Some cars are works of art themselves, and others need a little help to reach that aesthetic level. We’re not talking about custom rides so much as the creative works of car art people make with discarded vehicle parts.
We’ve found some talented artists and craftspeople who upcycle car parts (and whole cars) so you have a point of inspiration to work from. Then, we have resources and how-tos so anyone interested in this kind of art has everything necessary to get an upcycled vehicle project underway.
Car Upcycling Artists and Craftspeople
Michael Bernstein and his team at Black Lab have a passion for classic cars and would hate to see them thrown away. Instead, they save these vehicles and give them new lives as dining room tables, couches and seats. You can even send Black Lab your old car and have it made into a grill, bar or desk..
In Nashville, Salvage Goods and its Salvage Collection sells wallets, purses and bags made from small car parts like seat belts, buckles and airbags. The group all over the country for exhibits — upcoming shows will be held in Memphis, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Louisville and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. You can shop for bags right from the Salvage Goods website.
Artist Ptolemy Elrington in England creates, well, creatures from old hubcaps, and he posts his work at Hubcap Creatures. He’s also been featured numerous times in English media. No matter what kind of creature that you can imagine — baboons, ravens, spiders, wolves, birds, foxes or sharks — Elrington has created some incredible representations out of silver hubcaps and other car pieces.
Finnish artist Miina Äkkijyrkkä sculpts with steel car parts, among the other art she creates. The exteriors of the various vehicles she uses to make larger-than-life figures of reclining people or cows are still visible, giving these a very rustic appeal and an easy dose of color. If you ever get a chance to see some of Äkkijyrkkä’s work in person, you’ll be utterly amazed.
Jim Reinders, spent a lot of time studying Stonehenge … enough that when he returned home to Alliance, Nebraska, he created Carhenge. Using 39 cars total, the circular reproduction is made to scale and honors Reinders’ father. The sculpture looks striking in any weather and is worth a visit.
Classic Couches by Sweet Sofas
Classic Couches by Sweet Sofas creates couches and other furniture from some of Detroit’s most iconic makes and models. You can even get an old school gas pump, a table made of tires or a set of drive-in speakers to give your house that feel of a bygone era.
Car Art Upcycling Inspirational Resources
Green Living Guy
Seth Leitman, a blogger, environmental consultant, writer and radio host, writes at the eco-friendly blog Green Living Guy. Leitman has some pretty great suggestions on what to do with old car parts, including making it into jewelry or turning a whole car into a pool table. The pictures accompanying the post will get your DIY mental juices churning.
Neokentin of 1001 Pallets recently wrote a post that displays the work of Aaron Borg, another talented artist who takes your vehicular junk and makes it into furniture. The chairs displayed have a truck bed for a base, a polished wooden seat and even a faux license plate for a fun decorative touch.
Flea Market Insiders
There’s no shortage of ideas from Flea Market Insiders, which pulls together 50 different ways to turn car parts into living room conversation pieces. Even better, you can take your passion from your home to the office and ask your boss about having a receptionist’s desk made from an old van. You will love the pictures of beds made from cars, too, which would be a motorhead’s dream.
Architectural resource Homesthetics has a great library of content and design plans for every room of the house, including storage rooms, the living room, the kitchen and the bedrooms. The site’s post on 42 ways to upcycle car parts as furniture is just a goldmine.
You need to see the ideas that vehicular resource Odometer has dreamed up. These include a mailbox made from a headlight, the hood of a car being used as an awning and a seat belt keychain. You can practically redo your whole house with car parts and accessories from this post alone.
Writer Shacks at lifestyle and news site Iesrms shares yet more ideas for using the gutted exteriors of recycled cars. The post features one particularly ingenious idea: Turning a car on its nose and using it as shelving. A car hood can also be your very own entertainment center or TV stand.
Over at DIY Avenue, there is a killer lamp made with some old metal and an office chair from a car’s front seat. Other fun ideas in this post include a radio made from a vehicle’s hood. This post should get your imagination running.
Auto Parts Warehouse Blog
Valvovine’s Auto Parts Warehouse Blog shares some of its own awesome ideas that car upcyclers have tried. One standout idea is the bus stop made from the body of an old bus. And in France, artist Benedetto Bufalino turned his car into a chicken coup with just a bit of wire.
A lot of great ideas are available on Upcycle Post. Instead of scrap metal, these upcycling suggestions mostly center around tires and how they can double as a dog bed, a backyard swing or a flower bed. All you need is some paint and originality to make the black rubber new and appealing again.
How To Start Creating Your Own Car Upcycling Art
If you have tires lying around the garage or backyard, you can turn them into an ottoman. Boredom Therapy shares a helpful set of DIY instructions that lets you know just what to do and what you need, which isn’t much: Sealant, a glue gun, a drill and some wood. Helpful pictures take you step-by-step so that you can follow along.
Budget101 is a website dedicated to saving money and escaping debt. If you have kids, you do not want to miss the tutorial on how to use an old tire to make a fully functional seesaw with some paint, wood glue and patience. There’s an embedded YouTube video that you can watch as you go, and pictures show you what the finished product should look like.
Here is a way to decorate for the holidays on a budget. As long as you have a handful of tires, you don’t have to spend much money at all if you make the tire snowmen as outlined on iCreativeIdeas.com. The tires can all be the same size or smaller for the snowman’s head. You simply paint them to look like the frosty mascot and, if you want, put on a hat, scarf and branch arms.
If your flip-flops always fall apart after a few uses, check out Ecofame’s how-to post on making some from car tires. These sandals are comfortable and beach-ready, and because the rubber used to make tires is so tough they’re durable. Use fabric or Velcro for the straps, or even leather if you feel like getting dressy.
Horse Tire Swing via Instructables
In the same vein as the post on Budget101.com, this Instructables guide to creating to horse-shaped tire swing by user jciarfella is great for parents. Start by outlining the pieces on lined notebook paper, then grab scissors, a chain, poster board, a boring tool, wrenches, two eye bolts, assorted cover caps and washers for bolts and bias ply wire. The steps for construction are all explained in detail.
Automotive resource Sixteen Horsepower takes car upcycling and puts a fun spin on it, presenting items that you should make for your man cave. If you’ve ever wondered how to get the door latches, handles and coiled automotive springs from your vehicle so that you can use these for drawers or tabletops, you need to read this post.
My Repurposed Life
As you can guess from the title of the blog, Gail, the owner of My Repurposed Life, loves recycling and upcycling parts. One blogger on the site, Mindi, posted a great way to make use of expired license plates: Turn them into coat racks. With a wooden frame, some paint and a couple of hooks, you can represent your favorite states and keep clutter at bay.
Jamie Dorobek at Creating Really Awesome Free Things, or C.R.A.F.T, has all the information you need to make your very own tire sandbox for the kids. This is incredibly simple, so don’t be intimidated by the list of supplies. Take a look at the pictures that Dorobek supplies for every step of the way.
Addicted 2 DIY
Mother and blogger Katie at Addicted 2 DIY is eager to save money, and she uses tired as a DIY solution for her garden. Her tips show you how to make planters with leftover tires. Covering the rubber with layers of rope gives these planters a classy finish. Check out Katie’s blog to see how to get started.
DIY blogger Jessi at Practically Functional has a cool tutorial for making a dog bed out of old tires. You’ll learn all about how to clean, paint and pad the tire so that your dog is comfortable. Budgeters will love this.