By on September 9, 2012

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and you need something to drive to Burning Man, you’ll find that the glue-a-bunch-of-stuff-all-over-a-random-vehicle art-car approach will let your ride fit in just as effortlessly on the playa as the soccer mom’s Voyager blends in at the mall parking lot. I’m not against art cars (I consider my 1965 Impala Hell Project to be an art car at heart), but I prefer the approach of the artists who built such fine machines as the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir or the street-driven Denver Pirate Ship to the type who feels contempt for the canvas disappearing beneath their hot-glue gun. Anyway, the upshot of the large number of Bay Area art-car types who glue 10,000 plastic army men or Lucky Lager caps all over their cars is that many of them wind up in self-service wrecking yards. Here’s a Toyota Master Ace aka Toyota Space Cruiser aka Toyota Van that I spotted last weekend at an East Bay self-serve yard.
The thing about these cars is that the owners often pick up many parking tickets and/or don’t do any maintenance on the mechanical components. That’s probably how the skull-covered ’69 Mustang and Groovalicious Purple Princess of Peace Taurus wagon ended up getting picked over for parts by befuddled junkyard shoppers.
The dash of this Master Ace is covered with wedding toppers, graduation-cake decorations, and plastic bowlers.
It’s too bad that spell-checkers don’t work on backwards writing.
A Master Ace should be good for many more miles than 209,691. Very slow miles, sure, but more of them.
It looks like a thrift-store toy bin exploded in here.
Here’s a cool find: an ANC pin from the apartheid era.
The Department of Mutant Vehicles probably wasn’t impressed by the Thrift Store Explosion Master Ace (how could you be impressed when you’ve got stuff like the Telephone Car driving around?), but I’ll be it went over big at the Forbidden Island.

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16 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1985 Toyota Master Ace Art Car...”

  • avatar

    Several years ago, a guy down the street had a more subtle version of this on his Lincoln Marquis. He had a system to change platforms/dioramas on the front fenders. It changed from flamingos, garden gnomes, various flags, gattling guns, even GI Joes doing reenactments. I never bothered to ask they “why?” of any of them, just assumed that some people just had to be different

  • avatar

    You pocketed the ANC pin, right?

  • avatar

    Favorite Art Car: Whip It! from

  • avatar

    I wonder if the ‘weed van’ from Cheech & Chong’s ‘Up In Smoke’ would be considered an Art Car nowadays….

  • avatar

    It’s always surprising where one finds these things. Went to a car show in Switzerland this summer, and a ca. Early 80’s Riviera showed up with all manner of stuff glued to it. Was not near
    Y as fun or whimsical a motif as the Toyota van, perhaps more of a “heavy-metal meets S&M”, but I snapped a few pics of it anyway (although I snapped more pics of mid-60’s mopar.)

  • avatar

    “the type who feels contempt for the canvas disappearing beneath their hot-glue gun”

    Which is why a lot of the “art car” thing bothers me. I also don’t like mimes. I’m not sure which would be worse, a mime riding a fixie or driving an art car.

    OTOH, I kind of like Matt Donohue’s red, white and blue Jackson Pollocktik cars because I get the sense that he has respect for his canvases.

    • 0 avatar

      I really like some art cars, and others are just a hot mess. I’m not particularly fond of this style of art car, it just seems that everyone who has wanted to do an art car has gone this route. Maybe it’s like a progression of some sort, maybe the next one is different?

      I think some of it is borne out of a deep need to express themselves. We had one guy here in GR that had a (then) fairly new Ford Focus that he covered in papier-mache and would paint various bible verses on. After several years of doing this, the original shape of the Focus “mutated”, since I drove by his home every night I could see the progression taking place. But, I haven’t seen the guy or the Focus in several years now. I don’t know what’s become of him.

      The Pollock inspired cars you showed are OK, but a little derivative. It would be one issue if they were actually Jackson Pollock’s cars, but to use another artist’s method like that seems a little uninspired.

      My own idea for an art car is to take something near worthless but still running obviously, paint it a base coat of white and then paint or decorate it on a semi-regular basis. If I got tired of the decoration of the day/week/month, I could take it to the high pressure wash bay, blow it all off and start all over again.

      Fun for the whole family…

  • avatar

    Art cars creep me out something fierce, I can almost feel my skin crawling. Perhaps that’s the desired effect.

    Those look like IBM Model M keyboard caps.

  • avatar

    I don’t mind “art cars” but I’d be embarrased to drive one, I more so have a problem with the owners that forget about maintenence and such (Ricers, Rookie Tuners, Teens, who ever makes art cars).

  • avatar

    I think someone is literally crazy or insane to do this to their cars..

    This is some sort of an obsession. Probably related to the hoarding disorder, except it manifests in people hot glue gunning trinkets and trash to their automobiles instead of throwing it away.

    I am curious what the inside of these people houses look like, and how well they maintain their properties.

    • 0 avatar


      Most people who would do something like this to their i’m willing to bet does NOT own their own home, and probably can’t even afford an apartment (unless they receive an ‘art grant’ or whatever).

      No, sir (ma’am?) this would be a prime example (much like the type of owner that had the ’92 Cressida Find last week) of some ‘99%’ neo-hipster type, coming down off a week long meth binge, wondering who the hell would do that to their hand-me-down ‘Toy’ van; only to realize later that it was their own doing. Hilarious.

      We are witnessing a study of the human condition with the Junkyard Finds series. Please, Murilee, keep up the good work :)

  • avatar

    Friend in Concord, CA had that model Toyota van. He labeled it the “Chariot” in reference to the Lost in Space TV show decades ago.

    “Danger Will Robinson.. DANGER!!!!”

  • avatar

    The actual Department Of Mutant Vehicles at Burning Man wouldn’t accept this thing. Nowadays, your art car can’t look like a car at all. The state of that particular art is more along these lines: If you’re enough of a car nut to be a fabrication nut, this should work for you.

    I was just underneath a Ferrari Testarossa that was up on a lift, and one of my first thoughts was “Wow. I’ve seen better weld seams on art cars at Burning Man.”

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