Mobile billboards are some of the most cost-effective tools that can get your branding in front of thousands of consumers. They also pre-date the digital world by over a century and it’s unsurprising that they’re still in use today.

The history of vehicle wraps is a fascinating one, rich in innovation and artistic flair. From hand-painted signage to damage-free vinyl, car wrap trends have come a long way.

If you’re looking for “vehicle wrapping near me,” we hope that you’ll consider RoadRunner Wraps. At RoadRunner Wraps, we honor the history and trends of vehicle wraps while embracing the future.

Now, read on to learn more about the evolution of vehicle wrap trends from the past, present, and future.

The Rise of 1800s Vehicle Painting

The early history of mobile advertising started before automobiles came onto the scene. In the 1800s, families and entrepreneurs who owned their own horse-drawn carriages were notable figures, and they began to reflect their pride and wealth in their carriage designs.

Using paint and a paintbrush, families would decorate the wagon canopy with their surnames and family crests. Likewise, business owners would paint their business name and logo on their wagon canopies to advertise their businesses as they rode around town. Because these ads were hand-painted, it took quite a bit of skill to execute them.

These mobile advertisements were a huge hit. Many business owners found that the novelty of a painted carriage not only spread the word about their business but also boosted sales. 

Milton Hershey’s Branded Automobile

We can assume that some of the history of vehicle wraps has been lost over time, but as legend would have it, Milton Hershey was the first to use a bonafide automobile to advertise his thriving chocolate company. In fact, his automobile was the first to drive down the streets of Lancaster, making it doubly attractive and astounding to passersby.

This early automobile, which topped out at a whopping speed of nine miles per hour, featured the words “Hershey’s Cocoa” along the side. As this automobile was used to fulfill deliveries, it represents an important moment in the history of branded delivery trucks.

Early 20th Century Stenciled Lettering

One of the first major innovations we see in the history of mobile billboards is the invention of car stencils. By purchasing stencils, car owners no longer needed to find a skilled artist to turn their car into an advertisement.

That said, these designs were still hand-painted. In other words, durable paint was applied directly to the car’s paint, creating a permanent or semi-permanent bond.

This method made it difficult to make alterations. If a business wanted to change its logo or slogan, those changes weren’t easy to reflect on a car that was already painted. Plus, stencil painting made it nearly impossible to preserve the car’s resale value.

The Invention of Plasticized PVC

When does vinyl come into the picture? In 1926, a B.F. Goodrich employee stumbled upon the invention of plasticized PVC by accident. 

The employee, Dr. Waldo Semon, set out with the goal of creating an adhesive from PVC. Instead, he created the versatile and flexible plastic that we know today as vinyl. 

In the first several decades, vinyl wasn’t affordable to the average business owner. It was used to protect electrical wiring and strengthen the tubing in vehicle tires, all the while laying the groundwork for modern car wrapping.

Self-Adhesive Vinyl Hits the Market

In the second half of the 20th century, vinyl was produced in high enough quantities to lower the cost. Die-cutting technology made it easier to create designs of vinyl, which was also available in a variety of colors. Up until around the 1980s, only major organizations like the US Air Force could afford to take advantage of this new vehicle-altering technology.

By the 1990s, even small businesses could afford self-adhesive die-cut vinyl. This made mobile advertising faster and easier to produce. It also made it easier for fleets of vehicles, like delivery trucks or taxi cabs, to bear recognizable designs that were recognizable from one vehicle to the next.

Around this time, a new technology that paved the way for modern vehicle wraps was in the works. For example, electrostatic printers broadened design options significantly. Like most cutting-edge technology, these new options weren’t available to the average business owner for several years due to high costs and limited availability.

Present Day Versatility

As computers entered every household, inkjet printers entered every vehicle wrapping center. Now, it’s feasible for businesses of all sizes to get full, colorful vehicle wraps that cover their vehicles from bumper to bumper. New technology offers a variety of unique finishes including:

  • Matte
  • Matte metallic
  • High gloss
  • Carbon fiber
  • Clear protective

With professional installation, you can install a vehicle wrap to advertise your business with ease. You can also have that wrap removed without having to fear damage to your car’s original paint job. In fact, your protective vinyl car wrap can protect your car’s paint from wear and tear over the years.

Future Vehicle Wrap Trends

What do we anticipate as car wrap history moves into the future? More than anything, we expect to see a continuous enhancement in quality.

Vinyl vehicle wraps will become stronger and more durable, allowing car owners to get more use out of them without a significant increase in cost. We also expect a broadening of design opportunities, including sharper details produced by advanced printers.

No matter the changes, RoadRunner Wraps is committed to staying ahead of the curve.

Looking for “Vehicle Wrapping Near Me?” Call RoadRunner Wraps

Car wrap history provides a fascinating lens into the evolution of both marketing and technology. We’ve come a long way from the hand-painted lettering of the 1800s and can’t wait to see what the rest of the 21st century brings to the table.

If you’re looking for “vehicle wrapping near me,” you’ve come to the right place. RoadRunner Wraps has been providing vehicle wrapping services in Maryland since the late 1980s and we’ve never missed a trend. Contact us to learn more about our services and schedule an appointment.