Designing your own set of wheels

Sporting faux fur to gold to the front lawn, old clunkers are getting decked out as art cars the ultimate vehicles of self-expression

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If you're looking to revive an aging automobile, Gene Pool recommends grass, preferably Manhattan perennial rye #2. "It's the best grass for cars," he says. It grows quickly, sprouts in about three days and reaches full height, in, oh two weeks, tops. But prepare yourself for the offers you might get from well-intentioned strangers. "I'll go home and get my lawn mower" is a scary proposition after days of planting and watering and making grass grow on steel.

Of course, Gene's wheels could be a bit too earthy for some tastes. Many folks require more richly ornamented, drastically overhauled, highfalutin cruisers than his. These wacky creations, known as art cars, come plastered from hubcap to rooftop with beads or buttons, or cleverly converted to look like what? A bubble bath on wheels? A hearse for hippies? An armadillo? (No, it's a Carmadillo, naturally.)

Don't be discouraged if no artmobiles have driven through your neighborhood yet. The 300 or so on America's roads are showing up at festivals in a growing number of cities, including St. Louis, Atlanta and Houston, which hosts "Roadside Attractions: The Artists Parade." This event, the largest annual gathering of art cars in the world, features a ball, a symposium, a parade and a competition. The Carmadillo, one of 240 entries this year, won top honors.

But, you may ask, what makes them do it? Armor Keller, proud owner of a transfigured Toyota, puts it best. "All my friends were getting face-lifts," she confides; "I decided to do something different."

By Lucinda Moore

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