Automotive customizing subcultures are strange, glorious things that seem to arise from one odd detail and then grow into a massive movement, incomprehensible to anyone on the outside. Think Stance, Donk, Bosozuku, Rat Rods, Lowriders, you get it. Today I’d like to propose a new one.
My idea is based on the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi, which is the process of repairing broken pottery and ceramics with gold. The basic idea behind it is that damage and repair are part of an object’s history, and should be honored, rather than hidden.
This meshes well with the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which accepts and embraces imperfections and flaws. Personally, I find myself very drawn to imperfect things, repaired things. I genuinely like the idea of objects (especially cars) having rich, long lives that incorporate repairs and rebuilding, and I think knowledge of these repairs and rebirths actually add to the appeal of the car, rather than detracting from it. While I can certainly appreciate a concours-grade perfect restoration, I don’t necessarily value it above a well-worn and happily used car.
So, with these ideas in mind, here’s what I think a KintsuKar-customized car would be:
• Most likely Japanese, but I don’t really see any reason why any other type of car wouldn’t work
• The car, prior to its KintsuKar transformation, should have suffered some pretty significant damage, especially body damage. This can be accident damage, severe rust, missing panels and parts, etc.
• The repairs to the car should be done with care and thoroughness, but also be obvious. The repaired parts should ideally be in a contrasting color (gold would be the KintsuKar ideal, but I think anything could work) and stitches and seam-work and filled-in parts should all be obvious and in the contrasting color. The more of this, the better.
• If a body panel can be repaired/beaten/etc., that is preferable to replacing the panel. Repaired patches and beaten areas should be emphasized with the selected ‘repair’ color.
• Adding damage/repairs is fine if it helps the overall aesthetic, but, conceptually, the car needs to start off with damage. Damaging a pristine car solely to make it a KintsuKar is not ‘allowed.’
I think that about covers the basics. I’d like to leave the types of cars pretty open here, because I think KintsuKars can work well for anything — forgotten, rusting Subaru 360s or rolled Skylines or an Acura Integra formerly owned by an idiot. I want a car customization movement that focuses on giving assumed-dead cars a new shot at life, even beyond other worthy second-lives like LeMons racing.
My esteemed collegue Freddy pointed out that this idea was sort of like Drift-Stitching, the ziptie-based body-panel repair method used by many drifters. And he’s right — it is like that, in the sense of treating a repair with pride, as a scar you’re proud to show off because it holds a great story. So, if it helps, you can think of this as the Drift Stitch practice expanded to a whole aesthetic.
I think creative and talented people could do some dramatic things with this idea — gold-painted bondo patches, interesting metal-stapling and stitching methods, obvious and unhidden weld beads, special tires with fake gold seam lines, rows of contrasting-color rivets, and so on.
So, there you go. I hope someone out there who’s dealing with a wrecked car will be inspired to give this a try; if anyone does, please let me know, so I can cover the crap out of the build. I really think the results could be pretty fantastic.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.