I’ve owned a few cars so far and I’ve always wanted to have a custom psychedelic paint job added to them. I never had the money, though. A really well-done, custom paint job will set one back at least a couple grand, maybe more, depending on the artist’s reputation.
I suppose one of the cons of having a trippy paint job on a car is that it would, it seems to me, become like fly-paper for cops. It would be interesting to ask owners of vehicles that are painted in such a way, how often they are stopped on the motorway, etc. Maybe it’s just not worth being hassled by the authorities all the time.
I reckon that the inspiration for the psychedelic art on cars derived from the hot rod culture of the 1950s and early 1960s. In California, there was the emergence of the surf scene as well. As the hippie culture bloomed in the late 1960s, there may have been members who were ex-hot-rodders and surfers (such as the late psychedelic artist extraordinaire, Rick Griffin) – who brought their art skills with them.
There was also a separate, but amazing in it’s own way, psychedelic art scene in the UK. Duos and collectives like The Fool, Hapshash and the Coloured Coat and Om Tentacle were painting shop fronts, creating clothing and designing posters to brighten up the dreary streets of London.
The most famous “psychedelic cars” would have to be John Lennon‘s Rolls-Royce, which was painted to look like a gypsy caravan in 1967, John’s band-mate George Harrison had a Mini-Cooper painted with images from a book on tantra – and Janis Joplin‘s Porsche, painted with all manner of trippy graphics on it’s body, by a roadie of Big Brother & The Holding Company, the band she was in at the time.
You can read more about Lennon’s psychedelic Phantom V here. Below is Joplin’s groovy Porsche 356c:
There’s an interesting blog post about a car enthusiast creating a near-exact copy of Joplin’s original. You can read it here – it’s also got the story of Janis buying the car, having it painted and what happened to the car after her untimely death in 1970.
Here’s George Harrison’s psychedelic Mini:
Here’s a blog post, with more pictures of the fab Mini and the one-off 2009 replica, which was auctioned off and the proceeds donated to George’s charity, with his widow Olivia‘s blessing.
Unfortunately, the craze for trippy art on cars seemed to have moved on after the heyday of the 1960s counter-culture. I did manage to find a few newer examples. Robynn Sanders, an artist based in Texas, painted a marvellous hommage to some of the 60s artists, with her creation, called “Psychedelic Surfer Dude”, again, like Joplin’s, on a Porsche 356:
It’s a pretty amazing amalgamation of Victor Moscoso, The Fool, Bonnie MacLean and Hapshash designs, plus some of her own for good measure. You can view more photos of the car at this page on Sanders’s site.
There’s more photos and a bit more information at this page. Pretty cool, though I prefer Sanders’s more organic, nod-to-the-greats job. Below is the classic hippie vehicle, the Volkswagen bus, transformed into a trippy delight!
It’s a 1972 VW bus, and the design is by a guy called Samonberry – beautiful stuff! My father bought a VW bus when I was much younger, but just kept the basic boring blue and white paint job on it. He would drive us in it when we all went on family holidays – once he drove it down to Florida and back. He wanted to sell it when I was in my early 20s and I didn’t have the bread to buy it off of him. I was happy to hear that a couple of longhair types did buy it. I hope they painted it up to look like “Amethyst The Magic Bus” above. You can read a bit more about this bus here – there’s also a link to a video, where Samonberry explains about painting it.
There’s a few more examples – a trippy 1956 Bentley, yet another Porsche, a 1961 Citroen and even a Pakistani VW ‘Beetle’. British psychedelic artist Alan Aldridge also had a go at painting a mini, and you can see the result here.
Of course, I couldn’t end the post without mentioning Ken Kesey & The Merry Pranksters’ converted school bus – the one and only Furthur: