Automotive design involves the creation and then development of a vehicle, specifically road vehicles. Art cars are more unique and are often driven by their creator. In most cases the appearance is modified through personal artistic expression. This adds a layer of uniqueness, which the art car culture takes pride in. Since the introduction of customisation to the car industry, the idea of art cars has developed, but the idea can initially be credited to the hippie-themed VWs of 1960.
The most modern and recent example on this list, a 2015 Lexus RC-F was commissioned for New York Fashion Week. Created by Shantell Martin, the car looks to have been drawn on using black marker and features simple faces and inspirational quotes like ‘be more’. Shantell’s sharpie-style art is a strong contrast to the car’s shape, which initially looks like the car has been vandalised until closer inspection. This RC-F is truly a one-of-a-kind and highlights the growing interest of manufacturers in art cars: Lexus now has annual instalments similar to those of BMW.
Larry Fuente of California converted his 1960 Cadillac into ‘Mad Cad.’ Initially a Cadillac De Ville, Fuente spent four years covering it in various jewels, beads, female mannequins and plastic flamingos. This car is one of the more ostentatious on this list and its huge dimensions and overhanging sculptures make for an unmissable sight! Fuente used over a million beads, jewels and baubles on the car and it was so well received that it helped develop the Cartist scene with Fuente being called ‘the Da Vinci of the art car movement’ by the NY Times.
BMW’s 15th art car instalment saw them return to a racing car as their base, which is significant as art cars should be seen in motion. What makes this creation unique is its simplicity. Holzer uses statements printed in a reflective lettering to create this piece. Unlike the other cars on this list, it has no graphic illustrations or even striking colours; a simple white base and reflective lettering is all it took and the car was even allowed on the Le Mans circuit for its international debut. Holzer is said to have based her ideas on the fearlessness of race car drivers.
Volkswagen were crucial in the development of art cars, which were influenced initially by the hippie movement which often used the iconic Beetle and Van as a canvas. Of the many VW art cars that came to be, the Vochol is amongst the most popular. The name Vochol is a combination of the term for Beetle in Mexican and ‘Huichol’, the common name of the Wirrárika indigenous group. What makes this car so unique is its intricacy and partnership between artists, using 2,277,000 beads applied by eight artisans from two Huichol families. The Vochol is made with striking colours and patterns that depict Wirrárika culture.
Arguably the most valuable art car, the BMW M1 is priceless, given that Warhol used his renowned style to paint the M1 himself. Similarly to its counterparts, this car was used at Le Mans. The art contradicts the car’s form, making it harder to recognise the shape beneath. His technique is seen in abundance, using his finger strokes along the side to portray a sense of speed and signing his name with his finger on the back. Interestingly, this process was meant to be documented on video. However, as it only took Warhol thirty minutes to paint the car, the videographers missed the process.
For the art car community, it was essential to cover a 911; this dream was realised through the ArtCars Project. This community chooses renowned Canadian artists and couples them with the iconic 911 shape. Marcel Barbeau is a multi-award-winning artist and his work on Master Piece 4 helped establish his international presence. The car features geometric stripes and colours that juxtapose one another; the striking and bright choice of colour is evident throughout. Using a third dimension makes the art cars more interesting to some and this is particularly clear in Master Piece 4, with each angle changing how the car is seen.
French artist César Baldaccini was commissioned to create this unique F1 GTR in 1995. Since then it has been auctioned for $3 million, making it the most valuable car on this list. The car is a modest silver with airbrushing in black and the car’s lines are emphasised with cohesive and simple designs that don’t distract from its shape. McLaren had the car commissioned through BMW, after noting an interest in developing a car for Le Mans. This was made possible because the F1 GTR used a BMW engine and allowed them access to their Art Car Programme.