Saturday, March 28, 2009

New Stripes for the MINI

Readers may recall that last fall I had an incident in the Mini when I ran into a deer close by my house.  That resulted in my bonnet (hood) being replaced along with a few trim pieces and one of my headlights.  The work was finally done in late November.  That meant it would be February before the paint was properly "cured".  So - no wax for the bonnet, no Hydro, and no stripes installation.  So, the Mini had to suffer through the winter with a plain (chili) red bonnet.

Back in February we had a nice warm weekend and I was able to put some Epic wax down on the bonnet and surrounding panels and the bumper.  I did discover during that process that there was some paint overspray on the bumper from when the bonnet was repainted.  I'm hoping it will come off whenever I can invest in a good random orbiter polisher.  Fortunately, the red matches, so you can only tell by touch or getting at the right angle.

So I had been trying to decide what to do about stripes.  The first issue was that I want to add some boot stripes.  After playing around with The GIMP some, I had created some previews of different styles and decided I want to try a double pinstripe format.  The original stripes had black pinstripes along the edges, but I wanted to get the Mini to all red and white wherever possible (black being a necessary evil to the NCSU red and white colors).

I'd been looking at some stripes on the Aesthetic Creations web site, but the pinstripes were kind of big (1/4 inch).  My wife described them as "boy racerish" and I tend to agree.  The other problem was that the stripes themselves, both bonnet and boot, would run well over $100 and I'd probably be looking at new Cooper S badging on the boot as well.

Another vendor, MightyStripes, had some as well, but I could not exactly how their pin stripes work or what width they were.

I ended up doing some searching on the THMMC site and realized that N2MINI could make stripes and had an open offer for club members.  A couple PMs and I achieved - a price that was about a quarter of what AC was offering, custom stripes made like I wanted them, very fast (blazing) turnaround, and some tips on salvaging my existing Cooper S badge to be reused.

The "Before" shot

After the March Madness MINI Rally on Saturday, I had to get some yardwork done after my out of town trip.  I ended up making the decision to attempt the install last Sunday late in the afternoon and got started at 5:00 p.m.  The first step being a good washing for the Mini.  That took about 50 minutes followed by a few minutes of gathering tools and supplies, so I was able to get started on the actual stripe install at about 6:00 p.m.

First step was to use some detergent to try to get off some of the Epic wax so the stripe would be bonding to the paint itself and not the layer of wax.

Chrome trim removed from hood

Next up was to remove the chrome trim from the front lip of the bonnet as I wanted the stripes to wrap over the edge instead of ending short like the "factory" stripes do.  That involved the removal of four screws and then squeezing several tabs to release the trim.

I then eyeballed the mid-line of the bonnet at the Mini emblem and used the windshield washer jets to locate the mid-line higher up on the bonnet.  A dry-erase marker was used to make some temporary marks.

Stripes positioned using masking tape

Using masking tape, I then positioned the stripes on the bonnet where I thought I wanted them.  This may have taken the most time as I spent considerable time trying to get the positioning and angle just how I wanted them.

Once completed, it was a matter of cutting the backing about midway up, and then working the vinyl down.  I worked from the middle up to the windshield first, and then did the rest of the stripe down to the front lip second.  Probably the hardest part was near the front edge where the curve of the bonnet gets a little more aggressive, making it a little more challenging not to introduce air bubbles or creases.  I had bought a little plastic squeegee (from Advance Auto) for this step and it proved to be an invaluable tool.

Ends trimmed

Once both stripes were down, I used a little razor blade type knife to trim the ends, then removed the mask.  I guess I did pretty good as I probably had less than five air bubbles between the two stripes and they were very small.  Interestingly, more air bubbles appeared over the next couple days.  I'm waiting to see if they go away on their own before try to pin prick them (alas, this rain is delaying things a bit).

Chrome reinstalled - new stripes, YEAH!

The final step was to reinstall the chrome trim.  And my stripes were back and the Mini is all healed from the deer hit.

Before and after shots

I then used a hair dryer, some floss and the squeegee to get the Cooper S badging off the boot.  This was after measuring where it needed to go back on and putting some clear mailing tape on the letters so they would stay together.  Once off, I used a little Goo-B-Gone to remove the adhesive that was left, then some washing to try to get off as much wax as I could.

Cooper S badge removed - some cleanup needed

At that point I had to pull the Mini into the garage so I would have some light to see what I was doing for the boot stripes.  The process was much the same.  To help position them, I figured out how far apart the bonnet stripes were at the top edge of the bonnet.

I then used some masking tape to position them and used the same process to cut the backing off about mid-stripe.  I used the same method - worked up first, then down to the bottom edge where I wrapped them over the edge of the boot.  The challenge on these were at the top edge where the boot has a pretty good curve to it up to the bottom edge of the rear window.  Once down, I pulled the masking tape off and now had boot stripes to match the bonnet stripes.

Now I have boot stripes too!!!

I was finished up by 8:15 pm, so a little over a couple hours for the stripes install alone.  Not bad for an amateur I suppose.  I was nice to do it myself.  Funny how this little car makes me want to work on it doing maintenance, mods, etc., in this day and age when the advanced systems on so many cars are killing of shade-tree mechanics.

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