Panther Graphics has used its racing connection to find wrap success.
Many digital print service providers enter vehicle wraps as an opportunity to tap a new market for their large-format print capabilities. For the team at Panther Graphics (panthergraphics.com) in Indianapolis, however, it was necessity that sparked an entire venture into digital print services.
And that has given this relatively new player in the digital graphics market the kind of cachet that translates into credibility as a premiere specialist in high-performance wraps.
Officially launched last year as a sister company to Panther Racing – a leading contender on the IndyCar racing circuit – the graphics division began with a straightforward but challenging request. In 2009, the National Guard, in its second year as team sponsors, requested that its IndyCar racer No. 4 be adorned with the same Army Combat Uniform camouflage worn by the guard’s citizen soldiers.
“Until then we had been painting all our cars,” recalls Nic Baumann, Panther Graphics director, and president and CFO of Panther Racing. “But it seemed just too overwhelming, too tedious for us to try and reproduce that camo pattern, and then have to redo it with the kind of quality we require.”
It’s not that the Panther’s expert paint team couldn’t reproduce the distinctive blend of tan, gray, and green. Rather, the problem was the painstaking detail and time required to accurately and repeatedly apply the camo to the race car. This wouldn’t be a one-time project. “Typically a race car will get repainted five or six times during the racing season,” Baumann explains, adding that the team has to maintain several cars. “We knew there was no way we could reproduce that camo pattern again and again, paint wise.”
Printing the pattern on vinyl then wrapping the car seemed an option, with reservations. Digitally printed vinyl decals were already a fixture on the sides of Panther racing’s car haulers, but previous experiments with wrapping a racer for special events had proven disappointing.
“The biggest problem we ran into was that we were limited in what we could do, design-wise, to get the quality we require,” he recalls. “Either they had to stretch the vinyl too much to completely cover the car, or we would end up with 20 or 30 sections of vinyl. We always have to look professional, our cars have to look their absolute best for us and our sponsors, and we just couldn’t accept that.”