The painted Pulmonia and its proud owner. The painted Pulmonia and its proud owner.

Finding Pulmonia’s paint was a challenge

It was going to take 18,000 bottles of nail polish to get the color exactly right

In my column of December 10, 2016 I regaled the readers of this fine publication with some of the details of locating and purchasing a Pulmonia. This is the second article in the series, My Mexican Death Trap Blues.

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As of this writing, my Captured Tourist Woman has been cruising the streets of Mazatlán in her ultra-customized, gold metal-flaked Pulmonia for a couple of years now.

You may think that owning an open-air taxi equates with many hours of zany fun while meandering along Mexico’s longest malecón. If so, you’re only partially correct. The process of making it drivable, mostly reliable, reasonably safe and unmistakably flashy has been ongoing since her original purchase of this cute little fiberglass death trap.

Several weeks after the purchase we took it into what passed for a Pulmonia repair shop. This hole-in-the-wall business was a one-man operation that was recommended by a friend of a friend of my Mexican neighbor’s cousin; you know it doesn’t get any better than that.

As we went over our list of improvements he gave us a puzzled look when we requested he install a parking brake. He had difficulty believing we actually preferred a conventional parking brake to the 50-pound rock that came with the vehicle.

He was quick to point out that Pulmonias did not come with parking brakes, so therefore they were not needed. He was relieved to see the simple sketch I had prepared showing the new cross member with the brake lever mounted between the front seats.

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And he was also very pleased to take possession of the soon-to-be redundant rock. I am certain he sold it to the next person who desired an authentic Mexican parking brake.

We also required front and rear seat belts, a lockable storage compartment as well as a lockable glove box. Of course he questioned the need for more than one seat belt because Mexican law only requires the driver to be belted in.

He carefully explained to us that if we ever had an accident severe enough to require a restraint, we would all be dead anyway. I just love Mexican logic; it’s always so practical.

Since driving a plain white vehicle was out of the question, my Captured Tourist Woman searched long and hard for just the right color. Then one day after a trip to a local beauty salon, she proudly displayed her newly painted fingernails and declared the color perfect for her plastic chariot.

Her fingernails were covered in a stunning gold metal flake that positively sparkled in the sun. After a few mental calculations, I told her that we would only need 18,212 bottles of the nail polish to cover the former taxi.

A metallic color would be no problem, but this was a very heavy metal flake with large gold flakes. Undoubtedly any hot rod shop in Southern California could reproduce the desired effect, but true metal flake does not exist in our part of Mexico.

Mexico has an inordinate number of automotive paint and body shops for obvious reasons and Mazatlán is no exception. We spent two weeks going from place to place, dazzling the shop owners with my partner’s gold flaky fingernails.

Not one of the shops we encountered refused the work. They would all smile and nod enthusiastically while examining the tips of my partner’s fingers. The problems surfaced when we requested a color sample prior to actually painting the vehicle.

Ninety per cent of these confident craftsmen simply wanted us to trust their ability to achieve the desired result and beseeched us to leave the Pulmonia and come back in a couple of weeks, dreams of gringo dollars dancing in their heads.

Since both of us have lived in Mexico for more than 15 minutes, a reasonable sample was an absolute necessity.

There were only five shops that actually went to the trouble of providing a sample and even then they were a huge disappointment; lots of fine metallic particles but no gold flakes.

Just as we were despairing the lack of an experienced metal flake painter, a Mexican biker friend recommended an air brush artist named Gilberto. After viewing some of his previous work we were very impressed by his skill, artistic ability and spectacular metal flake.

He explained that he would need to get the correct materials from a Mexico City motorcycle shop; so far so good. The only downside was that he had never painted anything bigger than a motorcycle and had always used an air brush and never an automotive paint gun.

But what the hell. He managed to give us a sample that was very close to Wendy’s sparkling fingertips and we had run out of other options. Needless to say, the two-week paint job became a two-month saga but the final result was quite satisfactory and very different from any of the other 280 Pulmonias on the planet.

Additional columns recounting My Mexican Death Trap Blues will appear in future issues of this news site.

Bodie Kellogg describes himself as a very middle-aged man who lives full-time in Mazatlán with a captured tourist woman and the ghost of a half wild dog. If you wish to give him cold beer, large sacks of money or a piece of your mind, he can be reached at buscardero@yahoo.com.

Stories from our archives that you might enjoy

  • It is a nice-looking vehicle. The Tourist Woman’s not bad either.

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