When a Vehicle Mutates… 11 Years of Burning Man

Having trouble persuading your kids to climb on the bus and go to school? I bet they would climb on this Burning Man mutant vehicle in a flash. When they arrived at school they could exit via the slide! Woohoo!

Once again I am returning to Burning Man on my blog and posting photos from the 11 years I have attended the event: 2004-5-6-7-9-10-12-13-14-15 and 17. As I have over the past couple of weeks, I am focusing on mutant vehicles today.

I’ve featured some pretty wild land and sea creatures in my past several posts. Today and Wednesday I’ll be introducing mutant vehicles that are closer to their cousins in real life. For example, a number of retired school and city busses make it to Burning Man. While their look has changed, they more or less maintain their original form like the school bus featured above and below.

Orange mutant vehicle  bus at Burning Man.
Here’s another view of the school bus with its intricately carved exterior. This bus has always been a favorite of mine.
This school bus has been decorated with orange somethings. What, I’m not sure. Writhing beetle grubs are about as close as I can come.
A psychedelic paint job and horns served as disguise here.
The silver bullet hides the bus, sort of. Think of it as a see-through outfit.
Bus mutant vehicle at Burning Man
This fellow added a neon top knot and cutouts.
Mutant bus with tail feathers at Burning Man.
And finally, a bus with tail feathers. It had a beak on the other end.

Do you remember the cult film Mad Max where Mel Gibson and a cast of seedy characters went at each other with souped up, modified vehicles? Well, there is a whole genre of mutant vehicles at Burning Man that look like they belong in the movie, or a demolition derby. These vehicles are not among my favorites but I find them interesting and they belong in any compilation of Burning Man mutants. Besides, some of you might say, “Wow, that’s my dream car!”

This one was prepared for battle. It came with a missile and a coffin! What kind of bad dude carries a garbage bag for his trash, however? And the empty bottle and mattress suggest the 60’s mantra “Make love, not war.”
Feelers swept back from the hood of this vehicle. And maybe it had legs.
Equipped with flame throwers.
I think these these seven toothy heads also shot out fire.
Was she glad to see him or was it a hold up. It appears that the guy is high on something.
Tom Lovering took this photo at night. Playa dust was reflected by the flash from his camera creating a desert ‘snow storm.’ Is that an alien piggybacking on the vehicle?
One of Burning Man’s tribes, The Death Guild, likes to decorate its mutant vehicles with skulls. Not surprising.
Definitely a Mad Max vehicle.
I’d give this guy the right-of-way.

Art cars are different than mutant vehicles. They are simply highly decorated cars. Therefore they aren’t allowed to roam the playa and have to be parked. None-the-less, some of them make their way to Burning Man and are on display. Here are a few examples.

Art car featuring Kilroy at Burning Man.
Kilroy was here.
Art cat VW bug with aliens at Burning man.
The aliens have landed and they are running around in a VW bug.
O My Gawd!
Art car with glasses at Burning Man.
Here’s looking at you.
Highly detailed hood of an art car at Burning Man.

I think of the following vehicles as modern day ‘hot rods,’ so I googled ‘hot rods at Burning Man’ and what did I find? My photos of ‘Burning Man hot rods’ from earlier posts. Oh well. Here they are again for those of you who haven’t been following me for several years.

Modern hot rod at Burning Man.
Speeds are limited on the Playa, and maybe that’s a good thing.
Gears on top of modern day hotrod at Burning Man.
All of the gears, shown here in black and white, suggest a touch of steam punk.
Exhaust pipes on mutant vehicle hot rod at Burning Man.
Exhaust pipes?
Side view if mutant vehicle hot rod at Burning Man.
A side view. Not sure about the camel’s role.
Mutant Vehicle hot rod at Burning Man with attractive woman.
The few hot rod magazines I thumbed through in my youth featured attractive women. Given my interest in cars, I suspect that may have been my reason for perusing the pages.
Hot rod photo session at Burning Man.
It turns out I had walked in on a photo session, which always presents an opportunity I am more than willing to take advantage of. That’s it for today.

NEXT POST: More mutant vehicles including trains and planes!

29 thoughts on “When a Vehicle Mutates… 11 Years of Burning Man

  1. Sometimes Burning Man creations are just too much for me, but I do love that first bus. The patterns remind me of an ivory hand fan I had as a kid, with intricate scenes carved into it — mostly floral abstractions. They do “odd” really well at Burning Man, but it’s nice to see something that qualifies are “pretty.” (Well, and then there’s the category called “pretty odd,” but that’s something else.)

    • There is some really good art at Burning Man, Linda, as well as the fun, quirky and ‘pretty odd.’ As you know, I like quirky and odd. 🙂 A number of communities have developed thriving art communities because of the event with Reno being an example. I love the creativity, which is what has pulled me back year after year. I know there will always be new things to admire, appreciate, and laugh at. The bus has also been one of my favorite mutants. –Curt

  2. I wonder how Burning Man is perceived in the US? The vehicles are extraordinary and with all that work involved I am beginning to wonder what the idea behind all that is? It certainly gives an artistic and creative impression, almost overwhelmingly so. A playful expression and not too serious. All this in the middle of a desert adds to the quirkiness of it all.
    Well done, Curt.

    • Burning Man started out with the reputation of being a drug-driven party in the desert, Gerard. And it still is among many folks. Admittedly, it can be a bit wild. 🙂 But the incredible creativity has been there almost from the beginning, and the event has matured considerably. Its support for art is tremendous, and now, many of the art pieces created for Burning Man are showing up in museums and in communities through out the US and indeed, worldwide. I like quirky. 🙂 Thanks. –Curt

  3. Wow! These are incredible photos; almost an apocalyptic world in itself! Inventive, creative, totally mad comes to mind. I think all buses should have a slide. The art cars are terrific and as for the dust, it seems to be everywhere. For the last photo, I thought you’d arranged the photo shoot, Curt! 😀😀

    Btw just wanted to let you know that I’ve nominated you for The Sunshine Blogger Award on my post this morning. https://annikaperry.com/2019/03/19/the-sunshine-blogger-award/.

    • It can feel a bit apocalyptic at Burning Man on occasion given the desert setting, magnificent dust storms, burns, weird art, weird vehicles, and costumes, Annika. But then the creativity shines through, and it is more like a beginning than an ending. Folks are usually willing to pose for you, especially the ones who have gone to so much work to create a costume/look. Taking their photos is a compliment. But that shot was a bit beyond, “May I take your photo?” 🙂
      Thanks for the nomination! I really enjoyed your interview. It’s always fun to learn more about the folks I share this world with. I don’t do awards on my blog but your consideration is much appreciated. –Curt

  4. Thank you Curt for this morning’s laughs. These buses are so amazing, can’t imagine something like it on show here. The first bus is both beautiful and fun.
    Sliding off … yep, that would get the children to school.
    The last one is another favourite of mine. Tail feather, beautifully ornate sides …
    altogether your beautiful photos show the enthusiasm and great imagination
    of the creators.


    • My pleasure, Miriam. I’ve been having fun going through all of my Burning Man photos and revisiting past years. There is no lack of creativity and enthusiasm at Burning Man, which is what makes the even so much fun. Thanks. –Curt

  5. I kept wondering why the pictures felt like deja vu and then you mentioned Mad Max. I deserved a good smack on the back of my head for not realizing that!!

  6. Some of those rigs look roadable, some not so much. Do they get trailer’d in, broken down to something aerodynamic and driven in, or a mix? It seems like a lot of them would cause accidents if driven in, just from folks getting distracted and gawking.

    • Most of them are driven in, Dave. Some on large flatbeds. And yes, some assembly is required. 🙂 It’s always interesting to be out on I-80 around Burning Man and check out the parade on its way to Black Rock City. I did notice that the ‘hotrods’ had Nevada license plates. –Curt

    • There’s a bit of something for everyone in the mutant vehicles, Juliann. My favorites are those that I find most creative, fun, and/or weird. It is always interesting for me to see how people take an ordinary bus and modify it. –Curt

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