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Art Cars

Updated on April 2, 2016
The beautiful Fluttrby shows how fantastically a VW bug works for art.
The beautiful Fluttrby shows how fantastically a VW bug works for art. | Source

The Ultimate Individual Expression of Art and Transportation

Whether you drive one or just look at them, an art car is an experience. They combine fairly common modes of transport and unique artistic visions into rolling works of art. Some people create them to make statements, others make them just because they feel driven to do it. (pun intended)

Art cars are sculpted, painted, glued and assembled via any means possible. Some have become so elaborate and heavy that they are no longer street legal, which to me seems like it would take some of the fun out of owning one. At special parades and gatherings, this quirky group of car owners assembled to compare their creations and show them off to the world.

Pull over for a rest stop and check out some Art Cars!

Seattle's Annual Art Car Blowout

This giant shoe art car really drives but is not street-legal and thus goes to shows in a trailer.
This giant shoe art car really drives but is not street-legal and thus goes to shows in a trailer. | Source

- a fun and festive part of the Fremont Fair in June

This is an amazing high-heeled shoe car that I photographed at the Seattle Art Car Blowout. This fantastic art car show is part of the overall festivities known as the Fremont Fair, aka the Fremont Solstice Parade, an annual event that happens in one of the sections of the city of Seattle.

Art cars come from all over for this show with the majority being from the state and along the West Coast.

The Solstice Parade and Art Car Blowout take place the third weekend of June in Seattle and you can find a link for this event (Fremont Fair) in the "art car show" list below.

O My Gawd, owned and crafted by Harrod Blank
O My Gawd, owned and crafted by Harrod Blank | Source

My first encounter with Art Cars

Harrod Blank and "Oh My God!"

There's just something to be said for someone who is so willing to claim their anonymous mode of transport for their own. People who boldly make their car not just one-of-a-kind, but also make a political or social comment.

I lived on Laurent Street in Santa Cruz, CA when I finished college back in 1989. I can tell you that the guy who brought art cars to the mainstream, Harrod Blank, lived in my neighborhood. I know because I used to see "Oh My God!" parked on the street all the time. OMG was Harrod's VW bug and his first art car. It had a TV on it. It had pinwheel daisies and a mailbox and it was all sorts of colors. I learned who it belonged to because my college roommate's friend used to date Harrod. She's the girl who "understands him" in his movie 'In The Land of The Owl Turds.' True story.

So far, I've never owned my own car, but I'm pretty sure that if I do, it'll just have to be an art car. By the way, I got this photo of OMYGAWD when it came to Seattle in 2010! It's still the same car but it's got a lot more artistic density than when I first saw it in the 1980s.

The History of the Art Car

Wild Wheels
Wild Wheels

In the end, a lot of human inspiration and perspiration can go into the creation of an art car. Some arts cars are like rolling murals, with elaborate painted designs. For other creators, their art car is a mass of epoxy and small objects glued to the surface. And some art cars are unique constructions featuring original metalwork or highly-adapted car frames. There are even art cars that are so outside the allowances of what is federally-mandated for automobiles that they are no longer street-legal and have to be brought to art car shows in trailers.


The Art Cars of Rocket Bob - A spontaneous visit to the Goldfield Art Car Park in NV

So, there we were... driving along... minding our own business.... Seriously, my friend Calyxa and I were in the middle of a road trip in Nevada in May 2006, when the highway we were driving down suddenly posted decreasing speed limits. Ah, the sign that a town was ahead. Sometimes you'd come across a big city, sometimes it was a ghost town.

The road was going downhill and we were turning a bit to the right as the road came around a building corner. And there they were. I pointed and burst out "Art Cars!" and already my friend was pulling the car over. Something to be said for those in-town 25 mph speed limits after all.

We had come across the Goldfield Art Car Park and the creations of Rocket Bob (Robert Van Kauren). We'd actually heard of him, in a conversation with another art car guy only just three weeks ago on another road trip.

It was clear from the stickers that these cars make regular appearances at Burning Man. One also bore a sign reading "Reno Cacophony Society." There was so much to see, it was hard to see it all. Thank goodness both of had digital cameras quickly at the ready. We only stopped for about fifteen minutes, but it was a dense and rich quarter of an hour. Truly delighted, we left donations in the little box that was provided, jumped back into our car and headed off to the next adventure.

Interestingly, when we compared pictures later, we found certain visual elements we'd taken nearly identical pictures of, and other little bits that only one of us had noticed and captured.

That Beautiful Crust Of Stuff! - the density of lots and lots and lots of tiny things all glued onto a car. as long as it doesn't flatten the tires, there's no

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Grooovalicious Purple Princess of Peace

Several years ago in San Francisco, I saw a fantastic art car on the street and snapped a picture of it. I especially like that there was a Blue Meanie flying glove on one of the side view mirrors. When I first put up this lens, I used that picture for the introduction.

And then one day, I got an email. A woman had come across my lens and recognized the intro picture as a detail of her very own art car! Her name is Avril, and she is the creator and driver of Grooovalicious Purple Princess of Peace. I got to meet Avril and Grooovalicious at the Seattle Art Car Blowout a few weeks after that first email, and I must say Grooovalicious was even more luscious than I remembered!

Grooovlicious was created in March of 2003 for a peace parade that was protesting the impending US invasion of Iraq. Many more details and art have been added over the last few years. The driver's side of the car has lots of flowers and land-based art on it, and the passenger side has ocean emblems and icons.

Shown here is a detail from the roof, which is home to many wonderful creatures!

April 2007: I just got email from Avril, letting me know that the Purple Princess of Peace blew a headgasket and has passed on to that Great Art Car Show of the Hereafter. RIP Grooovalicious! However, she has started on a new car....

LIVE Art Cars!

Here are some movies and clips of art cars in action!

You're the Duke of New York... you're A-number-one!

One of the favorite inspirations shared by art car lovers is the care belonging to the Duke in the movie ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. The Duke is the prisoner who runs the world inside the city-sized prison. And his plan is to walk everyone across the 59th St bridge to freedom with the President at the head of the parade.

His cars are some of the only gasoline vehicles in the prison and are decorated with full working chandeliers on the front ends.

Does Not Compute

This is Nick's 4th art car, "Does Not Compute." I met Nick recently at an Earth Day gathering near Fresno, CA. His car got that name as he presently lives in Silicon Valley and because the majority of the people who talk to him about his car don't comprehend that all the computer and glowing blue neon is non-functional art stuff that Nick installed inside his car. They either think it really "works" somehow, or they ask if they'll find the same type of stuff if they cut holes in the bodies of their cars. Nick thinks it's both funny and sort of sad how little the average person really understands about their cars.

His favorite detail about "Does Not Compute" is that it's got a "flux capacitor" like the car from the "Back To The Future" movies inside it.

He used to own a Rat Mobile, but it didn't like the diesel gas in CA, so he had to sell it to someone who lived in OR, where he used to live, and apparently where the Rat Mobile strangely liked the gas.

Update: as of the summer of 2006, Does Not Compute has been converted to be more environmental. I can't remember if it now runs on bio-diesel or if it's entirely electric, but I'm trying to find out.

The Art Car Debate - individual expression or vain indulgence

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    • cwilson360 profile image


      6 years ago

      love the pictures. Bumper stickers is not art! lol

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Cool and amazing to see.

    • KandH profile image


      7 years ago

      Very interesting.

    • curtmaxwall profile image


      7 years ago

      art cars reflect the person's inner creative ability...

    • agoofyidea profile image


      7 years ago

      I say the more art the better, but I might crash into something if I saw a show drive up next to me. Amazing what people can do. Keep it up.

    • GoAceNate LM profile image

      GoAceNate LM 

      7 years ago

      I can dig it. Great pictures by the way. Good idea for a lens.

    • gamrslist profile image


      7 years ago

      cool i want one

    • ChinaGal profile image


      7 years ago

      The ones I've seen are either very cool or total junk, nothing in between. If they're done well I like them a lot. I love the Beetle in your introduction.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Cool indeed! Couple of years ago I had the honor to participate in one of the creations from my neighbour who is nuts about these things. It was really fun to do but it is also a demanding work. But in the end it was worth it!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      How can you not think this is cool? Beautiful pieces of art. Blessed.

    • jasminesphotogr profile image


      8 years ago

      They are cool to look at, but I probably wouldn't own one.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Couldn't find a guest book (maybe I missed it?) so I am leaving a *SquidAngel Blessing* for you here. Great lens - love it!

    • Surfie LM profile image

      Surfie LM 

      9 years ago

      What a great lens on art cars! I'd love to have the time and resources to make my own art car one day. I wish we had art car parades where I live. I'm going to have to see if I can find one nearby, or even see if I can get one started!

    • SaraMu LM profile image

      SaraMu LM 

      10 years ago

      They are awesome. I really want to visit the Art Car Park. Next time I drive through, I'm totally there.

    • Shrawan LM profile image

      Shrawan LM 

      11 years ago

      they are so cool

    • RevPEZ profile image


      11 years ago

      Individual expression... vain indulgence... is there really a difference?

      All I know is that you've been reading my mind!

      Herrod Blank is my hero... and you beat already built a beautiful art car page.

      I'm also a PEZ lover... but you've cornered the market on the PEZ lenses.

      -Hey, do you have photos of the PEZ car? I got some shots of it in San Fran a couple of years ago. Let me know if you want 'em (

      So I've got an old CJ7 Jeep in my garage that I'm rebuilding -the goal is for it to be highway legal, trail ready, and for the art car that is hiding inside it to be discovered... I've still got a long way to go, but it's worth all the time and money.

      As I said, individual expression or vain indulgence... is there really a difference?

    • QuantumTraveler1 profile image


      11 years ago

      I think art cars are great. They express the creative side of people that we don't usually see. Go for it!

    • NorDac LM profile image

      NorDac LM 

      12 years ago

      While they are pretty cool to look at I'm not sure I could handle driving one around myself.


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