Alternative to car paint fuels Wichita business

Chris Cronin didn’t want to pay thousands of dollars to have his car painted. Now he’s trying to turn a cheaper alternative into a lucrative sideline business.

Cronin and his parents, Danielle and Chris Sr., have started Air Capital Auto Enhancers, which covers cars in a synthetic rubberized coating.

“We don’t consider ourselves a business,” he said. “It’s more like a team. Mom looks over everything. Dad preps the cars. I do the painting and deal with the customers.”

The coating, called Plasti Dip, was originally developed to protect tool handles from moisture and corrosion. “it just got really big with cars here recently,” Cronin said.

The coating, which is sprayed on, can be used on whole cars or just certain parts. In online forums, people who have used it generally describe it as a durable product that performs well, although not identical to traditional paint. The basic Plasti Dip product offers a matte or flat finish, with sprays called Pearlizer and Glossifier adding a more polished look.

“There are blaze colors like Monster Green, Fire Belly Orange and Blaze Pink,” Cronin said. “The sky’s the limit with this stuff.”

Cronin buys it from a distributor in Florida. He said he came across the product while getting bids on a paint job for his own car last year.

“The cheapest paint job I found was $4,000,” he said.

After buying Plasti Dip, a sprayer and other supplies, “I think I spent maybe $450.”

Cronin, who works as a window tinter, said he “turned out to be pretty decent at painting,” so he and his parents decided to invest in a business. Both Chris Cronins are car enthusiasts who occasionally compete in local drag races.

The younger Cronin coats car parts in the family’s garage in south Wichita, and uses an associate’s commercial garage for coating entire cars. He may look for a separate location for the business in the future. For now, his own car, with its smoky black matte coating, is his chief means of advertising.

Cronin said the coating appeals to several types of customers. Some people want to see what a certain color will look like on their car before paying for a regular paint job. Others want to cover up scratches and faded paint, or protect parts of their cars such as bumpers or wheel covers. Others are just looking for a cheaper way to change their car’s look. The most expensive job he’s quoted was $900 for a large pickup, Cronin said.

The coating requires less prep work than traditional paint, since any Plasti Dip can be easily peeled off any place it shouldn’t be.

That’s also handy for people who just can’t make up their mind about what color their car should be.