The Mutant Vehicles of Burning Man

The Cat Car is a wonderful example of how creative people are at Burning Man in designing mutant vehicles and how much time, money and effort goes into the project.

Driving your car around Burning Man is a definite no-no, unless of course you check in at DMV and obtain a permit. That’s the Department of Mutant Vehicles not the Department of Motor Vehicles.

My first acquaintance with mutants was Godzilla. Today we have the Xmen but I am still partial to the early Japanese horror flicks. There was something totally campy about them that is rarely matched in today’s standard fare of special effects.

I wouldn’t describe Burning Man’s mutant vehicles as campy but they are wonderfully creative. The rule is that if you are going to drive a vehicle at Burning Man it has to be decorated, i.e. transformed into something that has minimal resemblance to its original look. Check out the Cat Car above.

And here again there is a movie reference since we have Transformers, the vehicles that morph before our very eyes.

I’ve learned about Transformers from my grandson Ethan who has dozens of the toys and is an expert at changing innocent looking cars into a raging monsters, some of whom are forces for good while others are forces for evil. It is hard for me to tell the difference but Ethan is patient with me…

The mutant vehicles at Burning Man don’t actually morph but their persona does change between day and night when the already interesting dragons, bugs, elephants and ships are lit up like Christmas Trees and begin to breathe fire. It’s a transformation that is rarely if ever matched in our everyday world and I am still not sure whether it resembles a Fairy Land Fantasy or something out of Dante.

Mutant vehicles of the day take on a different persona at night. Photo by Tom Lovering.

Like my blog on the characters and costumes of Burning Man, this blog is better told with photos than words, however.

The "Never Was Haul" is another great example of the creativity, work, and expense that goes into creating mutant vehicles. This one is delivered by flat bed to Burning Man. Photo by Tom Lovering.

How often do you meet up with a polar bear in the desert? Photo by Tom Lovering.

And here we have a golden dragon. (Dragons are common at BM.) Many of the vehicles are designed to carry a number of people. The woman dancing at the left is probably responding to music coming from the vehicle, another common occurrence.

Mutant vehicles are also designed for individual use.

While not defined as mutant vehicles and not requiring permits, many thousand bicycles are also decorated.

This ship of the desert captured by Don Green reflects both the heat and dust of BM. Note the giant slide in the background.

Often mutant vehicles reflect a sense of humor.

Or, like this dragon headed vehicle, may appear a little scary. The gun-like device on top shoots out flames at night.

Tom Lovering caught this interesting vehicle as it drove by the Horse-Bone Camp.

And here we have a praying mantis...

And that’s it for the mutant vehicles. I don’t have a clue as to how many are registered in any year, but they have to be in the hundreds. In the last photo, Luna, AKA Peggy, tries to hitch a ride.

Sailor Boy and Luna of Horse-Bone Camp stop to check out a mutant vehicle masquerading as a Playa Taxi.

One thought on “The Mutant Vehicles of Burning Man

  1. I would definitely not recommend these as ways to break the ice however.
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