One of the few decorated cars travels two continents

The Foxy Shehzad, a decorated Volkswagen bug, has successfully traveled from Islamabad to Paris. The blog chronicles the trip, which was initiated by a Pakistani trio including two doctors and an IT specialist. From their account, it looks like the mountains in Turkey near the border with Iran were the biggest obstacle to the small vehicle. Like most displays of truck art outside of Pakistan, the initiative is an excellent form of cultural diplomacy and displays a side of Pakistan that is unfamiliar to most. Their corporate sponsors should be satisfied as the effort seems to have generated abundant media attention. The car itself is beautiful and the Rawalpindi artists seem to have done their best work. There’s a nice tribute to Benazir on the left door of the car and Jinnah on the front.

The Foxy Shehzad in Islamabad

The car raises one of the questions that I’ve had about decorated vehicles since it first piqued my interest. In a country where jingle trucks are the norm, why aren’t there more cars with ornamentation? Truck art is, as the name would suggest, found mostly on trucks or, occasionally, other large vehicles such as shared taxis, buses, or tractors. Yet I’ve never seen a jingle car before the Foxy Shehzad. I thought about putting some colorful, jingled hubcaps on my car, but this would be far outside the norm.

What accounts for the paucity of jingled cars? A first explanation would be that a family car is considered a finished product, bought from a showroom complete without the need for any blandishments. But at the same time, when the cost of car improvements is so low and many Pakistanis accessorize their vehicles, with flashy stereo systems and wheels, it really doesn’t make sense that there are not more jingle cars. Perhaps the more accurate explanation is that a culture has developed around jingling trucks, which has not extended to smaller vehicles. Alternatively, there’s also less of commercial impulse with vehicles used for personal use. However, much of truck art is not advertising related.

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CNN’s Arwa Damon on Truck Art: “It’s a bit like being inside a kaleidoscope”

Arwa Damon is fascinated by truck art. A focus of her report is some Rawalpindi craftsmen that work in chamak patty, or reflective tape, which is the central element for decoration pieces. In addition to adorning the shaped metalwork to make decoration pieces, chamak patty is also fashioned into the strips that she highlights.

To avoid any mention of decoration pieces, the most eye-catching part of the vehicle, is a major oversight. In addition to the embroidery strips, the workshop also prepares decoration pieces. The metal foundation for a decoration piece in its early stage of construction is visible at 1:51.

Damon is understandably impressed by the deft cutting that workers apply when cutting and placing chamak patty. Delving further into the medium, she could point out that the highest quality, and most expensive tape is Avery, while the Chinese imported tape is the cheapest and most abundant.

Curiously, she reports that it costs 55,000 rupees (about $650) to fully decorate a truck. This number seems significantly lower than what other media have recorded elsewhere and what I’ve been quoted. Given how rare unveiled blond women are in these places, the workshop probably really wanted her business.

Accompanying the video are is a gallery of Pakistani trucks that is worth viewing.

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