New Car Hell

Chicago Wrap overcame delays and new-model challenges for Volkswagen and the country’s largest auto show.
Chicago Wrap battled delays and new-car twists during this project.

“I committed to eight vehicles in two days,” said Sean Heffner, owner of Chicago Wrap in Burr Ridge, IL. “The vehicles had just [been] built,” he continued, referring to the new 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, which his shop was to color-change wrap for the annual Chicago Auto Show only days away. “We have a large staff of three designers and eight junior installers, and had to keep other pending jobs rolling,” he said. “I needed fast and good-quality wrappers, who are hard to find.”

A STURDY DOZEN

Fortunately, over the years, Sean has built a network and reputation of trust among installers. He also started a “wrap university” last year to certify installers for Chicago Wrap. “My father, with over 40 years of vinyl experience being the ‘professor,’ was able to round up a few [former] students who have thrived and become wrap companies themselves,” Sean said. “I called our sister company, Cleveland Wrap, and my best friend gathered his crew and headed out with some extra tools and a lot of ambition.”

Just to make this job a little more fun, “The biggest challenge was that these were brand-new vehicles, with [our] never wrapping one before,” Sean said. On top of that, the client, at least indirectly, was Volkswagen itself, through local company DriveShop (Addison, IL). DriveShop works with 16 different manufacturers, using Chicago Wrap as their preferred vendor. Volkswagen selected the just-released colors and finishes of 3M Wrap Film Series 2080: Smoldering Red, Apple Green and Perfect Blue in satin, and Burnt Orange in gloss.

“They also sent us your typical vector template with lettering across the doors,” Sean said. “The manufacturer provided font types and a pdf file ready to go. It’s not always like this; we normally play a big part in the design.” Chicago Wrap used Adobe Illustrator to scale the files to 1/10th on a vector template. They then ran Roland VersaWorks for two rows of copy, “Atlas Cross “Sport,” before cutting the 2080 on the shop’s Roland SOLJET Pro 4 XR-640. “We were lucky enough the lettering was scaled to size, since we had to make the stuff before the vehicles arrived,” Sean said. “The old measure twice and cut once rule was not the case.”

Chicago Wrap used new techniques while wrapping these brand-new Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sports.
Chicago Wrap used new techniques while wrapping these brand-new Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sports.

The vehicles, scheduled to arrive on a Saturday night, left Chattanooga, TN on Friday. Chicago Wrap had to deliver by Tuesday night, so they decided to work Sunday to gain a head start. “Turns out the trucks got delayed and everybody was ready to work, but no trucks were there,” Sean said. After talking other projects and waiting, they got a call that the trucks would arrive at midnight and 8 a.m. 

“We all went home and prepared for a big day,” Sean said. Then, the midnight truck broke down 100 miles out. “The 8 a.m. truck arrived and had to go get the other load back to us by noon,” he continued. “The manufacturer ended up only wrapping six units due to their delay.” Chicago Wrap’s collection of 12 installers finally were able to tackle the project in two days with a little overtime. Two installers put about 16 hours into each vehicle, Sean reported. “This was good time, considering the contours and size of the SUV.”

NEW TECHNIQUES

Against the regular run of play when installing, the installers did not remove the Atlas Cross Sports’ hardware. “Risking breaking parts before an auto show was a no-no,” Sean said. “Door handles and removing door panels have become more risky and complicated.” As a result, Chicago Wrap used new wrap techniques, inlaying all the doors and then wrapping the doors and handles last. “I learned a great technique, tucking the corner of the handle and pulling,” Sean said. “I remember it’s like putting sheets on a bed – a tip from Justin Pate [of The Wrap Institute].” The installation crew also saved time estimating 1.5 hours for each of 32 door handles in removal that they didn’t have time or wouldn’t get paid for. “It seems like common sense, but it’s something only experienced wrap shops know,” Sean said.

Chicago Wrap has also developed methods with masking tape to prevent damaging the vehicle and flawless cuts around trim pieces and molding. The VW bumpers had “bad-recessed areas,” according to Sean. “Seams and inlays are parts of wrapping that make them fail-proof. The trick is to be uniform and prevent overstretching to look clean.” Despite the many challenges, Chicago Wrap delivered the six wrapped Cross Sports by their Tuesday deadline for the nation’s largest auto show.

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