Mobile art with a minimal message

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
A funny thing happened on my way to the office the other day. I saw a car bumper sticker that made me laugh. It wasn't a great big belly laugh, more of a quiet chuckle. But it reminded me that these days the subtle art of bumper sticker humour - like clever graffiti - is slowly being lost. (OK, if you must know, the bumper sticker said: "A friend in need is a pain in the arse" - which maybe says as much about my generosity to friends as it does about my sense of humour.)

The funniest car stickers these days don't actually mean to be funny at all. They're funny because they're naff. Does anybody really take seriously a car sticker which says "Warning. Show Dogs in Transit"? What exactly are you being warned of? Might one of the show dogs jump out of the car and savage the driver of the car following? Do the show dogs affect the driver of the car, as they slobber all over him or her? Or do these pedigree hound owners expect us to take special care with our driving because their car carries show dogs, not people?

I am reliably told that in fact the latter explanation is the correct one. To confirm this, I noted a few years ago, when I worked near Earl's Court, that an amazing number of Crufts entrants displayed just such a sign. I asked one, who drove a Volvo estate, why he had the sign. "Because my dog means more to me than anything," he replied. I felt terribly sorry for him. But I still thought the sticker funny.

Mind you, new parents are often not much better. "Warning. Baby On Board" is another one of my favourites. While babies are indubitably worth more than show dogs, why precisely do cars carrying them need to display warnings? True, cars carrying babies are often driven badly, as preoccupied dads or mums turn around to check on junior's health. And babies can be sick quite suddenly, necessitating a quick and unscheduled stop from the hapless driver to mop up the puke.

No, wrong again. I am reliably informed that most drivers who display such warnings - as with dog lovers - expect special courtesy because their cars are carrying babies. Again Volvo estate owners seem especially keen on such bumper sticker humour. (Which reminds me of my favourite sticker on a motorcycle: "My other bike is under a Volvo.")

"Keep your Distance!" was one of the most popular pieces of rear-windscreen art in the late-Eighties, as many people got obsessed by tailgaters. Using them was stupid. To start with, you could only read them by getting too close. Besides, whenever you exhort people not to do something, they do it. Van drivers, as always, are the worst. You used to regularly see Transit vans tailgating Keep Your Distancers, and you could visibly see how much pleasure the Transit yob was getting by his intimidation of the poor, timid motorist.

The funniest car stickers of all used to be in Australia, where I was brought up. The Aussies are not renowned for their subtlety: they call a spade a bloody big shovel.

When I was a kid learning to drive in the mid-Seventies, the favoured transport of young and rebellious men were panel vans. In essence, these are big vans painted garish colours, luxuriously trimmed and boasting big V8 engines. Their like has never been seen in Britain.

Few things used to frighten the parents of Australian teenage daughters more than the sight of a boyfriend heading up the driveway in a panel van. This is not surprising. Their nickname was "f--- trucks". Everybody called them that. And for good reason.

Panel vans usually had plushly trimmed rear cargo areas, often with double mattresses and hi-fi. They often travelled nose-down, partly to give them an aggressive, predatory stance. Also, at a drive-in movie, it helped the view, as Bruce and Sheila lay prostrate watching the film through the open tailgate, often imitating the sex scenes (I'm not joking).

Panel vans had another advantage when going to the drive-in movies. If Sheila's parents had locked her in the bedroom that night, Bruce could always fit about eight mates in the back. If Bruce was lucky, they'd get in without paying. (Although the groaning, heaving rear suspension at the entrance gates sometimes gave the game away.)

Panel vans used to carry many stickers. it was part of the automotive jewellery of these ludicrous vehicles, along with big alloy wheels, wide tyres and extra chromework. But there was one sticker which stood out from the rest. It said: "Don't Laugh. Your Daughter Might Be Inside."

Search for used cars

Comments