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How to Keep Your Art Car Rolling

Art Car Fest 2006 - 34.jpg

Image by L. Marie via Flickr

I live just a few blocks from the Art Car Museum in Houston, TX. There are art car parades and events several times a year, so you often see art cars on the streets.

Art cars range from simple and cheaply decorated to elaborately modified and expensive. One of my favorites is a little jeep, decorated as if for use in a safari theme parkwith a life-size baby giraffe on the roof.

Another favorite is a giant metal armadillo, created by a local metal sculptor, with headlights for eyes. The armadillo art car is huge. It is so completely covered by the silvery metal sculpture that you cannot even get a glimpse of the vehicle itself. There is no telling how the driver gets inside.

Making art cars is popular in my part of town. In my neighborhood you see art cars parked in driveways, in front of the grocery store, at restaurants, and so on. Most are old cars that have been hand-decorated by one or two people in their spare time.

The first art car I ever saw was just an old car with random plastic, glass, and metal objects glued all over it, inside and out. It was funky and wonderful. It looked as though years had been spent decorating it.

Most people use very old cars to decorate as art cars. Some drive them only for parades and art car shows. Lots of others use them as their main form of transportation. In any case, given the amount of money, talent and time invested in creating art cars, it is very important to keep them running for as long as possible.

So how do you know where to take your art car for repairs and maintenance? We all know the dealer is usually the most expensive place to go, but how do you find an honest, skilled, and reasonably priced auto repair service?

There is now a web site where you can find the best Houston auto repair shops. If you live elsewhere in the United States, you can find the best repair shop in your area, too. shows the shops near you on a map, and you can read reviews of the shops, written by actual customers.

You can even get a price estimate on line. You select the brand, model and model year of the car,  select the type of service, enter the zip code where you want the work done, and click the Get Estimate button. For example, you could check the price of a repairs for a 1998 Acura Integra.

You can find out which shops offer the kind of repair you need, such as air conditioning recharge, or you can find the best place to get routine maintenance such as an oil change or tune-up.

One of the main values of this service for art car artists is in evaluating an old car for purchase. If you want to buy an old car and them spend weeks, months or even years decorating it, you want to know what kind of mechanical shape it is in and how expensive it will be to maintain.

In designing your art car, you may need to know whether a certain modification will make maintenance difficult or impossible. Dealer repair departments are often too busy to even discuss such things.

Art cars are far out of the mainstream. Dealers may not even want to work on them.

A small car repair shop can be a great partner in keeping your beloved art car alive. And now you know how to find a good one.

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