After a Crash Part 7: Before Returning to the Track, Time to Make It Look Like a Real Race Car

By christinaylam
May 22, 2020 | BMW, racing, graphics | Posted in Vintage Views | Never miss an article

Read Part 6

Read Part 8

The night before the truck was leaving the shop for the SCCA Runoffs at VIR, the new race car was done–sort of. 

The new E46-chassis M3 sat on the ground for the first time since getting a TC Design cage. Our only testing included a few second-gear pulls around the parking lot at midnight before being loaded up into the truck along with Hugh’s E46 M3. 

Both cars rocked fresh coats of white paint from the body shop. They looked almost identical. While there is nothing cleaner than a freshly painted race car, it needs some livery to stand out on track. 

Heading into this 60-day race car build project, I was fully prepared to run the plain white paint at SCCA Runoffs and forgo the livery. My longtime friend Alex Shin, who runs NoVA Graphx, decided otherwise. 

NoVA Graphx has been my supplier for vinyl numbers and stickers since the start of this hobby, when we both drove together in HPDE. Alex and I chatted during the 60-day build process about some livery ideas, and I showed him some DTM cars for inspiration. 

Hugh also gave some input into the livery design. He said to make the car look mean this time: The previous livery looked too “nice,” and he suggested something more aggressive this time around so drivers would think twice about pulling any questionable moves. 

With the car up in Connecticut at Hi-Speed Motorsports, Hugh’s shop, and barely finished in time for the race, there was no time for us to wrap the car before leaving. Luckily, NoVA Graphx does mobile vinyl and brought all the materials to the track. As soon as the trailer was paddocked at VIR for the Runoffs, we rolled out my shiny white car, and Alex immediately got to work laying knifeless tape and vinyl. 

In just three hours, the livery wrap was complete. It successfully incorporated my DTM inspiration along with Hugh’s input. This car looked like serious business. Along with the wrap, Alex cut me sponsor and contingency stickers to complete the look. 

Alex explains his goal for each livery design he creates:

When designing livery, I feel it’s most important that I try and understand what vision the client has for their car. After that, my job is to bring that vision to life. We all probably have watched a professional race or spread open a car magazine to the cover car’s centerfold at one point or another and got excited to see a two-page spread about race car and thought, ‘How cool!’ My goal is to try and bring out that level of excitement towards the owner’s own race car.”

NoVA Graphx designed and wrapped both my first E46 and my second E46. Both times, I showed Alex some photos for inspiration of a general look that I liked. The process was simple and started with a consultation to flush out the goal of the look. Colors often look different in real life than they do on a computer monitor, so it is important to see and feel these samples before committing to buying several yards of vinyl. After deciding on the color and the design, Alex ordered the respective amount of vinyl in each color. 

More from Alex: “Both times, the livery design started with a consultation; the difference was the type of excitement you expected each time. 

The first E46 design, we took inspiration from the classic M3 GTR race car. Lines had some similarities with an updated flow and personalized color scheme. 

The second E46 design, we had a much more aggressive approach, wanting it to look evil in the mirror of a competitor. The second design gave me a level of creative freedom that made me want to start wrapping race cars to begin with!” 

Laying vinyl, similar to wrenching on cars, can be done in your home garage. Alex shares some of his tips and tricks if you want to try DIYing your own vinyl:

First off, don’t be afraid. To get better, you just have to keep doing, learn from your mistakes and be creative in your solutions. It’s not a paint job: If you mess up, peel it off and start again! 

If you want to try getting into wrapping as a solo venture, a set of magnets to hold the vinyl, plenty of retractable knives–don’t be afraid to keep snapping off blades! Gotta keep them sharp!–a wrap glove, and a good felt-edge squeegee.”

Check out NoVA Graphx for livery design, vinyl application and custom stickers. 


Read the rest of the series:

Part 1: Three Types of Wrecks

Part 2: The Day After the Wreck

Part 3: Seeking Racing Justice

Part 4: Building a New Race Car From Scratch

Part 5: A New Roll Cage for the New Race Car

Part 6: The Thrash to Meet a Firm Deadline, the SCCA Runoffs

Part 8: 60 Days After Destroying the Race Car and Building a New One, It's Time to Take the Green at the Runoffs

Part 9: Pondering Future Racing Plans


How Christina got her start in motorsports.

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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/18/20 8:51 a.m.

When you read the entire article, check out Hugh's car at the bottom of the page: The graphics aren't symmetrical, and that looks way cool. 

5/18/20 9:57 a.m.

Glad I was able to put your vision on "paper" so to say.

tuna55 (Forum Supporter)
tuna55 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/18/20 10:13 a.m.

Both look so very cool. Nice work!

Tom1200 Dork
5/18/20 10:55 a.m.

I stress when my cars aren't ready two weeks before an event..............finishing up the graphics in the paddock would had me chuggin a bucket of Valium.

Well done to everyone involved.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/18/20 12:22 p.m.

In reply to NovaGraphx :

Excellent work, NovaGraphx. Both cars look great. 

tuna55 (Forum Supporter)
tuna55 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/19/20 7:04 a.m.

Last night I showed my family the before and after pics. They were really horrified at the before, but they all love the new livery and that you're okay!

IndyLegend33 New Reader
5/21/20 2:20 p.m.

I have a hard enough time applying the vintage, round numberboard vinyl with a number on it. Last year, that alone took me 2 hours to align it properly and to make sure the air bubbles weren't there... and my vintage Mustang is pretty square without curves! NoVa Graphics, you may have just gotten a new customer because I'm too old for this kind of work. Fantastic job and awesome design that you all put together. The at-the-track application is some VIP-level stuff. Well done!

APEowner GRM+ Memberand Dork
5/21/20 4:38 p.m.

Christina - Thank you for sharing this journey with us.  I hope that there's a part 8 in which you get to document kicking butt and taking names on the track with the new car.

christinaylam (Forum Supporter)
christinaylam (Forum Supporter) New Reader
5/24/20 7:14 p.m.

Thanks for following along guys! And yeah what a stressful 60 days. I had a ton of support from the community to help make this whole thing happen. Cage in a day and a half, and vinyl job in 3 hours, without some really good friends this 60 day race build wouldn't have been possible. 

roger_waltman New Reader
5/25/20 2:06 p.m.

Trackside livery service! Brilliant. Talk about not wasting a minute here, kudos.

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