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Be sure to check out our slideshow from the Art Car Parade.
Mark "Scrapdaddy" Bradford is busy living up to his moniker at his Heights scrap metal studio. He and helper Rey Aguilar are bringing life to his latest creation.
Using 15-foot radius industrial spools as wheels and scrap metal parts he found at a nearby machine shop, Bradford has welded, bent, compressed and scrapped an oversized rickshaw and a working, free-swinging rickshaw runner together. If all goes according to plan, the 20-foot-tall metal man he constructed will appear to be running the rickshaw, but in reality the contraption is driven by two motorcycle engines, one to power the vehicle and the other used to steer.
Metal Artist Mark "Scrapdaddy" Bradford, top, and helper Rey Aguilar roll out Bradford's newest creation in front of his metal shop and studio in the Heights. The car is built entirely of discarded scrap metal Bradford found at a machine shop.
Bradford and Aguilar roll the massive metal leviathan in front of the studio and push it down Allen Street for its first test drive, which proves successful.
"I wish I had more time, because now I have to learn to drive it," Bradford said laughing. With an impending deadline fast approaching he still has a lot of hours to put in before he can say "finished."
Since 1988, the 47-year-old metal worker, originally from Baton Rouge, has had an entry for Houston's Art Car Parade and as long as metal yards keep pumping out scrap, Bradford will have the tools he needs to make art cars.
"Like when you were a kid, the more Legos that you would have, the bigger things you could make," said Bradford. "Living in Houston, the fourth largest industrial city, there's all kinds of scrap metal to work with."
Bradford's "The Char Car" will join 269 other entries in the 2013 Art Car Parade Saturday May 11 at 1 p.m. before an expected crowd of 300,000 lining Allen Parkway to see the parade in its 26th year. This year's parade route starts on Allen Parkway and Waugh, travels eastbound, curves around The Heritage Society on Bagby Street, then comes up the other side making its way to Shepherd Drive.
"It's anything on wheels," according to Jonathan Beitler, who does marketing and public relations for The Art Car Show. "Bicycle groups that put flair on their bikes, or a roller skating club or contraptions placed on golf-cart frames."
Add in regular street cars, such as those belonging to California artist David Best, who will have at least two cars in this year's parade. The cars titled "Faith" and "Milan Car" have taken honors in the parade years before, but both will be featured again in this year's parade and can be seen on display at The Art Car Museum in the Heights.
The most distinctive feature about "Faith," which started out as a 1984 Camaro, is the mounted cape buffalo head acting as an oversized hood ornament, coming from where the grill should be. The Camaro part of the car basically serves as a canvas, as the body has been woven seamlessly with a myriad of trinkets from bumper to bumper. He-Man action figures and billiard balls find a way to harmonize on one part of the car, while other objects such as primate skulls, Mardi-Gras beads and key chains with Virgin Marys on them line other areas.
The two art cars, and others like it in the Best collection, have trail blazed for an enclave of emulators from beginner to professional artist alike, but a purity for something raw is sometimes best left to the novice.
The Art Car Parade got started with The Orange Show. "They adopted the theme of building something beautiful with found and recycled material: 'I found this in a scrap yard and I want to bring it to life' or 'it's something I didn't have to pay for,'" says Beitler.
"It's for the untrained artist," says Beitler. "Anyone can do it, but they actually did it."
Bob Wink decided to dress up as Colonel Sanders and drive a car resembling a drumstick he named "Fried Chicken."
"Six years ago I had someone mention that it was the weekend for the art car parade," says Wink. "I went and sat on the sidelines... really enjoyed all the cars and right away knew that the sidelines of the parade was not the place to be."
Wink immediately started working on an art car, which exists on a go-cart frame. Rather than an avant-garde smorgasbord of crafts glued to the body, Wink went with a theme that he changes every two years. First, an alligator car, then a guitar with himself playing Elvis and driving from inside the sound hole.
But this year, like last year, Wink's Colonel Sanders driving a drumstick isn't meant to just be seen, but heard.
"The car has a sound system and as I'm going down the parade I play the chicken dance and have 300,000 people doing the chicken dance as I go through the parade route," Wink said.
Props are also part of Wink's ensemble. Not only does he don the famous Col. Sanders' white suit, cane and Kentucky bow-tie, he carries with him a bucket of fried chicken and has configured a miniature remote controlled art car to resemble his fried chicken car.