That's a Wrap

Along with the car of tomorrow, the paint job of the future is here, and it isn't even paint. In 2003, 3M and Vomela Specialty Company designed a new vinyl "wrap" and introduced themselves to the world of NASCAR. Many teams have made the switch to the easier, more cost efficient trick of "wrapping" their cars with this new material instead of painting them [source: Lemasters]. It still takes time to design and do, but cars can be unwrapped in Illinois today and be rewrapped with new colors and sponsors for tomorrow's race in Nevada. The entire process can take mere hours [source Lemasters]. This new process is less costly, and allows teams to keep a paint job safely hidden underneath the wrap for a quick transition [source: MotorsportsDesigns].

Applying Paint to Stock Cars

You've done all the preparation, so the dirty work is pretty much done, right? Not so fast -- painting cars is more involved than running the rollers over a fresh canvas.

­Today, most cars are actually painted by robots in an assembly line, with the exception of rare hand-painted models, like the 2008 National Guard camo car [source:Pfefier]. For those without the time or money to get a hand-painted car, the "50/50" method of painting a personal car is the best. When viewed from a distance, or great speeds, the paint job can look great.

For others, like Nextel Cup pros, a car has to do more than look good from a distance. The colors also have to match the driver's fire suit and all of the merchandise associated with the team. To make sure this all happens, a designer draws up a specific plan encompassing the different elements. When a design is agreed upon, the car is sprayed with a final base, usually an acrylic urethane and is ready for the paint [source: Livingstone].

Then, the color is applied in a color booth. Labor intensive and complex, depending on the colors used, this process can run up to $15,000 [source: Livingstone, Siska]. The goal is that the car has a good "pop"-- a visual look that makes it stand out from others and says something about the team and its sponsors. Once the paint's applied, the car dries before receiving its clear coat, which acts as the final barrier between the slick paint job and the harsh elements of the world.

For a more in depth look at the clear coating, head over the next page.