Paint protection 101 on the 2022 GT500 Heritage Edition

This year, 2022, is the final production year of the latest generation of the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. A car whose nameplate, since 1967, has been associated with styling and power. Equipped with a 760-horsepower dual-overhead cam 5.2L supercharged V8 engine, carbon fiber wheels, and a dual-clutch transmission—this final version not only crossed over into supercar territory but was also the most powerful car that Ford has ever sold. For its last year, Ford decided to celebrate the car by offering the 2022 Heritage Edition which includes historic paint and stripe colors that harken back to the original 1967 Shelby GT500 that started it all. 

Ford loves to celebrate its history. They first celebrated the Shelby legacy with the 2020 GT350/GT350R Heritage Edition (left rear), and they repeated honoring the legacy of the GT500 with the 2022 GT500 Heritage Edition (front).

The Heritage GT500 brought back the iconic color of Brittany Blue—a light blue hue that appeared in the Shelby lineup only in 1967. It would recreate one of the most recognizable GT500 liveries: Brittany Blue with white stripes. In ’67 the white stripes were a dealer-installed option. For 2022, the stripes would be available with either vinyl over-the-top stripes with matching vinyl side stripes that are installed by Ford at the Mustang manufacturing plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, or hand-painted over-the-top stripes finished 35-minutes away by Penske Vehicle Services in Troy, Michigan, for the lofty price of $12,140.00—$10,000.00 more than the vinyl stripped option.

The Heritage Edition also differentiates itself from the standard GT500 with specific logos that are in the stripes. The vinyl Heritage received a 1960’s style “GT500” logo in the lower side stripe whereas the painted striped cars had a new style “GT500” logo stenciled into the over-the-top stripe on the driverside hood—right in front of the driver’s purview. 

Equipped with the $18,500.00 Carbon Fiber Track Package and the $12,140.00 painted stripes Heritage Edition, this 2022 Shelby GT500 is an instant collector car.

This particular GT500 Heritage that is featured is also equipped with the $18,500.00 Carbon Fiber Track Package (CFTP), which turns the GT500 into a track weapon. Like the previous 2015-2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R, the Carbon Fiber Track Package is a two-seat car with the rear seats deleted with the goal of saving weight. The CFTP has different suspension tuning, sticky Michelin Cup 2 Tires, 20-inch carbon fiber wheels, and a large carbon fiber wing—that Ford lifted from the Mustang GT4 race car. The wing produces 550 pounds of downforce at 180mph—much more than the 300 pounds of downforce that the 2015-2020 GT350R wing produced. The CFTP equipped GT500 is essentially a GT500R with a much longer and ambiguous name. 

This CFTP GT500 Heritage Edition with painted stripes is the most highly coveted variant. Gone for 2023, as Ford sunsets the Shelby brand for the S550 chassis, this Heritage Edition is a great sendoff celebrating the long relationship between Shelby and Ford. 

The Carbon Fiber Track Package sheds over 100-pounds of weight and adds exotic features like large carbon fiber wheels and carbon fiber wing—all things that help it go faster around a racetrack.

The Heritage Edition is limited in its production numbers. Being that this Heritage variant (CFTP with painted stripes) is estimated to number around 200 cars, there is a high incentive to preserve it. Any new car owner still wants to drive their car, but they want to safeguard it from as much road damage as possible. Although major damage like an accident or an auto collision cannot be defended against, small road damage like paint chips from rocks or road debris can be with paint protection film. 

The road can be a dangerous place. Rocks, chunks of asphalt, and other detritus can be more like tiny meteorites slamming against your beautiful paint, pitting it, and destroying your car’s finish. Other damage like swirls or micro scratches can occur when washing your car. To protect your car against these inevitable road stressors, people either get ceramic coating or paint protection film installed onto their car. 

Juan Madrigal, owner of Protektive Coatings in Moreno Valley, CA, specializes in these methods of preserving a vehicle’s paint. He says there is a difference between ceramic coating and paint protection, as he describes, “ceramic coating is going to help you maintain your vehicle [with] aspects of cleaning it down—it wipes down very easy—pretty much it’s going to create a hydrophobic surface. Meanwhile, paint protection is generally creating a force field around the surface, where any debris […] can come and chip the paint. When the film is there, it will absorb that impact. If it were to tear [the] film down, just temperature itself will restore [it], which is a self-healing material. Back in the day, it would be paint protection and we would have to add on a hydrophobic surface because the technology wasn’t there. Nowadays, paint protection itself is hydrophobic. It’s going to help you maintain your vehicle. You’re going to get the plus of not being able to scratch it and it’s always going to look clean.”   

Juan Madrigal of Protektive Coatings specializes in installing paint protection. He installs the film onto the front bumper of the GT500 Heritage.

Paint protection can be placed anywhere on a car’s body, but more coverage equals a higher cost, so all installers offer different levels of protection. The first level focuses on protecting the most at-risk areas, which is the front of the vehicle where the majority of the road damage will occur as you drive. Frontal protection is offered in two levels of coverage: a partial front and a full front. 

The partial front will cover the bumper and headlights completely, but the fenders and the hood will only have a partial piece of film, so you will see a line where the film ends on those panels. 

The film comes pre-cut or in bulk. It is 4-mils thick and has adhesive on one side. He lifts up one of the patterns for the lower rocker panel as he carries it over to the car to install.

A full front will completely cover the entire front bumper, headlights, fenders, and hood. Because the film covers those panels entirely, you will not see a line on those panels. It will look almost invisible because you cannot tell where the film ends.

More protection could be offered to cover other areas of concern but lately, Madrigal has had more customers asking for their entire car to be wrapped in paint protection. Protecting the entire car can cost over $6,000.00 but it covers every panel in the protection film. Not only does it offer the greatest protection, but it also eases maintenance in that the car only needs to be wiped off with a waterless car wash.  

Working on the hood, Madrigal, first lays out the material with a mixture of soap and water which allows it to slide as he adjusts the placement. He then uses his squeegee to lock the film into place.

Installers use their years of experience to help them install paint protection film. Madrigal leans on his 18 years of experience in window film and vinyl wrap to aid him. He explains that paint protection requires different tactics of stretching and tacking the film to get it to conform to the car’s body contours. Like a steelworker, he has to understand what areas need to be under tension and which areas need to be relaxed. It’s a puzzle that he is solving as he figures out the best approach to applying the film. 

Although films can be pre-cut, Madrigal likes to use bulk material which allows him to cut the patterns out of a large sheet. “There is the option of a pre-cut kit… but there will always be a minor gap leaving areas exposed… the fun part of what I like to [do is use bulk film]… now being able to fully coat a part without any seams or any edges exposed by doing it as a full panel.” 

Working on the rear of the car, he uses his hand to massage the material, heating it up allowing it to tack.

Using blades to trim the film is an unavoidable part of the installation process. As Madrigal states, “There’s always going to be a chance that we will have to trim the material to a certain point. It’s a very meticulous job because you have to have that experience [with] your blade. [It could] penetrate more than [you want] and damage the paint.” His expert skills allow him to score the film instead of cutting through it completely. This scoring creates a squealing sound as he runs the tip of the blade over the film, only cutting the top layer. He then pulls it apart as it splits on that score line. Having this experience which is based on years of practice, allows him to prevent cutting customers’ paint.

For the GT500 Heritage, Madrigal chose Avery Dennison’s Supreme Gloss Defense film for the majority of the body. For the black hood vent, he used Avery Dennison Noir, which is a black paint protection film specifically for black-painted parts. 

The black vents were covered in Avery Dennison’s Noir, whereas the rest of the car was covered in Avery Dennison’s Supreme Gloss Defense. The “GT500” logo can also be seen, embedded in the painted stripe of the Heritage GT500.

Madrigal likes the products from Avery Dennison because it aids in his installation. “Once I tried it, I fell in love with it. It was something that eased my process—it definitely cut down a lot of time. I love the adhesive—when I tension and when I pull, it’s a very easy product to work with.” 

“We ended up covering [the car] bumper-to-bumper and wheel-to-wheel. My favorite aspect of it was working on the wheels… We decided to do the wheels because they are rare and expensive.”

Madrigal covered the carbon fiber wheels in paint protection film. Making a pattern and painstakingly working every inch of the wheel to “minimize the exposure of seams.”

“What makes these wheels stand apart is that they are not an alloy wheel,” says Madrigal, “They’re carbon fiber. Essentially, we ended up adding the paint protection film over every square inch of the wheel… trying to design the best pattern to minimize the exposure of seams. It’s not typical that you can do the wheel, this is an opportunity that presented itself because these carbon fiber wheels come along with the vehicle.”

“Paint Protection film was originally patented to protect helicopter rotor blades… so knowing that, we were able to feel comfortable and figure out the right trims and the right method to cover the rims.” 

“Coverage is different, the front wheels there is a ceramic [layer] to absorb heat… where the rear wheels [are] just carbon fiber. So being able to get in the dish and cover the full amount, was a great experience.” 

Protecting the carbon fiber rear wing was also a high point for Madrigal. For the curved airfoil, he cut a piece of bulk material and stretched it on the large wing. He trimmed it where the seam line of the wing’s construction is located. The endplates were done in one piece that was tacked and conformed to match the shape.  

It took Madrigal a week to cover the GT500. The finished result is a glossy finish that actually enhances the Heritage GT500’s natural shine. The film is practically invisible. The film on the wheels also disappears into the carbon fiber. Aside from adding element and road debris protection, cleaning has now been reduced to just a microfiber towel and some detail spray.

Paint protection is now usually the first step that most owners invest in once they’ve bought their new car. With a ten-year warranty on most films, the benefits of protecting the original paint from road damage and swirls in the paint, pay dividends throughout the years. If this technology existed back in ’67, many owners of the original GT500 would have probably had it installed on their cars. One thing is for sure, this new classic car’s paint is well protected.

The finished vehicle: the paint protection is practically invisible and it is protected from the elements with a 10-year warranty.

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