Houston Matters

This space shuttle replica is the most perfectly Houston art car

Clear Lake’s Bill Viereck talks about the art car he made, a scale replica of a space shuttle mounted atop his MINI Clubman.

Bill Viereck’s scale model of a space shuttle mounted atop his MINI Clubman can often be seen driving around the Clear Lake area.

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The Houston Art Car Parade is this weekend, where dozens of creatively modified vehicles take to the streets. But one art car you might see driving around the Clear Lake area on an ordinary day has an especially fitting Houston theme.

Like many people who grew up in Greater Houston, it’s owner and creator, Bill Viereck, remembers taking numerous field trips to NASA’s Johnson Space Center as a kid.

“I’ve always been a space geek,” he said.

So, maybe it’s not surprising what vehicle he drives every day: a MINI Clubman with a nine-foot replica of the space shuttle mounted on the roof.

Clear Lake’s Bill Viereck poses with his space shuttle art car.

The shuttle is something he made and engineered himself. It’s built on a plywood base with steel structure inside and sculpted foam. It weighs 90 pounds. And, since it’s built to about 1/12th scale, it actually generates some lift as Viereck drives.

“I’ve calculated that if I go 58.3 miles per hour, that’s the same as Mach 1,” he said.

Blue reflectors mimic the glow of the space shuttle’s thrusters when struck by the beams of headlights at night.

He’s driven the shuttle car in the Art Car Parade and other events. And it’s his second space-themed art car. His first was a minivan he outfitted to look like the space shuttle.

“I did that pretty much because the profile of a Dodge Caravan looked like a space shuttle,” Viereck said.

Bill Viereck’s first space-themed art car was a Dodge Caravan made to look like a space shuttle.

His current space shuttle vehicle is quite the conversation piece. People often take Viereck’s picture while he’s driving, and the car has introduced him to a lot of people from all walks of life.

“I meet a lot of people in parking lots,” he said. “I have a lot of people put their business card on my car when I’m not there. But I’ve met astronauts, engineeers, people whose parents worked on the shuttle program who are just really, really happy to have a shuttle flying around the Clear Lake City area.”

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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