Decorating cars builds community spirit, too

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Football season lasts all year for a growing group of car owners, who combine their love of the Seahawks with their love of cars to turn their autos into rolling fan wagons.

By tricking out their vehicles with Hawk-themed color schemes and designs, they’ve earned regional notoriety.

A year ago, Mike Wear of Everett saw a Volkswagen Beetle for sale on his Facebook feed. He had been thinking about designing a Seahawks vehicle, but his truck was the wrong color. The Beetle, however, was a shiny metallic blue — the perfect canvas for a fan car now dubbed Beetlemode.

Using a computer-driven vinyl cutter, Wear added some designs and was invited to drive around Evergreen Speedway on a Seahawk night. There, he met two other drivers with a similar passion, and the Hawk Wheels club was born.

What started as a casual idea quickly steamrolled. They started bringing a portable PA system, music and Seahawk-themed guitars to parades and charity events. In less than a year, they became the opening act for dozens of Seahawk-themed events.

Something he didn’t anticipate was how many players he would meet along the way, including Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman, Walter Jones, Kam Chancellor and Warren Moon.

“I didn’t expect any of this; it’s kind of blown up,” Wear says. “I just wanted to wing out my car and fell into it.”

The Hawkmobile

Ron Penelerick of Mukilteo used to restore Ford Mustangs, but he grew tired of the wear and tear they endured at car shows. He sold them to buy a restored 1937 Ford hot rod that he could play with.

He started by adding a few Seahawk emblems and magnets, then tricked out the back panel. He painted the hood panels green and added a vinyl wrap on the trunk lid.

When he took the Hawkmobile to a car show, he was invited to drive on a cruise with the Seahawks car club Wheels of Boom, which has about 45 members. Soon, he was traveling to charity events and parades several times per month.

When you start decorating in Seahawks-themed accents, you start to see dressed-up cars everywhere, he says. “If I had to guess I’d say there are well over 3,000 vehicles [in the Northwest].”

Penelerick says that the Seahawks have some restrictions. “I had to have my latest wrap sent to the Seahawks legal to be approved,” he says. “They have requirements to protect their brand. I understand it and appreciate it. They don’t want you out there using your vehicle to sell a product.”

Wraps are removable 

One of the reasons Seahawk decorating is so popular is because vinyl wrapping is fairly cheap, costing a few hundred dollars per panel.

Wraps typically last five to seven years and adhere to a car without sticky residue. They can be peeled off without damaging paint, says Caleb Russell, owner of Accutint Seattle, which has done full Seahawks wraps on a Ferrari, a Raptor and a Hummer.

Wear says most of his club members do DIY vinyl decorating. One member simply uses an overhead projector, an X-Acto knife and scissors. He says a 2-by-30-foot roll of vinyl costs about $25.

Sharing in the fun

Whether you spend hundreds or thousands to convert a car, it’s worth it for the spirit it brings to the community, club members say.

“The best part is the smiles that it puts on people’s faces,” says Penelerick. “We can’t go anywhere without people taking pictures.”

“I have a whole group of kids that just adore me,” says Wear. “Every time I see them, their faces light up. The peace signs, devil horns. Everywhere you go people yell, ‘Go Hawks!’ It’s just fun.”