It had to be his car. And it was.

dik Bolger (who got creative with the spelling of his first name in seventh grade) saw the Star Tribune headline seeking the artists of a Peter Max-inspired Citroën and leaped to his computer. "This is just wild," Bolger e-mailed Thursday. "My brother and I painted that car and I have some wonderful stories."

The 1961 Citroën was transported from Minneapolis to Detroit 17 years ago by a car collector. Its current owner, Mike Mullen of Detroit, contacted the newspaper Wednesday, hoping to solve the mystery of the car's psychedelic paint job. Who did it, and what were they on?

On Thursday, Bolger, the 57-year-old father of a high school senior, was a happy hippie again, reliving fantastic memories (most of them printable), thanks to a little French car.

"That was a slice of my history," he said.

His older brother, Jack, now deceased, bought the car in Europe in the late 1960s. "He drove these cars and just loved them," Bolger said of Jack. The two-cylinder Citroën got 65 miles to the gallon and had some pep -- on hills. "If you were lucky on a downhill slope, you could go 45 miles per hour."

Jack had the car shipped home to Minnesota, via Canada. Then Jack, dik and a student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design got to work painting it at their grandfather's house on Mount Curve, near Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis.

"We spent hours and hours and hours of that beautiful summer painting this thing," Bolger said in a follow-up phone call. "Other friends would show up. It really was a hippie scene."

Pop artist Peter Max absolutely served as their inspiration, he said, as they painted richly colored flowers, flags, faces, stars and enormous mushrooms.

"His work really resonated with a lot of youth of the time. It was the psychedelic era. Peter Max personified that. And the 'shrooms we're not going to talk about."

Once finished, Bolger loved driving the car around his Richfield neighborhood, although he said it was "tough to be anonymous. You'd pull into gas stations and they'd empty out with people coming to look at it."

He also drove the car to his job as a bouncer at a now-defunct Bloomington drive-in theater. "You gotta picture this. Me, in my overalls and plaid shirt, my hair down to the middle of my back, with my hippie car," Bolger said. "I was not a particularly threatening image."

He drove the car for about five years, then sold it in 1975 when he couldn't figure out how to keep it running. He used the proceeds to pay for a trip to Europe.

"It's great that it did not get lost," said Bolger, a stained-glass artist and CEO of Bolger Vision Beyond Print. His wife, Carmen Gutierrez Bolger, also is an artist. Daughter Mariel Rose, who attends Blake School, saw a photo of her dad with the car, circa 1973, and couldn't believe he was "hot," dik said. "Past tense."

Bolger graduated from Marshall University High School and attended Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. "That was a fun period of time, of exploration, that completely altered the world. At some point, I'll retire so I can become a hippie again."

The car's buyer, Terrance Dickinson, later sold the Citroën to a car collector who moved to Detroit. Almost 20 years later, the pop-art car found its way to Mullen, who couldn't be happier that the mystery is solved. "My heart's coming out of my chest," Mullen said. "I'm going to make arrangements to come to Minneapolis this spring with the car" -- on a trailer.

Bolger's extended family is happy, too. Jack died of cancer in 1993 at age 45, leaving two young children. His widow, Andrea Bolger, 60, heard many tales of the psychedelic car over the years.

"In families, sometimes stories get told and retold and you're never quite sure," Andrea said. "Was it a myth?"

Going through old boxes recently, she found photographs of the Peter Max-inspired car. "I was so excited. It was really, really true. My kids are 27 and 24 now, and they get a piece of their dad." • 612-673-7350