Here’s where it all began.

The fun begins on this plaza next to th the San Jose Museum of Art. The weather is sunny, pleasant, blue skies to the horizon, like just about every other Saturday in recent memory.

It’s true: People die of anticipation in the months leading up to Artcarfest.

Some of the cars are lined up on Market Street across from a big hotel … the one you see reflected in the windows of this minivan, a conveyance so nerdly that it could be saved only by splaying these swirls down the side. It’s way cool now.

Police investigate the sudden disappearance of hundreds of license plates from cars parked in the downtown area. (Just kidding; as far as I know no crimes were committed in the acquisition of this car’s exterior. Except for the crimes against good taste, but we’d have all been in jail if that were an actionable offense on Saturday.

Melissa’s Mona Lisa smile — art cars bring that out in her. Either that or she’s kindly plotting how to make a certain digital camera disappear.

Of critters and kids

They go together like sun and sunburn.

My digital camera, being an early model, doesn’t have the circuits to convey precisely how orange this caterpillar/stretch-taxi is.

The celebrities inside were stuffed with the usual stuffing — as opposed to the ego stuffing you get with human celebs. Far preferable.

This happy creature is called Snorky, who looks like an embarrassing third cousin of Godzilla.

One of the hallmarks of Artcarfest is the perfectly useful but unremarkable vehicle made remarkable but useless (only in comparison to its previous incarnation, of course).

Another artcar hallmark is the clever use of everyday stuff. Here’s a car whose scaly hide is made of CD-Roms.

Sometimes they’re just plain clever, like this Radio Flyer for Paul Bunyan’s 3-year-old. Sometimes the photographer gets lucky and finds a dog in the frame, making the picture even cooler.

The fish and the lobster on this car break into song and rise and fall in time with the music. The funniest happening in an afternoon full of them.

Fender mosaics can be amazingly intricate like this shark on the attack.

Most of the cars reflect the personal wealth of their owners so you’re not apt to see many sporty British supercars. But if you did have a Jaguar you’d want to put a tail on it.

There is an artcar for every age.

One of the coolest feature of downtown San Jose (the only one, really) is this fountain that shoots jets of water straight up into the air.

The kids have a great time playing in the water. These two boys were having more fun than seemed humanly possible.

Beetle mania

People have been doing crazy, inventive things to their cars pretty much from the beginning, but the artcar movement really started picking up steam in the late ’60s, when people started painting their buses and Bugs.

Here’s one with a globe on the hood that serves as a token of goodwill for visiting alien species.

I was going to put “You Are Here” on this section of the globe but got too lazy.

Yet another hallmark: The car with way too much stuff attached.

Then again, if you had this goose taking up space in the garage, you’d want to put it to the best possible use.

Sum it up in a bumper sticker

Television is drugs. And it’s clear that many car artists watch LOTS of TV.

Advice for what to do when the Boss’s Son shows up.

The love of Jesus manifests itself in many ways.

A feminist twist on some old cartoon. Not nearly as funny as it thinks it is.

… because their agents are lurking about constantly.

“The more you disapprove, the more fun it is for me.” There is this mildy amusing pretension among the artists that they’re stretching the boundaries and freaking out the squares. This creates the counterurge to approve with mad abandon, depriving them of a precious source of angst.

Always good advice.

More evidence of hippies in the vicinity.

That license plate frame says “I’d Rather Be Topless.” The artwork above seems to be in agreement.

The surface of this car is entirely covered with keyboard keys. Thank God I’m just clever enough to figure out the subtle artistic statement of using keys to create a message. (They’re arranged to form the face of Homer Simpson on the front hood).

What’s on top

The naked expanse of a car roof cries out to the artist.

What is it about dolls that makes them so terrifying?

This guy has to drive fast through suburban neighborhoods to get away from the kids waving quarters at him and demanding a double dip cone.

Part of me objects to piling a bunch of junk on a car roof and calling it art. But the M&M guy melts my objections away.

While we were watching this rhythm & blues band trot out the old standards (whose lead singer did some scary Tom Jones covers), I looked over to my right and saw this wonderful statue of Janis Joplin stuck on the roof of a car.

A coven singing ’round the ol’ stew pot. Or a scene from a Disney movie.

An angel on the roof is always good for morale. We noticed later in the day that the breeze makes the wings rise and fall. Nice.

Cadillac, Cadillac

And now, to the tune of Bruce Springsteen’s “Cadillac Ranch”…

In the early ’60s the folks at Cadillac stopped equipping their cars with huge tailfins. At least one car artist has strived to correct this error.

Cow horns on the front make any Caddy more photogenic.

This guy’s Caddy was a rolling DJ booth, complete with tons of boxes with intriguing sliders and knobs. I’m a stereo guy so I really swoon at such things.

A Cadillac hearse turned into a rolling Gothic edifice. A stunning piece of work but notably gloomier than its rollicking neighbors.