You know that expression “Everything old is new again?” It’s a song name, a cliche, and… the truth. And it applies as well to one of the latest trends in car wrapping as it does anywhere else. Out there on the road today you’ll see Bentleys with high shine gold or silver wraps, you’ll see Lamborghinis decked out in electric blue or purple, and you’ll see plenty of cars with matte black or carbon fiber vinyl wrap exteriors, too. But one of the most eye-catching vinyl car wraps around doesn’t approximate a precious metal or a futuristic material, but in fact looks like… wood.

Yes, wood grain wrap for cars is no longer just for accepting a few panels on the center console or dashboard, it’s not commonly spotted coating the entire exterior of a vehicle. And the look wood vinyl wrap creates is handsome, unique, and kind of amusing and ironic, too. I mean… making a car out of wood does not make any sense, objectively. Yet when you see a car with a wood wrap, it catches the attention and leaves an impression. And for my two cents, the more muscular and aggressive the car underneath the wood wrap, the better the overall effect works.

Back in the middle decades of the 20th Century, a car with wood panels or accents on its exterior was hardly an unusual thing to see. There were the classic Woodie Wagons that ran the gamut from luxury touring car to family station wagon to service vehicle. The last mass produced car that used wood as a major structural and/or design element was the British Motor Corporation BMC Morris Minor Traveller, of which production halted in the early 1970s.

Wood would not be seen used as structural element again, but faux wood paneling was popular well into the 198os. Many ironically iconic vehicles like the laughably long Chevy Caprice Classic station wagon had lots of wood styling, though by now it was created by vinyl decals applied over the metal body of the car.

Many of the early generation minivans also had a stripe or two of “wood” running down their sides. This might have been in a vain attempt to make these family transport vehicles look better, or it might have been in an admission that they were pretty much aesthetic nonstarters, so you might as well have fun with it.

A lot of those early Woodie Wagons produced between the 1930s and 1960s looked great and still have a classic charm. Most of the station wagons and vans produced from the 1970s into the 1990s looked and still look… rough. Wood grain (real and faux) was almost absent from the exterior of all cars for a couple of decades there, but it is making a comeback as vehicle vinyl wrap becomes ever more popular, ever more durable, and as people try exciting new ways to make their cars look great.

First, let me demonstrate why I think wood wrap for cars works so well when applied to powerful and aggressive vehicles. Take for example this matte black and wood grain blend:

That car leaves an impression, you can’t deny it. The blend of the ultra modern matte black finish and the timeless look of wood works well despite the apparent contradiction at play.

The on the other hand you have a car like this Subaru that was wrapped with wood grain vinyl more as a joke than in hopes that it would create a show-stopping automobile. And the car does look funny, sure, but it probably would have looked better if left with its base auto paint:

Next try out this Lamborghini that was apparently made out of wood boards. It looks strange, yes, but it also looks awesome. And if you thought a Lambo would turn heads with its basic paint job, just imagine what one can do when it looks like it’s made out of wood.

Now take a look at this Volvo C30, which I think further proves my assertion that great looking cars look great with wood wrap, while all others should probably avoid the stuff. The C30 is a fine looking car, it’s neither stunning nor hideous, to be sure, but once there is faux wood applied to its door and side panels, it looks kind of odd and off-putting.

Wood wrap for cars works so well on the right vehicles precisely because it is so unexpected and provides so much contrast. While a neon orange Lamborghini or a matte black Charger or bright gold Escalade might look striking, we expect to see that sort of vinyl wrap. A wooden sports car, however, stands out. Just like a great frame can make a great painting look even better, it just works. But when you try to dress up a middling piece of art, no fancy frame can compensate the lack of quality inherent in the piece. The same is true for vehicle wrap; choose the right car for the right vinyl wrap, and it’s a match made in heaven, aesthetically speaking. Apply a striking car wrap to the wrong car (say bright chrome or wood grain on a 2009 Honda Civic), and you will draw more attention to the car, but not the kind you probably hoped for.