The PV544 Project

August 2023

Drawing is usually thought of an an additive process, mark-making on a medium, but it can also be a subtractive process where material is removed to reveal the image. This is the approach I have taken with an abstract drawing on my 1959 Volvo PV544.

I bought this car in 1977 when it was wearing a thin coat of metallic brown paint, probably applied by one of the many discount painting establishments in Southern California, over several other layers. I drove the car for a few years before ignoring it for the best part of two decades before I awakened it from its slumber. I got it running, installed some new parts, reupholstered most of the interior, turning it in to a daily driver. More about its history can be found on my PV544 page.

I did some testing on a door I'd replaced on the car, using an orbital sander to get down to bare metal. As I widened my efforts I found that it had 5 layers of paint on it: gray primer, black primer, the original red, a reddish orange, and topped off with the brown. By controlling how deeply I sanded I could expose the various layers and create patterns and rivers of colors that flowed across the surface. I did not have a specific plan but let the design reveal itself to me as I sanded. Once I had a panel the way I wanted it, I sprayed it with a clear coating to keep the bare metal parts from flash rusting.

At this point, I have applied this design to the front valance, hood, roof, trunk lid, and all four fenders. I am not sure what I will do next as I need to live with this for a bit and let it speak to me.

The before
Note that I have yet to apply a treatment
to the body as it remains its brown.
Hood detail

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