In race conditions, cars are going to take a beating. From gritty track events to the aptly-named NASA “Sandblast Rally,” it might be wise to find a way to protect your vehicle’s expensive finish and vinyl graphics from rocks, debris and gravel.
We checked in with the manufacturer of XPEL paint protection film to see how it can keep vehicle paint and vinyl graphics looking good for years. Drivers who use it say that XPEL film is the best product you have never seen because it’s an invisible shield that protects high-impact areas from damage in even the most grueling race environments.
Originally developed to prohibit military helicopter rotor blade damage in Vietnam, protective film became especially important to shield equipment used in the sandblasting desert conditions during the Gulf Wars. In the 1980s, paint-protection film for automotive applications initially began as a vinyl nose mask or “bra” of clear film. These earlier versions of film were not flexible, which made it difficult to apply smoothly, and the adhesive often showed through, creating an orange-peel effect.
The paint protection firm, XPEL Technologies Corporation was formed in San Antonio, Texas, in 1997 with a focus on developing innovative, high-performance paint protection film products that would provide optimum clarity, flexibility and durability. Through research and development and input from consumers, installers and automotive industry experts, XPEL created ULTIMATE, the industry’s first self-healing film. This patent-pending, self-adhesive urethane film features a unique clear coat with special elastomeric polymers that allow scratches in the surface to “heal” over time, eliminating the need for frequent polishing to maintain a high-gloss appearance, while also shielding the film from contamination and deterioration.
For an invisible installation that conforms to the complex curves of a vehicle’s high-impact areas, XPEL engineered flexible, wide sheets of film to make it easier for installers to create a seamless, undetectable layer of protection.
To see how XPEL works as a cost-effective way to maintain the appearance of race vehicles, we contacted XPEL installer Albert Helcberger, owner of Block A Chip in Mentor, Ohio.
“When I got my Corvette I wanted to preserve my investment, and a coworker at the graphic design company where I was web director told me about film. In 2002 it was hard to find an installer, so I put the film on myself. After seeing how the film was protecting my car and also enjoying the art of film installation, I gradually developed this business,” said Helcberger, who went to the XPEL Training Center in San Antonio to receive in-depth installation training.
According the Helcberger, car owners who wanted to preserve an expensive vehicle’s original paint saw the value of paint-protection film. “Clients knew that if their vehicles were damaged, refinishing would cost thousands of dollars, and even then, it still would not look as good as the OEM coating.”
In 2012, Block A Chip was introduced to the world of racing through a referral to North Canton, Ohio,-based McCann Racing. McCann designs, builds, modifies and preps race and street vehicles, with a focus on Dodge Vipers and Nissan GT-Rs. According to McCann Racing Team Manager Dan Fiffick, “Our shop has a reputation for creating high-performance race vehicles with show-car looks, and adding a layer of XPEL film is the way to go to maintain a great appearance.” No damage-prone surface on this Viper was overlooked. To preserve the finish on the expensive and difficult-to-paint roll cage, Block A Chip wrapped each bar with a custom-cut section of XPEL film.
To get the right fit for each car, XPEL has an extensive film pattern library for more than 70,000 vehicles. Kits range in application from fenders and mirrors to front bumper fascias and rocker panel kits. Costs vary by application, but we found prices from $50 for wheel openings to $450 for front bumpers.