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The Amazing Story Behind Car and Rim Dipping (or, Plasti Dip)

The author is a car enthusiast eager to share what they've learned with the world.

Learn about the story behind the company that helps make cars fun and colorful.

Learn about the story behind the company that helps make cars fun and colorful.

What Is Plasti Dip?

Plasti Dip is a PVC-based paint that was invented for an entirely different purpose from that for which it is now world-famous. It is now used by car enthusiasts to paint their cars countless colors, blackout chrome trim, and paint rims. What is fascinating is how the product came to be an international brand, which was not as a result of an expensive marketing campaign, but instead brought to popularity through word of mouth and social media.

The internet is now crammed with websites and videos that show the amazing things that can be done with this very simple product, along with DIY tips and other helpful advice.

If you ever doubted the power of social media, then here’s the story of how a small family business came up with a product that social media turned into a goldmine, even though the maker of the product didn’t even know why their product was becoming so popular and selling so fast.

The Story Behind Car Dipping

For most family business owners, the idea that their product could one day become an overnight social media sensation is little more than a pipe dream. But that is exactly what happened to one small business in the small city of Blaine, Minnesota, USA.

When sales of his family-run business began to double, month after month, the CEO of Plasti Dip had no idea why, but he certainly wasn’t complaining. It transpired that the product that he had watched his father invent some years before was now flying off the shelves faster than the stores could re-order it and it was being used for a purpose for which it was never intended.

That family company is now an international brand and the company behind the product that created a car customizing craze that spread like wildfire through social media began with a father and son business and a product that the big US retailers weren’t even initially interested in stocking in their shelves.

The Invention of Plasti Dip

What is now Plasti Dip International began in 1972 as a manufacturer of heat-cured PVC, or Plastisol, products such as handle-grips and toys. The founder of the company, Robert Haasl, thought there could be a market for an air-dry version of Plastisol that could be used by the home user for do-it-yourself projects that required a rubberized coating. He eventually came up with the formula for Plasti Dip, which in the words of his son, Scott, was a can of ‘plastic gloop’. The intention was that home DIY enthusiasts would use it to coat the handles of their tools, like wrenches and garden implements, to provide them with a better and more comfortable grip.

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The early years of Plasto Dip were tough going and the company existed on a hand-to-mouth basis while Robert Haas drove the length and breadth of the country in his car, pitching his product to retail giants such as Sears and Ace Hardware, but with only very limited initial success. Later in the 1970s, Sears and Ace Hardware did take in the Plasti Dip product along with several other innovative inventions of the company including, Water Guard, which was a direct competitor for Scotchgard, a product called Super Grip, and water-bed repair kits.

Sadly, Robert Haasl died in 1998, before he could witness cans of his product being snapped up in armfuls by car enthusiasts eager to ‘pimp their rides’. He never knew anything about what has become known as car dipping, so he never saw car rims, roofs, badges, and even entire cars being dipped in the product that he thought would be used on the handles of wrenches.

Plasti Dip doesn't only have to be used on the body—it can be used on the rims, too.

Plasti Dip doesn't only have to be used on the body—it can be used on the rims, too.

Exactly who was the first person to use Plasti Dip on a car is debated, but legend has it that it was a car fanatic in Florida, Joe Plesher, who first realized the full potential of Robert Haasl’s rubber gloop. He wanted to paint his rims black, but all he could find in his garage was a can of Plasti Dip that his brother had left there. He grabbed the can, tried it, and loved it, and car dipping was born. In fact, he got so carried away that he went around all the local stores and bought up all the cans of Plast Dip he could find so he could experiment some more.

Other car enthusiasts caught onto the idea and began showing off their handiwork on sites like YouTube and sales of Plasti Dip rocketed from just 20,000 a month to more than a million a month. There are now even websites sites dedicated to car dipping and promoting sales of the product.

Joe Plesher, the guy who some say started the car dipping craze, continued to experiment with Plasti Dip and he published do-it-yourself-video guides on YouTube showing how easy it was to apply Plasti Dip, and to take it off, and start again too. Three and a half years after his first video appeared on YouTube, Pleshers’ videos have now racked up over 60 million views.

Plasti Dip easily peels off of cars.

Plasti Dip easily peels off of cars.

Why Do Car Enthusiasts Love Plasti Dip?

Why do people love Plasti Dip? Well, if Plasti Dip had been available when I was a bit younger; I know that I would have been dipping my car! For a start, you can spray your car with Plasti Dip and, if you decide you don’t like it, it just peels off and you try can again with a new color, so it would have been the perfect DIY paint job for an amateur like me! It also seems that you can use it to paint pretty much anything, in any color you choose, and, even if it does get chipped, scratched, or worn, you can easily touch it up again, or replace it with a new coat.

People are using it to dip everything. You can black out grills and chrome trim, you can dip car rims in any color you like, you can use it inside and out, and you can plastic dip the entire exterior of your car too, so it’s no wonder that the stuff has become so popular. In fact, the only areas of a car where you can’t use Plasti Dip are areas where it will get hot, like inside the engine bay, or on the exhaust.

You can paint your car with Plasti Dip in a variety of colors.

You can paint your car with Plasti Dip in a variety of colors.

It All Began With One Man and a Simple Idea

It is incredible to think that what started as a simple idea to make life a little easier for home DIY enthusiasts mushroomed into a viral social media explosion. Plasti Dip and the car dipping craze have made the company that Robert Haasl founded an international success, and turned Joe Plesher, the man that sprayed his car rims with his brothers can of Plasti Dip, into the biggest reseller of Plasti Dip on the internet. Not bad for a little father and son business in Blaine, Minnesota. I wonder what Robert Hassel would have made of what people are doing with his plastic gloop today?

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