Painting on metal


Do you remember, that not so long ago absolutely identical cars of traditional colors and few brands were running along our roads? And the vigilant law enforcement officers, such as traffic police, would strictly charge for any trinkets on the hoods and fenders, claiming that the deviations from the factory norm distracted the attention of other drivers from the road and could lead to an accident.

The representatives of the generations that entered adulthood before perestroika surely remember how the pictures of Mercedes, MAN and Volvo painted in all colors of the rainbow appeared in the illustrated foreign magazines, the envy of our truck drivers, as a striking proof of the “decadence” of the Western society. But, as they say, a lot of water has run off since then… Foreign trends now and then come to our land. A different view on modern fashion is born – the artistic painting of automobile equipment.

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Lady Di and John Wayne, wolves and bears, tigers and dragons, butterflies and half-naked beauties – all this and much more is captured not on artistic paintings, but on the hoods and doors of cars, sides of trailers and semi-trailers. And you can see this wonderful gallery on wheels, for example, by visiting the truck race that takes place annually in La Costelle in France. The parade of vehicles there is always a feast for the eyes. Nerves on the French track are of course stretched to the limit, especially when the driver performs all kinds of risky pirouettes on his truck. But the spectators have a chance to see the vehicles passing by from all sides. And you can also see the Trucker&Country Festival, which is held not only in America: Every two years, a number of skillfully painted trucks gather at the Hannover Commercial Vehicle Show.

Even if you own a fancy Renault Magnum Gulliver or chrome-plated Kenworth, it is not so easy to win the hearts of spectators and high marks from the jury. In any case, it is not enough just a “natural” data. You should be able to present the car effectively. It is better to use the services of a professional painter who will transform a serial car into a unique work of art.

There is a tendency in car painting: in Germany, for instance, the show trucks are decorated by their owners as movable billboards; the French, in the first place, prefer the thematic placement. Thus, one Mercedes-Benz Actros is decorated with a portrait of the incomparable actress Brigitte Bardot, another – with the image of French rock star Johnny Holiday. There are also pictures with motifs from westerns.

Portraits of famous auto-racers (usually with their cars or race scenes in the background) are another trend in the work of artists. In Hannover, for example, I saw a tourist liner with a huge picture of Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari. I’ve also seen buses with pictures of racing motorcycles, supercars and sports prototypes. But this is not the end of the imagination of the owners of vehicles and artists.

When the original “ice” Renault brand road train appears on the roads of Europe, people look at each other with amazement, coming to admiration from this giant airbrush painting. The pictorial work of art covers the entire surface of the 380-horsepower tractor and the semi-trailer van, which is more than 13 meters long. The author of this unique automobile illustration is the airbrush-painting artist Walter Rosner. His idea, realized in 1991, tells us about the truck and its tasks. The sailing vessel, for example, symbolizes transport, and the storm and ice signify the readiness of the freight forwarder to go anywhere, anytime. The pristine landscape explains that this is an environmentally friendly truck. It took a month and a half to create this masterpiece, with 130 kilograms of high-quality paint applied to the 110 m2 surface.

“The most beautiful truck in Europe”, “a sight for all truck enthusiasts”, “the aura of American truckers”. These are just three of the countless references in the trade press to the chrome gloss of a Sortimo tractor unit painted by airbrush artist Alphonse Bauerfeind. It took 80 kilos of paint and 800 hours of work to give the appearance of this impressive vehicle.

The Finnish artist Simo Riikonen is widely known abroad for his outstanding works on car bodies, airplane fuselages and motorcycle helmets. His “wards” more than once became the winners of the festivals of trucks. One of them belongs to the SISU company in Karja. It is simply impossible not to notice this beauty. Sparkling with fresh lacquer body and cabin of the truck represent to the world “ancient legends”: galleons with bosomy masts covered in flames, cannons spewing clouds of smoke, and foaming waves. The main character of the picture, the famous freebooter Captain Kidd, observes the battle.

Riikonen depicted the formidable leader of robbers at sea in an embroidered gold camisole, a wide-brimmed hat with a plume and high boots in full-length on the cabin door. With his hand on the hilt of his sword and his foot on a powder keg, Kidd stares haughtily out of the truck with his one eye. Dump truck, by the way, and is called – “Captain Kidd.

The plot of the Finnish artist on the cabin of the long-distance truck Scania 112M named “Hot Winter” will not leave you indifferent, too: a lion with an eagle’s head, guarding the jewels. The plot is based on the historical fact of the merger of Scania and Vabis. The artist simply combined the coats of arms of the cities where their headquarters were located.


The master’s main tool is the airbrush. He uses it to create paintings, preferring to work on large surfaces – “there is room to stretch out”. In this sense, the sides of buses or semi-trailers are quite suitable places for the realization of fantasy. Almost all of Riikonen’s works are not intended for the silence of museum halls and private collections, but for work, often hard and dirty. “Captain Kidd”, for example, transports rubble, “Fantasia” – logs.

Other directions of automobile artmodernism are developed in Germany, which, by the way, are not considered to be freaks any more.

Besides the “refinement” of the exterior in the form of drawing artistic images on the cabin, hood, fenders, more and more often the owners of vehicles at the insistence of masters repaint the entire car, creating the necessary background for the future picture. And the selection of paint is not by word of mouth, since even a slight change in shade can blur the expected effect. By the way, artists do not chase after enamels with the effect of “metallic”, giving preference to plain lacquer coating – in this case, their work is not perceived as a transferable picture of large size.

Speaking of translations. Well-known among collectors, the model companies Revell, Italeri, Monogram, and others in recent years produce copies of tractors and special vehicles (the most popular scales – 1/24 and 1/25), which come with blocks of gorgeous miniature paintings that copy the full-size originals.

It so happened that the timing of last year’s International Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover coincided with the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 tragedy in New York. Some companies, like GM, honored the victims with a minute of silence. And one company made a road train with a truck tractor MAN TG-A, turning it into a mobile exhibition.

The picture on the sides symbolized the unity of Eurasia and America with hands outstretched across the ocean to shake hands. A child trying to stop the black clouds signified humanity’s desire to avert the threat of war. Finally, the stretched ribbon between Dresden and New York City with two floodlight beams on the site of the ruins of the World Trade Center (WTC) spoke of the fact that all borders between countries are conditional. The semi-trailer itself hosted a traveling exhibition of photographic works on the events of a year ago. The “peace truck,” as the IAA visitors called it, is supposed to remind people how fragile the world is…

What can be found on the cabs and spoilers of the trucks other than the above-mentioned subjects?

Undoubtedly, these are romantic sketches: languishing in the captivity of wild animals, seductive women, pseudo-mythological characters, maritime art and even aerospace battles. And don’t think the copies aren’t impressive. Yes, they are very impressive! I, for example, cannot forget the strong impression that was made on me by truck models assembled by a young artist from Moscow.

Just look at the American Kenworth K-100 Aerodyne, with the image of a pilot in a pressure suit and two F16 fighter planes in the background! For some reason I was immediately reminded of the splash screen to the article “Squadron Aggressor”, published by one of our aviation magazines back in the so-called stagnant years.

But the fantastic plots on the cladding of the Ford Aeromax 106, unambiguously titled Space Division, can not only delight, but also cause a rush of imagination.

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