How do you top your own global award winning competition car from the previous year while still maintaining the sanity of your team? Do what Nick from Exotic Graphix has done and think outside the square! After winning the top prize in 2016 of the global Avery Dennison Wrap Like A King competition, it was going to be a tough ask to attempt back to back wins without going over the top and damaging both business as well as employee relationships!
Nick’s the sort of guy who thinks beyond the boundaries of what’s already been done and prefers to be a thought leader in the field of custom vinyl wraps. His creative thinking and can-do attitude allows him to progress ideas into reality by believing anything can be done, we just need to work out how! Surrounding himself with a positive group of like-minded people gives him the advantage of bouncing ideas around till they come up with a solution!
Nick explains where the seed was planted for this year’s Wrap Like A King entry came from. “We started with the wood idea as we had the idea of how to create 3D wood from vinyl wrap. Initially we were thinking C10 pick-ups with a wood bed but we wanted the wood to be more of a feature. So then we decided to do a woodie and I tried to get hold of a Spinner wagon. We managed to get hold of one car that was available but the car was in fairly rough condition plus we wouldn’t own the car but just use it. I thought, if we’re going to invest this much time into a car, let’s do one we own.
We went through all our options again from various wagons including a VW Kombi but we felt it wasn’t challenging enough. then someone mentioned a VW Beetle and I thought that would be such a hard car to wrap so let’s do it! We did the mock up first on the computer to make sure it was going to look right and as soon as I saw the draft, I thought this is going to work great!”
With a fondness for old school rides, Nick had thoughts of purchasing an early oval window Beetle for the build but these early era bugs are highly sort after and are priced accordingly. Instead, he settled for a 2 owner 1963 Beetle located in Stratford that he sourced from Gumtree. The car was a good clean example and even retained the original log books thanks to the two fastidious owners! “The owner had no idea what we were going to do to his Beetle and I still haven’t sent him a photo of how it looks now. He’ll freak out when I do! He’ll wonder what we’ve done to his car!” laughs Nick!
To look at the amount of detail that has gone into this Type 1 Volkswagen, you’d be excused for believing that it’s been a long term project when in fact it all came together in an action packed seven weeks! “From the day we brought it to the day we entered into the competition, it was seven weeks! There was six weeks of actual working time on it. The first week was spent just nutting the build out!” explains Nick!
Aptly named Lei’d Low due to its stance, Nick’s dad played a big part in the construction of the Tiki inspired classic as he had done with their previous winning hot rod, Toxic Rat. “Last year was fairly stressful with the hot rod build but dad was straight up for it when I said we were doing a VW Beetle. The hot rod was too much custom work for the tight time line we had but the beetle is simpler. As soon as I said we were doing a beetle, he said that’d be easy as he knows them back to front. He had the whole car pulled apart in about five hours! It was just a shell which worried me as I thought, is he going to get this back together just as easy?!”
The beauty of this mass produced peoples car is that parts are so easy to find and for this particular build year, the parts bins stretched through to 1967 which would probably put the number produced during this time period into the millions worldwide! Aside from a few time earned nicks and dents, the bug was in good shape although it was later discovered that the body had received a budget blow over at some stage causing paint to lift off when lifting the wrap. With a weekend of all sanders on deck and a trip down to their good mate, Rob at RK Restorations for a 2 pak respray in the original colour, the Exotic Graphix team were back on track! As Nick says “The final finish is only as good as the body work and paint underneath!”
It was time for the vinyl wrap team to come into their own and take on the formidable task they had challenged themselves with. Creating a realistic timber finish from thin sheets of vinyl was going to require some serious brain storming! Taking design cues from embossing vinyl work flow, Nick and the team stepped it up to another level when it came to working with elevated contours and creating shadows for the 3D effect. By utilising only two styles of timber finish for the project, it helped maintain a consistency throughout the vehicle. Yet the two timber styles couldn’t be more contrasting, from the high varnish deep walnut framing working in contradiction to the course drift wood panels. “The drift wood build and finish was the most challenging part of the build. When I think back on the overall build, it was the most stressful part as it was going to make or break the project, it was the jewel in the project. A lot of R&D went into creating the finished product. We started with three layers and went all the way up to fifteen layers before we settled on eleven layers. Although I reckon eleven layers is a little deep, it exaggerates the look we were after nicely.”
Not content to rest on their laurels with the completion of the outside timber finish, the guys decided to continue the woody theme on the interior too! “We then thought for the inside, do we just print normal wood on vinyl as the inner panels but then we thought, image if we lost the competition just because of that so we did the front and rear door trims! There’s even a section of the back foot well that’s copped the 3D timber finish as well! It’s not noticed until you pull the front seat forward for backseat access. People see it and think gee wiz, they’ve even done the timber here!”
Every painted surface has been covered, inside and out! Even under the dash leading down to the carpet has been covered and all in one single piece! But let’s not stop there! The steering wheel received its fair share of custom vinyl with a Mother of Pearl effect contrasting perfectly with timber highlights and all covered in 2K clear for durability. The timber wrap also encompasses the hand brake and shifter while a pimp style shifter knob creates another visual cue for that South Island feel! “I love my pimp shifters and on a recent holiday to Hawaii, the top of the shifter is the same as the handle on the Shock Top beer I was drinking while in a bar there. I always remembered how cool that beer tap looked. There were all the standard wood handles but this just stood out so when it came to picking a shifter knob, it had to be this one!”
The curvaceous shape of this quirky machine lends itself well to odd accessories to which Nick confesses to be a huge fan of. “As soon as we looked at the VeeDub, it was screaming for accessories. I love seeing the photos of the luggage piled up on the roof racks, I love that style and thought how many accessories can we put on ours!”
A classic set of roof racks created ambient space for all sorts of accessories from a set of old travel cases strapped down one side while the obligatory sixties style, single fin long board had to been seen long and loud atop the oval roof! “I used to do work for Oke Surfboards when I was an apprentice so I called in a favour and they made us up a right era, single fin longboard to our measurements for the car. After we wrapped the board, I took it over to them and they flipped out with the design and finish because we 2 pak cleared it for a smooth finish. He also couldn’t remember doing a plywood fin on the board until I pointed out that we wrapped it in a plywood printed vinyl.” It’s opened up a new train of thought for surfboard art now too!
Another huge talking point on the car is the swamp cooler! While many of us have spent time around the classics to know what and how they work, for the average person on the street, this early era car cooler is a curiosity with Nick finding himself explaining on a regular basis the basics of it. Purchasing the evaporative cooler from a super nice guy he knew from Las Vegas, Nick assures me this aftermarket add on works well but just won’t shut off due to its design! “It’s freezing cold and you can’t turn it off due to the design so when you’re cruising at night, it blows cold air in on you! There’s flaps to close but they just leak out! I might get Dad to fab up a cover for the vents or something.” chuckles Nick.
Nick lives and breathes vinyl wrap so when he could purchase the classic green glass for the type 1 Beetle, he just printed a transparent greeny blue vinyl and did his own tint! Works a treat too. A venetian blind for the rear window? Let’s wrap that too! And not just with a timber effect finish which one initially thinks but on closer inspection, it’s a beach themed image running down the slats! So much of this car is wrapped up in detail!
The front visor is another example of Nick’s “how can I usilise this to work on the bug” when it came to surveying a new flatbed printer at one of his supplier’s workshops. “One of our suppliers has a new flatbed printer and when I saw it, I thought how can we make this work on our car? Dad built the visor first from an old mesh filled one and, after removing the mesh we shaped up the Perspex to fit in. The holographic effect only works with a 3mm or thicker perspex and it’s a really subtle yet cool effect. You don’t really notice it until you walk up to the visor.”
That Lie’d Low stance is achieved from a suspension and front end kit sourced from Fresh Kustoms. Tin God Solutions helped out with the wheel and tyre package after working out straight up what stance Nick was chasing! Nick sent through a few photos of the style he was after and a set of 8 X 15 rears with the correct offset were sent out while the original cheese cutters remain on the front. To save any rubbing issues, a narrowed four inch front beam replaced the wider track unit before Nick’s dad and Ben from Black Mamba bolted it all into place. Nick tossed up different colour choices for the rims before, well, you guessed it, he decided to wrap them with a timber finish!
The overall colour theme wasn’t just a case of picking a blue and running with it! The hue of the blue had to capture the essence of the Polynesian Tiki theme, warm ocean waters reflecting cloudless blue sky on a lazy summer’s day. The subtle blue palm style pattern flowing over the bulbous panels and audacious curves appease the senses in a hazy wash of swinging banana hammock while sipping down a cool, coconut filled pinna colada. Those cheeky, in your face graphics on the other hand, can’t help but put a grin on your face and a devilish squint in your eye as you feel that this machine was built for mischief! The artist responsible for the cheeky Tiki is Brian Allan. Nick explains how he came across it. “We initially found the artwork on the Net while I was looking for inspiration for the Tiki theme and contacted the artist about using it. I put together a nice email that explained what we wanted to use it for and what we did with Toxic Rat last year and his response was fantastic! The original design was printed on t-shirts and we’ve used it on the roof as well as used the mask on the rear but incorporated our own flower design while still being conscious of the artist’s style so as not to take away from his work but to compliment it. Our artist looked at his stroke style and replicated it to make it look like it was all done by the one artist.”
“We always try and stick to a theme all the way through. We did it with the hot rod and have done it with Lie’d Low too. We steered clear of anything that wasn’t in the sixties era. This included various custom vinyl wraps that were available.” And after 600 hrs and 11 team members plus subbies, I think you’ve nailed it! But that 11 team members couldn’t do it without their partners!
Nick’s wife Ashlee has been so supportive of the project and for the amount of time Nick and his team have had to put into it, with many long days and late nights as have many of the other partners of the builders. With two young children to look after, Ashlee has taken care of all this side of life giving Nick the many hours required to create such a detailed project. As thanks for her patience, Nick is taking Ashlee to SEMA with the crew this year to see if they can win again. The children will be being spoilt by their grandparents! Everyone wins!
And as for next year’s competition entry? “We’ve got ideas for next year’s competition but no plans at this point. I’ll only enter the competition if I know we can do better than what we competed with the previous year.” We wait with anticipation!
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