Russia Pimps Its Rides

Russia Pimps Its Rides
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Anton Antropov has just arrived at the garage to pick up his car. He backs it out into the parking lot to get a better look and spends the next few minutes going over the work with the garage's owner.

"I like it very much, it's excellent," Antropov says, admiring a huge airplane jet engine painted on the left side of his black Nissan SUV.

"I wanted to make the car stand out and give it strength," he says. "The car becomes more powerful, at least visually, and in general it looks beautiful."

Moscow's streets are full of airbrushed cars like Antropov's, sporting everything from fearsome predators to cartoon characters and famous faces. And it's not cheaper cars trying to appear more valuable -- luxury cars make up many, if not most, of the airbrushed cars.

On the outskirts of the city, a leopard crouches in the grass ready to pounce at passersby from dark blue BMW. The driver of a beige Nissan, a hunter, has had snarling wolves painted on the sides of his car. An Audi sedan on its way into Moscow is covered in a gold and purple design, a golden jungle cat in outer space.

"I stand out, it's unique" says Natalia, the Audi's driver, adding that she got a discount on car insurance because of the design.

Airbrushings can run from hundreds of dollars to around $30,000, according to the manager of Martin Hands Garage, where Anton Antropov had the jet painted on his car.

"There are two reasons why Russians paint their cars. The first is that people want to look different from others and be special," said Anton Lagun. "And the other that people simply paint their cars so they won't be stolen. In a way it's an alarm against car theft."

Lagun shows us photos of some of the cars they've worked on. A sleek, black Porsche Cayenne with the Tazmanian Devil dribbling a basketball. A sky blue Range Rover with butterflies and kittens on the side and God on the hood.

A Hummer in the garage is waiting for a $25,000 airbrushing job that will cover almost every square inch with paintings by famous Russian artist Vladimir Lubarov.

"People mostly order animals," says one of the garage's airbrushing artists Ekatarina Geracimova, "leopards, lions, wolves, their own dogs."

"There are no limits, it all depends on your imagination, the imagination of the owner and the painter."

The owner of the Lexus she is working on has imagined his small white and black lap dogs in a pile of fall leaves, chasing a scarf attached to the rearview mirror.

"Cars are all mass produced and this gives them a chance to stand out from the crowd," says Geracimova.

Indeed, Anton Antropov is eager to get his car out of the garage and onto the streets.

"I'll stop every 100 meters to have a cigarette so everyone can look at it," says Antropov.

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