Cristian’s memory of primary school is of drawing. He would sit and draw cars, cars he had seen or cars he imagined. An escape from reality, Cristian worked hard to replace his 9-5 with drawing and in the process, found a new escape. His yellow 1978 Corvette Stingray.
“The smell of fuel, the fumes. The noise. I sit at lights and it shakes like an earthquake. You put your foot down and it feels loud enough to shatter the closest windscreen,” says Cristian.
The lightning bolt hit when he was 12. Flicking through stations on a dull afternoon, channel surfing ceased as buffed chrome and swollen fenders beamed from the TV. Defining his assortment of interests, Cristian had discovered Overhaulin’, and muscle cars. The television show propelled Chip Foose from hot rod hero to cable TV celebrity, Cristian had found a hero. Someone who had taken his hobby of drawing cars and turned it into a career, and international repute. Overhaulin’ would become a permanent fixture in his life.
“The first episode I saw Foose rebuilt a ’67 Mustang fastback, black with silver stripes. It was my moment where I thought. ‘You can become famous by doing something like that?’ That was pretty much the initial glimpse I had of Chip Foose and it is how I got hooked.”
Cristian was first introduced to his father around 15. His dad pulled up in a 1973 Mach 1 Mustang, in red and black. An Overhaulin’ episode where Foose plied his trade to the same model rang in Cristian’s head, and the 2Fast2Furious bedroom posters were quickly torn down in favour of the thick hips and fat rubber.
He was a muscle car convert.
At 17 on a trip to California exploring his passion, a Huntington Beach tattoo shop would mark Cristian with his hero’s signature, inked in Sharpie by Foose at his workshop hours before. Returning the next day to show his hero, Foose and his wife were speechless.
The yellow ‘78 Stingray betrays a brace of vintage Ford Mustang’s that previously occupied Cristian’s garage. With all the cues of a Chip Foose built street machine, motivated by a throaty 383 Chevrolet V8, the soundtrack matches the visual. The car looks most at home cruising by the coast, body work flexing, engine marching through gears; windows down with sand and spray in the background. It’s the kind of car capable of making a grey seaside town feel like Miami.
“I love the idea of a raw car. I like to hear it, loud. A hand built motor you can hear going through gears. When you downshift it burbles, you can feel it through the steering wheel. You know it goes really good in second gear. Or you love the way it squeaks the tyres when your turn left”. The connection to a car, by Cristian’s reckoning, is in the cars peculiarities. “You put it together; you’re constantly thinking ‘what’s that noise?’, ‘What’s that smell?’ Looking at gauges for pressures and temperatures. All these little things in the back of your head. You say that to someone who doesn’t know about cars and they say ‘that’s sounds awful!’ but I think that’s why we love them. I can get in no matter how the days going it will make me feel better,” he says.
Via his business Cris Cross Art, Cristian creates hand drawn portraits of cars. Drawing what they are or what they could be. He captures your moment with your car, a freeze frame of the connection people make to their passion.
“What I do, it allows me to get in touch with so many enthusiasts and genres of cars. It’s almost selfish. I do it because I want to get involved with the car, know more about it, see it in person and connect with it. Cars I could never afford or might never buy but still appreciate.”
His experience in sculpting the lines of dream cars on paper and interacting with other owners has given him a unique interpretation of what draws people to their automotive niche. “There is a lot of joy and satisfaction in drawing. You owe it to the car to do it justice. What people likes seems like a mix of what you thought was cool when you were a little kid and what you think today is impossible to get, what you wouldn’t see unless you made the effort to create or acquire it.” For Cristian, it is bag fat muscle bodies. Ford Cobra’s, E-Type Jaguars, Corvettes. Long raked hoods filled with cubes, bubble cabins and staunch body styles, slung low over thick rubber. The kind of looks that catch you from any angle.
As you might have guessed, Cristian’s favourite piece of the Stingray is its look. It’s the kind of car that demands you stop mucking around with your socket set and just shut up and appreciate.
“I will take a break and close the bonnet. Sit on the ground in front of the car with my arms behind my back, I just stare at it. I love the way the front guards fold in towards the bonnet and go back up. It’s like looking at a featherweight boxer with perky shoulders and little traps ready to jab. “It looks like someone has grabbed clay and started sculpting it into the way you would picture a woman’s body. The shoulders and little waist, hips. A very elegant design that is at the same time aggressive, if you dress it up a certain way.”
The kind of car that takes a little longer to service, for good reason.