MOE_autoerotic

Photograph courtesy of Liz Cohen

Five ratchet-wielding years, one East German automobile, and several coats of bikini wax — for Liz Cohen, it’s been a long, sticky trip. The performance and documentary artist has built one of the most improbable custom cars in the country, and has the pictures to prove it.

Most recently on display at Arizona’s Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Cohen first threw her Bodywork project into gear by cutting a 1987 Trabant 601 Deluxe in half. Then she ditched its 26-horsepower, 2-stroke motor for a 305 small-block engine nine times more powerful and rebuilt the vehicle from the wheels up.

The result is a former-Communist lawnmower that becomes a 1973 Chevy El Camino muscle car at the flip of a few switches, “just like some kind of incredible Frankenstein,” Cohen says.

Thanks to hydraulics, the Trabantamino grows 14 inches in height and 6 feet in length when it goes Camino. Coiled Teflon brake and fuel lines and dovetailing fiberglass side panels extend and contract as it changes shape. The specially built drive shaft telescopes four times, and still runs at full speed without vibrating. “It’s this weird thing that doesn’t fit in but figures out a way to get accepted,” she says.

Which is an apt description of the artist’s whole journey. When she began working at Scottsdale’s Elwood Body Works, Cohen had little experience with tools and was entering the mostly male world of custom car builders and owners. But rather than try to pass as a dude, she buffed up her own body and became a bikini model.

What does the custom car scene think of Cohen and her wild ride? “Auto shop owners get so excited when I tell them about the project that they give me discounts and things for free,” she says. But the real test comes this summer, when she’ll pull the Trabantamino into lowrider competitions across the country, jump in front in a skimpy outfit, and see if her monster wins any prizes.

>> Liz Cohen: myspace.com/trabantamino

From the column Made on EarthMAKE 14, page 21 – Eric Smillie.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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