When it comes to special edition vehicles, the decals and badges are what identify the vehicle. Nowhere is this more important than a pace car. The 10th Anniversary Firebird Trans-Am Pace Car has more decals than you can shake a stick at. Get one wrong during a restoration, and you have problem.
There are some tricks to applying automotive decals that can be helpful. Above all, have at least one helper around; the larger decals require multiple sets of hands, they cannot be applied correctly by yourself. Use lots and lots of soapy water; the water provides a barrier between the adhesive and the car. This allows the decal to be repositioned and tweaked. Keep spraying the decal, especially the large ones; they require a lot of work. Once the decal is in the appropriate position, a good quality squeegee is important as a cheap squeegee can scratch or tear a decal, which would be a costly mistake, a quality decal kit can run $500 or more.
Don’t let that scare you though, with some help and the right tools, most anybody can put some decals.
1. The 10th Anniversary Trans Am is the only TA that has a 2-tone paint scheme. The unique part is that the hood bird covers the transition edges.
2. The first step is wiping the hood with alcohol. The alcohol cleans the surface and leaves no residue, which is important for the adhesive to stick.
3. The Phoenix Graphix comes pre-cut to align the bird with the shaker hole. While it is close, it isn’t perfect.
4. Redline Auto Sports suggests marking the decal in several places to help keep everything aligned during the application. The sharpie mark comes right off of the paint with a little soap and water.
5. The hood is sprayed down with a generous helping of soapy water. The more the better as the adhesive dries quickly, and the decal will have to be moved around to get it properly placed.
6. As the backing is pulled off, the underside of the bird is sprayed down with soapy water.
7. Laying the bird on the hood and then removing the entire backing, is the only way to ensure no rips, stretch marks or wrinkles are created while removing the backing. As always, the decal is sprayed constantly with soapy water.
8. While normally flipping the bird is a one-handed process, this one takes 8. Extreme care is taken to ensure no part of the decal touches itself.
9. With the decal in place and adjusted, the squeegees are used to move the water out from under the decal.
10. With such a large decal, several hands are needed. Working slowly and attentively, the Redline crew keeps the wrinkles away and bubbles out.
11. The edges of the feathers wrap around the hood. Cleaning the edge is important.
12. Again, the squeegee works out the bubbles.
13. With most of the bubbles worked out, the top paper is removed, and the water is wiped away.
14. The paper hides a few bubbles, so continuing to work the decal is important, albeit more carefully.
15. Working the water together to form a larger bubble, this will work out easier than a bunch of smaller bubbles.
16. The fender feathers must match up to the hood feathers precisely to be accurate.
17. The completed hood bird fits perfectly.
18. The pace car signage on the doors must be centered perfectly. The door is measured and a mark placed at dead center.
19. The “Daytona 500” decal is placed correctly on the center of the body line.
20. The pace car decal is place centered above the Daytona decal to the appropriate dimensions.
21. The race date completes the door signage application.
22. The doors are finished off with a set of red and black stripes. The backing is only peeled off a few inches ahead of the actual placement on the door.
23. The completed Trans Am in all its glory. A little more complicated than decorating your grade school notebook, but the Phoenix Graphix kit looks great.
A life-long gearhead, Street Tech Magazine founder and editor Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 5 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced. You can follow Jefferson on Facebook (Jefferson Bryant), Twitter (71Buickfreak), and YouTube (RedDirtRodz).