DMV… Burning Man’s Department of Mutant Vehicles: Part 2

One of Burning Man's more unique mutant vehicles from my perspective is this traveling eye.

One of Burning Man’s more unique mutant vehicles from my perspective is this traveling eye. The only thing remotely like a normal vehicle are the tires peeking out from below. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

 

“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.

 

Eye of mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

The eye up close, checking you out! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Animals are a favorite theme for mutant vehicles. This polar bear would have fit right in on Valentines Day.

Animals are a favorite theme for mutant vehicles. This polar bear would have fit right in on Valentines Day. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Polar Bear mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

A side view of the friendly polar bear. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

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 Department of Mutant vehicles is responsible for overseeing the permitting, inspection and operation of Mutant Vehicles at Burning Man.

The Department of Mutant Vehicles is responsible for overseeing the permitting, inspection and operation of Mutant Vehicles at Burning Man.

Headquarters for the Deparment of Mutant Vehicles at Burning Man.

Headquarters! All mutant vehicles must stop here to pick up their licenses to operate at Burning Man and have a safety inspection.

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.”

A covered wagon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

A covered wagon had us running for our cameras. I’d say that there was a ‘wow’ factor.

Conestoga Wagon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Another view. The Black Rock Desert would have seen similar vehicles (albeit smaller and attached to oxen) in the 1860s along the Applegate cutoff to the Oregon Trail that ran through the area. This photo was taken in front to our camp.

Cat car mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

The cat car is another perennial favorite of mine at Burning Man that has a definite ‘wow’ factor.

A side view of the cat car mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

A side view. It takes a lot of guts to have pure white upholstery at Burning Man!

Close up of head of cat car mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

And a close up of the kitty’s head.

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.

Orange bus mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

There are serious railings on this orange bus mutant vehicle. Note the intricate carving of the wood.

Orange mutant vehicle bus side view.

A side view of the bus. I suspect one would land with quite a bump coming off the slide.

Mutant vehicle with beak at Burning Man.

This guy with his boxer-beak and tail feathers also has a well-built railing.

Tail feathers on a mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

The tail feathers.

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.

Mutant vehicle that looks like a vase at Burning Man.

This large vase mutant vehicle normally lives in camp during the day.

Vase mutant vehicle at Burning Man with mountain backdrop.

Another day-time shot. This one with a mountain backdrop.

The mutant vehicle vase at night. This was on the night when the Man is burned and vehicles form a large circle around the Man.

The vase at night. Mutant vehicles form a large circle around the Man on Saturday night when he is burned. The flower is part of another mutant vehicle.

Vase mutant vehicle lit up at night at Burning Man.

A different views with different colors.

I caught this shot as the vase left a wedding in Black Rock City we had attended.

I caught this shot as the vase left a wedding in Black Rock City.

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.

El Pulpo Mechanical as he flames his way through the Burning Man night.

El Pulpo Mechanical as he flames his way through the Burning Man night.

Burning Man mutant vehicle designed to shoot flames into the air.

The ‘weapon’ on top of this Mad-Max look-a-like shoots flames as well.

Dragon head on mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

A front view…

Close up of dragon headed mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

And a close up.

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.

Check out the number of speakers on this mutant vehicle. They are the reason it is assigned a position way out at the edge of Black Rock City in the Playa.

Check out the number of speakers on this mutant vehicle! They are the reason it is assigned a position way out at the edge of Black Rock City in the Playa. There is almost always a crowd of people dancing around and on this vehicle, including up on the heart.

And just for fun, I will close today with this googly-eyed, low-tech frog.

Frog mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

 

NEXT BLOGS:

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.

A 60-foot Fire-Breathing Dragon Roars into Washington— 3 Days after the Election… The Mutant Vehicles of Burning Man: Part 1

If Trump had stared out his window and seen this fellow staring back at him, do you think it would have changed history?

If Donald Trump had stared out his window and seen this fellow staring back, do you think it would have changed history?

Today I am kicking off my Friday photo-essay series on Burning Man. Last week I went through the thousands of photos I have taken since I first went in 2004 and winnowed them down to a mere 4,000. (grin) I suspect you will see a few hundred of them on Fridays over the next six months leading up to the event. 

I had a long discussion with myself over what to start this series with. “What are you talking to yourself about?” Peggy had asked worriedly. Mutant Vehicles won out. I love the variety: from dragons to bugs to ships to rhinos to cats to Mad Max wannabes— Burning Man has them all! 

Peggy and I share photo taking responsibilities at Burning Man but we also have help from fellow members of the Horse Bone Tribe: Don Green, Tom Lovering and Ken Lake. I’ll try to credit Don, Tom and Ken, but if I miss a few, my apologies. 

Let’s start with Abraxas,  a 60-foot dragon equipped with a 10,000-watt sound system. Normally, Abraxas hangs out at Burning Man, but on November 11 (right after the election) he was in Washington DC on the Mall. I wonder if the new president looked out his window and saw him. Probably not. There weren’t any tweets.

He seemed quite proud of his offspring who followed him everywhere.

What would Trump have tweeted about Abraxas? Any ideas?

Abraxas has been going to Burning Man for a number of years. In 2016, he showed up with a baby.

Abraxas has been going to Burning Man for a number of years. In 2016, he showed up with a baby.

Early in the morning before sunrise, Abraxas likes to hang out at the Temple, you can see him lurking out on the Playa. When the sun comes up, it is time to dance and he fires up his 10,000 watt speakers as Burners gather around.

Early in the morning before sunrise, Abraxas likes to hang out at the Temple, you can see him lurking out on the Playa. When the sun comes up, it is time to dance, however, and he fires up his 10,000 watt speakers as Burners gather around.

Another close-up of Abraxas.

Another close-up of Abraxas. The tube coming out of his mouth spits out fire at night.

Abraxas the mutant Vehicle at Burning Man.

Check out the claws!

Most mutant vehicles at Burning Man take on a different look/personality at night. Here, Abraxas was getting ready to go out and party the night away.

Mutant vehicles at Burning Man take on a different look/personality at night. Here, Abraxas was getting ready to go out and party the night away. You may have noted the different faces. Most years,  Abraxas comes back to Burning Man with a new look.

The golden dragon is one of hundreds of mutant vehicles/art cars found at Burning Man each year. While you are required to park your car, truck, RV, etc. at your camp and leave it parked, mutant vehicles are free to roam the playa and Black Rock City, assuming they have a permit. Today I am going to also feature a warthog, a lion, an angler fish, a lizard dragon, a mammoth and traveling bar. There will be more next Friday!

Warthog mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

This warthog is a favorite of mine.

Warthog art car at Burning Man.

Head on! Check out the tusks.

Burning Man warthog mutant vehicle.

And a side view. I think he is kind of cute. I once followed a warthog and her kids across the Serengeti Plains in Africa. Mom and kids all had their tails sticking straight up in the air.

Burning Man is okay, huh. Are you ready for some reggae?

Burning Man is okay, huh. Are you ready for some reggae? The M.O.J.P. is taken from Bob Marley’s song, Exodus, and stands for “Movement of jah People.”

M.O.J.P. mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

A side view of M.O.J.P., which I assume is a lion. Note the big mouth.

M.O.J.P. art car at Burning Man.

My friend Tom Lovering found it quite comfortable. M.O.J.P., BTW, was once an RV.

Lizard dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Peggy found this small but ferocious looking dragon out on the Playa and climbed aboard. Fortunately it was missing keys. Otherwise I still might be searching for her.

Small dragon art car at Burning Man.

The dragon’s snout.

Head on view of mammoth art car at Burning Man.

Somebody had a twisted sense of humor when it came to creating this Mammoth art car.

Head and tusks of mammoth at Burning Man.

A side view of the mammoth’s head and tusks. I wonder if the wire around the head is supposed to be a halo?

Mammoth art car in Black Rock City at Burning Man.

A full view of the mammoth.

Angler Fish art car on Playa at Burning Man.

Whoa! If I didn’t have a clue about what was happening and saw this creature drifting by in a dust storm, I would be looking for the nearest exit.

Angler fish mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Here’s the angler fish up close and personal. In nature, angler fish use the nose dangly as bait for attracting prey. Great teeth.

Front view of angler fish at Burning Man.

How the fish might look just before it chomped down on you.

I'll conclude today with the Playa's wandering bar complete with outhouse. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

I’ll conclude today with four photos of  the Playa’s wandering bar complete with outhouse. Wandering around through the desert can give a person quite a thirst! (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

This tractor pulls the bar around.

This tractor pulls the bar around.

Burning Man's traveling bar.

Action at the bar! Tom and I stopped for a taste of moonshine. It was potent stuff!

Kitchen of wandering bar at Burning Man.

Peggy walked through the bar’s door and came out in this kitchen!

NEXT BLOGS:

Monday: I’ll conclude my Boston series.

Wednesday: It’s back to the Sierra Trek and the “pot smoking orgy.”

Friday: My next post on the mutant vehicles of Burning Man.

A Giant VW, a Man-Eating Lion, a Blimp… and Other Mutant Vehicles of Burning Man

Walter the Bus zips across the Playa at 5 MPH.

Walter the Giant VW Bus zips across the Playa at 5 MPH with his flag flying proudly. In another life, he was a fire truck.

Having owned and wandered in a 1976 VW Camper Van from 1976 to 1983, I felt an immediate attachment to Walter, the giant VW Bus. I decided to look into his past. Most of Burning Man’s Mutant Vehicles have lived full and meaningful lives by the time they make it to Black Rock City. Walter, it turns out, started life in 1963 as a Walter Crash Truck at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. He took his name from the Company. The Crash came from the fact that he was supposed to show up at an airplane crash site before anyone else and spray flame retardant on the highly volatile jet fuel. It was “BOOM” and kiss your hose goodbye if he failed. Beyond that there was a lot of sitting around and waiting. That’s the life of an airport fire truck.

Next, Walter made his way to a less dramatic but still important role with the New River Fire Department north of Phoenix. From there he retired to the Gold King Ghost Mine just outside of Jerome, Arizona as an antique to be admired. Don Robertson, the owner of the mine, likes old things and, judging from photos, is something of an antique himself. Walter would have been happy to spend his retirement years rusting away there— and he would have except for one of those strange quirks of fate.

Numerous vintage VW Buses make their way up the mountain annually to the Jerome Jamboree and camp out at the ghost mine. Kirk Strawn, who was among the participants in 2003, had just read an article on Burning Man. He saw Walter and fell in love. He didn’t see an aging fire truck; he saw a giant VW Bus. Walter was about to be reborn. Kirk traded a 1979 VW Camper for Walter and moved him to an old lumberyard in Scottsdale where a crew of dedicated volunteers, Tribe Walter, began the transformation process. Six years later, Walter made his first trip to Burning Man, and according to all reports, loved the event.

2 Jerome VW Bus 2

I found this VW Camper Van in Jerome, Arizona when I was there two years ago. I wonder if it was the van traded for Walter? I’ve never seen more bumper stickers on a single vehicle. My favorite: “Heavily Medicated for Your Safety.”

For those of you who crave details: Walter is 30 feet long, 13 feet tall, and weighs 19,500 pounds. He has a 330-gallon water tank for an on board misting system. His nights are lit up by some 10,000 plus LED lights. You can learn more about this interesting Mutant Vehicle at Walter the Bus.

3 Walter the Bus at Burning Man 2015

Walter lit up with his LED lights.

Altogether, there were close to a thousand applications for Mutant Vehicles at Burning Man in 2015. It was too many for the event and the Burning Man Organization, BMO, limited the number of permits to 600. I agree with the decision. Biking and walking take precedence. Still, I can’t help but wonder what wondrous creations didn’t make the cut. On the other hand, I didn’t have time to even start to appreciate all of the vehicles that were there. Here are a few more before I move on to my next topic: There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, and other Burning Man sculptures.

6 King of Beasts 2 Mutant Vehicle at Burning Man 2015

My friend Tom tempts the King of Beasts by snoozing on his tongue. The sign says, “Burning Man, it’s ok I guess.”

7 King of Beasts Mutant Vehicle at night Burning Man 2015

The King of Beasts at night. Maybe Tom wouldn’t have been so ready to jump in his mouth…

4 Train engine mutant vahicle at Burning Man 2015

I’d get off the track for this giant train engine.

Caboose Mutant Vehicle at Burning Man 2015

What’s a train without a caboose?

 Cheshire Cat Mutant Vehicle at Burning Man 2015

Where’s Alice?

Arachne Mutant Vehicle at Burning Man 2015

Spider woman?

11 Arachne face 2 Mutant Vehicle at Burning Man 2015_edited-1

How about a kiss? Come on, you know you love me.

12 Fish eating fish mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2015

The fish in front has a big problem.

13 Fish eating fish at night mutant vehicle at Burning Man

The fish at night. Still dodging his toothy pursuer.

Blimp ship Mutant Vehicle at Burning Man 2015

The airship (blimp) is ready to launch…

Mad Max Mutant Vehicle at Burning Man

I decided this “Mad Max” vehicle deserved a World War II black and white photo look.

16 Horse head mutant vehicle 2 at Burning man 2015

Giddy Up!

17 Big Bug Mutant Vehicle at Burning Man 2015

Giant bug. Big teeth have always been “in” at Burning Man.

18 Giant Cow mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2015

I decided this is a cow but I could be wrong. Her herder is walking along beside.

19 Modern Art Mutant Vehicle at Burning Man 2015

Modern art in an urban setting.

Narwhal mutant Vehicle at Burning Man 2015

I’ll conclude with this big lipped Narwhal. (Photo by Don Green.)

The Burning of the Man: Part I… Bacchanalian Revelry or Symbolic Gesture

Burners gather to watch the Man burn at Burning Man 2013.

Thousands of Burners gather in the Playa the night the Man is burned in what is both a huge party and a symbolic celebration. Burners arriving early get prime seats in the dirt while volunteers and staff make final preparations for the burn. The Man stands (looking alien) on top of his flying saucer, arms down. Mutant vehicles can be seen in the distance. A string of helium balloons stretches across the sky.

They gather in the tens of thousands, trekking out from their temporary homes in Black Rock City to an event viewed by some as the world’s greatest party and others as a celebration– a final goodbye to the tall, wooden man who serves as a magnet by day and a beacon by night.

Burners arrive on foot, bike, and mutant vehicles, forming concentric circles around the Man: an inner circle of fire dancers, a second circle of sitting and standing Burners who settle in for the show, a third circle that serves as both a promenade and the world’s largest dance floor, and a fourth circle dominated by huge mutant vehicles that throb with music, shoot fire into the air, and provide convenient viewing stands for various theme camps.

The burning of the Man is sometimes described as a Bacchanalian Revelry, and maybe it is. The Roman God Bacchus would have loved the spectacle. And I suspect most Burners would have liked him. Nobody could throw a better party than the God of Wine. But Bacchus had other traits Burners could agree with as well. In his Greek Dionysian persona he was considered a “protector of those who do not belong to conventional society,” a phrase that might describe a significant number of those who make the trek to Black Rock City.  The Romans believed that his wine, music and ecstatic dance freed his followers from fear and cares– and lessened the power of those who sought control over their lives.

Besides the huge party and celebration that take place on Saturday night, there are also ritualistic aspects to the evening. The Burning Man represents the end of the week and the end of his “life.” The Man’s week of dominating Black Rock City is over. Burners go silent just before he tumbles into his fiery grave, the music stops, and the dancers cease their gyrations. A huge shout accompanies his fall. The ashes have hardly cooled and been scooped up off the desert floor when planning starts for next year’s burn. Like the Phoenix, the Man will rise again.

I spend my night of the burn making a full circle of the Man and doing what I do best, wander. I have sat and watched the show of fire dancers but my body has no tolerance for sitting in the dirt for two hours. It never has. Also, I don’t like being hemmed in. And finally, people can be rude. Late-comers occasionally try to force their way to the front. But the primary reason I wander is that I love the show on the outer two circles. The costumes are fantastic, the dancing wild, and the mutant vehicles magnificent. The total walk may be two miles in length and I make an evening of it. I will feature the walk on this blog and the actual burn in the next. The short video below captures some of the action on my walk.

Dressed in a log black coat with a vest, white shirt, and bow tie, I am ready to head out to the burn. My hat displays a week's worth of playa dust. The glow sticks are to make me visible on the dark walk out and back.

Dressed up as Outlaw in a long black coat with a striped vest, white shirt, and bow tie, I am ready to head out to the burn. My hat displays a week’s worth of playa dust. The glow sticks are to make me visible on the dark walk out and back. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Palm tree mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2013.

While I love the costumes and action, the mutant vehicles are the main attraction on my two-hour stroll around the Man. The night of the Burn is the only time you will find them all in the same place. This one has chosen a tropical setting.

Mutant vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from what I call the squid car...

Mutant vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from what I call the squid car…

...to the 'ocean liner.'

…to the ‘ocean liner.’

Hanging lanterns at Burning Man 2013.

Color is everywhere, as demonstrated by these hanging lanterns…

Colorful segmented mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2013.

…and on this segmented mutant vehicle.

Duck spouting fire at Burning Man 2013.

Many of the mutant vehicles, such as this duck, shoot fire into the air.

Flames from El Pulpo Mechanico light up the crowd that has gathered to watch the burning of the Man at Burning Man 2013.

The light can be blinding, and hot. I took this shot as El Pulpo Mechanico was shooting flames from his eight legs and head.

Fish sculpture on side of El Pulpo Mechanico at Burning Man 2013.

Speaking of El Pulpo, he featured this fish on his side. The detailed work that goes into creating mutant vehicles can be incredible.

Rubber ducky mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2013.

The big rubber ducky.

The vase I love...

The vase I love…

Mutant vehicle vase at Burning Man 2013.

…that constantly changes colors.

Mutant vehicle train at Burning Man 2013.

A train…

A clothes hangar...

A clothes hanger…

Space Shuttle mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2013.

And the Space Shuttle.

Mutant vehicle features blue lady with flashing eyes at Burning Man 2013.

This blue lady with her flashing eyes caught my attention.

As I did this strange horned creature at Burning Man 2013.

As did this strange horned creature.

Mutant vehicle boom box at Burning Man 2013.

Music was everywhere. This mutant vehicle boom box was booming. BTW, I saw on Craig’s list where it was for sale.

Hot band at Burning Man 2013.

Some mutant vehicles bring their own live bands. A hundred or so Burners were dancing in front of this one. I could barely make my way through the gyrating bodies, so I danced my way through.

Watching the Man burn from a mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2013.

Mutant vehicles provide prime viewing opportunities for the theme camps that build them.

Crow's nest view of the burn at Burning Man 2013.

I thought this crow’s nest on a sailing ship provided the best seats in the house. I was jealous. (grin)

Man outlined by fireworks at Burning Man 2013.

NEXT BLOG: The man’s arms are raised; it’s time for the burn.

Wonderfully, Whacky Vehicles… Burning Man 2012

The mutant vehicles at Burning Man 2012 provided ongoing amusement, as they always do. I encountered this Woolly Mammoth at the port-a-potty. Later he came down our road.

I was standing in line for the port-a-potty when the Woolly Mammoth with massive tusks came by and dropped off a half of dozen people to join us. He was one hundreds of wonderfully imaginative ‘mutant vehicles’ that provided transportation across the seven square miles of Black Rock City during Burning Man 2012. 

At any given time of the day you find these Black Rock City licensed vehicles parked in camps, driving up and down the roads, and wandering willy-nilly across the vast open spaces of the Playa. They range in size from one-person scooters up to fifty-person busses. Each one looks like something it isn’t. There are dogs, cats, rabbits, flowers, jungles, bugs, fish, dragons, stagecoaches, ships, yachts, and even a wart hog. The list goes on and on.

One of the main attractions at Burning Man 2012 was a fire shooting steam punk octopus that went by the name El Pulpo Mechanico. Created by Duane Flatmo from Humboldt County, California, El Pulpo’s eight tentacles shot ten-foot high flames into the air. His head added a thirty-foot spout. A typical night of flaming used some 200 gallons of propane. 

Peggy came across El Pulpo Mechanico resting up for his night of carousing out on the Playa. He had also been at Burning Man 2011. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Here, our flaming friend, El Pulpo Mechanico, gathers a night time crowd of Burners.

I believe this big eyed, floppy eared 2012 Burning Man vehicle is a bunny. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Some Burners at Black Rock City require a yacht for transportation. This boat is named Christina.

Others at Burning Man are quite happy with a one-seater. I think Yummy was the name of the camp, not the vehicle. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

We were admiring theBurning Man 2012 Temple when this wart hog stopped by for a visit.

Climbing on this orange bus just has to involve a ride to somewhere mysterious and wonderful.

Check out the toothy grin on this Burning Man 2012 vehicle. The creature’s name is Disco Fish.

Sometimes mutant vehicles at Burning Man can appear downright scary, such as this dragon. Flame shoots out of its mouth at night. Note his tire tread skin.

This bear and her cubs show up annually at Burning Man. She and her babies are pulled by a bicycle so technically she isn’t a mutant vehicle. I included her on an earlier blog. I couldn’t resist her charm for my last photo in this post. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.