From Sweden with love: An artistic salute to Funny Cars of the 1970s and '80s
A few years ago, I wrote a Dragster Insider column about drag racing fans who collected shards of shattered Funny Car body parts to adorn their man caves. Funny Cars were much more explosive in the 1970s and ‘80s, so there was a lot of debris floating around like driftwood to be scooped up, maybe autographed by the unlucky driver, and then toted home and mounted.
Today’s fans don’t have the same access to those blasted body parts, but Swedish artist Lars “Loors” Svensson has maybe the next best thing with his cool 1970s Funny Car poster that faithfully shows the flanks and noses of 24 recognizable floppers of the era. He calls it Vintage Fuel Coupe Warpaint.
Svensson, who lives in Vallakra in southern Sweden, has been a car nut since his earliest days.
“I grew up at my parents' brewery where on school holidays I helped my father deliver beer and soft drinks from our trucks,” he remembers. “Some of our customers tinkered with their race cars when we showed up, which sparked my interest for cars, especially race cars. I started drawing cars during boring math school lessons, and when a relative gave me his collection of American motor magazines, I was completely hooked.
“I became deeply amazed by the colorful nitro Funny Cars, competition coupes, and front-engine dragsters. I bought some spray cans and tried in vain to copy the rolling artworks from the magazines on helmets, scooter tanks, etc.
"At 15, I let go of the spray cans and bought my first airbrush. In 1979, our hometown drag racing hero let me paint his Volvo PV race car, and since then, I have been busy with both illustration work and race-car painting.”
With no formal art education, the self-taught Svensson was surprised when he was hired as a freelance cartoonist in 1982 by the Swedish car magazine Bilsport. He later joined the staff and worked there until 2015, when he returned to freelance work.
Svensson’s love of fast cars carried over to the track with his IHP '31 Roadster (IHP stands for ”I hate picnics”), a nine-second street-driven roadster that he raced 1985-1987.
Along the way, his artwork also was already gaining attention, on and off the track. Swedish Pro Stock racer Michael Malmgren opened a lot of doors for him in the United States, one of which was applying the paint to Comp racer Skip Brown’s very quick Victory-built A/Altered in 1990.
In 1996, Svensson won a “Paint The King’s Car” design contest created by STP and NASCAR legend Richard Petty. More than 6,000 artists from 50 American states and nine foreign countries submitted designs, but Svensson was proclaimed the winner, and his design was featured in the ad above. He got invited to the 1997 Daytona 500, and the team used the design for the whole 1997 season.
But back to the amazing Funny Car poster, which features some instantly recognizable cars from the era, including Don Prudhomme's Army Monza, Raymond Beadle's Blue Max Mustang II. Tom McEwen's English Leather Corvette, the Chi-Town Hustle, Dale Pude's War Eagle, and so many more. It instantly carries me back to the days of seeing these fabulous floppers in person.
“The Funny Cars of the ‘70s and ‘80s were rolling art created by masters like Youngblood, Carter, Kirby, Weisgerber, Gerdes, etc., and therefore the choice was easy. The paintworks of the ‘70s with their non-commercial and wild independent nature has their own magic, and while the designs of the ‘80s became more sophisticated and big sponsors started to show up, even then the designers managed to combine corporate logos with striking color schemes and exceptionally detailed work like head- and taillights with chrome grille and bumpers. My painting is a humble tribute to the teams, drivers, and artists of that era.”
[To better appreciate the intricate details of the poster, click here for a larger version]
Svensson found his reference material in his vintage magazine collection of NHRA National Dragster, Drag Racing, and Hot Rod magazines, as well as the Petersen Publishing photo archive and various vintage drag racing sites on Facebook.
"My friend, Janne Johansson, who owns the original ‘Jungle Jim’ 1975 Vega, Gordie Bonin’s 1977 Trans Am, and the 1977 Pisano Monza, has been very helpful with information. The poster above is a job assignment of his 'Vintage Fuel Coupe Collection of Sweden.'
“I wanted everything to be accurate, down to the smallest decal. I worked on the poster between customer projects, and I’d estimate it took me two months, maybe more.
“Hopefully, I will find time for a second painting with Billy Meyer, Custom Body, Ramchargers, Moby Dick, Eastern Raider, etc.”
I asked Svensson what his favorite Funny Car of the 1970s was.
“It’s almost impossible to pick a favorite since they all have their own unique style,” he replied. “[Don] Prudhomme and Blue Max for the clean strictly business, yet aggressive appearance. [Al] Segrini’s Super Brut and Keeling & Clayton for pure elegance, [Tom] Hoover’s Showtime and [Tommy] Ivo’s Arrow for showmanship, and so on."
If you’re interested in getting one of these cool posters — and who wouldn’t be? — you can reach out to Svensson at [email protected], and then you, too, can have your own private collection of fantastic flopper parts.
Phil Burgess can be reached at [email protected]
Hundreds of more articles like this can be found in the DRAGSTER INSIDER COLUMN ARCHIVE
Or try the Random Dragster Insider story generator