Todd Wendell prevails at the American Wrapstar competition.
By Steve Aust
Without question, vehicle wraps have become a dominant advertising force. They’re largely free of regulation and offer an extremely effective return on investment with a much better cost per impression than other media. Capitalizing on the sign industry’s increasing focus on vehicle wraps, and the market’s abundance of high-quality service providers, Digital Designware, which produces Pro Vehicle Outlines car and truck templates, and the International Sign Assn. (ISA) hosted the American Wrap Star competition during April’s ISA Sign Expo in Orlando. Thirty-nine competitors from across the globe demonstrated their expertise on Chevrolet Aveo subcompact sedans. During the competition, they used 3M Controltac film with Comply v3 air-egress adhesive technology and Scotchcal 8915 ultra-matte finish overlaminate.
Rob Ivers, a 30-year, vinyl-installation veteran who owns Rob Ivers Inc. (Raymore, MO), which offers vinyl-installation and training-certification services, served as one of five competition judges. He said that job quality, rather than speed, served as the primary factor in determining the winners.
“We judged the contestants on the four phases of a successful project – cleaning, positioning, application and finishing,” Ivers said. “We marked several areas with a grease pencil before they began to make sure they cleaned well, we closely reviewed the panel alignment, and we looked for bubble- and wrinkle-free surfaces and secure placement into edges and complex curves. We had one big rule – if they cut the paint, they were out.”
Todd Wendell, owner of Phoenix-based TW Graphics, took first place in the competition. For his efforts, he received an HP Designjet L25500 latex-ink printer – which he plans to sell because he operates an installation-only business and doesn’t want to create conflicts with printshops with whom he contracts. Wendell has installed vehicle graphics for 13 years, including wraps for the last 10. Although he still primarily uses the same tools with which he learned the trade, Wendell credits air-release vinyl and G Force Products’ RollePro installation tool for cutting his turnaround time.
“My favorite vehicle to wrap is the Prevost motor coach,” he said. “Their lines are pretty simple, and you get paid more for more square footage. Chevy HHRs and Ford Dually trucks are challenging to wrap, but the hardest vehicle I’ve ever worked on is a Morgan Arrow 8, a luxury European car that’s rare in the U.S. They have very flared fenders and deeply curved wheel wells. But, I’ve wrapped about every car under the sun and can handle anything that comes at me.”
Other finalists included Mike Tovar, an installer for Tempe, AZ-based bluemedia, who finished second and received a Royal Sovereign laminator; Marco Dittl, who applies wraps for Chemnitz, Germany’s M Design-Grafik, took third and won a Signwarehouse.com vinyl cutter; and the fourth finalist, Cameron Blancher, wraps for Concord, ON, Canada-based Drivertise Intl. won an HP touchscreen laptop (as did the four semifinalists).
ST served as a sponsor for the event. Other sponsors included 3M, HP, CADlink, Signwarehouse.com, Digital Art Solutions, Hapco, Master Magnetics, EuroSystems, Royal Sovereign, Pro Vehicle Outlines, Image One Impact, Wrap Experts and The Big Picture.
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