There was only one answer, really. I had just bought a 2006 Honda Civic Si, bloated in design and bleached-bone white. When I remembered that our October Cars and Coffee event would host a Trunk or Treat and that the following day’s autocross would have a car costume competition, the new-to-me Civic had to become its cinematic analogue – the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I hope I didn’t ruin the car.
The best car costumes offer some kind of commentary. For example, my friend Reuben splattered fake blood all over his Hyundai Genesis Coupe and wrote “Ekoboost” on the tail, then parked it among the Mustangs at Cars and Coffee. Like so many modern cars, the Civic went from a slim, clean compact in the ’90s to a swollen, heavy monstrosity within two generations. Today designers are fighting to distract your eye from the chubbiness with a whole catalog of weird edges and lines.
But not 10 years ago. Then it was all smooth, rounded, airplane-wing designs. I’ve never liked this era, and while I’d still take it over the most current messes-in-steel, I still thought I’d take a little jab at it with my Stay Puft costume. Ghostbusters has had a tough year, anyway.
I’ll say up front that I’m not recommending any of this. One reason I got the Civic so cheap is that the clear coat is about gone, so I don’t know how deeply this makeup has soaked into the paint, or how well I’ll be able to get it off of there tomorrow. If you’re going to put stuff on your car paint, do your research first. Heaven knows I didn’t.
Yeah, that was probably impetuous. But that’s how my creativity works sometimes. I dive in, have some fun, and usually make something worse. It usually takes me most of a night. And it’s usually the night before a Cars and Coffee event. At least I’m not turning other peoples’ Edsels into statuary like that jerk at the beginning of The Love Bug. I have boundaries.
My weapons of choice were some old car chalk paint markers I had left over from a friend’s wedding, and a dry-erase marker, because nobody makes black car chalk paint you can find at 11pm on a Friday. I also had a hat on the way. I told some friends that I was having trouble making Stay Puft’s comically small sailor hat, and Collins, an engineer, volunteered to design the thing in Solidworks and cut it out with his shop’s styrofoam cutter. Make good friends, people, because I promise that this is the most work to ever go into a hat for a car costume of Stay Puft.
Unfortunately, Collins seemed to think I was driving a small cargo vessel to C&C, because he made it way too big. Two feet wide and over a foot tall, it would never hold up to the wind and lateral forces of Autocross. But it was perfect for the parking lot.
So on Friday night I broke out those markers and started to work. It was late, and I only wanted to do a little work on it and finish up the rest in the morning. But I had just gotten back from a first date, and I wasn’t sure how well it went, because I know as much about dating as I do about car art, and I wasn’t going to sleep anyway.
I started with the SP’s little red neckerchief, which I cut out of an old shirt and zip-tied to the lower grille. Easy stuff. Next I cut the hat ribbon out of the same shirt and figured out a way to pin it to the top of the hat- with a nail and a piece of an old phone mount for a grommet.
Then I dug out some masking tape and went to town on the front bumper to get some nice, clean borders for the car chalk. In hindsight, I probably could have used the same masking tape to just make SP’s blue shirt collar, but I was operating at about 30%, so my brain ran right past that exit and into the flames. After about six months sitting in front of my car, I managed to color in the entire collar with a chalk marker. It looked bad, but I’m not Salvador Dali, so I let it dry and moved on to the hood.
Starting with the eyes, I used the dry erase marker to sketch out SP’s most demented face, that creepy, mean grin. During my initial attempts, I discovered that this crap didn’t just wipe off like it did on a white board. Paint, at the microscopic level, is porous, which is why clear coat and wax are important. Once that protective armor disappears, crap can get in those tiny holes and stay there. Thankfully, rubbing alcohol did the trick getting it out. But that was probably pretty hard on the paint, too.
A little regret had begun to scale across my ideas.
The nasty, smiling eyes took a while to solidify, but I finally settled on a design before moving onto the mouth, which I got right in just two tries. Done.
But it needed something else. Well, I had to get my autocross numbers on there, so I continued the Stay Puft theme with a little race branding on the doors.
And no race car is complete without driver labels. I like that Egon’s name came out a little more transparent and ghostly. RIP, Harold. I knew I had neither the skill nor the equipment to make little Ghostbuster flags beside each name, so I settled for a stylized representation of the city flag of New York.
Now it was done.
Until the Trunk or Treat at Cars and Coffee, when someone pointed out that I should probably have a dish full of marshmallows and Ecto Cooler to hand out instead of some generic Snickers. I couldn’t find any Ecto Cooler at the nearby grocery store, but I did find marshmallows. And then someone else recommended that I make a ghost trap to use as a candy dish, so I spent an hour later that afternoon doing that.
And I also wanted a hat that could hold up during autocross, so an old t-shirt, two plastic lids, and a piece of scrap rubber from a bumper later, I had one. Much smaller and able to close safely in the sunroof to hold it on.
In the end, Project Stay Puft was a hit. People loved it at both events, kids recognized it, and one 8-year-old, decked out in some kind of Mad Max costume, even told me proudly that the original Ghostbusters was far superior to the remake. Maybe there is hope for the future. I plan to drive Stay Puft around tonight for my delivery side job and see if I get any attention. Then, tomorrow, I have to figure out how to get it all out of my paint.
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.