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Mister Cartoon Builds Pepsi a Super Bowl Lowrider

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The Super Bowl is all about Los Angeles this year. The Rams are competing, the game is being held at the So-Fi Stadium in Inglewood, and West Coast hip hop legends Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg are performing (along with Angelino Kendrick Lamar, New Yorker Mary J. Blige, and Detroiter Eminem.) So, to keep to the theme, Pepsi recruited legendary East L.A. tattoo and airbrush artist, and top-notch builder of classic lowriders, Mr. Cartoon (Mark Machado), to create a proper car.

Of course, there were some challenges. The core one being, timing. “I literally had 18 days to build a whole car,” Cartoon told Car and Driver. Pulling it off required quick decisions and a couple shortcuts. “I had to find a car that had hydraulics already, and that wasn’t the worst project in the world.”

He said he and his team “scrolled through online ads, called friends who know backyard cars and all of that.” Including paying close attention when each car was made, because they were looking for a Chevy Impala, and different years carry different connotations in lowrider culture. And it is particularly important to a man whose daughter is named Impala. “A lot of guys who are heavy into Impalas are into the 50s now. ‘58s, ‘59s are usually king. But they wanted a rag. So, I was like, we’ve got to find a rag,” Cartoon said. “We’ve got to do something different.”

Cartoon’s first candy colored lowrider with hydraulics was a 1967 Impala fastback. So, he thought it would be cool to use a convertible from that year, to connect the project to his own story. Luckily, he found a car in Compton that was a perfect template. “It was a ’67, it was already juiced [had hydraulics], it was all together, and it looked straight,” he said. “We pulled the trigger on the car, bought it sight unseen.”

Then came the hard work: customizing the car with such a tight turnaround. “A paint job alone can take 18 months, if you’re lucky. To do it in a week was crazy,” Cartoon said. He called in favors from friends, asking them to put ongoing projects on hold. They rallied.

He got the incredible Ronnie Payán Kustomz to do the Pepsi blue candy paint job, completing the hood and trunk first so those could be shipped to Cartoon’s studio for airbrushed murals that took over 200 hours. (The mural from the hood will also appear on a limited-edition Pepsi can.)

Bowtie 61 Customs in Fresno, California, provided hard-to-find parts. Phillip Rincon of Phillips Finelines created a complex ghost pinstripe, and 714 Motorsports completed the custom interior, featuring sueded blue seats with custom cupholders, hand-woven floor mats, and a classic hand-engraved silvered plaque behind the rear seats, “paying homage to all of the lowrider car clubs out there,” Cartoon said.

mr cartoon mark machado, 1967 chevy impala

Pepsi

The finished product reads as a rolling tribute to an original American art form. But the corporate sponsorship whispers instead of screams. “It’s subtle hints all over the car,” Cartoon said proudly. “Seen but not noticed.”

Finally, it was time to film the car for Pepsi’s promotional videos and commercials. “When we shot it, I had to drive it all over East L.A. We probably looked crazy with two motorcycle cops following me. It looked like they were ready to pull me over,” Cartoon said, laughing. “But we just kept riding. And I was going crazy with the hydraulics because I had the camera truck right behind me. Back in the day, you’d get hydraulic tickets for that. They’d impound your car for that. Now, the cops were making sure no one messed with me.”

Pepsi will eventually own the car, but for now, it’s in Cartoon’s possession. “I’m going to take it to Hollywood Boulevard and drag the bumper down the street, leave my mark,” he said. “We all know how cars do when they sit or get put away somewhere. You have to get out there and run them, enjoy them. And people go crazy. When people see a car hitting hydraulics in the street, they get a big old smile. People start dancing.”

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