Word of mouth quickly spread among car enthusiast circles around Southern California about a Laguna Niguel shop offering jaw-dropping color changes, with show car quality finish for anything from Cadillacs and Lexuses to million-dollar Italian exotics. However, the problem with being a hidden treasure is that most of your prospective clients never get chance to get down there in person and see how good your work really is. So owner Chris Youngash decided to move WrapWorks closer to Orange County’s exotic car mecca, Newport Beach. At their new Costa Mesa headquarters, WrapWorks is now next door to the vast supercar collections in very upscale neighborhood and within an hour (when the traffic gods are kind) of those in Los Angeles. We caught up with Chris to talk about how automotive wrapping has blown up and how he strives to keep WrapWorks at the leading edge of the industry.
How did you get your start in automotive wrapping?
I was always into cars since I was a kid – muscle cars mostly. I got into vinyl graphics back in 2000 when I was working for Colorado Powersports and racing motocross, and was helping with the team graphics. In 2001, life quickly changed for me while jumping Freestyle Motocross ramps. I misjudged that last jump and crashed my brains out, breaking just about everything; my back, my neck and both my legs. I decided to make a change from the motorcycle industry and got into making stickers. I soon learned it was a ton of work and that my real passion was much larger stickers and I started to wrap cars.
When did you realize the car wrap industry was going to be the next big thing?
I started wrapping cars commercially in 2003 and never would have thought it would become the boom that is it today. In 2010, I was working in a sign shop on vinyl graphics and wraps for cars and other commercial uses. No one was changing the color of their cars; most people were advertising with wraps and the color change was just starting. I had done a bunch of commercial wraps, but when the color change films started coming out from the top manufacturers like 3M and Avery Dennison, the whole industry started to change.
How did the change in the industry lead to the origin of WrapWorks?
I was working for a sign shop and I had heard of WrapWorks, and I was intrigued. I was like, “Wait a minute...you mean you can run a business solely wrapping cars?” Tired of making “No Parking” signs, I hung up my sign making tools and started to wrap cars full time as a contract installer. Things started to snowball shortly after that decision, I met our, now, lead installer and one of the best damn wrappers I know – Chris “GZ” Giron. Just like that the “The Chris’” install team was born. While doing contract work for WrapWorks, the founding owner Craig Niel, offered to sell the company to me and with visions of greatness, it was game on. I left for SEMA 2014 with that offer on the table to buy WrapWorks GZ and a big plans to change the game in SoCal. Once we saw what was going on with color change wrap world at SEMA, we knew this was the wave of the future.
Was it difficult making the transition from commercial graphics to color change wrapping?
It’s a whole different ballgame. With color change, your finishing has to be perfect. People expect, as they should, for everything to be perfect with a paint-like appearance. With commercial wrapping, it wasn’t a custom thing...it was get it on and get advertising so the standards weren’t as high. The most challenging thing with color change, besides taking the cars apart, is maintaining that paint-like finish for the long term. I mean, anyone can stick a sticker, but now it needs to stay tight for the long term.
How have things changed since you first took over WrapWorks and moved to Costa Mesa?
It’ll be three years in December. It’s a trip where we are now. My first car I ever wrapped in a single color was a Mazda 6. Now we have Lambos, Ferraris, McLarens... There’s a lot of million-dollar car collections nearby, so we knew this is where we need to be. It blows me away how far we have gotten in just a short amount of time.
What’s the most interesting project you guys have worked on?
I really liked the GT-R we did last year for the 2016 Gold Rush Rally. They called it the Kamikaze GT-R. They had a Samurai on the hood and the Japanese rising sun design. The artist had never worked on something that was going to go on a car before and it was designed as though it was a big sheet to just drape over the car and shrink it on. If only it was that easy, It was both the coolest and toughest thing we’ve done.
What are some current projects you have on your slate?
We have a lot of stuff going on, but our absolute dream build is going on right now – we have Tanner J. Fox’s 2016 Lamborghini Huracán and it is coming out insane. We have installed a Vorsteiner Novara body kit on it, gloss black forged wheels from the Aristo Collection, and, of course, a big carbon fiber wing. To finish it all, we are dressing this mad bull in Blue Chrome from Avery Dennison. It’s going to blow minds and we are honored to make it happen for Tanner.
What do you feel are WrapWorks’ greatest strengths as a company?
I would say that the fact that all our main installers all certified. We are also one of two shops in all of California that is affiliated with the Global Paint Is Dead network. What we’re trying to do along with the other amazing members of the global Paint Is Dead network is be the gold standard of what wraps should be. An inexperienced installer could wrap a car and potentially turn a customer off vehicle wraps completely. Here at WrapWorks, we take it very seriously from beginning to end, from pulling the car apart and taking every precaution to wrapping it right and finishing with telling the customer about how to take care of it. It’s our responsibility to educate the public on the validity of Wraps and put out the most mind blowing wrapped cars we can.
On a more personal level, what about WrapWorks are you most proud of?
The fact that our team is a family and collectively we want to be the best. I’m not going to go stand up in a crowd and say we’re better than everyone else, but that’s what keeps us driven. To be the very best.
Where do you feel automotive wrapping is heading in the next few years, and how does WrapWorks fit into that future?
It’s still in its infancy. It already is a valid part of the automotive industry, just as paint is a part of the industry. There are things we can do with vinyl that would be very hard or way too expensive to do with paint. The specialty finishes from chrome, brushed or carbon fiber vinyl changes the automotive customization game, let alone they are removable and can be done again right away in a different color and design. In the custom car world there are so many people who want to customize their cars to show their style and make it theirs; that’s who we’re here for. We built this shop for them.