In a celebration of fine craftsmanship and traditional Japanese artistry, Lexus has created the world’s first tattooed car. This strictly one-of-a-kind Lexus UX compact SUV has been designed and created by leading London tattoo artist Claudia De Sabe.
Using a pure white car as her “canvas” and a Dremel drill tool in place of a fine tattooing needle, Claudia produced a sweeping design featuring koi carp along the entire length of the vehicle. The koi is a motif familiar from traditional Japanese art, representing qualities of good fortune and perseverance.
The Dremel tool was used to drill away the surface paint and expose the metal underneath to create the complex pattern, and then applied five litres of genuine Lexus car paint by hand to bring out the details. As a finishing touch, she used gold leaf to create highlights and give the design a stronger 3D effect, before the whole vehicle was given a protective lacquer coating so that it can be driven on the road.
Read more: How to tattoo a car: a step by step guide
It was the first time Claudia had applied her skills to metal rather than human skin and she found both similarities and new challenges in the unique commission.
“When you tattoo a person, you have to think about the muscles and tissue beneath the skin. With the car it was about the way the bodywork changes shape over the framework,” said Claudia, who was assisted in her work by her Japanese-born husband Yutaro.
The process took six months to complete from the initial drawings, with the “tattooing” accomplished over five eight-hour days of intensive work. It was physically demanding, with the vibration of the drill and working with an object that, unlike a human customer, couldn’t be moved into a comfortable position as the design progressed. Where any small slips in a human tattoo can quite easily be worked or coloured into the pattern, the “engraving” with the drill required absolute precision.
The tattooed car doesn’t have a price tag, but it’s estimated the bespoke work would cost upwards of £120,000.
The tattooed car stands as a tribute to the takumi craftsmanship that is applied to every Lexus, witnessed in design details and flawless finishes achieved with human skills perfected through years of dedicated training. Similarly, Lexus embraces traditional Japanese aesthetics in its vehicle designs, in elements such as the UX’s washi paper-grain cabin trims and the seamless merging of the interior and exterior through the front screen, echoing the engawa architectural features of Japanese homes.