The mid-week long read: strokes of genius

1y ago

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The Sistine Chapel would have looked very different if only Michelangelo had been into endurance racing. And while there’s not much we can do about it now, the lobby at One Porsche Drive goes someway to redressing this historical blip.

The cavernous entrance to Porsche’s US headquarters in Atlanta is dominated by an 8 foot by 20 foot painting of a 919 Hybrid, the handiwork of dyed-in-the-wool Porsche-phile Nicolas Hunziker.

The Swiss-born fine artist was approached by Porsche after its recent hat trick of wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans to create an image that would act as an ever-present reminder of the LMP1 team’s historic record.

To produce this gargantuan homage, Hunziker turned to the same screen printing techniques used by his grandfather in the 1930s. Gerold Hunziker was also a professional artist with a motoring bent, making elegant yet dynamic Art Deco racing posters for Bugatti. It seems the artistic DNA that runs through generations does so alongside an undeniable affinity for racing.

In fact, as a bizarre supporting evidence of this, it turns out that Hunziker’s great uncle, the snappily titled Prince Birabongse Bhanutej Bhanubandh of Siam, became Thailand’s first Grand-Prix driver. “He raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice and was asked to drive on behalf of Enzo Ferrari,” says Hunziker proudly. (He is well worth a quick Google.)

Hunziker is also a devout car man, an amateur racing driver and proud owner of a 1968 911 T that he bought from the small ads in South Dakota ten years ago before driving home to Las Vegas with the girlfriend who has since become his wife. Due to a faulty starter motor they had to leave the engine running for almost all of the 2,000 mile trip, including regular stops for fuel.

“The whole experience really made me connect with the car,” Hunziker recalls. “I was so angry with it. But the reliable, constant ticking over of the engine soon changed my mind.”

The event became part of Hunziker’s Porsche journey, so much so that he has never washed the desert dirt from that epic journey off his beloved car. The only part he fastidiously maintains is the two-litre flat-six lifted from a contemporary 911S. Further testament to Hunziker’s consuming passion are the car’s original door cards, signed at various intervals in the last decade by the likes of Vic Elford, Jürgen Barth, Gijs van Lennep and Brian Redman.

Hunziker’s own signature is the acrylic brush stroke, with a wide body of work that encompasses everything from reinterpretations of historical racing posters to redesigns of racing jackets worn by the former Porsche factory team.

Alongside Porsche AG and the team behind the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Hunziker’s clients past and present include the Gulf Racing team, James Hunt Racing and motorsport icons such as Stirling Moss and Carroll Shelby.

He also counts Chadwick Steven McQueen, the only son of Steve McQueen, as one of his like-minded Porsche friends.

"When we have a weekend free, Chad and I often meet and take our 911s for a spin. The mountains around Malibu are perfect for a drive. When we pull over for a break, we chat about potential collaborations. Chad loves Porsche, just like me and his father; he comes up with some great ideas. I once did a painting for Chad of the legendary Porsche 917 No. 20 from the film Le Mans. It’s hanging above the fireplace in his living room.”

As a Porsche-obsessive professional artist, is there a rung left on the ladder after that? We hear the Sistine Chapel is in need of a lick of paint …

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