Row of 3-lobed yin yang designsB U D D H A    B U G G YRow of 3-lobed yin yang designs



Photo of Buddha Buggy with Stupa and Flying Prayer Flags; photo copyright by Larry NeilsonThe peaceful hood mandala was the firstblemish on the factory paint job of the author's car, an '87 Honda CRX-HF which he haddriven off the showroom floor many years earlier. (Click here for a detailview of the painting; here for Anatomy of an Art Car.) But theArt Car bug had bitten, and hordes of plastic chachkis and  really weirdstickers soon followed, reflecting the car's split personality (fundamentally Japanese,but with a lingering fondness for surreal Sixties-style art and jokey Deadheadmemorabilia).

At Seattle's Art Car Blow-Out 2000, the Buggy debutedher new look. A four-foot Buddhist stupa, built to traditional Nepalese design, sproutedfrom the car's roof. A 13-inch tall porcelain Amitabha Buddha sits in his niche at thefront of the stupa's dome, while strings of colorful prayer flags flutter gaily in thebreeze. The car rocks to tunes broadcast from the 100W/channel waterproof marine speakersbuilt into the dome.  The car's theme song for parades features the slashing guitarsand pulsing piano of Steely Dan's Bodhisattva.When parked, the sound system generates an aura of Himalayan serenity through the Chantsof the Gyuto Monks and Hun Huur Tu Mongolian folk music, or betimes the wordless, falsetto vocals of Bobby McFerrin. The dome itself is sculpted frompure pink Bondo. Car and stupa are decorated with fifty golden statuettes, mostly onBuddhist or Asian spiritual themes.

The Buggy's body paintings include comic dragons,a cartoon portrait of Doc Schlock, two-leggedfishes, swirling comets, and a flying saucer with two greenaliens in the cockpit. The car's exterior includes scores of Buddhas, a brace of Kuan Yinsand dozens of figures of Ho T'ai. The side windows are plasteredwith funky stickers for snowboard companies, roots music bands, and fine schools fromwhich the owner was expelled in the course of his reckless youth. The tailgate hatchsupports a rack of Buddhist statuettes symmetrically arrangedaround an 11-inch Ho-T'ai in the aspect of Utter Benevolence. And the dashboard is a minature shrine, complete with velvet altarcloth, golden tassels, and Seattle's only documented in-dash Buddha. A Bodhisattva sits at the wheel (on a good day). This car broadcasts good "Car-Ma" wherever the Wheels of Dharma take it to. Rhonda's vanity plates say it all: TOOCOOL!

Rear View of car and stupa at Berkeley Parade, 2003The miniature pagoda on top focuses spiritual energyfrom the Beyond and radiates it outwards wherever the car travels. Mystical mantras andsacred objects enshrined in the stupa's Buddha-eyed harmika (reliquary) providethe source of this spiritual power, which is then amplified and broadcast by the stupaitself, built following a design said to originate with the Buddha Shakyamuni himself. Thestupa is topped with a sheet-brass mandala in the shape of aflame, with the Wheel of Dharma on one side and a peaceful Buddha head on the other. Clickhere for builder's photos showing the pagoda's construction.

Since this article was written, the Buddha Buggy moved to Canada to assist in the effort to find shelter for AWOL servicemen and deserters from the disgraceful Iraq War, then reassimilated in U.S. society. It was seen at San Jose Art Museum and the Seattle Blow-Out in 2003, but its interests were shifting in a more political direction. Increasingly it was seen at anti-war and anti-Bush rallies. A strip labeled "This machine kills fascists" was velcroed to the stupa base on both sides. In December 2007, the car met its end in a low-speed accident on Dexter Avenue in Seattle. Although the car still ran, it was unsafe at highway speeds. It was sent to the wrecker the following year after all the surviving art had been harvested. The stupa was intact, but was destroyed by an ignorant housemate in a drunken rage late in 2010. (He will live with the karmic consequences of that act, so blithely undertaken.)

The Buddha Buggy and several other Pacific Northwest Art Cars were featured on TV on Car Crazy on the Speedvision Network (August 2000) and  American Journey: The Car Artists on the Travel Channel (April 2000). The Buddha Buggy also was seen on KING-5 TV's Evening Magazine twice in '98 and once in '97  (together with those shameless exhibitionists, Dr. Schlock and Leopard Lady, discussing the Art Car movement with host John Stofflet and national Art Car guru Harrod Blank). Rhonda led Seattle's Art Cars in the First Invitational Seattle Art Car Parade at the Art Car Blow-Out held in June '99, in the parade at Blow-Out 2000, and is a regular participant in the Vancouver Funky Art Car Fest and the How Berkeley Can You Be Parade -- part of the Bay Area Art Car Fest held every September. The car also will be seen at the Tacoma Art Museum's Family Folk Fest June 3, 12-4 at the Museum.

Since this article was written, the Buddha Buggy moved to Canada to assist in the effort to find shelter for AWOL servicemen and deserters from the disgraceful Iraq War, then reassimilated in U.S. society. It was seen at San Jose Art Museum and the Seattle Blow-Out in 2003, but its interests were shifting in a more political direction. Increasingly it was seen at anti-war and anti-Bush rallies. A strip labeled "This machine kills fascists" was velcroed to the stupa base on both sides. In December 2007, the car met its end in a low-speed accident on Dexter Avenue in Seattle. Although the car still ran, it was unsafe at highway speeds. It was sent to the wrecker the following year after all the surviving art had been harvested. The stupa was intact, but was destroyed by an ignorant housemate in a drunken rage late in 2010. (He will live with the karmic consequences of that act, so casually undertaken.)


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Art Car Blow-Out graphic
Art Car Blow-Out 2003: Banner by Sign-A-Rama, Seattle