Posted by: Kath Usitalo | March 4, 2009

Wheel Admiration

Our smile-making minivan.

We drive a smile machine.

Wherever we go people grin, stare, point, give a “thumbs up” and occasionally take pictures of our Dodge Caravan.  Some have asked if its paint job was an act of vandalism or done intentionally.  It was not only intentional—it was inspired!

Mostly, folks are incredulous when I explain that my husband is an artist who decided that our aging plain silver transportation unit would make a great canvas.   And that last August, on the evening before the Woodward Dream Cruise (Detroit’s annual classic car crazy event) Tom dragged out to our driveway a huge fan, a bunch of sponges, rollers, and half-dozen brilliant colors of paint, and splattered our minivan to create a rolling work of art.

And no, I was not upset that he did it.

The artist and the palette

Even if he didn’t consult me first.  And yes, I like it this way.  So do the kids and (most of) their friends.  Really.

I’ve told countless admirers of the splattered van that Tom would be happy to apply his talent to their cars.  Some people just laugh and shake their heads with a “thanks, but no thanks.”  A few have claimed they would go for it if they weren’t driving a lease vehicle.  I can’t tell you how many have confided, “I’d do it but my husband/wife would kill me.”  I say, “It’s just a car!”

A work in progress

But this is Detroit, and despite our current automotive woes we love our cars.  At least a few believe Tom committed a sacrilegious act with his paint cans.

This weekend thousands of people who are passionate about their vehicles will head to Cobo Center in downtown Detroit for the 57th Autorama, a showcase for hot rods and cool customized cars, trucks, and choppers.

Tom will be there—he loves cars too.   I don’t know if he’ll convince anyone to let him custom-paint their lovingly restored, kandy apple red street rod.  I do know that on the way to and from the show, he and the splattered van will cause a lot of people to smile.  That’s something I have wheel admiration for, and one of the benefits of being married to a car crazy artist (or is it crazy car artist?).

Happy Birthday, TJ!splatter_van_frnt_3309

This morning before school, Paige made the best banana muffins for Tom’s birthday.  Easy and quick!



  1. Kath / Tom — be sure to tell ‘um it’s another great Chrysler produce when people admire the smile machine. You guys are a hoot. Love TPY

    • Maybe Bobby N will have Tom create a line of splatter vans!

  2. […] lot and asked about the paint job—an almost everyday occurrence described in an earlier post, Wheel Admiration. He said he really liked the van (but declined my invitation to have TJ splatter paint his […]

  3. […] better buy a lottery ticket? I’ll land an assignment and sell an article (and photos!)? That the Splattered Van won’t break […]

  4. […] over these several decades or my perspective has changed. The dune is about the same height as our Splattered Van. But birthdays are good for providing a little perspective. Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

  5. […] So when I saw The Detroit News Homestyle section’s call for “curbside treasures” that readers had recycled, I knew I had to send in a photo of one of TJ’s projects. These are pieces of wood furniture I rescue from curbs on trash days that he paints in his multi-color style. I chose to send a photo of an old telephone stand that a neighbor had tossed, which TJ painted in several colors, and then applied dots. It appeared with a short write-up in the July 31 Detroit News Homestyle section (I even worked in a mention of the Splattered Van). […]

  6. […] I returned home from a Video Workshop in Columbus, Ohio (what a great surprise that city was—more about it in the future) to find that TJ had painted our brand new Jeep in the manner he’d done our Dodge Caravan. […]

  7. […] haven’t actually tried one on our vehicles; I’m not sure the splattered paint would stand up to them. But those of you with normal paint jobs should have no problem. The Kozak […]

  8. […] February 24-26. At the invitation of a local custom garage TJ put together a board promoting his splatter-painted vehicle work. and it will be on display in the […]

  9. […] We haven’t actually tried one on our vehicles; we wouldn’t want to risk disturbing the artistic splattered paint statement. […]

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