American Iron - Drawn to Speed: The Automotive Art of John Lander (2015)

Drawn to Speed: The Automotive Art of John Lander (2015)


American Iron

This is a look at the American automobile. From the cars bootleggers drove to chauffeur-driven limousines, these are some cars that caught my attention, and the stories that go with them.

“Derham Cadillac”

On May 8, 2004, I was at my vendor space for the British Car Day event at the Chateau Élan winery. A gentleman stopped by and spent some time studying the illustrations I had on display. He explained that he wanted a painting of his 1952 Cadillac Derham limousine. He hadn’t been able to find an artist who combined cars and people to his satisfaction. We exchanged cards and he went on his way. The following week, I received a letter from that gentleman, Dr. Freeman. He commissioned me to do a painting, and we arranged a meeting so that I could see his car.

Dr. Freeman’s car was a very handsome Derham custom bodied limousine. The car had the well-known Derham padded top, which eliminated the rear quarter windows. Dr. Freeman went over the details that he wanted in the picture and this is the finished result.

Dr. Freeman, who lived close to the Chateau Élan, just happened to be there during British Car Day, by happy chance.

“57 Bel Air”

For me, this is the classic 1950s Chevrolet. In 1955, the all-new small block V8 was introduced. This engine, along with all new styling, ended the image of Chevrolet as the older man’s car. The ’55 was advertised as “The Hot One.”

The styling of the ’55 was good, but I think the ’57 really got it right. The tasteful fins with the ribbed brushed aluminum inserts are a great feature of the Bel Air.

Doing this illustration of the ’57 Bel Air turned out to be a good move on my part. From January 2005 until October of 2008, I worked for a picture framing shop near my home. The lady who owned the shop kindly let me use a small wall space to display my artwork. This picture of the ’57 Bel Air was the first piece of my artwork purchased by a framing customer.

“Guns, Girls & Bootleg Booze”

In the years just before World War II, the cars most moonshine runners drove were 1938 through 1940 Ford V8 Coupes. The solid axle, transverse sprung cars just out-handled most softly sprung cars with independent front suspension.

I had been thinking about doing a picture of a bootlegger’s coupe for a long while. I just needed a good story idea.

One day, I was sitting on a stool at my favorite bar when a woman walked by wearing a long white Old West duster. Her name was Stacy, and she was perfect for the picture that was taking shape in my head.

So while Stacy stands guard, the white lightning is unloaded—here is “Guns, Girls & Bootleg Booze.”

“Custom Cadillac”

As the years before World War II were running out, some interesting designs were taking shape. The 1939-41 Lincoln Continentals came on the market, and Howard “Dutch” Darrin’s custom Packard convertibles were the talk of Hollywood.

Bohman & Schwartz was a full service coachbuilding facility in Pasadena. The shop did everything on site: metal forming, paint, upholstery—the works. In this ideal setting, the design for the two custom Cadillacs took shape. The starting point was the purchase of two series ’62 Cadillac Coupes. The tops were removed, the bodies were mildly sectioned, and the wide doors were cut down front to back. A hand formed, raked, two-piece windshield completed the long, low look.

In the late summer of 2001, my youngest son, Geoff, suggested listing a few illustrations on eBay. The Cadillac was one of these. As sometimes happens, everything fell into place. While surfing the net, Christian Bohman’s grandson, Jim, spotted the Cadillac illustration and purchased it right away!