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Old 03-29-2016, 04:43 AM   #1
DrvLikHell
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Default Vinyl wrapping my SL2

I know I'm not around here much but I'm an avid Saturn fan, and this was a big project so I figured I'd start a thread about it.

My poor little car has been suffering from horrible paint for the last (insert embarrassingly large number) years. I don't know what the deal is, but it seems that cars made in '96, like mine, often suffer from serious clear coat degradation. I've seen '95s that have awesome original paint, and '97s with awesome original paint. The two other Saturns that I've found with terrible paint were both '96s. But anyways, my car looked worse than any Saturn I've personally seen.

When I went to get gas and said "I need 15 bucks on the little green car," and was met with "You mean the one with the rusty top?" I knew I had to do something. I tried Rustoleum on the roof, but it just looked like spray paint. I'd be embarrassed to have that on the rest of the car. The absolute cheapest place in town charges $800. I was going to paint it myself, but materials alone were going to be around $350. I seriously considered Plasti Dip, but that was still going to run me at least $300 because I'd have to buy a sprayer. Plus I'm split on the matte finish look.

I did some math and figured out that I could wrap my car for much less than all the other options. So I bought some cheap black vinyl on eBay and tested it out on the trunk lid. I screwed that up pretty good on my first attempt, but even after my bad patchwork job it looks way better than the original peeling, fading, cracked and flaking paint. Then it was on to the rest of the car.

Here's what my little Tupperware car looked like with it's original paint.





I can't find a picture of the passenger side but it looked even worse.


Hood before.


Hood sanded.


Hood during.


Hood After. That's not a huge dent in the middle of the hood, it's just the reflection of the garage door opener on a small dent.



I'll take some more pictures tomorrow. I'm pretty satisfied with the results so far. It's nowhere near perfect, but it's nowhere near the price of a paint job either. The most important thing? I'm no longer embarrassed about my cars appearance, and I'm sure it's happy too.
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Old 03-29-2016, 11:17 AM   #2
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

Very cool! Certainly keep the progress pictures coming. Nicely done.
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Old 03-29-2016, 11:53 AM   #3
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Question Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

Clever
Whats your guesstimate cost of wrapping it?
Loss of clear coat in southwest is very common, and would be an interesting alternative.
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Old 03-29-2016, 11:56 AM   #4
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

How much did that cost you? I have this red SC2 now, and I want to paint the roof black. To get it done right, it's going to cost 300. That sounded reasonable to me, but then it hit me. What if I just vinyl wrap the roof? What should a good piece cost me for just the roof?
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Old 03-29-2016, 12:38 PM   #5
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

Tried plasti-dipping my stepsisters car, works like poop. Wrapping looks like a much better idea for the same results
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Old 03-29-2016, 02:57 PM   #6
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

Nice!
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Old 03-29-2016, 08:48 PM   #7
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

It's been crappy all day so not good for taking pictures. I'll try again tomorrow.

swcoupe: So far I spent $95 on material and $25 on a Wagner heat gun from Lowes. That's enough to cover everything but the bumpers. That includes doing the hood twice because I F'ed it up the first time. Keep in mind I'm using very cheap vinyl. I've also used the heat gun for window tint and PVC pipe removal. And later I'll be using it for smart phone glass replacement, so I can't count the price of the gun towards the total. The bumpers will be the hardest part because I need a very long piece to wrap from one side to the other, and then I have to stretch it over the top and bottom of the corners. If I want to wimp out, I could do it patchwork with smaller pieces that are much easier to work with, but that'll leave visible seams. Or I may spray paint them flat black like the older SL1. Dunno yet.

mgordon: I don't know exactly how big the the roof is on the SC compared to the SL, but my roof requires a piece that's roughly 50" x 60." For the cheap stuff that I'm using, you could get a piece 60x60 for $19, or 48x60 for $16.50. The 48 should be fine. If you want to use the good stuff, 60x60 3M 1080 in gloss black is $55. You could also get the 3M in metallic gloss black. But I'd suggest waiting till I do my roof to see how it comes out. The roof is large and curved, both of which make the process more difficult.

Now a word on this cheap vinyl. This stuff is cheap. Like seriously cheap. It's 1/3 the cost of the good stuff. The good stuff being 3M 1080, 3M Di-Noc, Oracal, or even Avery. This cheap stuff is difficult to apply, it wrinkles easily, it'll tear if you pull it too much while it's cold. And, it is NOT pressure activated like most of the eBay listings say it is. The good stuff is pressure activated which means that you can actually slide it around a bit on your surface after removing the backing in order to position it correctly before sticking it in place. This cheap stuff sticks to everything, immediately! That's why I screwed up the trunk on my first attempt. Also, some of the parts that have been on for a while have gotten this tiny, almost honeycomb texture. What's happened is in the Florida sun, the air release channels have melted and are showing through. You can't see it unless you're closer than two feet and have good eyes. Even then you sorta have to know what you're looking for.

So basically, if your car looks like mine, you're broke like me, and you have loads of patience and attention to detail, I'd recommend it. Otherwise, I wouldn't.

Also as a disclaimer, if you have seriously bad paint like me, removing the vinyl will rip your paint and/or clear coat off. Even on some of the better looking sections of my paint, when I had to peel the vinyl back to reposition it, or try to remove a wrinkle, it sometimes took the clear coat off with it (which ruined that part of the vinyl too). On the hood, when I screwed it up really bad and had to remove all of it, it literally ripped the paint off leaving primer dust. Now maybe the good stuff is better about it, and maybe if I had used heat and gone slowly that wouldn't happen, but with this cheap stuff, on paint that's already flaking and peeling, that's what happened with me. Honestly though, masking tape would have taken off the paint on a lot of my car. On newer or good condition paint it should be fine.
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Old 03-30-2016, 02:08 AM   #8
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

OK, I see. My whole car has fantastic paint. I'm shocked. I'll need to keep it waxed good before summer and winter. Only a few minor hard to see scratches here and there. The roof has some unsightly scratches, but the paint is still great. Since I think 300 is reasonable, I think I should probably spring for a 60x60 3M 1080 film. It's just the roof, do it carefully, and it should look good.
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Old 03-30-2016, 09:15 PM   #9
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

mgordon: If you wrap your roof, you'll need to take off the A pillar and C pillar cover pieces on both sides. The roof panel actually goes down underneath them and you'll want to run the vinyl as close to the edge of the roof panel as possible and terminate with a smooth line to minimize the possibility of peeling. I'll take pictures of the process when I get around to wrapping my roof. It's next on my list. The good thing with your situation is that you're already prepared to have the roof painted. So if you mess up the vinyl, and the vinyl screws up your paint when you take it off, then you're only out the cost of the vinyl because you were going to paint it anyways.

The great thing about doing vinyl on our cars is that the body panels are all separate pieces. There are no panels that are longer than 60 inches (aside from the bumpers), so you'll never need a seam. Of course, I have a couple seams because I screwed up and elected to save what I had done and have a small seam where I had to fix my mistake.

The terrible thing about doing vinyl on our cars is that wretched "character line" that runs the length of the car on both sides. From the top it's a tight radius 90 degree bend inward, which is ok, but then it does another immediate 90 degree hard angle in the opposite direction downward. It's the 90 degree hard angle that screws everything up. I was unable to get the vinyl to stay firmly in that tiny crease in the character line. I could get it in there with some heat and a plastic tool. But after sitting in the Florida sun for a few days, the vinyls adhesive let go of the crease and bubbled. After many unsuccessful attempts to re-seat the vinyl in the crease, I finally ran a razor knife down the crease to cut the vinyl and relieve the stress. I heated it and stuck it back in there and it's mostly fine now. However there's some wrinkles now from my prior unsuccessful attempts to fix it. But whatever, it's cheap vinyl on a car that I couldn't afford to paint.

On the other side of the car, I got slightly smarter and applied the vinyl in two sections, one below the crease and one above. That went much better, though still not without imperfections. Below is a picture.





I started with the bottom piece because when you have a seam, you always want the top to overlap the bottom so water has a lesser chance of working its way into the seam as it runs down the car.



Here is an example of the bubbles that resulted in trying to use one piece initially. You can also see what I mentioned before about the cheap vinyl showing a sort of honeycomb pattern after it's had some time to bake in the sun. It looks like bad orange peel in the picture.



Here on the trunk lid, the splotches of bubble where it's not stuck down are from when I learned that this cheap vinyl is not pressure activated and it immediately stuck firmly to the trunk. When I peeled it off to reposition it, it took the paint with it in some areas. Since I had started out with a small 24 inch piece of vinyl, I didn't have enough to redo it, so I just repositioned it and stuck it in place with paint stuck to part of the underside of the vinyl which is what's causing the bubbles. If you look close you can also see a seam along the rear edge. This is because when I repositioned it, I still didn't get it right, and I didn't dare to pull it up a second time. So I cut some of the excess to cover the part that was exposed. Even with the splotches of bubble and the seam, it still looks better than it did before. I'll fix it after I get the rest of the car taken care of.

Now after showing you some of the screwups and problems, here's some shots of the whole package.









Don't mind the vinyl scraps on the drivers side wheels. I was curious to see how it would stick to the wheels, and then I was curious to see how it would look with blacked out wheels. That's literally scraps that I picked up off the garage floor and stuck to the wheels, right over the dirt.

I still haven't decided what to do with the bumpers. On the driver side corner of the front bumper, the paint was peeling off and had exposed the plastic. The plastic had deteriorated over the years and there's actually a small hole starting now. I took some scraps and covered over the hole and the curling paint just so there wouldn't be a big white spot there. That's why it looks all wrinkly and patchwork on that corner of the bumper.

To cover the bumpers properly I'd need another 120x60 piece of vinyl and then use half on each bumper to wrap from one side to the other. However, on the corners of the bumper there ends up being a LOT of excess where the corner wraps around to the side and from vertical to horizontal. Not to mention all the lines in the bumpers. That could end up being a creased and wrinkled disaster. Or I could cut thinner strips for the top surface, vertical surface, and then bottom surfaces. That would be much easier, but it'd leave me with three or four seams on each bumper.

Or I could paint the bumpers flat black. What do you guys think?

(Btw, there's four little pieces that I covered on one side but didn't cover on the other side yet, can you find them?)

Last edited by DrvLikHell; 03-30-2016 at 09:23 PM.
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Old 03-30-2016, 10:17 PM   #10
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

This is a seriously interesting thread!! I really appreciate you sharing. Our 1996 has really crappy paint too! I love it because it's purple, but it's got TERRIBLE clear coat and looks like crap in places.

My 94 has much nicer looking paint, oddly enough, and no clear coat issues.

Does this vinyl come in purple? LOL.
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Old 03-30-2016, 11:04 PM   #11
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

See? There's another '96 with bad clear coat. Something must have happened with the paint process that year.

This cheap stuff comes in purple, but it's not that cool deep purple/grape, almost blue color that Saturn used. It's more like a Barbie Car purple.

Similar to this:


If you go on eBay and search for Purple Gloss Vinyl Wrap you'll find it. Vvivid makes a purple that's not quite so Barbie Car, though it's still not that Saturn grape color, and it's three times as expensive as the cheap stuff.
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Old 03-31-2016, 12:02 AM   #12
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

EW no barbie car purple for me! Oh well. But anyhoo, I ran it by my husband and he thinks that doing black may be an interesting idea... not sure if we want to tackle it ourselves though.

And yeah, I think you're right about 96 and funky paint. None of my other Saturns ever had that issue...
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Old 03-31-2016, 01:10 AM   #13
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

Unless your paint is a total loss like mine, and you're embarrassed to drive it like I was, and broke like me, I wouldn't really recommend doing it. Remember that you'd still have to sand all of the body panels that have peeling clear coat or rough areas because the vinyl will magnify any imperfections. The hood alone took me 5 hours to prep and wrap. When I paid attention to the time on the other body panels, it took me around 2 - 2.5 hours each. The A and C pillar covers together took me 2.5 hours, per side. But I've got lots of free time right now, and even more patience. If you're just looking to do a single panel that already has good paint, like mgordon, then that's different. Now maybe (probably) it would be easier and faster with quality vinyl, but that wasn't an option for me.

If you can spend the dough on good vinyl, like maybe $300 or so, check out 3M 1080 Black Rose. That's what I would have chosen if I wasn't so broke.
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Old 03-31-2016, 09:03 PM   #14
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

I am liking the look in the pictures! It's very nice. Plus you are getting more and more experienced with each application.
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Old 04-01-2016, 07:09 AM   #15
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

I wish I would have known people were looking into this. There are plenty of little tricks that will make the application easier as well as eliminate most if not all bubbles.

But to the OP, overall looks like a good job to me. Some of the lower end vinyls are getting better and better, and not nearly as short life as they used to be. The real high end stuff is overkill for many things really.


There is a reason for my screen name. I've applied mountains of vinyl to just about any surface you can imagine.
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Old 04-01-2016, 08:08 AM   #16
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

A tip for others that want to do this. Black and moreso gloss black is the worst colour choice as it tends to show the imperfections when light is applied. White is probably the most forgiving and all colours in between are at different levels of the spectrum. Colour choice makes a big difference on the end results.

That said, DrvLikHell you've done an exceptional job. Thumbs up!
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Old 04-01-2016, 08:51 AM   #17
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Signmaster View Post
But to the OP, overall looks like a good job to me. Some of the lower end vinyls are getting better and better, and not nearly as short life as they used to be. The real high end stuff is overkill for many things really.
OK then, can you recommend the 'middle grade' vinyl and where to purchase from and how much needed for our sedans?
If I can do it for about $300 - $400, I might try it.
Any decent youtube videos (you know, any goof ball can make a video).
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Old 04-01-2016, 10:19 AM   #18
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

Quote:
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White is probably the most forgiving and all colours in between are at different levels of the spectrum.
I was actually thinking white for my SL2. I always liked the way bern's white SW2 looked.
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Old 04-01-2016, 01:45 PM   #19
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

I never heard of this! my gold 2001 Saturn has a dull spoiler. can I repair it with this wrapping? does the stuff come in the color gold? seems like an easy solution as the spoiler paint frequently goes & I can just re-wrap it when it dulls from time to time....
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Old 04-02-2016, 04:50 PM   #20
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Default Re: Vinyl wrapping my SL2

Thanks for the compliments guys. It hasn't turned out as well as I'd hoped, but it's far, FAR better than it was. I'm no longer embarrassed to be seen driving it, and that was my goal.

Signmaster: I was actually wondering how long it would take you to chime in. I know of your profession and I've read some of your posts before. If you'd be willing to share some of your tricks to make the application easier I'm all ears. I still have what I consider the hardest part left to do, the bumpers. The bumper corners and all those ins and outs along the bottom give me nightmares just thinking about it. Also, what would you consider real high end? 3M 1080?

trottida: I don't see what difference color would make, a wrinkle is a wrinkle whether it's black, white or blue. Maybe you'd catch the light off a wrinkle on black easier than on white, but I'd still clearly see them on white. Then again, I'm an anal perfectionist with an eye for detail.

TXSaturn02: Unless Signmaster has some suggestions, in my shopping experience, there isn't really a middle grade. There's the cheap stuff that you usually only find on eBay and Amazon where a sheet of 120" x 60" is about $35. Then there's the good stuff like 3M for $110, Avery for $104, Oracal for $95, all in the same size of 120" x 60". Maybe Vvivid could be considered mid grade as far as price goes, their 120"x 60" is $70. I can't speak for the quality of any of those except from what I've seen in videos and read on other forums, and unanimously, 3M is regarded as the best, Avery being a very close second or equal. For reference, the name of the brand that I got is supposedly Catpiano and is made in Taiwan.

So far I've used two 120"x 60" sheets and a 96" x 60" sheet, and that's been enough for everything except the bumpers. I haven't actually done the roof yet but I have a piece left that's plenty big enough. Technically I also used a 24" x 60" sheet for the trunk lid, but remember, I screwed up the hood and wasted half of a hood sized piece. That wasted material could easily cover the trunk lid, so I don't count the 24" x 60" that I started with in the total. From my measurements, I believe another 120" x 60" piece should be sufficient for the bumpers because they're somewhere around 110" from side to side, and maybe 25" top to bottom.

In total that's 456 linear inches, which is 38 feet, so you're looking at needing about a 40 foot by 5 foot roll. In both 3M 1080 and Avery Supreme, that's $360 on eBay. Vvivid comes out to $265, also on eBay. Oracal comes out to $370 on one of their suppliers websites. Now, that's of you buy the whole 40 feet at once. I didn't do that because I didn't know how good, or how terrible I was going to be at putting this stuff on. I started with a small 24" roll for $8. Then I got a 120" roll for $35, and so on. Those prices are also for gloss black. Other colors might be a little different, though usually not.

If some of you guys are actually going to try it youself, here's a few tips from my experience.

Cut large. Extra material is your friend. It's OMFG infuriating to get to the end of a body panel and be a quarter inch short when you thought it was going to be just right because you held it up and it looked fine. One time I got to the end of one of the pillar covers and realized I hadn't positioned it perfectly straight. It was going to end up with a sliver off, maybe a few inches long at the bottom of the end. Luckily the pillar covers are thin and I scrounged a replacement piece after I ripped off my screw up. Of course with my crappy paint that took some clear coat/paint with it and it had to be sanded again.

Wash and clean your surfaces thoroughly, including and especially the edges. The edges I mean are like the door jambs, the inside bottom lip of the door panels, the inside edges of the trunk lid, the underside edges of the hood. The edges are where your wrap will wrap around and terminate. If that's dirty, it'll lift and peel.

Dry your washed surfaces thoroughly. Pay special, close attention to the nooks and crannies and the edges. They hold water and your wrap will likely need to go in there. Water will make the vinyl refuse to stick, even if it's just slightly damp. I used a fan pointing directly on the panel I just washed and left it there in my garage for a few hours, rotating the fan and/or panel every so often.

The only panels I needed to take off were the front door panels, the pillar covers, and the trunk lids vertical trim panel. The front door panels had to come off because I couldn't otherwise reach the front edge of the door panel to wrap the vinyl around the front edge of the door and make it stick securely. The pillar covers must come off because they fit too tightly to wrap them otherwise. You also need them off to wrap the rear quarter panels as you can see in one of my pictures. The vertical part of the trunk lid is actually a separate piece and fits tightly against the trunk lid. It has to come off so you can wrap the vinyl around the top rear edge of the trunk lid, and so you can wrap that piece itself. The red reflector/plate holder piece has to come off of the trunk panel also.

Wrapping a panel when it's off the car is fuxoringly harder than wrapping it while it's on the car. When a panel is on the car it's secure, solid, stable, doesn't move around, and you can push, pull, wiggle, and do whatever you need to do to get the wrap to go on. When a panel is off the car, it just lays there, slides around, flexes, lifts, rotates, and generally makes the job much harder. If you can commandeer an assistant to physically hold up the panel while you wrap it, that will make your life much easier.

An assistant will make your job much easier in all aspects. There were so many times when I wish I had two extra hands. Like when I needed to hold, pull, heat and squeegee all at the same time. An assistant would have been massively helpful when initially peeling the backing off and laying the vinyl onto the surface.

On larger pieces, I elected to peel the backing off only on the starting edge, and then slowly work my way down/across the panel, peeling the backing as I went. I can't imagine trying to work with a large piece of vinyl with all of the backing off at once. That would be like, shoot yourself hard, unless you had two or three assistants to hold it up off of everything that it wants to stick to. I suppose if you're using 3M vinyl, or another brand that is actually pressure activated, then this wouldn't be a big deal because it won't stick firmly until you press on it. The stuff I'm using sticks very firmly, immediately.

On the pillar covers, I did peel the backing off all at once and laid the vinyl, glossy side down, on a clean surface. Then I touched the pillar cover to the middle of the vinyl after VERY carefully lining it up. Then I slid my hand under the vinyl and traced a finger down the middle of the pillar cover in each direction. Then the vinyl was stuck and I could pick up the pillar cover and work the rest of the vinyl into place.

As I described earlier, along the door panels and fenders, I got best results when I used two pieces. One piece starting in the body line and working my way down. Then another piece of vinyl starting at the top of the panel and working down to the body line, overlapping somewhere in that wretched body line.

On the hood I started in the middle and worked to one side first. Working by myself made this tricky. I laid the vinyl face down and peeled half the backing off. Then I cut the backing down the middle and stuck it back on. Then I flipped the vinyl over so it's shiny side up, folded (not creased!) the re-stuck side across the other side (shiny side facing shiny side), and peeled the middle of the re-stuck backing off part way. Then I positioned the vinyl where I wanted it, held up the re-stuck side and slowly ran my hand along the middle of the vinyl, windshield to bumper, that now had its adhesive exposed to stick it to the middle of the hood. With that done I folded back the peeled edge of the backing and laid the vinyl flat across the whole hood. At that point I had the vinyl stuck only to the middle of the hood, with the drivers side of the backing peeled maybe 10 inches back from the middle and folded back under the rest of the vinyl. As I worked the vinyl onto the hood I peeled back more of the backing as I went along a few inches at a time.
Again, if you have pressure activated vinyl, this whole intricate process isn't necessary. I've seen a video where a guy lays a sheet of 3M 1080 onto a hood after he peels the entire backing off and he slides it around a bit before sticking it down starting in the middle. I wish I had it that easy.

Note: The cheap vinyl that I got says it's pressure activated, but it's not. I would guess that only the brand name vinyls are actually pressure activated.

*Important* Because the front edge of the hood is rounded, this causes problems. It's why I screwed up the first time. The way I got it to work was to mostly ignore the front edge first and work in the middle and top first. I stuck the middle of the front edge, but then I mostly left it alone and my working edge was a large crescent that swept from the middle of the hood to the area I was working on the rest of the hood. As I went, I slowly started to work that down after I was maybe 1/4 to 1/3 of the way across the hood. Doing this allowed for the vinyl to be stretched across the curve of the hood without (many) wrinkles. Since there was stress from the vinyl being stretched along that front edge, it mostly stood straight up on its own and didn't stick to anything while I worked the other areas. I also applied heat as I worked the front edge. Heat was vital. I didn't really need it on the rest of the hood.

Now some of this, of course, only applies to a 2nd gen SL. The hood on the 1st gen is much more straight, and the 1st gens don't have the wretched body line. They do have a line that looks to be 6 to 8 inches up from the bottom of the door that could cause problems. I think the 3rd gen is pretty similar to the 2nd gen shape-wise. All of the coupes look to have a straighter front edge on the hood. But the 1st gen coupes have some vent looking thing on the bumper below the headlight door. That looks like it would be terribly, terribly difficult.

And lastly, anything that Singmaster recommends supersedes anything that I recommend. He does this for a living. I'm just a broke guy in his garage.
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