It’s a sunny weekday afternoon and you’ve left campus, waiting at the red light that intersects Main St. and S. Manheim Blvd. All of a sudden, a purple 2006 Subaru Impreza Outback decked out in stickers and graffiti makes a left and jolts past you — just slow enough so you can see the baby doll strapped in a shopping cart that sits on its roof. All you can think to ask is: “What’s the story behind this car?”
Your answer lies in 22-year-old New Paltz resident Vici Gajdzik, the operator of this locally-beloved mobile. Her ride is just one of the several cars under the “845 Shitbox” movement, started by her group of friends to combat the toxic car culture they came across while attending shows in the Hudson Valley.
“People think that you can only have certain modifications, and that if you don’t have enough money then you can’t be part of car culture,” she said. “They’ll diss other people’s builds. So I was like, why not make the dumbest car possible, and start a trend where it’s not about what specifically you do to it?”
Gajdzik’s journey with her own “Shitbox” started when she needed a new car after her previous one broke down. After purchasing the first one she found, it started falling apart as well — but this time, she decided to roll with it.
“I was like, ‘Well, it’s not gonna last much longer so might as well just do whatever I want to it,’” she said. “After a while, I loved it too much to junk it.”
The alterations progressed in waves. The first phase was color; she spray-painted the base of the car with its standout purple. Then, through a friend — the president of a car club called Form and Function — she printed out several custom bumper stickers and plastered them on the trunk. Most of them are inside jokes that her friends have thrown around, but some are New Paltz-oriented: one reads “Re-Butt the Corners:” a reference to the ongoing lewd street sign battle at North Putt Corners Rd. As for the shopping cart — “I found that in the woods. I wanted a roof rack for the longest time, so we bolted it through the roof.”
The holes drilled through the car are covered by what Gajdzik and friends call “the anti-lobotomy ducks,” shielding backseat passengers from head injury if she were to drive too quickly over a speedbump. The inside upholstery of the car is decorated with phrases and doodles done in colorful Sharpies. A box representing the state of Wyoming, stick figures and a scribble stating “There are people living in my walls” are just three examples of what awaits when you open the checkered doors. Under the rubber animals sit a pile of food carryout bags; she also operates as a delivery driver.
“Half of the customers that I deliver to keep up with the progress of my car,” she said. “They’ll be like, ‘Oh my God, you added a new thing.’ They all love it, which I was kind of surprised by considering I have a little bit of profanity on it.”
The “Shitbox” is a labyrinth; the more you stare at it, the more Easter eggs you’ll spot. It might take you several glances before you see the stuffed animal rodents on the dashboard, the airbrushed possum on the hood or the subtle green stars on the Subaru logo instead of the typical white, but that’s the fun factor that captivates New Paltz residents: even, surprisingly, the authorities — in a good way.
“They all know my car,” Gajdzik said. “They don’t seem to have any issue with it, which is awesome.”
In the spirit of bringing positivity and freedom back into the car show scene, Gajdzik and friends decided to open up the “Shitbox” movement to the entire Hudson Valley through an Instagram page: @845shitbox Inspiring all New York “Shitboxes” to “rise up,” the page has featured Gajdzik’s own funky car as well as several other colorful, eccentric rides in the area. The mission that she constantly expresses is reflected in their bio — “no hate, no judgment.”
“None of us have crazy amounts of money to do all these crazy builds and stuff,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how expensive your car is. It doesn’t matter how it looks; all that matters is that you have that shared interest about cars and your own car.”
Gajdzik claims to get recognized in and out of the car constantly in town, as the driver of the most eclectic car driving up and down Main Street each day. Overall, she hopes that fans of the “Shitbox” have their days brightened when they spot it in public — for that is the goal of her project as a whole.
“The main reason why I do this is to bring more positivity to the community,” she said. “Really all that I have to say is let’s all be a little bit less toxic. ”If you have a unique-looking car that you’d like to show off, follow the @845shitbox Instagram to submit your creation to the community.