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A Burner Lexicon: Mutant Vehicle

Posted in A Burner Lexicon, and Burning Man

The Whale by Houston’s late Tom Kennedy (1961-2009), moments after being pulled over for speeding. Black Rock City, 2002. Photo by Kit O’Connell.

Mutant Vehicle, –noun, What do you do with that old hoopty when it’s time to move on? Maybe you trade it in or give it to a needy friend, but for many Burners this is an opportunity to create a mutant vehicle or Art Car. A mutant vehicle may be simple as an existing car given a creative paint job or with fancy new attachments, but some are heavily customized or built from parts to create rocket ships, fish, and dragons.

Art Cars are a majestic, often party-filled reminder that Burn events present a risk of injury or death to the inebriated, the unaware and the unlucky. They are a special hazard to darkwads.

Department of Mutant Vehicles, –noun, Anyone can bring a mutant vehicle to a Burn event if they can get it there. However at That Thing In The Desert and some of the more organized regional burns, you must register your art car with the Department of Mutant Vehicles (or DMV) if you want to actually drive it around the playa during the event. This helps create certain minimum standards for safety and relative sobriety during operation.

As I lay bleary-eyed and stuffy-nosed waking up under a geodesic dome on my first full day at my first Burning Man, I knew I was no longer in the default world when I watched La Contessa drift serenely past with a 4-piece Jazz orchestra on her top deck.

Mutant vehicles can be found in reality camp too, from your friendly neighborhood eccentric artist’s customized car to organized art car scenes in cities like Houston, TX.

Thanks to Ghoast for suggestions on this entry.

Other entries in A Burner Lexicon can be found at

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