Advancements in Modern technology have given us the ability to evolve into a more sophisticated way of life while easing the physical strain on our bodies as we strive to “build a better mouse trap.” This also rings true when it comes to retaining the traditional statue of our favourite vocation while combining the latest innovations into our hot rods and custom cars. We’ve seen advancements in chassis technology thanks to computer aided design (C.A.D) along with ECU run fuel injected motors allowing us to run strip and street at the touch of a button. Electronic power steering units tucked out of sight while assisting us on the road as we listen to our favourite 50s and 60s rock via hidden blue tooth enabled stereo units as air ride suspension smooths out the bumps while giving our custom ride the ground hugging stance we’ve become accustomed to.
Custom paint and graphics has also seen it’s fair share of technological advancement giving us eye popping candy colours as well as the colour changing ChromaFlair craze. Vinyl wrapping has also opened up a whole new style of automotive finishes including Kevlar and detailed marketing images applied mainly to late model vehicles and race cars but has yet to impact our traditional style hot rods and custom car scene until now! Enter Nick Caminiti and his team of wrappers at Exotic Graphix with their loud as hell 1930 Tudor! The detailed finish on this car blows you away as you take in the multitude of patterns laid over the all steel body. The quality of the finish is incredible and if you weren’t told it was a wrap, you would swear it was all paint and air brush work straight off the gun!
Graphic Designer/Signwriter by trade and having owned a modified Torana previously, Nick always had a soft spot for the rat rod scene. “I’ve always had a thing for rat rods. I love the chopped, channelled and cars on their guts, patina paint, etc. When this rod came up on EBay, it looked really tidy so we went for it”. The Tudor was purchased from a rod builder in Indiana with help from a family member residing in the States. “Unfortunately, the build of this rod wasn’t as good as we were lead to believe. I was gutted when we got it. As soon as it landed, we put it all together and got it half acceptable to run. We took it to the Kustom Nats but decided it just wasn’t right so we pulled it all down. Unfortunately, it was like opening a can of worms with the issues that we found! The chassis was terrible so we rebuilt a new chassis for it. The original chassis had its rails running horizontally. I drove it down the road and it was like riding on a trampoline with the amount of flex. Things were butt welded and not gusseted! We had to put new floors in it to give us more room inside as well. It originally had a drag car style rear end in it where basically the seat lent up against the four link. There was just no room to move at all. I’m short, yet my knees were right up to my chin! My Dad Rocky and Ben at Black Mamba did all the chassis/sheetmetal work. Without them, the rod would have never been finished” laments Nick. “My dad’s a mechanic and is into American muscle cars, Mustangs, Camaros etc. He appreciates the hot rods and happens to have one himself at the moment, but we’re both not what you would call traditional hot rodders, we just enjoy modified cars. “
With the build of the rod flailing due to lack of enthusiasm and finding itself relegated to the back corner of the shed, it took a new global competition in Nick’s industry to reignite the flame of the build. “”The vinyl wrap competition came along and we said lets enter it and see what we could do. We had the perfect car for it. It was just the motivation we required. If it hadn’t come along, the car would still be sitting in the corner of the shed. Having a deadline motivated us to get it done. “ This was the first year entrants from outside the USA could enter, and included Australia and New Zealand. The parameters for the competition were broad as long as you utilised Avery Deninson, the competition organiser’s product. Points would be awarded in various catagories including most visual transformation, quality and skill level of install, overall public look and appeal and uniqueness of design.
“The reason why we decided to use this car for the competition was because every other year it was always a Ferrari, Lambo, or something else late model that would win it. So we thought well the Americans are going to love the rod as they know what it is, so we’ve got one up on the competition already. It’s unique and my background before wrapping was in custom paint so I had an idea of what we would love to achieve. No one had really tried to replicate the custom paint look with wrap so I thought let’s give it a go and it all just fell into place. The new vinyl that year was released which is called Diamond Supreme Wrapping Film which is like a high fleck metallic flake so it was perfect for that sixties custom paint look we were chasing. We used the 24ct spun gold wrap too which just suited the rod. If anyone had said to me previously would you ever wrap that car, I would have said no way! You don’t wrap these as I’m a true believer that you shouldn’t wrap rods or custom choppers, etc. as I reckon there’s always a place for paint. But for this competition and for what we were trying to achieve, the rod was perfect for it. I even said once the competition is over, we’ll rip it off and I’ll get the car painted as you just don’t do this to hot rods but once it was finished I’m like far out, this actually looks like paint! It blew us away! Don’t get me wrong, I take my hat off to the custom paint guys and what they can do but there’s an art in wrapping too.”
With the competition run and won, Nick and his crew at Exotic Graphix took out the win at SEMA 2016 making all those countless hours and late nights worth it, but we are curious as to what has gone into accomplishing a world winning finish such as this. “It’s all been printed. We started with a silver Diamond SWF base and we templated the whole car by wrapping it and drawing out all the lines. We then pulled the wrap off and shrunk it back with a heat gun so all the lines went back to their natural state. We then scanned all those into the computer, did all our artwork to those lines and then printed onto that diamond grade so you don’t feel any edges. The only overlay is the spun gold where we have hidden the join of the diamond grade wrap underneath. It was very challenging but we learnt a lot along the way. All the flat panels went down easy but any areas that needed to be stretched, like the back corners, we found were much more difficult. We realised we needed to take plenty of notes, such as which heat gun we used, on what setting, and which worker was in which corner of the car, because this all gave us different amounts of stretch. We needed the exact same amount of stretch as the templates because we’ve got a 19mm gap around every panel. It took endless hours to get it right. It really tested my patience and I’ll be honest, there were a couple of times I thought nup, this isn’t possible, we need to come up with another idea. That’s where the team stepped up and convinced me we’d get it done! I reckon we wrapped the back corner three or four times before getting it right. It all paid off in the end with the win! We had a job card on it and we got up to 300 hours and the last week before comp closing date, we spent three days on it constantly so we figure in the end there was about 350 hours all up! The hard work was mainly in the templating and the design. It was worth it though as it was a great team building exercise and the guys and girls were into it 100% while still managing to get our regular work out as well. It cost us a lot of money to do but it’s the perfect marketing tool. People tell us we should advertise on Google but this is a better way of marketing and a lot more fun too!”
Nick never wanted a trailer queen and always had plans on driving this low slung machine, so the visual show required go as well. With the original chassis in dire straits as previously mentioned, Nick enlisted the help of his Dad and good mate, Ben from Black Mamba to build a suitable frame for the body. Once again, the versatility of the wrap was utilized thanks to clever thinking on Nick’s part. “We made a template of the underside of the rod with wrapping vinyl and stuck it down on some sign panel. We were then able to get the exact size, locate the mounting points, and make the new chassis fit to that. It was cool to be able to use some of our own technology along with my dads traditional skills when it came to the construction.”
The new chassis had K members inserted between the rails while the rear was stepped up over the 9 inch diff to allow room for the repositioned fuel tank, air tank, compressor and the battery. The aforementioned badly positioned four link was reset to a more suitable location while shock wave air bags help with the ride and stance. The suicide front end required a revamp from it’s original location too for obvious reasons. “The guy from the states had the front axle sitting two foot out the front but we brought it back 150mm. I didn’t mind the look, but it was so long and the turning circle was a joke! Roundabouts were a challenge to get around!” Nick points out.
Power comes courtesy of a rebuilt 350 Chev, thanks to Nick’s dad, and is backed up by a T350 box. Edelbrock alloy heads, mild cam and finned rocker covers compliment the six 97s standing proud above the cowl. “We were just going to run the triple 97s but these six 97s became available and I had to grab them as I knew it would just set the car off. I paid a bit for them but it was worth it!” A custom turned fuel rail feeds four out of the six at the moment but Nick hopes to be running all six soon.
The spent gases could just exit loudly out through the cut offs, but for rego requirements there’s a twin system running through the trans tunnel before exiting out the back. Ben from Black Mamba is once again responsible for the trans running pipes, however it mightn’t be the most driver friendly way to run a pair of hot pipes as it heats the cabin up very quickly. Nick says it’s worth it for the visual benefits! “The workmanship underneath is so well done, it’s a credit the way he’s set up the exhaust in such a limited space! This way we can sit the body on the ground.”
Disc brakes up front and drums down back operated by a master cylinder help bring the rat rod to a halt while rolling on 15 inch classic piecrust Firestones wrapped around stock Ford rims. Simple bullet caps were added so as not to detract away from the busy body. Probably not much chance of that happening!
The rare and rust free all steel body has had a 7 inch chop along with substantial channelling while the floor section under the seats has been stepped down to allow breathing space inside the sparse cabin. An original A model dash copped the wrap treatment, while a cool Nash classic chrome gauge cluster sits central amongst the gleam and glitter. Future plans for the interior include the full sixties style diamond stitch vinyl finish including the floor!
Just to add to the vinyl on vinyl, is the vinyl roof which came with the car and adds to the overall quirkiness of the resto, although Nick’s preference would have been to run with an open top as the original timbers are still in place.
As if there weren’t enough graphics already covering all angles of the comp winning rod, a cryptic mural resides on the rear panel requiring a moment of your time to take in. Nick explains it’s origins. “One of the guys that works for us has his own airbrush studio and while you’re not allowed to paint in the competition, he airbrushed a panel which we scanned in and printed it onto the wrap. We were amazed at how well it printed out. It’s a crazy rat with test tubes and he’s eating all the tools we use in our trade. It’s a great way of making it vinyl orientated but not in your face.”
Another cryptic touch to the art display that was incidental is the name on the door. “Everyone at the shop put in a list of names and one of them was Toxic which everyone voted on. The funny thing is every letter of our company name, Exotic is in Toxic except for the E. We didn’t want our company name on the door as we wanted the car to have a personality of its own.”
As previously mentioned, it’s built to be driven while also advocating the business of vinyl wrapping for Exotic Graphix. This unique combination of old school rod with its high tech hue is set to stay put for a while. “Eventually I want to move into a new shop with a nice reception area out the front and would love to have it on show in there. It’s not just a car, it means something to us now. I’ve never really got attached to anything I’ve owned but this one is a little more special. We had a guy offer good money to buy it a few weeks ago, but it would have to be serious money for me to let it go! I’m happy to let it sit there and take it to the Kustom Nats or the odd run here and there.”
While it’s great to stay true to our grass roots, benefits can be gained when we embrace future technology and turn it to our advantage as Nick and his team have done here! Is the future of hot rodding all wrapped up? You decide.