PHANTOM

Artist: W.T. Burge

Category: Art Car, Contraption 

Base Vehicle: 

Year Created: 

Featured in Houston Art Car Parade:

From the Artist: Its form is inspired by the stunning Bugatti Atlantic Coupe of the ’30s, Burge said, but he colored way outside traditional lines to create his interpretation of the car. Burge launched into the project after being shown a picture of a 1937 model, and set out to upgrade Jean Bugatti’s design in ways the designer likely never dreamed about. 

“The car looked so sinister that I just had to do something about it,” Burge said. “The Phantom is my interpretation of how the coupe looks to me.” The most notable modification to the original form is the trio of menacing-looking, gargoyle-like heads sprouting from the front end. One fender is adorned with the “Bird,” and the “Dog” is molded into the other fender. At the center, with the top portion integrated with the long V-shaped hood, is the “God of the Car.” Shrouding the rear fenders are the ominous-looking faces of the “Twins.”

The eyes of the heads glare with a cool-blue illumination. The effect is created with diffused LED lighting on frosted glass. Compared to the front, the rear looks somewhat traditional, sculpted in classic-1930s boattail fashion.

“I love boattails, I don’t think there’s anything better than that,” Burge said. “A lot of the cars I’ve worked on are inspired by old traditional stuff.”

Power to the 1,900-pound monster is provided by a Volkswagen Type 3 four-cylinder engine. While the Phantom may look more like a sculpture than a practical street machine, it’s roadworthy. In fact, Burge has driven it from Houston to Los Angeles and back.

“It’ll do about 105 top-end,” he said, “and it’ll cruise at about 80.”

Access to the two-seat cockpit is through a roof hatch and, once inside, room is tight. Surprisingly, Burge said it’s a comfortable cruiser with a “beautiful” ride. The main drawbacks are that its skin is porous in the rain and, because of the direction the scales face, when the car is moving at about 90 mph — especially coming out of mountains — passengers’ eardrums pop constantly. “It kind of creates a suction inside of the car,” he said.