From Furry Cats to Lurking Alligators… Burning Man’s 2015 Small Mutant Vehicles

The Cat Car is a perennial favorite at Burning Man. This year she had a makeover and was looking quite snazzy.

The Cat Car is a perennial favorite at Burning Man. This year she had a makeover and was looking quite snazzy.

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.

While Eeyore might make a cute hood ornament for my Toyota, it doesn't make my truck a mutant vehicle no matter how cute Eeyore is.

While Eeyore might make a cute hood ornament for my Toyota, he doesn’t make my truck a mutant vehicle— no matter how cute he is.

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.

The Cat Car as seen from the side...

The Cat Car as seen from the side…

Check out her snazzy steering wheel.

Check out her snazzy steering wheel.

And her colorful butt. (grin)

And her colorful butt. (grin) Her Burning Man Mutant Vehicle license is on the left.

Theses Burners had the clever idea of decorating their car like a Converse tennis shoe.

Theses Burners had the clever idea of decorating their Mutant Vehicle like a Converse tennis shoe, a relatively easy task to accomplish, I imagine.

Not so easy this gorgeous hot rod.

Not so easy this gorgeous hot rod.

A rear view of the hot rod mutant vehicle form LA.

A rear view of the hot rod mutant vehicle from LA.

It's companion. The Black Rock Desert has been used for setting vehicle land records. Maybe these guys should compete.

Its companion. The Black Rock Desert has been used for setting vehicle land records. Maybe these guys should compete.

The big nose of this fellow was exceeded in size by his big tongue.

The big nose of this fellow was exceeded in size by his big tongue.

A close up of the nose. Nice nostrils.

A close up of the nose. Nice nostrils.

Golf carts can make handy sized Mutant Vehicles for two people. (Photo by Don Green.)

Golf carts can make handy sized Mutant Vehicles for two people. (Photo by Don Green.)

A night kitty Mutant Vehicle.

A night kitty Mutant Vehicle.

And a skull couch that looks quite comfortable to me.

And a couch that looks quite comfortable to me.

I found this VW at the Art Car Camp.

I found this VW at the Art Car Camp.

And what I am going to call Killroy.

And what I am going to call Kilroy— although it may be a relaxed leopard perched up on the roof.

I found this impressive alligator lurking next to the NOLA Camp, which seemed like an appropriate location.

For my last example today, I found this impressive alligator lurking next to the NOLA Camp (on the right), which seemed like an appropriate location, given that New Orleans is located in bayou country.

32 comments on “From Furry Cats to Lurking Alligators… Burning Man’s 2015 Small Mutant Vehicles

  1. Well, I finally found a point of connection between me and Burning Man. That fuzzy pink steering wheel cover on the cat car? It looks exactly like the cover on a certain spiffy Chevy I remember. And, yes: there were dice.

    These smaller cars would fit nicely into Houston’s Art Car Parade. As a matter of fact, many of our art cars would fit right in at Burning Man. The creativity is wonderful. I like the cat car, and the alligator. (I like to imagine that one being built on a Chevy body, heading down to the levee, but finding it dry) It’s one thing to decorate a car. Most people can pull that off. But transforming a car into a true, mutant vehicle — that’s something else.

    Speaking of connecting points between me and Burning Man, it recently occurred to me that the Rev. Peyton and his washboard-playing wife, whom I met at the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, MS, a few years ago, might be a midwestern, traveling version: what would happen if Burning Man held a barn dance. I love the Rev. and his BDBand. I might enjoy Burning Man more than I think.

    • I knew if I kept trying I’d find the connection, Linda. I just didn’t realize it would be a fuzzy, pink steering wheel. I just uploaded one of my Don Mclean albums to my iPod, so I’m with you at the levy. A barn dance would fit right in at Burning Man. The Burners would love it. Just about every type of music imaginable is found there. And I did watch a washboard band play at the Center Camp Cafe a couple of years ago… Curt

    • Agreed, Richard. An adult Disneyland on steroids combined with Mardi Gras, something of a new age festival, and one of the greatest art shows on earth. Then there is the noise, heat and dust… –Curt

  2. Some look as if they could double as tea cosies or bed socks. Yes, there are also some that seemed to have been inspired by Mad Max. I remain amazed by Burning Man but will also wait for a Burning Woman. Perhaps next time!

    • It’s always fascinating, Melanie. Several countries now offer Burning Man type experiences with the support of Burning Man, but they aren’t on the same level. Also, Burning Man has become something of an international event with people coming from all over the world to attend. –Curt

    • I am always impressed with the attention to detail, Ginette. And I am amazed by the amount of time and love that goes into creating the mutant vehicles, buildings, art, etc. –Curt

  3. OH yes, the first cat is my fave. What fuzzy luxury! And the cat butt is the best. 🙂

    These are all creative and wonderful. The hot rods are simply amazing and the big face and open mouth made me think of Steven Tyler. I also think the alligator looks a bit dragon-y, so of course I like him (or her?) too!

  4. It’s hard to believe that the furry cat vehicle makes return trips — doesn’t all that Playa dust wreak havoc with the fur? But what fun to see the small vehicles. Love the art camp car and Converse tennis shoe one. And the idea of a golf cart sounds a whole lot more fun than riding a bike in the dust. Of course, there’s the issue of what to do when the battery runs down!!!

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