French artist Etienne Franzak lives in the Alps, where he skilfully whittles pieces of wood in his workshop, turning raw planks into automotive art worthy of a gallery. So far, he’s created a Morgan Three-Wheeler, a Belly Tank and an Auto Union. And has big plans for four more sculptures next year.
The legendary race cars made from wood
Etienne, we love your wooden sculptures. Could you tell us more about them?
[Laughs]. They’re unique. It’s not my first job. I was an economist before but two years ago I decided to quit and work by myself. I spent a lot of time in the workshop learning how to carve wood. My inspiration is automotive: race cars, motorcycles and custom culture. Two years ago, I decided to create my first sculpture. It was a Morgan Three-Wheeler pedal car made out of ash. But this is such a lot of work. I took it to Malvern, England, to the Morgan factory, to present myself and my work. And I had a very good welcome. After that, I made the Belly Tank. It’s a half-scale sculpture in wood. I want them to catch the eyes when you see them in a gallery.
Are they all one-offs?
Every car I’ve made so far is a unique piece. Because the buyer wants to have a bespoke sculpture. It’s very special. Maybe in a few years I can do the same piece if I have a commission.
How long does it take to make each one?
The Belly Tank took two-and-a-half months. For the Auto Union, my latest piece, I’m on the last week, and that’s taken three months from drawing to conception. I work the whole week on it, from Monday to Sunday.
What’s your next project?
Very interesting question. I did the Auto Union because I saw this car at Goodwood. I’m interested in this era of racing. So, I’ve decided to next work on the Bugatti, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Mercedes of the same year. The four cars of the 1936 championship. This is what I’ll work on next year.
How do you feel when you’ve spent a lot of time making these sculptures, and then you sell it?
[Laughs] It’s very difficult. It’s a dilemma. I spend so many hours on the sculptures. And the final product is perfect. I don’t want to sell something that has faults. So, I put many hours into making it perfect. But I also need to make money from it. When I finish all the cars, I spend one week with them to take special photographs. For instance, I take them to interesting locations that tells more of a story behind them. For the Auto Union, I’ve just returned from Monaco, where I took some photos of the car as it would have looked in 1936 when Bernd Rosemeyer crashed in front of the casino.