The elaborate chrome-plated exhaust manifold is primarily visual. It actually causes some back pressure, thus keeping the car idling when standing still, slowing the motor when moving, and keeping the noise
down a few decibels. But it is certainly the visual evidence that you are looking at an organic thing.
The car is a composite of parts from many places. Very few of the parts were originally manufacture for cars. The carburetor is a common enough car variation.
The battery is from a motorcycle, as are the spring and shock assemblies. The hydraulic system is of an aircraft design. The racing bicycle wheels, which the aircraft design. The racing bicycle wheels, which the aircraft hydraulic system drives, cant inward toward the turn, the inside wheel canting more than the outside one, evidence of the wheels’ bike origins—they lean into a turn. The transmission is industrial, of the same sort you might find on a conveyor belt. There is an eight-inch disc brake of the sort usual to cars, but this one brakes the drive line before the differential; there are no brakes on the wheels. The clutch is centrifugal with no gear changes.
The frame is of cold steel struts homogeneously welded (with welding seams carefully ground back to the rectangle) which structure an air frame determined by accommodation to the motor parts in cooperation with a
sculptural image of elongated triangles. The skeletal structure of the frame and the motor parts are somewhat similar to an anatomical chart, the parts fitting together like a body.
The paint job has a gray lacquer base coat under a Murano glaze.
Murano is a pigment of minute, transparent crystals sprayed on in the same lacquer medium as the undercoat. The result is a very luminous gray; on the surface that reflect a highlight there is a greenish yellow glow, and on the shadow sides the gray is lavender, the crystal having broken the gray color to both the sweet and sour sides of the spectrum. (The first trial paint job had been white. The white had forced too great a contrast with the blacks and chromes, but Potts still wanted it to be neutral, not infer an obvious symbol by virtue of its color, so he tried a black and gray, and then gave it the Murano coat which haloized it and heightened its jewel-like preciosity.)
For years the commercial designers of cars used tantalizing symbols of animals, usually dragonesque or shark like, incorporating the lights and grill assemblies into staring eyes and grimacing mouths, but this
reference to a totemic ancestor of the machine-beast was only skin deep; the impression was only the shape of the shell. The working parts were ordered by the
exigencies of the half-automated fabrication process and, with a few notable exceptions, had the look of that which is normally concealed. In Pott’s car the look of the vital parts is of obvious importance; the aerodynamic accessories will not conceal it, and besides it is to be regarded as a completed work without any body cover. Pott’s objective was to make his car really look like its actual mechanical function. The bilateral symmetry of most animal, insect and bird physiology is likely to dominate the thinking of anyone trying to build an object which will move about independently.
This is a man-car.
The artist of this generation who never lived in a world where the horse was a universally recognized symbol of man, has no need to symbolizes a beast of burden, but instead symbolizes man himself moving across the land with wheels. Probably the centaur in classical mythology seemed less freakish in a culture where feeling almost part of a horse was a daily experience of that majority who rode horses. Now the car is our familiar. We try to understand and sympathize with our car, but we naturally tend to fantasize a more idea model.
Prior to retiring to the shop to pursue the game of car, Potts was showing pieces which could be characterized as kinetic sculpture though they had no moving parts- that’s to say, they could be moved, indeed were
built to incite the act of moving them, even in defiance of the “do not touch” sign;
they rocked. Still another piece from the pre-car game period was called Up Tight—Out of Sight (1966), and was the first one of his sculptures that had moving parts. One did have to activate it by touching it, however, it was about eight feet square, of beautifully crafted and inlaid wood, perhaps a little lower than a normal coffee table, but suggestive of that article. When someone touched its edge it opened in the middle revealing a fur edge, and quietly closed again. Or one could push it, in which case it would move up and down, the fur edges brushing each other as they passed. Perhaps the car has become as complex as it is because the subject kept opening up possibilities to be resolved.
Though cars have figured in the fantasy life of many Americans for years it has largely been left out of art.
Moreover the fantasy is about a machine that would give one the thrill of engagement, and the power of controlling wild or demanding thing. The commercial car has increasingly become a boat like thing, built for aloof comfort rather than challenge and engagement. To provide a car that began to suggest the machine-beast of our fantasy it had to be rebuilt from the ground up. Potts’s car not only provides the needed model, but suggests a further extension of the visionary daydream, a space vehicle, an automated scout for other-worldly reconnaissance.