Manchester Art Car Parade

Date: 8 September 2007

Location: Manchester city centre

Client: Manchester City Council

This was our cheeky British take on the American idea of transforming cars into mobile works of art. We wanted to bring this fun US idea back to the UK to create a parade of eccentric cars from a variety of different artists. Purpose? To capture artists’ imaginations in order to poke fun at our love of cars and to provoke questions about our reliance on fossil-fueled vehicles.

Our co-founders John Wassell and Liz Pugh saw one of the original Art Car Parades in Texas, and some astonishing vehicles at the Burning Man Festival in Nevada, but it took a few years to bring the concept of an Art Car Parade to the UK.

Arts Council England investment in 2007 enabled Walk the Plank to commission 21 British artists to let their imaginations loose transforming vehicles with encouragement to develop the greenest machines possible. Other Art Cars, decorated and driven by their owners, came from all over the UK to park up in Manchester’s city centre for public inspection before moving off in a convoy of musical, theatrical automotive madness.

Vehicles included a musical milk float, a pedal-powered Lamborghini, the mosaic-decorated Tiki Love TruckMad Alan’s Plane, and an electric car made out of recycled furniture. Blackpool hosted the first illuminated Parade, and Art Cars have since appeared at the Henley Festival, in Preston and Nelson, Lancashire.

Art Cars capture the public imagination and naturally invite participation. Drivers’ outfits were designed to match their vehicles and crowds were encouraged to vote for their favourite entry. Many Art Car artists enjoy the direct interaction with the public that the Parades offer; and many visual/fine artists found the performance aspect of the Parade offered a new dimension to their practice, as they dressed up to complement the look/theme of their vehicles.

More than 50 vehicles have been transformed into Art Cars, most of which are owned and maintained by the artists. Walk the Plank looks after the Crazy Golf and the Cremulator, which often feature at smaller events.

"An Art Car is a drive-able installation – any vehicle which has been re-imagined, re-styled, re-modeled, or completely metamorphosed by an artist into a transport of delight."

Michael Trainor, Curator

Project Specification
Project Scale
Creative Content
Parades and processions