See Earl Shepherd's Z4 Art Car at Bimmefest this Saturday
This Art Car is a metaphoric portrait of this particular Z4 M Coupe, Scatha, on Scatha using my Formal Impressionist style. Which is to say I used inspiration from her two roles as a weekend canyon carver and track car to cover her in a diptych of two separate but intertwining, stylized landscapes.
Specifically, the driver's side is a view of Hwy 154 overlooking Santa Barbara at sunset and the passenger side is of Willow Springs International Raceway at dawn. The skies of the two sides converge and blend on the hood, roof and decklid. This creates a yin-yang shape with the "dots" being the M symbol on the hood and a helmet/moon on the roof.
Because of the nature of race car visuals, it is necessary to have some "sponsor stickers" painted into the passenger side of the car, along with the car's number. These sponsors are not truly sponsors, as none have paid to be on the car or even knew of the project during production. Their products contributed significantly to Scatha's individual development, and thus are included in her history. The number "400" is Scatha's production number.
Other design elements (covered on the "In Detail" page of www.myartcar.com) include BMW M stripes and logos, Interlagos blue and white tail, the Cold Springs Bridge, "body in white" sections, the Budweiser Balcony, S54 engine cover and ASA supercharger abstracts, the city of Santa Barbara, accurate constellations, and unique treatments of the side markers.
Scatha is painted in off-the-shelf acrylic paint, by brush, with enamel markers used for linework. Clearcoat is also acrylic and applied by brush. In total approximately 360 hours were involved in the project, over 2 ˝ months.
My desire for this project, as in all my automotive paintings, is to hopefully impart an interest to the fine art and automotive circles that they need not be mutually exclusive. In fact they are intrinsically, if unknowingly, interlinked.
Back in 2011, when I decided to paint Scatha as an Art Car, it was an impulsive decision. Driven by passion more than sense. I thought the paint would hold up to the abuse I put the car through, but nothing was certain. Life is supposed to be an adventure, right?
Scatha, as an Art Car, debuted at Bimmerfest 2011. Thanks to the generous support of Jon Shafer. She was first shown to the public the day before, at the KTLA pre-show taping. During Bimmerfest she drew a steady crowd of polite inquiry all day, and a bit of bewilderment that someone would spend 360 hours hand painting their BMW.
A week after Bimmerfest I took Scatha down to San Diego for a BMWCCA clean car contest, her first road trip since painting. There I met Satch Carlson, who decided to run a feature on Scatha in Bimmer magazine. After the event I set out to write the article and shoot the photos. Interestingly, Scatha proved very difficult to shoot, opposite most cars. The paint is not as reflective as standard automotive paint, and if there are reflections it defeats the purpose of photographing the art. Additionally, the two different palettes on the driver and passenger sides necessitated completely different backgrounds. After submission Satch edited the final text and the story made the cover in the September 2011 issue.
In June Scatha attended E30 MotorWorks 1st open house, and had a photo shoot with Zach Mayne. He is one of my favorite automotive journalists. A real car guy who "gets it". The shoot resulted in an article in the February 2012 issue of Total BMW.
In July Scatha was featured at Coast MotorWerk's annual Beers & Brats party.
In August she went on track for the first time as an Art Car. This was with OC Racecraft at El Toro. The day went well, but for some early morning rock chips when the track was still dirty. It was difficult to shoot the car on-track, as it can be difficult to see both sides of the car without crossing the track. With other cars it doesn't normally matter which side is seen.
In September I got an email out of the blue. Well known fiber artist Ann Scott wanted to use a photo of Scatha as the center of a fiber art sculpture. I went down to San Diego to see the finished work hung at the 2011 San Diego Quilt Show. After the show she very generously gave me the piece, which now hangs in my studio for inspiration.
September also saw Scatha return to Auto Club Speedway, with BMWCCA in this case, for a day running around the infield road course. This was her first track day on the new Michelin Super Sports. While not as heat resistant as a real track tire, NT-01s being Scatha's standard, they performed reasonably well.
Toward the end of September Scatha was entered in Cruisn' For A Cure. This is an enormous car show, primarily for hot rods, held in Costa Mesa. All proceeds benefit prostate cancer research. It is a fun show and a great cause.
September ended with a trip to Meguiar's headquarters for a new experiment. I wanted to see how the acrylic paint held up to conventional polishing and compounding. So brought my 540i fender test panel. Mike was very helpful, letting me use anything I wanted, and was quite curious as to my results too. After all, Meguiar's has no experience treating acrylic paint on a car body. To our surprise the paint held up very well to intensive compounding, in fact adding gloss and evening the tone of the paint. Because of this experiment I spent 10 hours compounding Scatha and she looked better than ever!
October brought Scatha's long-awaited return to her testing home at Willow Springs International Speedway. It was surreal looking at the painting of the mountains beyond the Budweiser Balcony with the real mountains in the background. The corner workers in particular got a kick out of Scatha's paint job. This was the third track day on the Super Sports, and they were pretty well finished as track tires. Too much heat and the tread band edges were chunking. NT-01s hold up much better. So Scatha uses the Super Sports for daily driving now.
November brought another trip to Willow Springs to do a photo shoot at the VARA event. Then it was back to El Toro for another OC Racecraft track day.
In December Scatha was featured at ArchieFest II, an E30-centered BMW meet at the beautiful Marconi Automotive Museum in Tustin. Followed by a return to Buttonwillow Raceway hosted by Speed Ventures. Scatha really enjoyed that event, chasing down more nimble Exiges and Miatas.
Of course Scatha also made numerous benign outings to Sam's Club and Home Depot, luncheons and other normal activities throughout 2011. In addition to the magazine articles Scatha was also featured on Fireball Tim's website.
Scatha's first track day of 2012 was in February at El Toro. It was a beautiful late-winter day with cool temperatures.
This was followed soon after, in March, by her first trip to Cars & Coffee. She was well received and I happened to run into the president of StopTech brakes. So I was able to tell him how well they had held up over the past 4 years of track use. And they are still going strong. After Cars & Coffee Scatha went back to El Toro to shoot the Team America Sports Car Series. This is a touring series for American hot rods and muscle cars designed to autocross. Some very exiting metal was hustling around!
Then it was time to prepare for Bimmerfest. Given the year of front-end road rash I tested my then-theoretical repair procedure on the lower front bumper. This consisted of dry sanding with 30grit, using light pressure. Then 400 grit. Then a quick wipe down with a moist towel. Then painting, then marker, then clearcoat. The results were excellent and I informed Jon that if he had room in the Bimmerfest booth that I would love to do an "al fresco" painting demo on Scatha's front end through the whole day of Bimmerfest.
For the second year in a row Jon was nice enough to offer Scatha a spot in the Bimmerfest booth. So I spent the day painting. Thankfully the warm sun dried the paint quickly and I was able to work almost continuously. Many people were surprised that it was paint on the car, not vinyl. I met more than a few budding artists who liked the accessibility of painting a car with acrylic. Hopefully they will come up with projects of their own!
After Bimmerfest I finished the front end repaint in my garage. I used this repaint as an opportunity to modify some of the colors slightly so that there was a better blend from the driver side front fender through the bumper cap. And so that there was more contrast within the dark shades because the more subtle colors used before didn't show up well to a camera's lens. Below are before/after photos.
Then it was back to the track in June. Another trip around "the bullring" with OC Racecraft. What made this trip interesting was a sudden clunk, followed by a very loose rear end. It turns out that Scatha's rear Ground Control sway bar had a spiral crack in it that finally sheared. So I got to drive her with no rear sway bar and feel how that effected her handling.
I contacted Ground Control and they were very helpful. They sent me a new bar and a shipping label for the old one. Since Scatha was going up on the rack anyway, I thought it might be time to replace the RTABs. After some discussion with Ben at Rogue Engineering I decided to go with their blue RTAB, which he expressly recommended against because it would be noisier than their black version. But Scatha is pretty noisy anyway because the TCKline Konis were never quiet, the Ground Control sway bars use monoball ends, and Scatha rides on heat cycled track tires as often as not. Coast MotorWerk did the swaps and aligned the car. The improvement in control was immediately felt. Now it is left to see if the Ground Control sway bar broke due to a design problem or a manufacturing defect.
In mid-June Scatha again attended E30 Motorworks open house. Then her first showing at the large, annual Friend's Church Car Show.
Perhaps Scatha's biggest news in 2012 was the invitation to join the TMPCC, or The Motion Picture Car Club. This invitation came in roundabout fashion from Brian Uiga, who showed his excellent James Bond 7 Series at Bimmerfest 2012. He told the TMPCC president Ken about Scatha. Ken, who drives an E90 M3, extended the invitation to join as an "outside the industry" sponsored membership. This was quite exiting, and Scatha's first TMPCC event was their annual 4th of July show at the CBS Studios in Burbank. The show was quite eclectic, featuring movie cars, high end hot rods and interesting customs. I got to meet George Barris and show Scatha to him. And there were fireworks. Quite a day!
In late July Scatha had an abnormally busy day. It started with a trip to Cars & Coffee. This was different than last time as I had written a window plaque explaining, in brief, Scatha's design. This proved to stop more people and made them study and understand the design more. Then it was south to Detailing.com's open house. I love that company and buy all my detailing supplies through them. Then Scatha headed north to Huntington Beach for Coast MotorWerk's Beers & Brats.
September brought a commission for a helmet design for Bimmerfest member, and fellow Z4 M Coupe owner, crfine88. This consisted of melding images and atmosphere from Laguna Seca Raceway and the area around Big Sur. Because of this project Scatha did not get out much.
In October TMPCC held another members-only car show; this time at CBS Television City. The show was well attended and we got a very in-depth tour through the prop areas and sound stages where CBS films most of their TV shows. I finally got to stand on The Price Is Right stage!
Another side project of mine, through the third quarter of 2012, was a painting for the Riverside International Automotive Museum, or RIAM. This is a museum that I have some affection for as it a true working museum, providing archived data to race car restorers and performing restorations in-house as well. I believe it is important for SoCal's heritage that we keep the memory alive of what was once the most important raceway in the west, perhaps the whole of the US. It is the only raceway to see every major racing series existent during its lifetime; F1, USAC, IMSA, Can-Am, CART, NASCAR, IROC, SCCA, NHRA, F5000, SCORE and AMA. The painting, Indomitable, is a portrait of Dan Gurney setting up Bobby Unser in on the second-to-last lap of the Rex Mays 300 - which Dan went on to win from a seemingly debilitating late-race pit stop. Indomitable features the seminal racer, Dan Gurney, race car, the Gurney Eagle, and race track, Riverside, of late '60s American racing. As this project required a great deal of research, Scatha did not see much action in November.
In early December Scatha was shown at the John Force Holiday Car Show in Yorba Linda, CA. This show was, like CFAC, more hot rod-oriented. But she was well appreciated by most of the attending public.
The last fun Scatha had in 2012 was at a rainy post-Christmas OC Racecraft event at El Toro. While she performed excellently with the cold, then damp, then wet track conditions, the nearly-bald NT-01s met their match with additional rain and excessive standing water. I could still dance her around, but the hydroplaning got so severe that I was holding up students running all season tires. So Scatha was retired. Still a fun day, if shorter than normal.
While there were no new articles on Scatha in 2012, she was featured on apexraceparts.com and in Zach Mayne's Ultimate Driving Machines 2013 calendar.
Scatha's first event in 2013 was a TMPCC car meet and tour of Amalgamated Dynamics, a special effects company in Chatsworth. I was blown away by their character creations (Tremors, Starship Troopers, Alien 3 & 4, Spider Man 1 – 3, AvP 1 & 2, and on...) and the enthusiastic charm of Tom Woodruff Jr. It's rare to find someone so completely positive about their career path. It was also a rare opportunity to get feedback on Scatha's design from an Oscar-winning creature designer!
The two days before the TMPCC meet I had taken Scatha out of the garage for a wash. As I was about to jump in the shower I heard an inconceivable racket. Hail! So, hurrying to make myself barely modest, I ran outside and hot her back in the garage. Thankfully there was zero damage from the hail. It wasn't as frozen as some hail I've experienced outside of SoCal, but was pretty big. The acrylic paint's durability continues to amaze me.
Thanks to Jon, Scatha will be featured at Bimmerfest yet again. This year her road rash is not substantial. So instead of paint repairs I plan on fine-tuning some midtone colors in the foliage of the driver's side.
In July Scatha will be shown at TMPCC's 4th of July show at CBS studios. This show is open to the public and very fun. I encourage you to attend.
Throughout 2013 I plan to get Scatha back to the track at Speed Ventures events. They are well-organized and fun, with tons of seat time.
Other probable events include Cars & Coffee, Coast Motorwerk Beers & Brats, Supercar Sunday, Beyond Statistics and, E30 Motorworks' open houses, the Edelbrock "Rev'ved Up 4 Kids" Car Show, and Crusin' For a Cure.
What does the future hold for Scatha? Has her purpose changed significantly from her 2007 origins as a dual-purpose track/weekend car?
Scatha's mods are not finished. Further plans will focus on subtle aerodynamic and weight improvements. These will mostly be DIY and thus subject to life's other logistical demands. Changing front wheel offsets to run wider tires is also possible. As are proper brake cooling ducts. Scatha's mods will continue to be documented on www.mymcoupe.com.
While I can't envision a time when Scatha would not be actively tracked, it is clear that her primary role has shifted due to becoming an Art Car. She attends more car shows, and consequently fewer track events. Although one theme continues. At the track she is, and has been, an example of what a Z4 can become in terms of performance. As an Art Car she is shows the potential of what can be done to a car's aesthetics.
Inspiration seems to be the key purpose, whether it is applied to Scatha's speed or appearance. To that end I hope to increase her accessibility to those who would benefit from her example. Particularly with regard to the painting process used I hope to cross genres into hot rods, musclecars, lowriders, etc., whether directly or through consultation. I would like nothing more than to see other people's artistic talents extended beyond their custom's design and fabrication to include an individualized, unconventional, "fine art" approach to paint treatment.
Using off-the-shelf acrylic paint as car paint has many advantages:
The paint is comparatively cheap. And the only applicator you need is a brush.
There are no unpleasant chemicals. No surface prep is needed beyond a wash.
You don't need a clean room, or even a garage, because the paint dries so quickly. (Although the latter is preferable during the clearcoat phase.)
The paint is durable, and can be washed just like typical car paint.
Retouching rock chips is much easier because the texture of the brush marks hides imperfections.
It is easily changed. Just paint over it.
To anyone considering the process I have this to say: You CAN do this! Inexpensively, and without training. It just takes vision and time, and a willingness to make mistakes. The struggle is the journey. Enjoy it.
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