Meet Bathurst’s Motorsport Signwriter
When they talk about events bringing massive amounts of work to the local area, exhibit A for any race meeting in Bathurst should be Shane Fowler, the town’s motorsport signwriter.
No matter if it is the Six Hour, the 12 Hour or the 1000, Shane from Shane’s Signs will be running around the paddock in the lead up carrying out a wide range of jobs – from minor sticker updates to full wraps, and with 30 years in the trade, he has some cracking yarns from his travels.
From Supercars to the safety car, historic restorations, GT3 cars, and everything in between to now include TCR machinery, Shane has been there and put vinyl on it.
A Blessing and a Curse
Being the go-to guy in Bathurst for motorsport liveries is a rollercoaster ride.
“Obviously, I love it, and I hate it – the later in race week it gets, the fewer and fewer calls I can answer!” Said Shane.
“On the flip side, I did Shane Smollen’s car again on the weekend; it was booked in months ago – people who are organised will ring ahead and say I want you to do the car, and they get looked after.
“When I did Earl Bamber’s Porsche that Lowndes drove at the 12 Hour a couple of years ago, that was booked in at the end of October the year prior.
“I knew Lowndes was in that car, and I was sworn to secrecy.
“I get to see a fair few little layouts that I could spill the beans on, but then I wouldn’t get the work if I told other people what was really going on.”
How late is too late?
The thing about being the Bathurst sticker guy, Shane often receives a call with no notice to come in and save the day.
In the trade, it’s referred to as last-minute motorsport.
So how late is too late? Try mid-race…
Back at the 1993 Bathurst 12 Hour, Wayne Gardner infamously impaled the Dogbone Honda NSX on the McPhillamy Park fence in the lead up to race day.
It was a mess. The TAFE miracle workers had a devil of a time getting the aluminium chassis to pop back into spec, and even with 30 tonnes of pressure on the left front corner, it really didn’t want to play ball.
Wheeled out the garage with final band-aids being applied as the race started, the job of prepping the car wasn’t complete until after the lights went out…
“I stuck a sticker on the front bumper bar in the first pit stop!” Said Shane.
“There aren’t many photos of that car around, but on the front bar it has Australian Airlines, and one sticker is in one spot on one side of the car, and the other is on a different spot, because there was race tape in the way.
“I sat up all night waiting for them to finish that car, and it rolled out on the warm-up lap, and I had to run out and put another sticker on it in the pit lane.
“That’s probably the latest I’ve had to put a sticker on a car!”
There have been plenty of other standouts cars along the journey, including Mark Larkham’s original Mitre 10 Falcon, below, and Kenny Habul’s chrome blue AMG GT3 car for the 12 Hour.
“I enjoy the 12 Hour, the guys are really good. I did the Bentleys the second year they were here with that Union Jack design,” said Shane.
“I had never met those guys before. They left at 7 o’clock at night, and left me in the garage by myself – ‘we’ll see you in the morning!’ Two Bentleys, all of the equipment, see ya, we’re going!
“Another good one, and I stir the hell out of him to this day is Barry Ryan at Erebus. I’ve known him since the days when we were playing V8 Utes.
“I still give him a hand now, and if I ever see a sticker in his hands these days I take it off him, because he’s bloody terrible at it!”
From concept to reality.
Having a bit on
This past weekend, Shane had a hand in the presentation of at least nine entries across the various categories, although by the time the cars hit the track, he was working with the Beric Lynton BMW crew.
Next month at the 12 Hour, expect to see him refuelling one of the leading cars once all of the pre-race sticker work is complete.
The variety of machines Shane decorated in the lead up to the Six Hour provided a contrast – from simple Pulsars with nice straight sides and hard edges, to Lachlan Mineeff’s TCR VW, the diversity kept things interesting.
For instance, the Nick Percat/Shane Smollen/Rob Rubis BMW featured one big wrap down each side (directly above), with the fluro accents added once the base vinyl was in place.
For the TCR machine (top of section), however, the livery was carved out by hand on the sides of the vehicle.
“It was fiddly, not hard, just fiddly with the flares, and you can’t really measure stuff on the computer with that detail, most of that car was done by hand,” said Shane.
“I just hand cut it on the car and measured it as I went.
“It’s still quite common, with the simpler graphics on some designs, you just follow the lines on the cars, and it’s easier to do them by hand when you get there, rather than trying to track the lines down on a computer drawing.
“With bulges and curves and bumps, you’ve got a plan that’s 2D on a computer, but a 3D shape in real life, it always changes a little bit.
“It’s still common to hand-cut things on the cars. The Agathos Subaru, which was in the Six Hour on the weekend, it was hand cut, because most of the stripes follow body lines on the car; it’s just easier.”
Want to make a sign guy groan?
Book in a Porsche.
“They aren’t fun. There aren’t many flat bits to a Porsche – they are built out of curves,” said Shane.
“The earlier Cup Cars were terrible. The bumper bars took hours and hours, just with all of the detail and vents they put into them.”
Some samples of Shane’s work from last weekend.
Firstly, it helps to be motorsport mad.
Shane doesn’t know where that started, but he does remember being dropped off at the back gate of Amaroo Park as an early teen, and cutting through a paddock so he didn’t have to pay the gatekeeper!
It didn’t take long for him to take to the track, with his first race car at the age of 21 in 1992 being a 10A powered RX3 Street Sedan, which was his daily drive between events.
Once the category rebranded, Shane was a long time competitor in Improved Production racing, before getting involved in the local NSW Pulsar Racing scene.
In a spot of serendipity, the first race cars Shane stickered were production car Pulsars for Phil Alexander, with the pair continuing to work together to this day.
“When I started, wrapping the vehicle didn’t exist, but I used to do it, it was just never called wrapping,” recalled Shane.
“We used to just cover stuff in vinyl, and then someone got this fancy word going – the stuff we were using back in the day was not supposed to go around curves and go around corners, but we made it work.
“I remember some of the stuff I wrapped in the early days, I think of it now, and it was just a nightmare, but we did it anyway!”
While design work isn’t in his wheelhouse, Shane has collaborated with most of the leading graphic artists in the industry over the journey, however, Sam from SD Graphix in Bathurst is a talented local resource.
Away from racing, a typical workweek can entail anything and everything – from wrapping cars, trucks, shops and trains.
Remember at the top where we mentioned the boost to the local economy?
Shane’s family is one of the hundreds that put their properties up for temporary hire during major events at The Mountain each year, catering to the influx of race personnel, even if his garage doubles as his office.
“I’ve got to thank the people who stay here that they allow me to come back in and work,” said Shane.
“Triple Eight stay here for the 1000 and the 12 Hour, and they are happy for me to come in and keep working, it doesn’t worry them.”
So, the next time you are looking for some ace livery application in Bathurst, drop Shane a line.
But try not to leave it until the first pit stop…