By on February 14, 2015

Last month, Dodge announced the Viper GTC model. The “C” part of the name presumably stands for “custom” as paying the $10,000 premium over the base Viper give customers access to literally *millions of custom paint, interior trim, striping and wheel combinations. I’m tempted to say that truly custom, or as our British cousins like to say, bespoke, items can’t be ordered from a list, but the heart of what Dodge is promoting as the Viper 1 of 1 program is a color palette of 8,000 hand-sprayed exterior color paint options. I worked in an automotive paint research and development lab for more than 20 years. Eight thousand colors is a huge selection and one of the features of the 1 of 1 program is that once an exterior color is picked, that will be the only Viper painted that color for the model year, making it a true one of one collectible. Ironically, though, the rainbow colored Viper they used to promote the program at the Chicago Auto Show wasn’t actually painted.

It’s a very clever idea of implementing what has become de rigueur for sellers of cars that approach or exceed $100K in MSRP: allowing the customer to ensure that their “exclusive” luxury car will never be parked next to a similar looking automobile in the valet lot at the latest fashionable restaurant. I think it’s clever, but pedant that I am, I couldn’t help but notice the contradiction inherent in fact that while Chrysler is promoting the hand craftsmanship of the custom paint process taking “between 140 and 160 hours to hand paint each Viper before it goes to assembly”, the vehicle they had on display promoting the Viper 1 of 1 program, featuring what looked like a very cool paint job of a rainbow of colors seemingly splashed onto the car at speed, was actually not painted, but rather it has been wrapped with a digitally (electronic digits, that is, not human fingers, well, at least not human fingers operating a spray gun) rendered vinyl wrap.

One side of the car goes from green (including something close to the Porsche lime green that our colleague Mr. Baruth had Audi apply to his S5) to yellow, and the other half is a spectrum of blue and red colors. The base colors are pastels, overlaid with streaks of deeper shades of those same colors. It’s certainly eye-catching, as was the young lady on the stand next to the car. I asked about the “paint job” and she told me that it was a wrap, not paint. Upon closer inspection, though it was well done, you could see the seam between the two halves as light reflected off of the hood. Also, one reason why I asked in the first place is that vinyl wraps just don’t have the high reflectance-of-image gloss that is possible with actual paint, particularly the modern polyurethane based clear coats that most modern cars have.

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While the rainbow wrapped display Viper was eye-catching, it seems to me that if you’re promoting a hand-sprayed custom paint program, wouldn’t it might make sense to actually, you know, hand-spray the physical car used to promote the program? I understand that painting cars is a very expensive process, and a custom paint job requiring scores of colors and shades to be tinted is orders of magnitude more expensive than a computer generated vinyl wrap. Whether a company is paying for the spray booths, robots, and environmental controls of a factory paint shop or they’re paying for the labor of hand-spraying, ain’t no free. Still, hardly anything involved with a major auto show, at least if you’re an automobile company, is cheap. It’s not unusual for some of the more elaborate displays to cost more than a million dollars to build, and that seven figure dollar number is probably what it costs to build just about any of the concept cars you see if they’re not based on existing vehicles.

A few years back, at the Detroit auto show, Bentley, to demonstrate what kinds of craftsmanship go into their cars built at Crewe in the UK, brought over a couple of genuine craftsmen from their wood and leather shops. The cabinetmaker was demonstrating inlay and marquetry work and the leatherman was hand-sewing steering wheel covers. While the logistics of setting up an operational paint spraybooth on the floor of a major auto show might be insurmountable, in addition to the rainbow streaked Viper and custom painted speedforms (those are the miniature aluminum or composite forms that duplicate a car’s shape used by paint and automobile manufacturers to see how prospective finishes look on a complex shape, not just a flat panel), the display could have included a flat screen playing a video of the display car being painted.

If you’re going to promote what your employees can do, why not show them doing it?

*The Viper GTC is available with 8,000 exterior color options, 24,000 custom stripe colors, 10 wheel options, 16 interior trims and 6 aero packages. Do the math.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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7 Comments on “That’s A Wrap – Dodge Promotes 1 of 1 Bespoke Paint Option With Vinyl Wrapped Viper...”

  • avatar

    Pity the poor body shop repair man who will have no idea how to color match the body panels come the first fender bender …

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      I would expect the paint shop fixing a car like this to have a whole PPG (to name one brand) system for matching / mixing the colour: computer with THOUSANDS of formulas, scales and the tints that go along with it. Also a skilled colorist and sprayer.

      Chrysler would have to give the customer or the aftermarket, through Tier1 the “recipe” and that would be it.

      Long story short, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

  • avatar

    Scrolled thru the pics a second time just looking at the speedforms. I really like being able to see the shadowing and highlighting so many colors offer on the cars lines. They would have been better served by a white car sans wrap and a huge amount of speedforms doing a dry cleaners track style display. That would make the point. That wouldn’t get caught in the press. That would be an asset to assist future buyers choosing colors.

  • avatar

    A wrap like that isn’t cheap either. They could have just painted it with bass boat flake in a tasteful snakeskin pattern. It’s not like they wouldn’t have been able to get rid of something like that later.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I really think it’s a lame idea and even lamer if you go out and buy a GTC.

    If you want custom then go truly custom, not “factory” custom. It isn’t really custom then.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Boy, that’s a lot of hours for a production car paint job. Any insight into what are they doing to the car?

    I think what they wanted to showcase was the 8000 possible colours available, not an easy feat even for a skilled air brusher. The wrap is also more “cost-effective” in terms of time.

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