“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.
Mutant Vehicles may include such non-standard motorized forms such as furniture, other non-street vehicles such as a boat or train, animals, or just about anything imaginable.” —Taken from Burning Man’s website.
Burning Man takes its mutant vehicles seriously— partially because they are an integral part of the Burning Man experience and partially because safety is a critical issue. These often-large vehicles must maneuver through and around thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians both during the day and at night.
The permitting process is extensive. To start with, both government agencies and Burning Man place limits on the number of mutant vehicles. Far more people want to bring vehicles than can be accommodated. Participants must meet stringent requirements to bring their creations to Black Rock City. (Go here to learn about requirements.)
The first requirement is that the vehicle must in no way resemble the initial car, truck, golf cart, etc. (Boats seem to be an exception, but hey, they are ‘floating’ across the desert.) Beyond this, the organization states, “the mutation should aim to provide a level of ‘radical visual stimuli’ or ‘wow factor’ for the other participants of Black Rock City.”
Interactivity is also considered critical. Giving rides to Burners and providing entertainment are two ways of accomplishing this. For example, one year I saw a fire-breathing mutant vehicle that featured an opera singer standing on top. When she hit her high notes, the vehicle would send flames shooting into the air.
Safety involves many of the things you would expect including good brakes and safe accommodations for passengers. Think of 40 people (some who have spent a fair amount of time visiting Burning Man’s free bars) dancing on top of a vehicle as it drives through the desert night. Falling off is a real possibility. Railings are critical.
Vehicles that want to travel at night must have adequate lighting on all sides of the vehicle. But the requirements go further. Lighting is also expected to contribute to the “wow” factor. Many mutant vehicles are more spectacular at night than they are during the day. One of my all-time favorites is a large, travelling vase.
As you might imagine, vehicles that feature fire art and shoot flames into the air, must also meet strict requirements. The types of tanks, fuel lines, daily safety checks, and emergency shut off valves are all included. But the effort is worth the extra care when you consider the results. Imagine meeting up with El Pulpo Mechanico as it roams across the playa with all eight arms flaming.
And finally, there are sound requirements. Nothing is more irritating than a mutant vehicle with humongous speakers making its way through your neighborhood in Black Rock City while blasting out music at 2:00 AM. Burning Man notes that there has been an “increase in the number of vehicles with sound systems that would normally be designed for an arena or stadium.” No kidding. Having those systems pointing at you is like deaf city. Fortunately, the loudest systems tend to be restricted to the outer areas of the city where Burners can go deaf to their hearts-content.
And just for fun, I will close today with this googly-eyed, low-tech frog.
Monday: The airplane that crash landed on the Hudson River in New York City.
Wednesday: The Sierra Trek— Our second day included a sixteen mile hike without any water sources, a lost trekker, and a huge timber rattlesnake that insisted on blocking the trail.
Friday: More Burning Man mutant vehicles including El Pulpo Mechanico and a huge Rhino that would send his African counterparts scurrying for cover.
24 thoughts on “DMV… Burning Man’s Department of Mutant Vehicles: Part 2”
Good thing I don’t have to serve as a judge for these vehicles. At first, I thought nothing could top the cat and traveling eye. But then I saw the vase lit up at night. Oh, my. These are so terrific. Can’t believe the creativity!
And it just goes on and on, Rusha. –Curt
It’s a good thing you can’t hear me this far away. The vehicles not give off a WOW factor like the covered wagon – it’s a Holy Sh*t on this end for all of them!! Pardon my language, but the creativity at Burning Man is unbelievable!! Please thank Peggy and Tom for their great photography!
HS it is then, GP! 🙂 Now you know why I go a little nuts over Burning Man. –Curt
Department of Mutant Vehicles. Can I work there please? I don’t want any responsibility other than taking photos. Oh my word these are incredible. I’ve changed my mind since the other post. The EYE takes the prize.
Laughing, Sue. I think you will find some more contenders in my next two posts. Now you know why I have thousands of photos of Burning Man. –Curt
Wow, the creativity of people is amazing.
It’s why I hate to miss a year like I did in 2016, Peggy. I feel like I am missing out. Fortunately, most of the vehicles, come back for another year or several… And often the vehicles evolve. –Curt
Oh. my. goodness – I had no idea! These are absolutely amazing.
🙂 They are pretty incredible when you think of the level of creativity and the amount of time, energy, and expense that goes into their creation, Lex. I have 2-3 more posts on mutant vehicles and then I will move on to other aspects of Burning Man art that are equally impressive, Lex. –Curt
I just love that there is a The Department of Mutant Vehicles in this crazy world. The travelling eye is a mind-blowing cross between an elephant, a teapot and an eye!
“an elephant, a teapot and an eye!” I may never look at it again in the same way, Hilary. (grin) And the DMV is a unique creation that goes along well with the vehicles it licenses. –Curt
I noticed bare female breasts on one of the vehicles, Curt. Was that a requirement for entry? Of course, men do that all the time. Both sexes have nipples. No big deal.
I think the cat vehicle the most pleasing.
Sometimes, the creativity exhibited on such a large scale result in people throwing all caution to the wind ( and convention) and shed clothing as a natural consequence of it all.
No requirements, Gerard. 🙂 But people are free to get naked if they so desire. A certain percentage do, of both sexes. More go topless, again of both sexes. I’d say the percentages are down around 1-2%. –Curt
Sorry, didn’t finish my thought. You had me sidetracked on counting nipples. The cat car has been a favorite of mine for a long time. And yes, conventions are a bit different at Burning Man. –Curt
The travelling eye looks like a teapot. I like the wagon but the frog has to be my favourite!
Incredible art works and incredible photos. Thanks for sharing with us! The eye, the cat are awesome. I like the vase too which looks so different depending on light and angles.
It’s always fun, Peta. Half the time I walk around in awe with my camera snapping away. –Curt
What a wonderful selection you’ve made for us.
There are so many, AC. I really do have to think about what to feature. Thanks. –Curt
Yes, exactly our thinking. So, when is the book coming out?
The book I am working on now is about the backpacking and bicycling adventures. Burning Man will be the next one although I am working on Burning Man research, however. 🙂 –Curt
Every time I see the photos, I find something new. Today’s discovery: the cat’s windshield is cat-eye glasses!! Brilliant! Can’t believe it took me so long to notice, since I wear some pretty rad Far-Side Lady glasses myself, every day.
I’ll bet you do have some pretty wild glasses! 🙂 Confess I didn’t make the cat-eye connection until you pointed it out. –Curt