MISTER CARTOON’S 1988 Nissan Hardbody Blue Dream
Classic lowriding was becoming played out in Los Angeles in the late 80s scene, but the mini truck world caught fire. Mini trucks were light, affordable, sturdy and easy to modify. Everybody wanted to get their hands on the Nissan Hardbody in ’88.
Street tastemakers and neighborhood hustlers made these trucks famous in the hood—especially the Nissan Hardbody. It was only in production from 1986 to 1997 and was the successor to the Datsun 720. The Hardbody came straight out of Nissan’s styling studios in San Diego and sold worldwide. This new mini truck revolutionized the car scene in Southern California as a sporty mid-sized truck that you could customize at the dealership—rare at the time—with a choice of candy-colored paints, deep dish Dayton wire wheels, plenty of room in the bed for bass speakers and a shape that easily lent itself to hydraulics. It was the choice vehicle for showcasing one’s own personal style on the boulevard.
Old school hydraulics were used to alter the height and stance of the trucks, then tilt beds were born and it shocked the world. The mini trucks with their customized beds could dance at car shows and in front of night clubs all night long.
When I graduated from San Pedro High School in 1988 these trucks were far from my grasp. Guys I looked up to were rolling them in the streets and I would dream about how I would build mine and what color I would paint it.
In 2010 I manifested one of my dreams when I bought a candy cobalt blue 1988 Nissan Hardbody that I found on the east side of town. It also had a tuck-and-roll interior done by the best interior guy in the business. It was in this guy’s garage, which was like a time capsule from the 80s. I could see that only top-of-the-line materials were used because it looked brand-new even then, as it does today.
I put my own stamp on it by adding deep dish Dayton Wire Wheels with a Zenith chrome knock-off. I added hydraulics—a tilt bed with four batteries to keep it elegant, a navy blue canvas top and a large wrap sun roof in the bed’s SnugTop. In the interior I added a vintage Nardi wood steering wheel and Alpine heads to pump the Rockford Fosgate subs and woofers.
This truck has 70 thousand original miles on it. It’s been a homebody Hardbody—kept in a garage its entire life, never in an accident, smoked in, or ever left the state. This truck is a part of lowriding history as it represents a time in the 80s, when automotive style expression was lawless and cruising meant freedom.
For the BEYOND THE STREETS virtual Art Fair on NTWRK they commissioned me to paint a mural on the hood to make it even more popping. We are doing a contest on December 5 & 6 to give the mini truck and a tattoo session away.
I’ve had this truck for ten years but it feels like it’s been with me my entire life. It’s really hard for me to part with - but this year has been a wild ride and if it can bring someone else as many memories and happiness as it brought me then its doing its job.
Someone is going to luck out and have some new wheels to flex in – and I see a clown tattoo in the future…
-MISTER CARTOON, Los Angeles, 2020
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The Downlow:* 16-by-8-inch Dayton wheels on Falcon rubber tires
* Hydraulic suspension: 2 pumps, 5 batteries
* Chrome grill and side mirrors chrome cowl
* Candy paint: House of Kolor cobalt blue over a silver flake
* Mural done with House of Kolor candy PPG urethane enamel by MISTER CARTOON
* Steering wheel and shift knob by Nardi
* Alpine head unit powered by Rockford Fosgate amps and subwoofers
* Retro Mitsubishi car phone
* Tuck and roll interior by Mark from Elegance Auto Interiors in Upland
* Custom bed shell window hand done by MISTER CARTOON
About MISTER CARTOON:
Mister Cartoon’s life story is now the subject of the smash hit Netflix Documentary LA Originals, currently airing in over 50 countries.
Born in Los Angeles in 1969 and raised in the harbor area, Cartoon graduated from high school in San Pedro in 1988.
Mister Cartoon’s expressive style of art is universally recognized and embodies the true soul of Los Angeles street culture. Beginning his career as a graffiti artist in the 1980’s, he gained notoriety for his album cover designs, logos, advertisements, custom lowrider car murals and his one-of-a-kind tattoos.
Mister Cartoon’s richly detailed, hand-rendered designs are inspired by the style of tattoos that originated in the streets of 1970s’ Los Angeles – fine line Chicano black and grey custom tattoo art. Mister Cartoon took this style of tattooing and brought it into mainstream culture. He is known as a pioneer in the tattoo world as one of the first artists to gain global notoriety by tattooing celebrities, athletes, musicians, and actors alike.
His tattoos have been commissioned by untold numbers of icons of the music and film industry from Dr Dre, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Skylar Grey, Christina Aguilera, Eminem, Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, Shia Labeouf, Pharrell, Ryan Phillippe, Usher, Kanye west, YG, Nas, to DJ Premier and Slash, just to name a few.
His work also adorns professional athletes such as CC Sabathia, Amar’e Stoudemire, Lewis Hamilton, Kobe Bryant, Jonathan Quick, Carlos Boozer, Matt Barnes, Paul Rodriguez, Carl Crawford, Terry Kennedy, and has come to represent strength, faith, and ferocity on the competition field.
The bonds formed with clients in the tattoo chair have led to some longstanding relationships and unique collaborations. Cartoon’s private tattoo studio, Skid Row Tattoo itself has become a cultural landmark. From Thailand to New York, Japan and the United Kingdom, Cartoon’s tattoo residencies continue to take his cultural message worldwide.
Mister Cartoon has partnered with companies such as Microsoft, Nike, Vans, Levis, Supreme, RVCA, Diesel, T-Mobile, Axe, Target, Universal Pictures and Fox Studios in a variety of successful collaborations.
He has been featured in numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Wall St Journal, Rolling Stone, Complex, XXL, GQ and many more.
His work has been an integral part of music culture, producing album artwork, logos and identities for the likes of Shady Records, Eazy-E, Paul Wall, Clipse, Cypress Hill, Wale, Zac Brown Band and many more.
Cartoon’s custom-muraled car collection and artwork has been featured internationally from art shows in London and Japan to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. His style and art span a vast number of artistic mediums.
Mister Cartoon is continually driven to give back to the community that has supported him. He is able to do this through you outreach programs and collaborations with organizations that are active in the community.
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All images above are by Steve Zeitzoff.