Year 1 – 2016
The detailed story of the first year of our art car/mutant vehicle is below. Thank you again for everyone’s help in making this first build a big success!
Volunteers were as follows:
- Lead volunteers
- Project Lead: Andy “Sharknado” Brown
- Welding Lead: Andrew Ross
- Woodworking Lead: Michael “Clover” Bradley
- Lighting and Sound Lead: Aaron Cochran
- Mechanical Leads: John Garcia (early) and Jered Risner (late)
- Special thanks
- Julie and Jerry Fallin for creating the car’s sail, for loaning us a trailer to carry the car to/from Nevada, for donating a ton of LED lights and wiring, for donating a crucial popup shade structure used throughout the hot and bright summer months, and for repeatedly bringing us homemade food and drink throughout the build
- Noah Tirapelli-Jamail, Bird and Burne Richardson for helping drive the car to/from Nevada
- Additional volunteers (please let Andy Brown know if we missed anyone! We want to include your name here!)
- Angie Serody
- Anthony Fusco
- Aryeh Ohayon
- Cherie Smith
- Deicy de la Ossa
- Emily Francia
- Eric Denton
- Jennifer Obee
- Jill Crowe
- Nikki Johnson
- Lee Preimesberger
- Ray Monmonie
- Rick Dulas
Our community’s art car team applied for preliminary approval from Burning Man’s Department of Mutant Vehicles to bring a new art car called Up 2: Electric Boogaloo to Burning Man. The car was designed to reflect Burning Man’s 2016 theme of Da Vinci’s Workshop and featured a rendition of Da Vinci’s Aerial Screw. The application was approved with no requested changes from the DMV, a rare occurrence for a new art car. However, this approval came in June, leaving little time to build the car for that year’s Burning Man in late August.
Original design photos in the DMV application included the following:
The first phase of the project was to select a base vehicle. After reviewing a number of options, the team selected a 1995 Chevy Tahoe as the base. This car features a v8 engine, a full-sized truck frame, and is in decent mechanical shape despite having approximately 300,000 miles. It was purchased for $725 from a suspected crack house in North Houston.
Warehouse Space Clearing and Initial Repairs
The second phase of the project was to clear space in our Community Warehouse to store the vehicle and to make some initial mechanical repairs. A number of us learned quite a bit about car repair.
The next phase of the build consisted of removing the doors, roof, windshield, and much of the interior of the vehicle. For many, this was their first time learning how to demo a car safely.
With the car torn down, the next step was to weld a metal skeleton around the car. Unfortunately, a fuel line issue developed during this phase. But, repairs were made, and the project continued to move forward. Several participants received an introduction to welding in this phase.
Once the metal exoskeleton for the car was created, work moved on to staining, cutting, and mounting plywood to form the exterior of the car. Woodworking skills were taught and practiced.
Interior Paneling, Mast, Lighting, and Sound Installation
With the exterior completed, work moved to the interior of the car. Seating and flooring were installed, a reinforced deck was created, gas tank access and air vents were cut, lighting and sound were installed, and the mast/sail/disco ball were mounted. Time ran short at this point. So, some of this work was completed on playa at Burning Man. Several folks learned the basics of electronics wiring during this phase.
Transport and Repair
It’s roughly 2,000 long, desolate miles each way between Houston and Burning Man, and our non-aerodynamic art car caused some issues during transport. With its modified exterior, it’s pretty low to the ground. This required building ramps to provide additional clearance on our donated car-hauling trailer. The welded steel, despite having its sharp edges ground off, still cut through a number of tarps and ratchet straps. On the return trip, the donated trailer’s tires gave out. Finally, the car, clogged with carbon and dust, stopped starting when we returned home, making it difficult to get off the trailer. We worked through all these issues, though, and the car made it to and from the playa safely. We all learned a great deal about safely transporting art over long distances.
After a couple of days of repairs and finishing work on playa, we were able to successfully take the car over to the DMV to achieve both daytime and nighttime final approval. After this, the car made daily trips around Black Rock City to art installations, sound camps, food camps, Hell Station for gas for camp generators and Center Camp for ice and coffee. The most fun was had, however, conducting deep playa art tours and using the car as a mobile home base at the Mayan Warrior and Robot Heart, at sunrises, and at burns. On the night the Man burned, the car set a new passenger record, ferrying almost 30 people to and from the burn. The car made life out on the playa a lot easier, and we’re looking forward to having it out there each year.