Local Business Will Help NASCAR Fans Take A Trip Down Memory Lane
Time machines. Imaginations have run wild for years about the possibilities of vehicles capable to transport people back in time. One Bristol business has found the solution and will have 12 of those machines ready for drivers like Cale Yarborough and David Pearson to race in the March 20 Scotts EZ Seed Showdown at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Okay, so they technically are not time machines, but Modern D-Signs, located on Volunteer Parkway in Bristol, has created a few looks for race cars that definitely will remind people of NASCAR's past.
Kurt Kummer, owner of Modern D-Signs, and his staff have taken USAR Pro Cup machines and transformed them into the cars of yesteryear. Each car features one of the paint schemes made famous by the legendary driver behind the wheel for the event.
Kummer, originally from Arkansas, started his business in the mid-70s by selling screen printed t-shirts at motocross events. He eventually signed a contract with Bristol, Tenn.-based International Hot Rod Association to be the sanctioning body's souvenir supplier. Kummer followed the circuit across the country selling t-shirts and other souvenirs at events.
"I wanted to be more centrally located for the IHRA races, which were mostly east of the Mississippi," said Kummer about his move to Bristol. "We loved the area because we had been coming to the races here. Once I started doing IHRA full time, we decided to move and this was a natural place and a place we always liked."
After the IHRA contract ended in 2005, Kummer looked for different ways to expand his business. He added embroidered items and outdoor signage to his list of products. Modern D-Signs now produces everything from polo shirts and hats to coffee mugs, banners, window lettering and anything in between, including car wraps. Those wraps are a hot seller, especially with a famous race track just a few miles up the road.
"I bought a digital printer and found that car wraps was one of the main parts of that," he explained. "The biggest thing was researching and finding out about the digital printing and what was available. Once I saw we could print on vinyl that opened the door. Our vehicle was the first car we wrapped. They wrapped it in December 2006 and we still have that wrap on."
While the idea is similar to that of decaling a model car, the actual process is much more technical and time consuming.
"You begin with a template of what you want to wrap," Kummer said. "With the race cars, there are no templates, so we take pictures at different angles and make our own template. You take that template, find out what needs to go on the car, and you put that information on the template.
"You make it a big rectangle, and you put that in the printer. It has to sit for 24 hours, and then we laminate it and apply it to the car."
Placing the decals on the car is a tedious process, but many advances have helped make it less taxing.
"The vinyl has air egress channels," said Kummer. "If you get a bubble, you can put your thumb on it and separate it a few times, and the air runs through the channels. You use heat to slightly soften it to get it to go around corners.
"Originally, there were no air channels. The next advancement was making the adhesive ‘slideable.' It doesn't move as if it is wet, but it is a lot more slideable than the more aggressive detail films."
The expert crew at Modern D-Signs can wrap one race car during an eight-hour day. They can go faster if they are pushed, but prefer to limit themselves to one a day.
"Doing one non-stop, going as hard as we could, it took five hours," Kummer said with a laugh. "We turned one around for a racer that came in to town and needed to go back to Pennsylvania. They started and didn't stop until it was finished five hours later."
"We have two cars left to wrap for Saturday's race. The last one we will probably get Friday morning, so we will need to jump on it pretty quick."
That's a long way from when cars were hand lettered and painted. But although turning back the hands of time to make these cars look similar to their predecessors of yesteryear may be more reliant on technology these days, it still stirs emotion.
When Kummer's crew sees drivers like Harry Gant, Charlie Glotzbach and Dave Marcis piloting their works of art, the feeling of pride is obvious around the shop.
"It is a good feeling," he explained. "It is neat to see the end product of your work. Not just for me, but for the guys that do the wrapping. They are proud of it. They think it is neat that they do the cars that are being seen by thousands of people and a television audience. It makes you really proud of your work."
Race fans can see the work of Modern D-Signs as Bristol Motor Speedway takes a trip back in time during the Scotts EZ Seed Showdown.
Tickets are available for Food City 500 weekend. A package, consisting of Ford Fan Friday qualifying (March 19), the Scotts Turf Builder 300 and the Scotts EZ Seed Showdown (March 20) and the March 21 Food City 500, is available, starting at only $99.
For fans who can only attend the Food City 500, single day tickets may be purchased, starting at $93. Tickets for Saturday's doubleheader start at just $45 while fans can watch Ford Fan Friday qualifying for only $5, then attend Food City Race Night at BMS for free.