Did you ever see a BMW 3 Series, or perhaps another model, riding down the road in military camouflage colors? What was your first thought when you saw that? Was it a German invasion? Was it a US military vehicle for the streets of downtown? Both of these are unlikely. What you more likely saw was a BMW 3 Series that had been wrapped in vinyl car wrap with a camouflage (camo) pattern.
Below we look at the different kinds of camo wraps that exist, some of it for function and others for fashion. We’ll also explore the reasons OEMs use it during car development, and what the benefits of army-style camo vinyl wraps are for cars on the road. All this and more below.
What is Camo Car Wrap?
Protective and Stylistic Coating for Cars’ Paint
Camo car wrap is one of the many styles of vinyl wrap that are available for covering various cars’ original paint work. A distinguishing feature is its dark colors and flowing mixed patterns such as green, brown and grey, or the typical colors of military camouflage.
Sometimes you get orange mixed with black and different shades of gray. The material can be purchased in rolls and then cut, shaped and applied to individual sections of a vehicle until the entire original paint color has been covered with the effect. Many additional types of wraps exist like chrome wraps and a wide variety of other colors.
Some people think of these vinyl wraps with different colors and patterns as being another part of the paint protection film family. While the products are certainly related, they are not exactly the same, since PPF has no added aesthetic difference to the car in the vast majority of cases. Transparent PDF is a film that is applied chiefly for protection purposes, especially to protect the car against road debris such as rock chips.
Vinyl does have some protective properties, and it can help to protect the original paint job of your car, but its primary purpose is aesthetic.
Prototype and Test Car Camouflage
Besides this well-known automotive product, camo car wrap has another function, which is to obscure the shape and features of a new car model before it has been properly unveiled. Any fans of auto blogs and car magazines will be familiar with so-called “spy shots” or new cars being tested on the track.
OEMs are obviously very aware that this goes on and can do little to prevent the practice itself, so they have developed forms of camouflage to at least prevent automotive journalists and photographers from seeing key identifying features until the car is ready to be properly unveiled.
There are actually two forms of camo used by automakers, but the one we are concerned with is known as “dazzle.” In the early stages of development, automakers use crude black canvases and foam coverings which while looking abysmal are still the most effective way to block views of any discernible features on the car.
When it’s time to take the car out on the track and test the ADAS and other features, however, the crude camouflage becomes obstructive and ruins test results. That’s where “dazzle” comes in.
Dazzle is the type of close-fitting vinyl camouflage that you see in spy shots from the track. It’s noticeable because of its distinctive checkered, zig-zagging, swirling and other patterns. These are not arbitrary, nor are they put there for pure aesthetic value. In fact, dazzle camouflage is designed to break up the patterns that your eye can normally form in order to recognize and distinguish between intricate shapes, and leave you just seeing an incoherent mass.
This kind of camouflage dates back to the First World War, where it was applied to ships so that soldiers would see ships coming, but wouldn’t be able to tell what kind of ships they were and thus may not be able to prepare adequate defenses in time. So it is with soon-to-be-unveiled cars in testing. You see that it’s a car, but can’t really tell anything about it.
Below we concentrate on the former, the one used for stylistic purposes.
How is Camo Vinyl Car Wrap Applied?
Have you ever tried to apply a protective screen coating to the surface of your smartphone or tablet screen? These protectors are great, but the first time you do it you can end up with a few problems such as air bubbles. As it happens, the application of vinyl car wrap works on a similar principle, but of course is much more complex in the shapes.
Rolls of material can be found online for between $50 and $70 for 10’ by 5’ vinyl. Checkout our vinyl sizing guide to figure out how much you need for your vehicle. You can get rolls in smaller sizes, too, of which you might need more to do a complete wrap of your car. Once you’ve got the vinyl wrap, you can get started.
Broadly speaking, you can use one of two methods to apply your wrap: wet or dry. The former is usually used when dealing with flat surfaces and isn’t suitable for any curved or concave surfaces. If you were doing a partial installation on your car on a flat area like the roof, hood, or one of the side panels, then you might use the wet method for the best results, especially if you’re a first timer. What makes it “wet” as a process is the application of application fluid, which you then have to squeegee out.
The dry method is used by more professionals because it can be applied to whole vehicles. For those who know what they’re doing, it’s faster and cleaner, and results in vinyl that’s also easier to remove, which is an important part of what makes vinyl beneficial to a car compared to things like ceramic coating (more benefits further below). Squeegees are still used, but this time to get out any signs of air bubbles that might be there during the aligning and application process.
A full wrap done by a professional vinyl wrap specialist will cost you in the region of $2,500, but possibly as much as $5,000 depending on the size of the car, and the difficulty of getting the material around your car’s particular shape evenly and smoothly. In any event it’s not cheap unless you happen to be able to do it yourself, in which case it will only cost you time.
Benefits of Getting Camo Car Wrap
There are several great benefits to wrapping your car or truck.
- Helps Differentiate Your Car
The first thing is that camo is very distinctive on cars since there are no OEMs that would offer camo as a standard OEM color, not on a car at least. Some motorcycles have it, but that’s different. In a sea of black, white and silver cars, your custom coloring can really look distinct and unique.
- Paint Protection
Another great benefit is that vinyl protects the original paint. When the film is applied using the dry method, then down the line should you wish to remove it in order to sell the car in its original color, then you can.
What’s more, the camo car wrap has continuously protected your vehicle from the harmful effects of the sun’s UV radiation, and also worked to protect it from harmful debris on the road. In this sense it’s a good investment and a near-perfect OEM paint job on an older car helps to increase its resale value.
The other benefit, as we touched on above, is that vinyls are removable. It’s not the same if you get a ceramic coating, which has to be able to wear down or face being polished off in a grueling polishing process.
Drawbacks of a Camo Vinyl Wrap
On the more negative side, the initial drawback is the cost. It’s a lot of money to pay out to a professional just to change the color and apply some protection. It’s unlikely that you’ll recoup those losses when you resell the vehicle, even if the paint job is in perfect condition.
If the vinyl is applied using the wet wrap method, then you might actually end up not being able to safely remove it without damaging your paint. This can negate financial savings that you made by applying the film yourself using the more accessible wet wrap method.
Conclusion: Is Camo Car Wrap Worth It?
Some people don’t like the camo look, but others think it looks trendy and fun. If you have a good reason to apply paint protection to your car, and if you have the budget to have it professionally applied, and if you happen to like the camo look, then nothing should stop you. When you do all the steps right, there are great benefits to be had for you and your car. Don’t worry, you’ll always be able to find where you parked, the camouflage isn’t that effective!