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Lost car art

In these days of digitalised and enhanced images being used in car advertisements the art of the hand drawn image has been lost. Back in the day, before high quality colour film and cameras, most car advertisements consisted of hand drawn images.

Pontiac's advertising campaigns in the 1960's are considered the best of the art form and had a lot to do with Pontiac's rise to the number three position in sales behind Chevrolet and Ford in the USA. Between 1959 and 1971, those advertising campaigns would be driven by the artwork of Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman-Fitz and Van, as they were known. 

Art Fitzpatrick began his career as an automotive designer and in the 1950s did advertising art for Mercury, Plymouth and Buick. Van Kaufman started his art career as a Disney illustrator. He subsequently spent time in Europe, and developed a European style in his illustration.

Their advertising art was so good and so popular that in 1965, then Pontiac General Manager John Delorean, would insist for a time that all Pontiac advertising art work be done by Fitz and Van, and that photographs not be used.

This also included Australian built Pontiacs. During their tenure providing Pontiac with advertising images, Art Fitzpatrick drew the cars and Van Kaufman drew the scenery and people. Many of their advertisements featured their initials, such was their popularity!

It was the evocative combination of dreamy and exotic locations, visually successful people and razor sharp renderings of the cars that galvanised attention. Their art appeared in Pontiac brochures and magazine ads. Those ads frequently appeared in such upscale publications as National Geographic and Life Magazine. Art Fitzpatrick's style was to illustrate Pontiacs to look even lower and wider than they already were. But his talent allowed him to do so without the cars ever looking cartoon like.

Van Kaufman passed away in 1995. Art Fitzpatrick continues to share his world class automotive art. He attends car shows and seminars, where he displays and sells his automotive masterpieces, past and present. In August of 2013 the Automotive Fine Arts Society (AFAS) recognized Art Fitzpatrick with its lifetime achievement award, presented at the Pebble Beach Concours d 'Elegance.

David Burrell is the editor of