Other artists have made little race cars and motorcycles by welding leftover gears, nuts and bolts together in clever ways, but SoCal artist Cozmic Joe Filardi manages to add movement and even drama to each of his creations.
One piece stands out among the wheelie-popping gassers and powersliding flat-track racers: a 3½-foot-long motorcycle ridden by a character we’ll call Rebar Man. The man is obviously in a hurry, hunched forward, hell-bent for speed, perhaps desperate to make a date with Welded Woman. From his piston-head to his rebar keister, the man is at the limit of what his junkyard bike can muster. He is telling a story. At the same time, every piece that makes up the sculpture has its own story, right down to the inline-four that powers Rebar Man’s motorcycle with exposed small-bore pistons.
“The pistons are from British motorcycles, Triumph pistons, probably from a 650 from a million years ago,” Cozmic said.
The crank below the pistons is a camshaft from an ancient Maserati. The gas tank is an old chromed bumper from an American land yacht. And the wheels are anchor chain guides from an old boat. All the pieces are made from parts Cozmic has been collecting for more than 40 years.
“People give me stuff all the time like, ‘Hey Cozmic, I left a bucket of crap behind your shop!’ A lot of times I gotta throw half the stuff out because it’s not useful but, through sorting it all out I’ve sort of developed a feel for what to keep, what’s gonna be useable, that sort of thing, and this is a direct result of it.”
A pair of desktop slingshot dragsters feature header pipes made from AC Delco spark plugs. A wheelie-pulling gasser has a blower made from an old metal meat grinder – its driver has a spinal column made from a con rod connected to a head made out of an old piston. Some cars have small transmission gears as wheels, others have wheel bearings.
“Like this piece, it’s a rat rod doin’ a wheelie. The blower on the motor is a meat grinder, probably, from the sixties. This piston, you can see, this piston has a valve stuck in it. I’ve had that thing for 25 years I got it out of my mechanic. It was laying around his shop and I’ve been waiting forever to have a project for it. The motor blew up. That one and this piece here with an actual driver, (it’s all) Big Daddy Roth-type stuff.”
Roth and his era are an obvious inspiration to Cozmic.
“Every hot rod guy alive knows Big Daddy Roth, (he created) that crazy cartoon (Rat Fink) with the teeth and tongue hangin’ out. I wanted to touch on that old nostalgia thing. The ’60s and early ’70s mark a period unlike any other. And I don’t think that’ll ever die. You know? It was a period in time. I mean, how many kids today relive that, think that era is cool? The era of the slingshot dragster, the era of the gasser, the chopper? I mean, Easy Rider came out like ’69 or something like that. There’s kids building choppers today. It’s just an amazing thing.”
And that’s the inspiration for the pieces Cozmic makes.
Cozmic had a small table at last weekend’s Grand National Roadster Show offering his creations to the public. It was his first car show after decades of selling his wares at more traditional art shows.
“I’ve been doing sculptures and trophies for motorcycle and car events for a long time,” he said. “This show marks a new beginning for me, like a next level. I’ve been welding for 40 years-plus and this is a pretty big deal for me, so I’m excited.”
It’s a different crowd, for sure, compared with the art shows.
“Hot rod guys are a lot of fun. They have a sense of humor, as do motorcycle guys. And they all get a kick out of what I make it out of. It’s just a lot of fun and that’s what I’m really after is to enjoy it. I think that hot rods and motorcycles deserve a lot more art credit than they get. Go to an art museum and a lot of it is crappy. Go to a car show and you see stuff that guys have really spent time and talent creating – all the paint, all the motor work, the interiors, the shapes, colors, it’s just amazing. Really amazing.”
So he kind of bridges the gap between the art world and the hot rod-building world?
“Yeah, I’d buy that.”
You can buy one of these by contacting Cozmic at firstname.lastname@example.org. Imagine having one on that big oak desk in your office. All the other executives would be jealous. And you’d enjoy looking at it all day long. As they said in Damned Yankees, “Ya gotta have art!”