A.P.E. Attacks Wrap on HorsePower TV

California shop provides high-performance muscle graphics.

"Guys love cars, the faster the better - that's the idea behind 'HorsePower TV,'" states the television show's website. The half-hour program dedicated to high-performance muscle cars appears on Spike TV ("the first network for men") on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and each show details modifications made to a project car. Over the course of a season, the same car may receive an engine buildup, a new suspension, a fender swap-out, and much more.

When the show wanted to add color graphics to its "Project Super Nova" car - a 1969 Chevrolet Nova - it called on A.P.E. Wraps of Coronado, CA, just outside of San Diego, which specializes in custom vehicle wraps for auto-show cars as well as personal vehicles. A.P.E. does its own design work as well as printing, finishing, and installing. As you might guess, A.P.E. Wraps owner Troy Downey said he and his crew would gladly oblige.

RTM Productions, the show's producers, provided Downey with a hand-drawn concept rendering they had come up with-which had been scanned in and saved as a JPEG-but wanted A.P.E. "to embellish it and make it better," says Downey. RTM was familiar with the shop's work, so they had no qualms about giving the shop free reign and letting them, well, "go ape."

A.P.E. spent a total of 15 hours designing HorsePower TV's "Project Super Nova," wrap in between its daily production work. The project's initial and biggest challenge, says Downey, was a critical one: Because this was an older "muscle car," no vehicle templates were readily available. A.P.E. had to create the template from scratch, doing all the point-to-point measuring and remeasuring prior to beginning the actual design itself, then scaling the artwork to fit these measurements. Downey and crew used Adobe Illustrator to create the template, and used Illustrator as well as Photoshop in executing the design. All the elements in the design were original; none were from stock.

"When you're designing, you have to guarantee your final success before you start," says Downey. "There's no guarantee of what an installer can handle, so you do the work up front." The American flag-inspired final design received a quick thumbs up from the show's producers. In fact, recalls Downey, "When they saw it, they said, 'Hey, you can do that?'-and the design was immediately accepted." "

TV cause and effect
With the design complete, A.P.E. Wraps used its Seiko ColorPainter 64S to image the American Flag and "HorsePower TV" graphics onto 250 sq ft of pressure-sensitive Avery Dennison MPI 1007 EZ Satin Cast White Vinyl at 150 dpi (1440 x 1440 apparent). A.P.E then finished it with an Avery Dennison DOL 1000 Gloss Overlaminate, using an AGL Encore NH cold laminator.

It was after the output phase that some new challenges entered into the mix-challenges that came about as a direct result of the television process. The first challenges came in the installation process, which was done at RTM Studios in Nashville, TN. A project that would normally have taken two employees 10 hours to wrap non-stop, says Downey, now took place over three days' time. The filming process, Downey explains, involved multiple stops and starts as well as camera repositioning-not to mention lighting adjustments-all of which served to lengthen the install process. "They often had to re-do certain scenes for various reasons and to try to get the right angles," he says.

The second challenge came when the show aired this past July (it also re-aired twice in August and twice in September). The portion featuring A.P.E. Wraps took up half the episode, says Downey, and it stirred up quite a bit of excitement about the company.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the show brought so much traffic to the A.P.E Wraps website that it not only crashed the site but also brought down the company's Internet service provider and all of the ISP's customer sites as well. "RTM warned us that the show could produce a high amount of traffic to our website - but we had no idea it would be more than what our website and ISP could handle," says Downey. "Like the old adage says, 'Be careful what you ask for - you just might get it.'" "

Now back up and running, the A.P.E. website includes information about the HorsePower TV episode, as well as data on the different kinds of products the company produces and images of how a vehicle can be customized for different price ranges.

Simulating paint and acronyms
In founding the company in 2003, the owners of A.P.E. Wraps wanted a name that was recognizable, fun, and "had a little bit of attitude." So after much deliberation, they decided on the non-acronym of "A.P.E.," which, says Downey, could stand for "Ain't Paint Enterprises," or "Auto Paint Equivalent," or perhaps something else-it's the word "ape" that's important.

Downey, who comes from a family background of hot-rod cars, had kept an eye on the development of digital technology in the vehiclegraphics arena. He says he wanted the product to get to where it "wasn't just a sticker anymore," so he could take the technology and use it to mimic high-dollar custom paint jobs on vehicles.

Today, the company wraps everything from off-shore race boats to off-road race cars to everyday passenger cars. In addition, A.P.E. stays in regular contact with four TV production companies and was filmed for some new shows that were picked up for the 2006 season.

"For some reason the production companies have gravitated toward us, and I'm not quite sure how it all happened. It's probably from all the years of being in, around, and involved," says Downey.

A.P.E. WRAPS
www.apewraps.com

View more from this Big Picture issue