The Cow Car Rides Again!

by Ben N on June 6, 2018

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Why would anyone cover their car with COW SPOTS!? There’s gotta be a story behind that. Yes, there is. This is that story.

My first car was about what everybody’s first car should have been – small engine, manual transmission, good fuel economy, and NOT cool. It was a brown 1987 Geo Spectrum, a rebadged econobox which was actually an Isuzu sold by GM. It also had a 5-speed and got 47 miles per gallon no matter what.

I drove that car for years. Whenever something broke, I fixed it with a single 10 mm wrench I kept in the glove-box. If that didn’t work, duct tape or a bent wire coat-hanger did. I even removed the back seat so that it had more cargo space, essentially a two-seater station wagon. That allowed me the new power of doing things like picking full-size sofas off the curb.

I was pretty sad when it died. (Blown engine, WAAAAAY too many miles.)
At about the same time, my friend, Steve, had recently graduated college and was on to his first corporate Information Technologies job. So, it was time for him to trade in his old car, which was a white 1989 Chevy Spectrum, the same car as mine, but two years newer. While he was driving it to the car dealership, the hood flew up, smashing the windshield, denting the hood, and causing other damage. Fortunately, he was able to keep the car under control and safely pull over to the side of the road. He pulled some Cat-5 cable from the back of the car, lashed down the hood, turned around, and headed back to his apartment, where the car then sat for months.

That was then the time my car died. I had a car with no engine and other issues. He had one with no hood or windshield (or brakes, as those rusted up while the car sat in his parking lot.) I decided that the obvious course of action was for me to put the two cars together! I bought the car from Steve for $50. (He had put a $50 car battery in not that long before, after all…)

Then I set to work to combine the two cars. Transferring the windshield from one car to the other was probably the trickiest part. Otherwise, it was just a matter of unbolting sheet metal, swapping the hoods, replacing speakers, and just using the best of either car. By the time I was done, I had an unholy union of brown and white body parts and brown and gray interior. BUT IT RAN! This Franken-Car would keep me getting to work and classes.

Since more of the exterior was white than brown, I eventually collected a few cans of white spray paint and made the body a single color.

By this time, it was also starting to get some rust, including a few spots where you could see daylight right through the sheet metal. I set to work with some chicken wire and Bondo to seal the breaches. Of course, I had never worked with Bondo before, and was NOT skilled at it. The body-filled holes were lumpy and NOT well-feathered. If only I had some way to hide or camouflage the bad Bondo spots. Of course, I was now thinking about military camouflage, but had a white car, so the shapes and colors made my mind just jump straight to the look of a cow.
Genius! I would completely distract people for the bad Bondo job by covering the car in black cow spots!

I set to work, cutting cow spot shapes out of newspaper and taping them to the car. Two cans of Rustoleum Gloss Black later, my car looked like a cow! I washed the paint off my hands and went to my rehearsal dinner.

Yeah. I was doing this the night before my own wedding.

Obviously, I was pretty busy the rest of that weekend.

IMG_8845Then came Sunday afternoon. Most of my wife’s relatives were from upstate New York. Some of them had flown out for the wedding, and were now getting ready for the taxi back to the airport. We were all standing around, saying our good-bye’s at the hotel car-port. That’s when I had my brother pull around my car. The Cow Car.

Everyone burst out laughing and smiling, including my new bride. Looks like I married the right family. Hanging out from the hatch was a homemade “Just Married” banner which I quickly made while I still had out the black paint and stencils.

Everybody loved the Cow Car! Wherever I would go, people would smile and wave. Sometimes people would take photos. It was ANTI-Road-Rage! The car got more smiles per gallon than anything else I’d ever driven. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. Those were never well-built cars, and about a year later, it died on me. It was a sad day when we were pulled over on the side of I-94, the radiator boiling over. As one last kick in the ribs, a car flying by had it’s window down and the passenger yelled “And it’s UGLY too!”, the only negative thing I had EVER heard anybody say about the cow car.

The cow car went to the great pasture in the sky, and I spent the next few years driving completely forgettable vehicles.
That was later cured when I converted a Geo Metro to electric.

IMG_8843 (1)Fast forward to today, and I’m now driving a Mitsubishi iMiEV electric car – the first affordable modern electric car released in the United States. Again, it’s also a very boring white economy car. Which is why I thought it was so interesting when I stumbled on a collectible scale model of the car…. with Cow Spots!
The model is called the 2012 Moo Moo Edition. I was baffled as to why there was a collectible model with such a strange paint job. I knew there were a few strange paint jobs for these cars, but COW SPOTS? I did web image searches trying to find the real world car that this model was based on, but never could.

mitsubishi_imiev_01Eventually, I tracked down the source.
Mitsubishi, besides offering some standard paint jobs, partnered with a vinyl graphics company. They were an OFFICIAL partner of Mitsubishi and offered graphics packages as add-ons to the car, just like getting branded floor mats or any other factory option. The company had a number of patterns ranging from techno to Hello Kitty. And they were all OFFICIAL offerings from Mitsubishi. I’ve seen photos of a few cars with some of these graphics (including Hello Kitty) but I have never yet located a single photo of a real-world Moo Moo Edition.

So, I set to work building one.
I already owned a Silhouette Cameo vinyl-cutter. This great machine is about the size and shape of an inkjet printer. Only instead of printing, it moves a blade on a carriage to cut vinyl, paper, and other flat materials. I took photos of my car and then overlaid the image of the Moo Moo Edition. I traced out the spots in vector software and arranged them all to fit on 12″ wide black vinyl. After having the Cameo make the cuts, I applied the spots to the car.

This time, it wasn’t me with some newspaper and a scissors. No black spray paint to wash-off before going to a rehearsal dinner. This time, the cow spots were perfect and EXACTLY matched the scale model.

In a weird twist of fate, I went from bad cars poorly Bondo’d, to electric cars, to one of the weirdest/most lovable ┬ácars in the area, which is both extremely Japanese and extremely Wisconsin at the same time.

IMG_9070My first time out in the car, we headed to the old-fashion drive-in, The Kiltie, where people still bring their convertibles and classic cars on summer nights. We also stopped at the local comic book store, Kowabunga Comics, who immediately brought out their mascot cow head for me!

So, the Cow Car rides again! Reborn from my imagination, it’s easy to find in any parking lot, and makes me smile every time I see it. Instead of getting 47 mpg and leaking oil like crazy, this incarnation is all electric and is powered by sunlight hitting the solar panels on my garage. I’d like to say that it runs on “Re-Moo-able Energy”, but I know that will get too many groans as a pun.

Whatever you do in life, make it fun, make it interesting. Life is too short for boring cars.

-Moo.

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