Top 10: Art-inspired cars

Every now and again car manufacturers get bored of assigning arbitrary names to special editions – think The Cinquecento Hawaii from The Inbetweeners – and decide to get a bona fide artiste on board.

The results are occasionally inspiring, but quite often not. Here are ten of them. Make your own mind up. 

1

BMW M1

By Andy Warhol

The fourth in a long line of BMW Art Cars, the first of which was a BMW 3.0 CSL painted by Alexander Calder in 1975, Andy Warhol’s is perhaps the most famous.

Painting the car himself by hand in 1979 – those before his hadn’t been hand painted by their respective artists – Warhol said he wanted to convey a sense of speed, so he blurred the paint with his hands. Conveying speed was also the reason, presumably, that Warhol spent a sum total of 23 minutes painting the car before leaving to do something else.

Read our review of the BMW M1

2

Land Rover Defender

By Paul Smith

"I felt it would be a fitting tribute to the iconic Defender that one of Britain's most distinguished designers worked with the Land Rover team to recognise his creative vision," said Land Rover head designer Gerry McGovern about the model it made for Paul Smith.

Unlike the Mini that bore the designer’s name, this Defender was a one-off, featuring panels of 27 differing colours in homage to the iconic Paul Smith stripes. Its chairs were a mix of leather and striped fabric, while a Paul Smith branded clock sat in the leather upholstered dashboard.

Read our review of the Land Rover Defender 

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3

Aston Martin Vantage GTE

By Tobias Rehberger

Aston Martin commissioned German sculptor Thomas Rehberger to make a colourful paint scheme for its Vantage GTE Le Mans racer. The result was not dissimilar to the BMW Art Cars that have raced there in the past.

The car competed in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans race and the paint job was designed to evoke a sense of speed, or "distorted perception" as Rehbrger put it. The car finished 37th of 56 racers. Oh well, at least it looked fast. 

Read our review of the Aston Martin V8 Vantage

4

Citroen 2CV

Inspired by Pablo Picasso

This Citroen 2CV isn’t an official tie-in with Pablo Picasso – although Citroen uses the artists name on its cars, of course – but is instead a homage to the great master by an enthusiast called Andy Saunders.

The Poole-based coachbuilder took a 1983 2CV and, inspired by the Three Musicians and Dora Maar paintings, reimagined it in the Cubist style. Fully road legal, it was sold at Southeby’s in 2008 for £8800 – despite Saunders claiming a year earlier that "as a work of art I reckon it might sell for about a million pounds." Ambitious. 

Read our review of the Citroen 2CV

5

Audi A1

By Damien Hirst

Having painted five Fiat 500s that went on to raise £440,000 at auction for children’s charity ARK in 2009, the following year artist Damien Hirst turned his paint pots to the Audi A1.

Also created for charity, this automotive Hirst creation was ‘spin painted’ and donated to Elton John for his annual White Tie and Tiara Ball in 2010. Spin painting the car involved taking it apart, putting the pieces on a giant turntable, then launching paint at them. The car sold for £350,000.

Read our review of the Audi A1

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6

Mini

By Paul Smith

Before Mini was bought by BMW, CAPPED UP AND MADE INTO A PREMIUM BRAND, it was, as you know, an authentically British institution. The Mini Paul Smith was supposed to celebrate that virtue, by way of featuring detailing by one of Britain’s most famous designers.

It’s ironic, then, that of the 1800 made, only 300 were sold in the UK. Still, each featured a British Isles shaped badge on the grille, a gold plated Paul Smith badge on the bonnet, black leather interior and a glove box lined in lime green. 

Read our review of the Mini

7

Bugatti Veyron

By Bernar Venet

One of the many, many, many, many special editions of the Bugatti Veyron is the Grand Sport edition by Bernar Venet – the French conceptual artist famous for curving big metal beams and for standing in tar then walking across a canvas.

Yet the Venet Veyron was neither bent nor covered in tar footprints, but instead decorated with equations and formulas – many of which were used by Bugatti’s engineers, it’s said. Probably to work out the ratio of Veyron special editions to billionaires in the world. The answer is 6:1.

Read our review of the Bugatti Veyron

8

Citroen DS3

By Orla Kiely

In 2011 Citroen collaborated with Orla Kiely – the Irish fashion designer responsible for putting that flower print onto stuff – so that she could put that flower print onto the roof of a DS3.

She also put the print on the floor mats, the headrests and the back windows. Based on the DStyle model, it cost £16,000. 

Read our Citroen DS3 review

9

Porsche 911 Cabriolet

By Romero Britto

At the same time as Bugatti was unveiling the Bernar Venet Veyron, a Miami car dealership was showing off a unique Porsche 911 Cabriolet it had commissioned Romero Britto to paint.

Romero Britto is a Brazilian pop artist based in Florida, specialising in the sort of bold and bright artwork you see on the Porsche above. In 2003, Absolut commissioned Britto to make a series of special editon vodka bottles, which have since become collector’s items.

Read our review of the Porsche 911 Cabriolet

10

Fiat 500

By Tracey Emin

When she’s not wheeling a scabby old bed into the Tate Gallery and calling it an art installation, Tracey Emin sometimes paints.

The birds she painted onto the side of a vinyl-wrapped Fiat 500, in a piece entitled ‘I told you not to’ saw the car sold for £42,000 at a 2008 auction. The proceeds went to PEAS (Promoting Equality in African Schools), towards building a school library.  

Read our review of the Fiat 500

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