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Vibrant, Vivid & Vital Vinyl

The finish line is almost in sight! Today, my signwriter took 3 hours 20 minutes applying the vinyl stripe to the sides of GCT 113, a la 1989 when the bus last had it applied. Aided (possibly hindered) by myself, I saw 'up close and personal' the process of applying this style of vinyl to the side of a large vehicle.

My signwriter has been applying vinyl to the sides of buses and coaches as well as all other types of road vehicle since around the time GCT 113 was delivered new in 1976. She understood my requirements and was able to produce the stripe and the rather unusual design at the end without even querying my requirements. Clearly, a requirement of a signwriter is not only to produce and apply vinyl (as well as other materials) but to understand and comprehend the design being asked for, even one being recreated from 1987. Rather unusually, my signwriter has diversified into headstones and memorials. Apparently the two disparate industries synergise very well (as do key cutting and cobbling).

Flickr and a straightforward Google Image search provided me with many hundred views of GCT Fleetlines in the 'GCT Orange 1990' livery, dating from 1987. The tricky part was finding a suitable shot of a Fleetline that showed the stripe running down both sides, rather than the more traditional front corner view. The examples I found would suffice, however, and using a digitised GCT stylised fleet name image that she'd produced for the 'Please Take One' sticker on the bus's timetable case, my signwriter was able to convert the double softened arrow from its inverted position to point outwards, simply 'flipping it' on her computer graphics programme.

If you notice, on any GCT publicity from around this time, the arrows always point into the stripe, whereas on the sides of the buses they dynamically point outward.

After first cleaning the area where the stripe would be applied using a rather pungent liquid, she set about applying the offside stripe first. The art of vinyl application is no more complex than a keen eye, some masking tape and a hard, plastic spatular to smooth out bubbles.

Having agreed the tip of the softened arrow was in the correct position above the offside wheel arch, the top edge of the vinyl was temporarily stuck in place with small pieces of masking tape, as can be seen in the image below.

When the section being applied was agreed as level (GCT 113 has riveted body panels along her sides, making the application of a lengthy vinyl stripe a little easier since it can be applied in sections that coincide with the riveted panels), a long strip of masking tape was applied along the entire top edge. The section of vinyl is then lifted up and the backing peeled away before the vinyl is applied to the paintwork. It is then smoothed using the plastic spatular, so that all the bubbles are removed.

As you can see from the photo above, the stripe was measured out and loosely applied to the whole length of the bus.

The initial application of the stripe didn't include the black section. This would be added on top of the lower white section afterwards.

Bespoke pre-cut black sections were applied to both sides, with my signwriter expertly ensuring the top edge of the black ran along the top edge of the white. The black vinyl had been cut to a depth so that once applied the lower white outline would be the same thickness as the top white outline.

Once this had been applied (in the same manner as the main stripe), again in sections that coincided with the riveted panels, the offside stripe was complete. The vinyl has been cut into separate sections where the panels meet to prevent it from being torn through the natural flex of the bodywork.

(Note the printed image stuck to the window that was used as guidance.)

The same process was applied to the nearside, with the added complication of the centre door. I hadn't built the air up in the bus, so while this was being applied I was stood inside, holding the centre door closed while the vinyl was applied. We discovered that the ledge below the lower saloon windows, under which the top white outline of the stripe ran, sits 1cm higher beyond the centre doors than before them.

As per the offside, the black stripe was then overlaid expertly and removed to reveal a second completed stripe.

(Note again the printed image stuck to the window that was being worked from)

Weather permitting, the unveiling of GCT 113 in her completed livery (legal lettering will be applied by then) will be in Grimsby on 16 September.

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