Yes, the road.

Yes, the road.
Eagle Nest, New Mexico. “People like to drive because driving is actually and symbolically an almost perfect mechanism for escape…there is probably no human being who does not have troubles, real or imagined, from which he at times feels the need to flee.” George R. Stewart.


My photo
Brooklin, Maine, United States
We own a 1975 GMC Sierra Grande 15 in Maine and a 1986 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe 10 in West Texas. Also a pair of 1997 Volvo 850 wagons. Average age in the fleet is 28 years--we're recycling. I've published 3 novels: THE LAW OF DREAMS (2006), THE O'BRIENS (2012), and CARRY ME (2016). Also 2 short story collections: NIGHT DRIVING(1987) and TRAVELLING LIGHT (2013). More of my literary life is at I was a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study for 2012-13. I'm an adjunct professor at Colorado College and in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. In 2015-16 I was a Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The Autoliterate office is in Car Talk Plaza in Harvard Square, 2 floors above Dewey Cheatem & Howe. SUBSCRIBE TO THE AUTOLITERATE DAILY EMAIL by hitting the button to the right.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Love, Inertia, and the 1963 Ford Falcon Van

The first drive home. Broke down on the side of the road. Clogged fuel line.
Shawn HibmaCronan's notes re. his intriguing project, "Love, Inertia and the Pursuit of the Perfect Stance":

This is a project that celebrates the pursuit of a dream and our long romance with automobiles. It is a story about a labor of love that honors craftsmanship and the gratification that comes from customizing a piece of history into a work of art. Over the past 3 years I have been meticulously transforming a 1963 Ford Falcon Deluxe Club Wagon into a fully street-legal sculpture. The work aims to connect this surviving artifact of idealistic Americana with the elements and gestures of a contemporary "customize everything" subculture. As an artist, I am not only fascinated with the material qualities and craft of the this subculture, but furthermore the resulting attitude or "stance" that those gestures communicate. This vehicular tour-de-force, is a tangible method of exploring and existing within that resulting visual language. I want to insert this work into every possible context, from car advertisement to gallery shows, from traditional hot rod shops to concept-rich art schools, the beach scene of California to the gallery scene of NYC, along the back roads of this great nation. ("How about Ballroom Marfa?"--PB)

Admiring the test fit
While built on the same body style as the early Econoline E100 work vehicles, the Falcon Deluxe Club Wagon was rarer, limited edition version marketed towards families. They came with extras, like fancy chrome trim, a plush interior, seating for 8, 17 ashtrays, and windows everywhere. They were designed to be the ultimate "go out and see America" adventure mobile. Small on the outside, huge on the inside.
© Devin Helmen Photography 2012 
 I searched high and low across California before I found the perfect candidate. I bought the vehicle in 2007 and drove it for a couple years while I made notes and planned its fate. I then began to strip it down and cut it up.
The biggest hurdle of the project was engineering the frame. Working around the original "unibody" was not going to give the results that the vehicle needed. So, I proceeded to design and fabricate a tube steel substructure that would allow me to squeeze in custom independent front and rear suspension with air ride. Far better than the original components, air ride makes it possible for the vehicle to lift, lean, and lower to the ground. I chose the components carefully, sourcing parts that would permit me to maintain the original floor height. This was critical and will be well worth the challenge, enhancing the interior experience and comfort of passengers.

The interior, when complete, will be similar to the interior of a WW2 era plane; beautiful metal, purposeful, clean, and all buisness. Keeping true with the mission of the rest of my sculpture, nothing will be hidden or covered up. I want all the details and hard working components to get as much "credit" as the rest of the vehicle.

The body is has undergone hours cutting, patching, welding, and smoothing. No bondo, no fiberglass, no BS. This vehicle will be made of nothing but honest materials worthy of its ethos and history. Every repair and modification I've made, has been done with parts from of similar era of vehicles. Just recently, I added extra bay doors to the driver side for symmetry and so that every passenger has a door. Now, when all 8 doors are open the presence of the vehicle nearly doubles in size and every interior detail is visible to the audience.

For the drivetrain I have plans for a modern turbo-diesel motor connected to a manual transmission. This will be a powerful, reliable, and fuel efficient solution, and will provide the option to run on BioDiesel whenever available. I eagerly await the day when a turn of the key will put new life into this monster!
© Devin Helmen Photography 2012
© Devin Helmen Photography 2012
Made of honest materials and familiar icons these objects aim to spark the conversation of form + function. Using tactile, mechanical structures, and vehicles which engage audience participation, to focus the attention of the viewer not only to the spectacle of the resulting forms, but equally to the materials and craftsmanship which constitute them. Simply put, within these works no material is disguised and no mechanism is hidden. My work is meant to be picked up, poked at, sat in, and rolled around. I want people to question their use intellectually and practically - to this end, physical interaction with the work is absolutely necessary. I consider my furniture to be sculptural, and my sculpture to be curiously functional; it is in the tension between these two aspects that I find my aesthetic and conceptual focus--  S H-C


  1. I for one cannot wait to see the finished product .

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