Piston Slap: Will wrapping a brown GTO turn it into a G.O.A.T.?
Good afternoon Sajeev, I have appreciated your opinion in several of your articles, and I wanted to pick your brain on a topic: wrapping a classic.
Last year I picked up a one-owner ’69 GTO that was in fantastic barn-find condition, but in the ’80s it had been repainted a god-awful shade of UPS brown. The car was extremely original and I had decided to keep it as original as possible down to the white line tires. But when a UPS-brown GTO is parked next to a blue one, yellow one, and gold one, it just never gets picked. So this GTO wasn’t being enjoyed, which is a shame, as it drives great and even has cold factory A/C!
Looking at options, and the fact that I already have two cars in different body shops, I wanted to see how much fun I could have for the least amount of money, so I wondered what I could do with a wrap. First, let me be clear on one thing: I didn’t fix anything on the body. That’s because I didn’t know if this was going to work out, as I might be destined to have $500 worth of vinyl crumpled up in my shop. If that was my fate, my escape plan was to peel it off and never tell anyone of my mistake.
So I bought 50 feet of vinyl off Amazon and got to work. I removed the hood and trunk and did those first—it went very well. Then I moved to the fenders, doors, the god-awful quarter panels (that wrap around the back), and lastly, the roof.
For just over $600, some evenings in the shop, and several four-letter words later, I had a car that looked 100 times better, was only one shade, and the rust was much less visible; I was extremely pleased. I added the Judge decals and spoiler, then a Flowmaster exhaust, and I had one hell of a car. I chose to black out the grills and swap the white-line tires and hubcaps for some Rallye IIs from my ’70 LeMans.
I was amazed: I have cars that have been in body shops for years and the cost is out of this world. If I tried to justify paint and body expense I would want to go original on this one-owner car and go back to the correct Espresso Brown. But that would have taken two years and cost $12,000. Instead, this has proven to be one of the most fun cars I’ve ever had. I can drive it and park it anywhere, my daughter took her first driving lesson in it, I can set my beer on it and not freak out … the freedom and enjoyment of driving a car like this is amazing.
I doubt I devalued this car at all, as it’s being driven, doing burn outs, and getting stared at everywhere she goes. All in all I consider this project a success! I should say this is my first attempt at wrapping a car, so keep in mind it’s all about taking your time until you get the hang of it.
Then I got to thinking: How many cars have been cast aside, parked in a yard, or parted out just because you couldn’t justify spending the money on paint and body?
While you probably won’t win “best paint” at a car show, this is an extremely economical option. It just takes time, patience, and a heat gun. There are countless YouTube videos to help. You may find an extra set of hands helpful for those difficult spots (damn quarter panels)!
So anyway, I’m very curious what your take is on this. Did I destroy a time-capsule car (with documentation back to day one), or did I save a car that otherwise would have rusted away?
Jeremy, you absolutely did the right thing. A time capsule was not destroyed; instead, its appeal has broadened. While I doubt any muscle car will rust away unloved these days (as it isn’t 1987 anymore), you proved there’s a beauty that comes from the freedom of expression via vinyl wrapping. Frankly, I wish more folks would follow your lead.
And when you take the plunge, doing a bright color is a great choice for most any vehicle. The sheer volume of boring gray, silver, white, black, and red colors we see on the roads today suggest that standing out is a great move. And it’s an easily reversible move, if you decide a concours-quality restoration is merited in the future. Now imagine how many less-desirable classics could be saved with this technology, like the ’49 Packard sedan I previously discussed:
So many vehicles from the 1940s have lost their luster, but I hope someone hit the “Buy It Now” button and spent a couple grand on vinyl material, and fuel/ignition/brake parts to get this Packard looking and running like a champ. This beautiful piece of history may otherwise wind up in a scrap yard, even though Packards are crafted to a standard that can be appreciated even to this day.
Classic/antique/specialty cars of all shapes and sizes deserve a bigger audience, as our country’s enthusiasm for automobiles is anything but blended and homogenized. To wit, imagine the day when many Gen Xers and Millennials say, “Remember when you could get a clean, big-body Buick sedan for $1400 on Facebook Marketplace?”
I will miss these days, and not because this particular car garnered me a free trip to Prince Edward Island. The Buick Lucerne was never a credible threat to the Lexus ES when new, but it lived to embody the notion of an authoritatively-styled American sedan ruling the roads with grace and style, cutting a beautiful profile against a background cluttered with CUVs and monster trucks. It, much like Jeremy’s brown GTO, can become much more than what’s before our eyes.
The Pontiac GTO has a much larger and loyal following than any front-wheel-drive Buick, but remember there was a time when society deemed muscle cars as disposable as a Ford Focus or Chevy Equinox. So instead, let’s be mindful of unique stories unfolding right under our nose. And remember that new audiences are found thanks to a shiny coat of paint roll of vinyl.
I challenge people to see how Jeremy’s GTO can inspire their future automotive endeavors. What vehicle(s) are worth this effort? I reckon the answer is almost all of them.
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