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Stripe a Car in Less Than 2 Minutes? Vinyl Guru Stuns His Peers

An industry old-timer shares a true tale you won’t forget.

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Larry Mitchell’s Winnebago cargo utility van — the Sprinter of that era — equipped with shelving for 15-in.-width rolls of vinyl and a Gerber Signmaker IVB plotter with $250 per hard card font. “On the Spot!” lettering and stripes. Larry Mitchell’s Winnebago cargo utility van — the Sprinter of that era — equipped with shelving for 15-in.-width rolls of vinyl and a Gerber Signmaker IVB plotter with $250 per hard card font. “On the Spot!” lettering and stripes.

LARRY MITCHELL, owner of SignChef (El Dorado Hills, CA), has been working with vinyl in six different decades — the 1970’s to the present. The “Vinyl Graphics” columnist for Signs of the Times when I started here, in 1994, ST Books published his Vinyl Graphics How-To, featuring step-by-step photos and instructions. For 15 years, the book sold an enormous number of copies.

Now a member of our Brain Squad, Larry recently submitted a “True Tale,” but his was such a great story with wisdom for all places and times, I share it with you here — in his own words.

Larry’s Tale

Starting in the late 1980’s I began doing striping demonstrations at trade shows for a major plotter manufacturer. The demos combined pre-converted striping with plotter-generated lettering and “focal points.” I had an easel with a dry-erase board set up for jotting down operating principles and illustrating stripe configurations. At the top of the board I wrote, “The ABCs of Striping” and “How to Stripe 30 Cars an Hour.”

Without fail, at every show, a striper or two or three would walk up, read the board and say, “I’ve been striping cars for 15 years. Nobody can stripe 30 cars an hour!” My response would be, “If that’s what you believe, you’re right.” Most would walk off shaking their heads. Some would ask, “OK, how do you do it?” To which I would reply, “Easy, you just have to know how to stripe a car in two minutes.” At this point some more “veteran” stripers would walk away shaking their heads.

But a master is first and foremost a student. So a rare few would say, “OK, show me.” To them, I would say, “I can’t now because my time is committed to the plotter manufacturer… but, if you want to come back this evening at the end of the show, I’d be happy to do a demonstration.” The ones who came back were on the path of mastery.

Once in Manhattan at the Jacob K. Javits Center, a pair of New Yorkers (who said striping a car in two minutes couldn’t be done) challenged me to a striping demo. I accepted their challenge by inviting them back at the end of the show. They came back and agreed that if I could double pinstripe; remove the pre-mask; taper the front; and trim the taper, doors and back end on one side of the car in 60 seconds, then I could do one car in two minutes. (By the way, I made it a condition that the stripe had to be straight with the body lines, as well as can be done, and therefore, a perfectly sellable production.)

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They timed me on the one striper’s wristwatch. I completed the install, raised my hands and yelled, “time!” I turned and asked, “How long was that?”

The one who had been doing most of the talking for the duo said, “A minute and 15 seconds.”

I said, “Really?”

His partner said with a grin, “Naw, it was 55 seconds.”

The other guy said, “I saw what you did and how. I believe I could do that, too.”

My response? “If that’s what you believe, you’re right! Whether you can or can’t starts with what you believe!”

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As for all the 15-year “veterans” who walked away shaking their heads in their knowing disbelief, I would explain to the show attendees watching, “Well, there is 15 years’ experience and there is one year’s experience repeated 15 times.”

Mark Kissling is the Editor-in-Chief of Signs of the Times. Contact him at mark.kissling@smartworkmedia.com

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