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Digital Prints Celebrate the Age of the Automobile

(May 2002) posted on Tue Apr 30, 2002

How do you accent a show-room full of beautifully restored vintage vehicles?


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Why not cover the showroom walls with eye-catching and nostalgic graphics that revisit the eras in which the classic cars first hit the streets. That is exactly what Dr. Edward Dauer, a prominent South Florida physician, philanthropist, and collector of classic 1950s and 1960s automobiles, envisioned for his newly built showroom and museum, which houses more than 40 antique cars. Dauer initiated the graphics project by commissioning artist Freddy Wolfe to design a series of murals thematically related to periods during which the models on display were first introduced to the public. In researching his options for turning Wolfe's designs into finished images, Dauer learned about wide-format digital-printing technology and set out to find a digital-printing firm that could produce the vibrant graphics he wanted. Wolfe and Dauer brought the job proposal to several large-format digital-printing companies, each of which provided sample output to demonstrate its imaging capabilities. After reviewing the samples, the pair found themselves most impressed by the work of Digigraphics USA, which had output its samples on the Matan Sprinter, a digital thermal-transfer printer. Digigraphics USA, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, was a digital-printing specialty company that focused on applications such as vehicle graphics, banners, posters, signs, billboards, and similar graphic displays. The company had been established by Steve Leibovitz, a former military jet-engine mechanic who became involved in the art and reprographics markets after leaving the military. Leibovitz set up shop with thermal-transfer imaging technology because of its versatility and reproduction quality and has enjoyed a steady stream of business for his printing operation ever since. Once Dauer decided to give the job to Digigraphics, he, Wolfe, and Leibovitz quickly began to collaborate on the wall-mural project. Dauer needed a total of seven large wall murals, plus several smaller murals, to be produced and installed in time for a major fundraiser he planned to host in his showroom. The mural images that Wolfe came up with were designed to capture the spirit of the automobile in the US during the '50s and '60s and feature icons and images that blend with Dauer's car collection to create a unified setting. One mural--The "Fabulous Fifties"--depicts a perfectly restored 1956 Cadillac convertible, reportedly identical to one once owned by Marilyn Monroe. A "Drive-In Movies" mural features images of many of Dauer's own cars, as well as a large, plasma-display screen, which serves as the "movie screen" in the mural and is used to present classic films as part of the display. Other murals include one with a "Beach Party" theme that highlights the classic '53 Buick "woody," as well as Pontiac and Olds station wagons from 1957. The "Sixties" mural, serves as a backdrop for a '65 and '66 Cadillac in Dauer's collection. Another wall graphic, which depicts a vintage hospital emergency entrance complements Dauer's 1972 Cadillac ambulance. A "Kiddie" wall shows off Dauer's collection of classic children's bicycles, pedal cars, and wagons. And finally, a "Family" mural was developed that features illustrations of Dauer's wife and six children sitting in various cars from his collection. To produce the murals, Leibovitz tiled Wolfe's graphic designs and printed them as panels with graphic areas 33 in. (838 mm) wide plus 1.5-in. (38-mm) trim areas (top and bottom) that would allow the panels to overlap while maintaining continuity in the graphics. The images were output with the Matan Sprinter onto T2 Solutions' P2 Banner material, a 13-oz vinyl-clad cotton canvas. The completed wall-mural graphics range in size from 9 x 9 to 16 x 30 ft (2.7 x 2.7 to 4.9 x 9.1 m). All of the graphics, which total more than 3000 sq ft (278.7 sq m), were output in less than 10 hr on the Sprinter. Even though the murals were intended for indoor use, Leibovitz recommended that the graphics be topped with a protective clearcoat. Digigraphics used its Neschen Accutech roll coater to apply a UV- resistant top-coating that also gave the graphics a very high-gloss finish. The glossy shine of the graphics complements the brilliant finishes on all of Dauer's restored vehicles. The graphic panels were mounted on the museum wall by a professional wallpaper installer, who used clay-based, heavy-duty wallpaper adhesive to hold the graphics on the museum's sheet-rock walls. The entire installation took eight days over a period of three weeks as the installer worked around other museum preparations that were in progress. The murals were successfully printed and installed in time for Dauer's fundraiser, which drew 385 people and raised nearly $100,000 for the Boys' and Girls' Clubs. The event was a success for Digigraphics as well--one of the fundraiser attendees was the owner of several Acura and Honda dealerships who was interested in Leibovitz's work. He has already commissioned Wolfe and Leibovitz to produce four murals for his own showrooms.


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