A Mutant Vehicle is a unique, motorized creation that shows little or no resemblance to their original form, or to any standard street vehicle. Mutant Vehicles are radically, stunningly, (usually) permanently, and safely modified from their base vehicle. Sometimes the whole vehicle is made from scratch… the mutation should aim to provide a level of “radical visual stimuli” or “wow factor” for the other participants of Black Rock City. When a person sees this vehicle, their reaction should be “Wow! Look at that!” —Burning Man Organization
Burning Man covers some seven square miles. It isn’t surprising that there are lots of folks who would prefer to drive rather than walk or ride a bike there. America’s love affair with the automobile is well established. Why walk when you can drive?
Early on, however, it was decided that Burning Man would be a walking and bicycling kind of place. It was a good decision. The event wouldn’t work otherwise. An exception evolved over time, though. You could drive around if your vehicle became an art piece. The challenge here, of course, is defining an art piece. Why not glue a stuffed bear to your roof and call it art? Such thinking led BMO to come up with the description quoted above.
And there’s more. You just don’t show up at Burning Man and check in with the Department of Mutant Vehicles. There is a detailed application process. Months before the event you have to describe the vehicle, safety considerations, and reasons for wanting to bring an art car to Black Rock City. A sketch is required. Numbers are limited, so you need to get applications in early. If you plan to drive at night or have your vehicle shoot out flames over the Playa, there are further requirements. Assuming you meet all the criteria and obtain a license, your first stop at Burning Man is DMV. BMO wants to make sure the vehicle is as claimed.
As you can imagine, the amount of work and time required to build a Mutant Vehicle becomes a self-limiting factor on the numbers of mutant vehicles at Burning Man. You need to be prepared to spend thousands of dollars and/or hundreds of hours of work for more elaborate creations.
And finally, you have to agree to follow the rules. You can’t drive over five miles an hour, you can’t drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you have to give way for bicyclists and walkers, and you can’t drive through Black Rock City at 3 a.m. blasting music out of your mega speakers. The latter is guaranteed to bring a truckload of complaints down on BMO. Breaking the rules can get you grounded or may even bring a ticket. Law enforcement is extensive at Burning Man and drunk driving is drunk driving.
I’ve mentioned before that Mutant Vehicles come in all shapes and sizes. I thought that I’d feature the smaller, more personal vehicles today. I will include the larger ones in my next post.