Throughout the decades, there’s been an inextricable relationship between surfers and eccentric cars. This love affair is rooted in utility. In the ’50s, termite-infested woodies provided surfers both room and board—and room for their boards—on the cheap. Bondo-spotted Volkswagen buses became the standard issue of the ’60s. Eventually, any rust bucket with wheels that could get a surfer and their blade to some waves was used, abused and customized to better fit a surfy existence.
SURFER Magazine has always been fond of these weird whips, especially ones with added flare. In the late ’50s, SURFER founder, John Severson, painted flower petals and waves all over his North Shore jalopy. The car’s name, “Sunset Special”, was tagged in one of his whimsical fonts across its doors. There’s a picture of this car in SURFER’s very first issue with a couple of D-finned logs popping out of its back window.
In the late ’60s, SURFER’s resident artist, Rick Griffin, painted psychedelic eyeballs getting barreled in cosmic lineups all over a beat-to-hell school bus. He then packed the bus full of shortboard revolutionaries and women and headed up California’s coast in pursuit of fun waves and good times. You probably remember this scene from Severson’s 1970 film, “Pacific Vibrations”.
Just when you thought the freewheeling days of surfers’ wild-style cars were dead, white-washed by neutrally monotone Sprinter vans running into the six figures, an artist like Jason Woodside comes along and throws some color back on the scene. After scoring a 1982 Mercedes Benz 240d, Woodside blasted the luxury sedan with his artistic stylings and, like a cherry on top, slapped some surf racks on its roof. The “Cortex Cruiser” was born.
SURFER recently caught up with Woodside to talk about the Cortex Cruiser, which he and our friends at Vissla are giving away. The Cortex Cruiser can be yours by clicking here.
How did you come to possess that 1982 Mercedes 240d? That car is kind of a dream machine even pre-flare. Was it hard for the previous owner to give it up?
My friends at Vissla helped sort the car and from what I hear the previous owner was a die-hard fan of Shakespeare. In regards to the make and year, this was a super specific request. I’ve always felt these cars have tons of personality. The tinted, taller windows reminded me of a hearse or limo, which was perfect for the direction.
Why the name “Cortex Cruiser”?
The Cortex Cruiser is a vessel, much like the mind and brain. The idea around the car is that it’s a brain undergoing a influx of inspiration. There’s no rhyme, reason or direction to it, it’s just sort of sporadic and reckless. It may be foggy and unclear but the unknown outcome at the other side is always exciting. It’s almost like being struck by lighting when it comes for you, you can harness this energy if you’re open to it or you can let it slip away.
Some lucky soul is going to win the Cortex Cruiser, will it be hard to say goodbye?
Nah, it won’t be so hard to say goodbye. I think this stems from doing art in the streets growing up. Chances are those street pieces would get buffed and covered up with white paint or someone else’s work, so maybe I’m conditioned to let pieces go after they’re finished. These days I’ve learned to enjoy the process much more. That said, once I’m done I like to learn from the piece that was just completed and move on to the next.
I’m sure you probably get all kinds of looks and thumbs-up when cruising–any interesting interactions and/or comments on the ride that stick out?
Ah that’s the best part of it. I had the car for a month or so during the shooting and planning process and I’d have to take it around the block a few times every few days. I got tons of positive response from the community, especially from kids that would recognize my art and would want to grab a photo or two.
Aside from the Cortex Cruiser, what’s your no-holds-barred, wildest imagination dream surf vehicle?
Definitely a flying saucer with some board racks, easy.
When painting something like a car, is there a masterplan or do you just go off the top of your head?
Just off the top of my head. I never use computers and I never plan artworks. I enjoy the art subconscious approach with color and direction.
Tell me about the Creative Kin trip down to Baja. What was it like camping and surfing with fellow artists, craftsman and surfers? Any specific tales of humor and or adventure?
Man, that was the best! There’s something to be said for a brand to nurture creativity the way Vissla does. Sales and deadlines are obvious for business, but deep down it’s a crew of lovely people with loads of passion for creativity. At the end of that road is something very genuine and inspiring. The trip itself was like one big family enjoying space and time, getting in the water and chatting around the fire. One night Superwolf[Alex Villalobos] had the boys amped in the glassing bay. That guy’s like a mad scientist with color and proportions, it was epic to witness. Thomas and I had the wave to ourselves for a sec and Donnie, Eric and I were working the punchy inside bowl at one point. Very grateful to have that experience in the memory bank.
You’re in Australia right now. Any art shows or other happenings on the horizon?
Yes, I’m in Australia right now doing a talk on arty things for a great event called Semi Permanent. In regards to the year, I’m working on some fresh stuff with Vissla for next year and have some murals in the States and Europe lined up. It will be a good one!
Enter to win the Cortex Cruiser here.
Learn more about Jason Woodside here.