A few months ago the folks from 3M’s Commercial Graphics division came to our offices in Irvine, California, to show off some semipermanent coverings from their Scotchprint line—a personalized vehicle graphic material that comes in a variety of different colors and styles, including brushed aluminum and gold metallic. But what really caught our eye was their faux carbon-fiber material and how cool it looked on the hood of their rental car. Yes, it’s an imitation carbon-fiber film, and this stuff looks trick. Immediately we started dreaming up ways to use it (interior accents, body panel stripes, and/or hood/bumper coverings).
While it’s growing in popularity with street enthusiasts, vinyl wraps (or film coverings) are popular in the racing world too. Some racers have turned to wraps in lieu of paint graphics for their rides. LSX Drag Radial champion Mike Meeks, for example, had his car partially covered in carbon Scotchprint, but liked the look of it so much that he eventually decided to cover his whole car. He claims that from a distance it looks so real, people often ask if it’s a real carbon body (I can attest to that since I was one of them. —H).
A couple months ago we ordered a few fiberglass components from Harwood for our ’63 Nova project, including the hood, decklid, and bumpers. The hood and decklid were destined for a fresh coat of DuPont’s Redline Red, however for the bumpers, we were undecided. In the past with other projects, we had simply spray-painted them a shade of silver and called it good, but that’s when we remembered 3M’s cool coverings. After measuring our pieces, we ended up ordering two 5x9-inch pieces of 3M black carbon-fiber Scotchprint and set out to get our lightweight pieces wrapped. We think it’s a good alternative to spray paint, and you could get creative too, even the brushed aluminum on the bumpers would look sharp.
We happened to mention our little bumper-tweaking project to the owner of our Dec. ’12 ’55 feature car, Scott Miller (Super-Fly Fifty-Five, pg. 82), and it turns out he installs 3M products every day at his sign shop, Swifty Sign in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Offering to help with the install, we carted our Harwood pieces to his shop to get our boring black bumpers stylized with Scotchprint.
The Scotchprint is a moldable yet durable film with a semipermanent adhesive that bonds to most smooth surfaces. It can easily be removed and oftentimes transferred, if not damaged.
At Swifty Sign, owner and operator Scott Miller wipes down the bumpers with an alcohol solution that removes anything that will cause the film to not adhere.
Measuring is a big deal when wrapping pieces with complex angles, such as a bumper for a ’63 Chevy. You want to make sure you order enough so that you can stretch the film around the whole piece, with plenty room to spare.
With a test piece, Miller shows where we’ll need an adhesion primer to help the material stick to the tight angles. We may remedy this by running the foglights in the fiberglass bumper.
When you first start trying to put this stuff on, it’s going to get a little crinkled, but don’t worry. With a little patience, it comes out looking smooth.
To wrap an entire bumper, Miller always starts in the middle and works outward; a test piece shows how much excess you need to make sure it fits tightly. If your piece doesn’t have enough extra to grab, it will be tough to make it completely smooth. Here, Miller uses a plastic tool to guide the material on.
Granted, professionals will do a much better job than any of us. Even so, LSX Drag Radial Champion Mike Meeks chose to cover his race car himself in carbon-fiber Scotchprint, and it turned out great. Further proof that this is a manageable material for any DIYer who wants to take on the job himself.