Cork Truck by Jan Elftmann

From the Art Cars series — one man’s obsession with America's mobile masterpieces

Photographs by Harrod Blank

MINNESOTA — A friend in Houston, Texas, invited my husband and me to visit during the annual Art Car weekend. I was blown away and starstruck. As an artist I couldn’t believe I had never thought of the car as my canvas before. 

I decided I had to make an art car, but with what? My husband, Dave, reminded me about the bags and bags of corks I had in the attic that I’d saved from the restaurants I worked in while I was at art school. 

So the Cork Truck was born: a 1987 Mazda B2200 covered with 10,000 wine and champagne corks That would be a bottle a day for 27 years! That’s the top question people ask me. The second is: “Does it float?” 

The science side of me got interested in the story of cork. The material comes from the bark of the cork oak tree that only grows around the Mediterranean and lives to be 200-300 years old. Cork doesn’t absorb moisture, doesn’t burn, and its best quality is that when it is compressed it returns to its original shape. We are going to Portugal to see the cork trees for my 60th birthday.

I’ve driven the Cork Truck all over the country, but my favourite memory is pulling up to a stop light in Minneapolis as a large woman was crossing the street. She stretched out her arms and gave Corky a huge hug and yelled: “I love this car!” Then she blew me a kiss and carried on down the road.