So, Art Cars. yes yes everyone thinks of the BMWs...but there were others
OK so the Alexander Calder BMW 3.0 CSL 'Batmobile' was the first, thanks to Hervé Poulain. It spawned many other cool art cars thereafter though
Back in 1975 art specialist Hervé Poulain wanted to compete in the greatest race of them all, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. However he didn't want to just compete in the same way everyone else had, he wanted to bring his profession with him too, so had the brilliant idea of inviting an artist to treat his car as their canvas. BMW's Jochen Neerpasch was quickly convinced of the merits and duly provided a car for the purpose.
Poulain already knew he wanted Alexander Calder to paint the car, and when he visited the artist with a scale model of the BMW 3.0 CSL 'Batmobile' at his home, Calder immediately set to work painting the model. He remarked that the result was exactly what he wanted on the real car, and the whole legendary 'art car' story was born.
Thereafter Poulain enlisted artists such as Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, 'Arman', César Baldaccini and George Wolinsky. The Wolinsky car, a Porsche 993 GT2 Evo 2 entered at Le Mans in 1998 by the Elf Haberthur Racing team is significant for two reasons. Firstly it is the last art car that Hervé Poulain actually commissioned and also the last car he drove in the event. Secondly, its artist (the famed French cartoonist) was one of the people who tragically lost their life during the terrible Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack. , BMW have since brought art cars back to the race track from time to time though, with examples painted by Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons and most recently John Baldessari. Of course it should be noted that BMW ensured there were good number of other art cars between the M1 Procar and V12 LMR, though they switched to using road cars as the canvas for those. It could be argued these non-race cars didn't generate the same mythical status as their racing counterparts. However all of these artists' efforts met both acclaim and criticism upon their debuts, though quickly developed a cult appeal amongst racing and art fans alike. Other teams have also independently paid homage to the 'art car' genre in recent years, including Audi Sport, Oak Racing and Aston Martin Racing. Today, over 40 years later, the art car theme is still alive with the latest member of this exclusive club, painted by Baldessari, due to race in the 2017 Daytona 24 Hours.