Tesla Model X 'Stormtrooper' Gets the Blues
After three years of driving Tesla's white ‘Stormtrooper’ Model X, we decided it was time for a color change. For the uninitiated, there are two ways to change the color of your Tesla. The first—a custom paint job—is very expensive and permanent. The second—a vinyl wrap—is much less expensive, provides color options and styles that are extremely difficult and expensive to achieve with paint, and can be removed if you decide to change the color of your vehicle in the future. For us, a vinyl wrap was a no-brainer.
Above: A look at the new color of our Tesla Model X (Source: EVANNEX; Photo by Casey Murphy)
Normally, we’d go to our friends at Signature Custom Wraps and let them apply their professional vinyl wrapping skills in transforming our white stormtrooper into something more, well celestial, uh, blue. But our founder, Roger Pressman, decided to take on the challenge of doing it himself. Fifty work-hours later (over a period of 8 weeks on nights and weekends) and more than a few re-dos, you can see the result in the video and photo gallery that follows below.
Above: A look at the new Tesla Model X wrap installed (YouTube: EVANNEX)
We asked Roger a few questions about the wrapping experience:
Some people don’t know what a ‘wrap’ is. Can you provide a quick explanation?
Sure. A vinyl wrap covers all of the exterior surfaces of your Tesla with a vinyl film that is generally between 3 and 4 mils thick. Wraps come in thousands of colors and styles. The vinyl film is backed by a special adhesive that can hold the vinyl in place and—this is important—can be removed and reapplied while your work. The adhesive becomes stronger over time, but the wrap can always be removed if you decide to change colors. The vinyl can be heated to make it more pliable and to remove wrinkles and other flaws.
Do you recommend a DIY car wrap for Tesla owners who want a unique color?
In general—no. You’ll have to spend some time learning how to wrap a car and although there are YouTube tutorials, the majority of the good ones are done by professionals, who make wrapping look easy. It isn’t.
How did you choose the wrap?
Blue is a very hot color for cars, so I figured I’d go in that color direction. I wanted something that wasn’t matte, but also not a shiny, high gloss look. It had to have a metallic feel to it, change color in different lights, and just look right for Model X. I bought at least eight different vinyl samples in the blue family, tried them all on the car in sunlight, in shade, and at night and decided that Oracal “Jet Stream Blue” worked for me. The vinyl is high quality and a bit difficult to work, but had the right hue and right color feel for Model X.
What part of the car did you start with?
I started with the vertical part of the rear hatch, figuring I’d refine my technique on a relatively small panel. I began by placing an “inlay” in the license plate area and used something called knifeless tape to cut a smooth edge. After removing all badging, I finished the rear hatch area. By the way, wrapping the upper part of the hatch is challenging to say the least. I then went on to wrap the rear bumper.
What was the most difficult part of the car to wrap?
The front bumper was hard—lots of recesses and compound curves.
And the easiest parts?
Heh, none of it was easy, but the parts that provided the least resistance were the doors and the front quarter panels.
Did you make many mistakes?
Plenty. It was my first try at wrapping a car and nothing replaces experience. Some of my mistakes were fixable, others required removing an entire panel and re-doing it, and few I just live with.
Did you remove the headlights, tail lights or other parts?
I did remove a few things, but not the headlights or tail lights. Removal is a lot of additional work and really isn’t necessary for the Model X. The gaps between the body panels and most parts are sufficiently large to do the wrap with the OEM parts in place. Having said that, most professional wrap shops will remove the parts. It does make the wrapping work somewhat easier.
I see you did a chrome delete as well.
New Teslas now come standard with chrome delete, so I figured I’d bring the look of our Model X up to date. I used a 3M 2080 satin black vinyl that looks really good [It’s the vinyl EVANNEX uses for its Model 3 chrome delete kit]. The Model X mirrors were the hardest part, and honestly, didn’t come out well with vinyl. So, I pulled the vinyl off the mirrors and used spray Plasti-DipTM to get the chrome delete effect on them. Just be sure you mask the car VERY carefully before you start spraying.
How did you get that cool chrome delete on the rear hatch panel that allows the T-E-S-L-A letters to appear in Chrome. Did you do that on the car?
Not exactly. I removed the chromed accent piece. It’s attached using standard OEM clips and a small amount of adhesive which you cut with fishing line. Then, I took it apart. There are YouTube videos that show you how to do it. After applying satin black vinyl to the flat base of the accent piece, I re-inserted the chrome letters into the piece and re-connected it. I liked the look.
Did you do anything else that’s unique?
As a homage to Porsche, I did my own version of Taycan’s color match wheels. If you look closely you can see a matching Jet Stream Blue color strip on the inside edge of the 22” Tesla turbine rims. Most people like it.
What advice can you give to Tesla owners who want to try to do this themselves?
First, learn patience, then learn wrapping basics. YouTube is a great resource. You absolutely MUST work on clean automotive surfaces—wipe down an already clean surface with 70% isopropyl alcohol before you wrap anything. You’ll need the right tools. For example, you might think a hair drier will do the same work as a heat gun—it won’t. By the way, be careful with the heat gun. Use a retractable knife with 60-degree snap-off blades and replace the leading edge frequently. Use different size squeegees and by all means, buy a few wrapping gloves—they’re invaluable when you do the work.
When you stretch the vinyl—stretch it in a way that removes tension along any panel edge. If you don’t, the vinyl will retract and create problems. Also be careful not to allow two adhesive surfaces to come into contact with one another—sometimes easier said than done because large vinyl pieces can fold on themselves as you work. If that happens, it’s possible to tear the vinyl and ruin your work.
Would you do it again?
I don’t think so, but I never say ‘never.’ I’ve been doing DIY projects my entire life, and I have to say this is among the most challenging. It’s time-consuming and sometimes frustrating and tiring work. It’s definitely not for everyone. But … if you’re up to the challenge, it’s very satisfying when you finally get it done.