), including a recent standout: a Viper wrap designed for a client who wanted a Dean Kearney race car replica — camouflage, industrial grills, pavement patch designs and all.
Another client came in with a black Cadillac Escalade and requested a matte white finish. Rather than pour thousands of dollars into a paint job (and potentially harm the resale value by making a major aesthetic change), he opted for a wrap instead.
According to Tim Lyttle, director of marketing and business development, wraps are often mistaken for customized paint jobs, which begs a rather obvious question — why a wrap over a fresh coat of paint?
Simply put, it’s about money, says Lyttle.
“Depending on how extravagant you want to go, you can spend five, 10, even 15 thousand dollars on a paint job, and then it’s permanent,” he explains. In contrast, a wrap costs between $2,000 and $3,000, “and it’s temporary — you can remove it when you’re sick of looking at it.”
A wrap removal is typically under $500, Lyttle says. It’s also quick, generally taking about half a day. What’s more, if the wrap gets a ding or a scratch, the damaged panel can be easily swapped, while a re-paint is not nearly as painless.
In addition to changing up a look with ease, wrapping helps preserve a vehicle’s original paint finish by creating a tight, sealing membrane around the vehicle. Wraps also protect the finish against UV rays, stone chips and minor abrasions, as well as road-salt in the winter.
From start to finish — discussion, design, and execution — a vehicle wrapping job typically takes 10-15 days. Customers come in with some idea about what they want, says Lyttle, and the designers’ job is to get the details needed to bring that vision to life.
The next step is to create the film, which is printed and installed in-house.
This is where it can get tricky, and where skill and experience will make all the difference. To ensure a perfect finish, wraps are installed by 3M Preferred Graphic Installers using patented 3M technology. 3M runs a course that teaches best practises, followed up by a rigorous two-day testing process.
Generally, wraps last about five years, though Lyttle says they can stay in good shape for up to a decade depending on how they’re treated.
Popular choices for wrap designs include racing stripes, complete chrome coverage or a matte-black finish, but when it comes to customizing your exterior, the sky, and your imagination, is the limit.
“If you can think of something, chances are we can produce it,” says Lyttle.
Follow our occasional series that looks at where to get your ride tricked out in the GTA. Know a great spot to get rims, sound systems, tints, interiors and other ‘toys’? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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