From a hearse converted into a gothic cathedral to a steampunk-inspired Ford van, these eerie art cars turn heads…sometimes all the way around twice. Art car shows across the country showcase some of the most outlandish vehicles on the roadways, but only the creepiest cars make this list.
by Rebecca Caldwell
Make and Model: 1971 Cadillac Super Coach (topped with a 1974 Volkswagen Beetle)
After being called “goth girl” one too many times, artist Rebecca Caldwell decided, “I’ll show them what gothic is!” She made her car into a cathedral “…with flying buttresses and all” by welding the shell of a Volkswagen Beetle to a hearse, then adding fiberglass, resin, latex, palm frond sinews, animal remnants, artificial teeth, and gallons of black paint.
“People loved it and hated it. It was so ugly, yet beautiful. It was ominous, dangerous, scary, and mysterious,” says Caldwell.
by Rebecca Caldwell
Make and Model: 1962 Dodge Lancer
After retiring Carthedral to the Art Car World Museum, a good friend and art car compatriot died and stirred in Caldwell, “…a need to reconnect with that spirit.” The physical manifestation of that need is Witchmobile, a car with a ouija board on the back. “I wanted this car to be lighter and quieter, like I felt, but still carry familiar and beloved themes of death, grief, love, hope, and humor,” says Caldwell.
by Clarke Bedford
Make and Model: 1988 Ford Ecoline Van
This steampunk fantasy on wheels includes a flickering lantern flame, iron-work gate, spires, ceramics, antlers, bike tires, and countless other objects that Bedford somehow manages to bring together in a cohesive, multi-textured vehicle from both the past and the future.
“I’m always astonished by the number of people who know so little about cars that they see the Cadillac fenders and think the van itself is a Cadillac. Or, they’ll ask about the year thinking it must be really old (as in what, 1880?),” says Bedford.
by Clarke Bedford
Make and Model: 1984 Volvo 240
The rooftop gas mask, candle lantern tail lights, and hood ornament skulls filled with machine parts give Demise an appearance on par with its ominous name. Bedford, a former conservator of paintings and mixed-media objects at The Hirshhorn Museum, often skewers the mainstream art world, and his cars and his sculpture-laden home challenge conventional ideas about suburban living.
“I always find pretentiousness humorous, and a lot of contemporary art is pretentious so I find it humorous. I know it is not intended to be. Same with weddings.”
Mirabilis Statuarius Vehiculum
by Scot Campbell (a.k.a. Extremo the Clown)
Make and Model: 1984 Mazda 626
The fear inspired by this car extends to its driver and creator Scot Campbell who takes on the persona of Extremo the Clown, a character whose cackling laughter will infect your nightmares. This is the only vehicle on this list, or anywhere that I’m aware of, with a working water feature. Campbell also has a milder-mannered Clark Kent persona as a sculptor of Dirge-friendly art.
by 15 University of Kansas students under the direction of Professor Jon Keith Swindell
Make and Model: 1983 Buick Sedan
If you see this monstrosity in your rearview mirror, you should pull over or risk being crushed like a skyscraper trampled by a giant, fire-breathing lizard. Professor Jon Keith Swindell, former director of The University’s Foundations Design Program, says, “I always gave a final collaborative project that required the students to develop a concept and build a 3-dimensional work that consisted entirely of salvaged material.”
The fifteen students of the spring 2008 class picked up 150 used tires (against their professor’s express advice not to use such a nasty material) and created a rolling reptile that took Best of Show in the Lawrence Art Car Parade later that year.
Tirezilla is still going strong and has appeared in that same parade every year since.
by Tom Kennedy
Make and Model: 1993 Ford Ranger
Prolific art car creator Tom Kennedy created this beastly buggy, just one of dozens of vehicles transformed into eye-popping works of art before his death in 2009. Kennedy told the LA Times, “It seems the world is a little short of adventurers right now. Too many people sitting behind a TV or like a computer screen. Someone’s got to be out on the street creating the content. That’s me.”
Kennedy took vehicles to five different Burning Man festivals, built a car for Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and constructed a giant penis atop a car with the words “Bush Cheney Cruise Missile” written on it.
You can read a complete interview with Clarke Bedford, the creator of Vanadu and Demise, here.