Cartoon Truck

{I wrote about and photographed this unusual car for the October 2007 issue of Cars & Partsmagazine.}

Robert Luczun’s 1928 Model A is introducing a new generation to the beauty of old cars!

Although he doesn’t recommend reading it while you drive, a high school art teacher has covered his Ford Model A with thousands of characters and scenes from a century of comics. Robert Luczun’s hobby is restoring and showing Model As, but he saw that young people barely noticed the antique Fords at car shows. They were always drawn to the brightly colored musclecars and street rods.

“I have two unrestored Model As,” Luczun said. “Both have very low miles on them and are unrestored, which makes them very desirable for collectors. But when anyone under the age of 50 sees them, they just think: ‘old cars, big deal.’”

Having already turned his ’96 Harley-Davidson into a two-wheeled tribute to Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s artwork with various depictions of the famous character Rat Fink – including a three-dimensional sculpture on the front fender – Luczun decided to expand the idea to a larger vehicle.

He bought a 1928 Model AR Roadster pickup and restored it to its original condition. On October 18, 2004, 108 years to the day after the first comic, The Yellow Kid, was published, Luczun began a 2,000-hour airbrush project. The artist made no attempt to catalog or categorize his figures, although there are distinct clusters throughout the car’s body. The front fenders, for example, are covered with black-and-white characters such as Felix the Cat, the Three Stooges and Howdy Doody. Hanna-Barbera’s Flintstone family shares the left-side engine cover with Bullwinkle’s crew, Archie Andrews and friends, and the lovable inhabitants of Pooh’s Corner. The passenger side of the Model A features a veritable army of Disney characters, including 101 Dalmations – yes, all 101 of them!

Mischievous figures from the pages of Mad magazine appear unexpectedly, and pop culture icons such as Albert Einstein, Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando are scattered throughout the expansive work. Superheroes are evenly represented, whether you are a D.C. nerd (Superman, Green Lantern, Flash) or a Marvel geek (Iron Man, Wolverine, Hulk).

The artist worked six-hour shifts on the Model A in the evenings after teaching at Passaic High School in New Jersey. When he missed a shift, he would make it up, even if it meant working 12 hours the next night. Luczun claims his patience and love of art developed at the same time.

“I spent time in a polio ward when I was about five or six,” Luczun remembered. “I was one of the lucky kids who got Dr. Saulk’s experimental vaccine in time, but it meant I was bored a lot in the hospital.

“One day somebody gave me a drawing of Donald Duck sitting in a hospital bed. It made me and the other kids feel good to see it. Knowing that something beautiful and desirable could be created with just a piece of paper and a pencil made me fall in love with art.”

A good airbrush artist easily commands $100 per hour of work, which means Luczun’s paint job would cost about $200,000 to replicate. Why, then, does he insist there be no barriers between his Model A and the public when it is on display at car shows?

“Cartoons appeal to all of us, no matter what age,” he said. “Our first instinct when we see figures like Snow White or the Jolly Green Giant is to touch them – see that they are real. Kids are going to want to touch the car when they see it, and that’s okay. It’s part of the magic.”