Yarn Car by Tim Klein

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

Photographs by Harrod Blank

OREGON — I’ve always been a left-brained computer guy rather than an artist — I’m a mild-mannered software engineer — but my girlfriend painted with acrylics and she explained that acrylic paint is simply coloured liquid plastic. The next day, while taking a shortcut through the fabric section of a store, I happened to notice the words “100% acrylic” on the label of a skein of yarn. Something clicked in my brain and it occurred to me that yarn could be used as fuzzy paint. That night I dreamed I was driving a fuzzy car. The seed had been planted! 

Within a week, I had bought the biggest, flattest car I could find: a neglected 1967 Chrysler Imperial. I spent several months covering its surface with five miles of acrylic yarn, one strand at a time, in meticulous linear patterns. That was 14 years ago. I’ve had to strip and replace the worn-out coat three times.

I own two cars: the Yarn Car, and a plain black auto that’s so boring I call it the “Yawn Car”. On any given day, I decide whether to drive the Yarn Car or the Yawn Car, depending on whether I’m feeling outgoing enough to talk to inquisitive strangers. 

I wasn’t prepared for the effect the Yarn Car would have on the public. I drive it as a regular car, on road trips or to go to the grocery store, and it’s as if I’m in a parade every day. People are so taken aback at the sight of a yarn-covered car that they forget all shyness and instantly start talking to a stranger about it.

I’ve spoken with thousands of smiling, happy people who I never otherwise would have met. Over the years, the Yarn Car has been seen by millions of people in person at parades and shows and at random on the street, and by tens of millions in the press. I figure if just one out of every ten people who encounter the car gets a kick out of it, then my humble fuzzy creation must have brought several million smiles into the world so far.