Stick It!A prominent feature of Project Talladega is the extensive use of vinyl graphics, which define the stock car look of the finished machine. Most of us have seen some of these appliqus used on a variety of custom cars, but are mystified by what is involved in the process. We had Heath Elmer of Heath Elmer Restorations (aka Arizona Auto Trim) handle the creation of the graphics package for our Laguna, and the final result was nothing short of eye-popping. Heath tells us that the technology for doing these graphics is readily available: "Any sign shop is going to have a plotter; it is a basic piece of equipment." The plotter cuts the material to a design made in a CAD program, which can be simply scanned in, and that drives the plotter to cut the desired pattern. You can start from scratch by having the design drawn up in the computer, or choose from a virtually unlimited selection of fonts for numbers or lettering. Once the design is finalized, the vinyl material is fed into the plotter and out come the decals.
Compared to laying out graphics the old-fashioned way, by tedious reverse masking or hand-lettering, the vinyl graphics are cheap, easy, and quick, offering new possibilities for customizing a car. In contrast to painted graphics, a vinyl appliqu can be removed if you decide it's time for a change. Heath tells us to select a high-performance exterior grade vinyl in a 2mm thickness for automotive use, and that the material has a life from five to seven years in outdoor use. If you prefer paint rather than vinyl, this process still has significant usefulness, since the same technique that creates vinyl graphics can be used to cut complex masking templates. For this purpose, Heath uses a special material that can be sprayed over, and is easy to remove, creating a positive or reverse template of the paint design you are after.
By The NumbersPaint Price ListSo how much did the materials for our suede paintjob cost? To be sure, a properly done "hot rod" coat isn't cheap, but the results are stunning, and the durability and upkeep are hard to beat when compared to a standard two-stage high-gloss finish. Below are the Sherwin-Williams products we used to paint Project Talladega. The costs shown are at "Scheduled Refinisher Pricing" level. It's also worth noting that the personal service we received from the Sherwin-Williams Tempe, Arizona, branch was outstanding, in particular, the on-the-spot help from SW rep Brian Downen (480-894-8388).