• 00 - 1990 Volvo 240 DL sedan in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin
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The big problem with art cars comes around resale time: A heavily personalized machine tends to be valuable mostly to its creator and a handful of like-minded art-car aficionados… who would rather build their own rolling sculptures than buy a ready-made one. I've seen plenty of such machines in auto graveyards, including the Groovalicious Purple Princess of Peace Taurus wagon, a reasonably famous '69 Mustang, a glue-gun-extravaganza Toyota Van, a pair of mural-bedecked Corolla wagons, and a Volvo 740 Turbo in full Burning Man regalia. These art cars might not be up to the level of the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir, say, or the Phone Car, or even my high-concept 1965 Impala sedan performance/installation piece, but they were loved and now they have been crushed. Today's Junkyard Gem, a Volvo 244 covered with art created by a very talented painter, appeared in a self-service yard not far from Pikes Peak in Colorado, and I was there to document it.

There's a lot to process on this car, so you'll need to click through all the gallery images to really appreciate the inspiration and sweat that went into the painting project. We'll start with the decklid, which features an excellent reproduction of van Gogh's The Starry Night. The version on the Volvo differs sufficiently from the original that I'm pretty sure the artist painted it from memory, which shows a devotion to van Gogh that demands respect.

References to Bible verses, from both Old and New Testaments, cover the car. In addition to the expected John 3:16 and Genesis 1:1 (sort of the Freebird and Stairway To Heaven of Bible verses, in terms of getting overplayed), I found this reference to Colossians 3:17 above the right rear wheelwell: And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

On the decklid, where following drivers may see, a much harsher verse, Isaiah 6:5: "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty!" Jews, Christians, and Muslims can all agree: Isaiah was no lightweight. Certainly not what you expect to see on an old Volvo.

References to Oklahoma abound, so I'm guessing that the artist migrated from Oklahoma to Colorado; the two states share a border.

The blue shark (or maybe it's a tiger shark) incorporates a door lock as its eye, which I think is a very clever touch. 

Something happened to the rear window soon before this car went into forcible retirement, and so a packaging-tape replacement kept most of the weather out for a while.

Volvo aficionados will want to call this car a 244, since it's a 240 with four doors, but Volvo dropped the 242/244/245 naming system in the early 1980s. The DL was the cheapest trim level in 1990.

It seems unlikely that junkyard shoppers will want to grab any body parts for their 240s, since the paint won't match, but someone pulled the 5-speed manual transmission out of this car.

Volvo USA probably didn't have this art car in mind when they made this commercial for the 240.


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