What was once the realm of hippie themed VW Bugs, painted school buses and thumping low riders, with their do it yourself auto paint, auto decoration is now embraced by both the high speed scions of the automobile market and counter culture visionaries in the desert.
The art car grew up again as the Gulf Aston Martin headed to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Racing culture has always inspired the art and design of the car, but the days of do it yourself auto paint and outsider art have gone a little corporate with some racers. At the most recent 24 Hours of Le Mans, Jonathan Wesley saw his artistic design adorn the number 97 Aston Vantage GTE.
Back in the day, they may have been better suited for cruising in the slow lane, but pop culture has given us many memorable creations like John Lennon and his paisley Rolls or Janis Joplin and her psychedelic Porsche. And more dramatically, Oscar Meyer Hotdogs has its own Weinermobile that crosses art cars with stylized construction to create their moving hot dog in a bun. You might say that was the art car in its hungry teenage years.
Conversely, the adult side of the art car belongs to the racing set. BMW may have been one of the first big scale corporate sponsors of commissioned art cars, when Alexander Calder painted a BMW in 1975 under the direction of Herve Poulain. Poulain, a famed racer in his own right, actually drove that BMW in the 1975 Le Mans race. Since that original work of art, the BMW Art Car has seen numerous famous artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein create their renditions on race cars for the Le Mans races. In fact, international committees have been instrumental in selecting artists for consideration.
In distinctly different venues, the Burning Man Festival and other counter culture communities have given us the mutant car which takes do it yourself auto parts construction and do it yourself auto paint to a new level. At the annual Burning Man Festival in the Nevada desert, attendees have created modified contraptions that qualify more as moving sculpture than motor vehicle. You might say they have put a new spin on do it yourself auto repair on the playa or rediscovered their crazy uncle of the art car.
The art car has truly evolved and worked through some growing pains, whether on the track, in the spotlight, or just cruising in the twilight.