High Performance

Wrapping the world’s fastest production car – the McLaren 720S.
“It’s all in my head,” Justin said of his color-selection process. “In some cases, it changes as it goes. I didn’t plan the matte-black hood, but as we were going, that seemed to be what it needed.”

What if I told you there’s a very successful wrap shop that doesn’t have to worry about incorporating unfortunate customer logos into their wrap designs? Doesn’t bother with mock-ups or proofs, nor software of any kind – not even a printer! Atlanta Custom Wraps (ACW; Woodstock, GA) has been in business for eight years and performs color-change wraps only, usually on high-end vehicles. Owner Justin Norton and ACW’s team of seven employees (three installers, two mechanics/technicians and two prep/detailers) work the race and performance-car niche, and in doing so, have wrapped more than 400 vehicles per year each of the past four years.

A NETFLIX ORIGINAL

And the McLaren is just one of 10 vehicles that ACW uses for promotion. Another is a Lamborghini Huracán, given to the shop in a trade for work done for a celebrity who knew the Lamborghini would give them a big boost. Justin acquired the McLaren last year and immediately wrapped it in a matte black. “The car was featured in one magazine,” he said, “but for what it is, the car didn’t get the attention that it should have. I knew it was time to change and go with a color that really got some attention.”

Meanwhile, Netflix approached Justin and asked him to be on one of its original series. “I knew once I got accepted for the show, the car was going to get several photo shoots and a lot of camera footage,” Justin said. “Being promotion for our shop, I really needed a wrap that would wow people through several episodes.” ACW works exclusively with 3M and Avery Dennison wrap films. “I love 3M’s color flow series, but I think Avery [Dennison] has the best color shifts available now,” he said. “They have several more colors in [their color shift films] than the other brands.” So, Justin went with Avery Dennison’s Supreme Wrapping Film ColorFlow Series Gloss Roaring Thunder SW900. “It has a very noticeable blue and purple shade, but also a distinct orange and copper tone,” he said, adding, “But there may be more.”

SPECIALIZATION

Years ago Justin figured out that hiring people for the distinctly different roles of wrapping a vehicle would create an assembly line of sorts. Those he hired for detailing could also do prep work. Wrapping performance cars calls for a lot of disassembling and reassembling, so he brought in techs to handle that. This way, his installers – and everyone else – can focus on what they do well. “The most overlooked thing with wraps is post-heating,” Justin said. “We have people dedicated to this. We spend a lot of time on preparation, priming [with an adhesive promoter] and post-heating properly – the three P’s.” His team works together on every vehicle, which helps the shop turn out one to two vehicles per day.

Still, despite the division of skilled labor and assembly-line approach, wrapping the McLaren presented a great many challenges. “It’s nervewracking any time you take a $400,000 car apart,” Justin said. In this case, he brought in an actual McLaren tech to help. “At first [the McLaren] didn’t seem to be the most difficult, but the more you look at it, every single body panel has hard edges and contours,” he said. “You have to take your time and make sure your edge game is on point.” 

Take, for example, the doors. “The 720’s inside door is also painted, so you have three sides of the door to wrap, maybe even four,” Justin said. “We did have to run a seam… [using 3M’s] Knifeless Tape, but were able to hide the seam, tucked halfway down the backside of the door.” Also, the quarter panels have 8-10 exposed edges and corners, which is very rare on a car, Justin said. “Being able to disassemble and get our hands in there to install those edges made all the difference in the world.”

For comparison’s sake, ACW wrapped Justin’s Lamborghini in less than 2.5 hours, but required a full 10 hours for the McLaren – which did not include laminating, as most color-change wraps don’t require it. The shop does offer adding a ceramic coat to protect their wraps and make them easier to clean. Were the McLaren for a customer, Justin feels confident that, “If garage kept and not daily driven, [the wrap’s lasting] five to six years would be very realistic.” But because the McLaren’s job is to promote the shop, chances are they’ll rewrap it again in six months. Anyone free for driving duties?

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Signs of the Times July 2019

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