Enter stage left: a 1972 Ford Torino GT that we restored a very long time ago, over 15 years at this point. It is always a weird moment when an old project pays a visit. How has it held up? Has the paint peeled off? Is there “shrinkage”? In this case, all’s well that ends well. After years of ISCA indoor shows, outdoor shows and the best part – driving this throwback to the end of an era – the car has held up wonderfully and looks great. Whew!
Backstory: Jerry ordered this car while serving our country in Viet Nam. He picked it up, new, when he returned from his service. It is a relatively rare car in that the options were minimal. He wanted a trim, fast car and made sure it filled the bill with a 351 Cleveland Hi-performance engine, C-6 transmission, Drag Pack rear end, bench seat and no A/C. This car definitley ate quarter miles and spit out tire smoke. The fact that Jerry is the original owner and the rare configuration he ordered the car with makes this one special ride. One of the unique features of the Torino GT were these interesting, reflective, color-transitioning vinyl decals that ran the length of the car on each side – like what is seen on police and fire vehcles. I’ve always loved how they look at night when lights hit them. In this case, the door stripe on the left had gotten damaged. Now you know why our old friend is back for a visit.
“Someone” at an outdoor car show had opened their car door in to the left door of the Torino and damaged the existing stripe on that panel. Initially, I attempted to just replace the door section of the stripes, however the replacement kit did not exactly match the existing kit in color, tone or texture. At that point, it was obvious the entire side would have to be removed and replaced. What follows is a photo essay of the process. My apologies for not getting a photo of the damage, although it was relatively minimal. I decided to do this essay after I began the process, so, once again – perfect timing!
After the initial masking of the car to protect the areas around where we’re working, the removal of the current stripe kit can begin. After a thorough cleaning of the existing surface with wax & grease remover, I ran a tape line along the top edge of the existing stripe kit’s position as a guide to use for proper positioning of the new kit. If you are using a kit for the first time, make sure you trial position the stripes before you commit to intalling them. At this point, I had already removed the door section, it taking the longest to remove. I like to do the hard part first and then move on.
To remove the old stripes, I use a Snap On tool call the Crud Thug that utilizes a grooved, rubber wheel to “rub” (rip, tear, torture) the vinyl and the bulk of its pesky adhesive in to submission and off of the existing paint. If you have ever tried to remove stripes such as this manually, you will gladly pay many times the askng price for this tool. It is available from other tool suppliers as well, just look around. In a matter of 45 minutes, I had removed the entire left side stripe kit. There is NO WAY you could do that manually and still have any skin left on your thumbs or fingers. The other side benefit of this method is that the paint remains undamaged – usually. If this tool removes paint, there is something else problematic going on or this is a non-catalyzed finish (see Sidenote 2).
After the stripes are gone, there will inherently be some residue of adhesive left. Using wax & grease remover or adhesive remover (NOT lacquer thinner or acetone!!!) and soft paper towels, wipe down the panels to remove the residual adhesive. Once the panels are clean, you can begin to install the new stripe kit.
Sidenote: You can also get a rubber wheel that installs in a drill to do the same thing. They may not be as efficient as the Crud Thug, however they will get the job done at a fraction of the cost. Check your local paint supplier or look online at a seller like Eastwood or Amazon. Your opposable thumbs will thank you!
Sidenote 2: if the finish is lacquer, an uncatalyzed enamel or latex house paint (hey, don’t think that hasn’t showedup at our door step before!), you can easily damage the paint with a tool such as this. Fortunately, these finishes are fairly uncommon at this point in our industry. Being that these older paints are NOT catalyzed, the heat/friction of the rubber wheel can easily ruin the finish and rub them right off the panel along with the stripes. Take if from someone that has learned many things the hard way: be careful and test the finish first. If it is a catlyzed finish (urethane or enamel), you should be fine. I certainly don’t know everything, however I have learned a few things in the last 25+ years (the hard way)!
In the following pictures, you can see the stripe kit being removed and skillfully placed on the floor in efficient, easily cleaned up particles. Here is the best advice of the entire article: Sweep or vaccum them up now or they will end up stuck to the bottom of your shoes, get tracked back in to your house and ‘you-know-who’ will NOT be happy. Remember: I have learned most of what I know the hard way.
Left fender front stripe section removed
Left side stripe kit – just add water!
Notice how the old stripe kit has been removed and is neatly packaged in the dust pan (not clinging to my shoes), ready to be properly put away in “File 13”.
Full kit for left side, trimming required
The new stripe kit is packaged in one sheet, under a single layer of ‘transfer tape’. I had to hand-cut each stripe out with a razor blade/X-acto knife before I could install it on the car.
Trim out certain areas as needed
You will notice that there is a protective, semi-transparent covering over the stripe that is there to protect it during the installation process. Sometimes it is an opaque, white paper product and in this case it was a clear-ish vinyl layer over the stripe. I have always known it to be called “transfer tape” – I suppose because it is used to enable the transfer of the vinyl on to the painted surface. I had to cut it out around the marker lamp areas because the lamp protuded outward from the surface and would not have allowed the decal to lay flat during installation. Or, you could remove the offending lamp(s) from the car first. Ultimately, I did remove the rear side marker lamp even after I cut out the hole in the decal because the stripe fit so tightly around the lamp that I had no room to work the Application Solution (soapy water) out of the stripe. I left the transfer tape in tact over the remainder of the stripe in order to make sure I did not damage the actual vinyl while squeezing out the soapy water that is used to position the piece on the panel.
Cut out the side marker lamp area
Front fender stripe cut out of the sheet
Now the fun can begin. The most common way I’ve found to install the new vinyl is using soapy water as a ‘lubricant’. I mix a few drops of liquid dish soap in to about a quart of water, then use an spray bottle to wet the painted surface and the rear (sticky) side of the decal. Using an adhesive remover or wax & grease remover, make sure ALL of the old adhesive residue is gone first or you will end up with a bump, or high spot, in the new decal that you will never get rid of.
Sidenote 3: turn off the fan. If you are in a hot area like us (Houston), chances are you have shop fans blowing at all times. Despite the discomfort, turn the thing off while doing this part. It never fails that you will be holding the final, ready-to-install piece of vinyl in your grubby lttle hands and the breeze from your “fan club” will force it out of your hand(s), sticky side down on to the dirtiest, grittiest portion of your shop floor. Don’t ask how I know this – just do as I say, not as I did in the past.
Soap & water solution before decal application
Once the surface is cleaned and the decal is cut out of the sheet and peeled off, you can apply the soap/water solution to the painted area of the car as well as a light coat on the back of the decal (the sticky side). Put the decal in place, using your tape line as a guide as to where the final resting spot is to be. Then, beginning in a central spot, begin ‘pushing’ the water out of the decal with the supplied plastic spreader, aka: The Squeegee. Do not remove the opaque transfer tape yet. If you do at this point, chances are the decal will come right back off with it, or will get damaged if you try and push the water out on the surface of the actual decal itself, without the transer tape to protect it. At this point, the transfer tape is your friend.
Push out the water solution with The Squeegee
Do not remove the transfer tape yet
Now, if you make an error, or the decal is not exacly where you want it, you can usually lift it and try again. Be careful with the corners, though. You can damage them or easily stretch them if you lift them to aggressively. The unfortunate result is that they will never look correct again. Once you get the bulk of the water solution pushed out, you will not be able to lift the decal without damaging it and having to buy another. Take your time (Patience, Grasshopper…) and it will go well. A second pair of hands (and eyeballs) can come in handy at this point in order to keep the decal where you want it while you begin squeegee process.
Door stripe in place
Following the previously applied reference tape line, you can see how the stripe finds its position on the body. The trasnfer tape may begin to pull away at the ends of each stripe as the water evaporates, don’t panic. If you need to get rid of water in those areas, just lay the transfer tape across the area and squeegee away. I usually place a fan at the end of the car and let it blow across the surface to accellerate the evaporation process. It is best to let the vehicle sit for at least a 2-3 hours before you remove the transfer tape. If you are doing this in a cold climate, an overnight wait might be best.
When you remove the transfer tape, pull it back across itself along the panel, not away from the panel. If you pull away, there is a chance the stripe may still lift. Likewise, if you pull it off too soon, the stripe can lift with the transfer tape as well. If so, will have a real problem, especially if it lifts in the center area, not at an edge. If an edge lifts, you can probably get it to cooperate and lay back down, however a lifted section somewhere inside the edge area may never lay back down properly. Otherwise, plan on buying another one. “You know who” is definitely not going to be happy about that. Again – patience Grasshopper.
Once you peel the transfer tape off, you will most likely notice a few small bubbles in the stripes. Over time, these will lay down, particularly with some good ol’ fashioned Vitamin D (sunlight). If you want to try and manage them now, a small pin prick and careful use of The Squeegee will push the small amount air out and force them to behave.
And…there you have it. In a matter of a few hours, this cool, one-owner, ’72 Torino GT is now re-striped and ready to roll. Don’t be scared, it ain’t rocket science – you can do it, too.
adios amigos (and amigettes??),