Man and Machine Metroplus

Cause crafts car

Mobile Lions Blood Bank vehicle Photo: M. Karunakaran

Mobile Lions Blood Bank vehicle Photo: M. Karunakaran  

A celluloid baddie is doing his job. His weapon is an ear-splitting growl. He sounds as if a 3,000-watt amplifier has been surgically stitched into him.

Another goes about being the bad guy, silently. He looks the part. With a withering stare, flaring nostrils and twitching lips.

Who do you think is more effective?

Now, a campaign car blares out its agenda. Its sound system is piercing, causing cracks in concrete columns. As if that’s not bad enough, the message is reinforced through loud words stuck across the car’s body.

In contrast, another car just shows up and delivers the message. No sounds. No painted words. The machine is the message.

And now, which’s more effective?

Campaigns often ride on cars. And many of these car-driven campaigns don’t do much for the listener’s heart. Of course, they reach his head. They give him a migraine, I mean. They’re as atrociously loud as the poorly-etched villain. Often, just as tautological. And just as ineffective. Therefore, it’s always refreshing when cars of the latter kind come along. They tell a story, silently, aesthetically and more powerfully.

Over the decades, brands have been silently promoted through cars designed to resemble them. An interesting example is the hotdog-shaped wienermobiles in the United States. Designed with small cars and huge trucks, these metal hotdogs come in many sizes. Small. Medium. Large. Just like the hotdogs they promote. Together, they are believed to have done food major Oscar Mayer enviable good. They have also become icons of representational car design.

A more familiar example of this genre of automobile designing — for urban Indians, that is — could be the Red Bull campaign cars that carry giant-sized Red Bull cans on their backs.

Not just commercial, but social campaigns also gain steam from such automobile designs. An example is the two yellow buses employed by the Lion’s Blood Bank. They are crafted to resemble strolling lions. They prowl around Chennai looking for blood donors. Many years ago, I walked into the waiting jaws of one of these buses, struck by its leonine look.

“With permission from the traffic police, these buses are parked in public spaces. Curiosity leads people into them. Many of them donate blood. On an average, 750 units are collected every month through these two buses,” says P.G. Sundarrajan, chairman, Lions Blood Bank.

The smaller bus — more precisely, ‘the cub’ — was launched to enable the mobile blood bank to access narrow stretches in neighbourhoods.

At times, representational automobile design is just a statement of art. There is no cause beyond art. A striking illustration is the annual parade of artfully and aesthetically prepared cars in Houston. Closer home, we have Sudhakar Yadav from Hyderabad. With his team from Sudha Cars Museum, he puts in a memorable appearance every time a special occasion rolls into sight.

For one Women’s Day, he designed functional machines right out of a ladies’ handbag. For instance, a compact ran on a low-powered engine. So did a stiletto and a handbag. “These vehicles are powered by 60cc engines,” says Sudhakar.

On one Children’s Day, similarly low-powered machines came straight out of a school kid’s pencil box. Kids went on a merry drive in a sharpener, a pen and a pencil.

On World AIDS Day too, he designed a vehicle, promoting safe sex. No marks for guessing what the machine looked like.

These machines are operated in a controlled environment.

Summing up, social good is precious. Art is precious. Brand building is precious. Besides these, there is something equally precious. Happiness. And these spread it, in generous amounts.

Not just people. These vehicles must themselves be happy. Listen to their engines. Between their customary notes, they must be humming a merry tune.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2020 12:44:00 AM |

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