50 weird, wonderful rides from the pop-up city in the desert
Every year, 80,000 people turn the Black Rock dry lake bed in Northern Nevada into one of the most crowded cities in the world. Encompassing 7 square miles—about one-third the size of Manhattan—the pop-up megalopolis is full of RVs, tents, camps, and some of the wildest art you’ll find anywhere on earth. Burning Man is also home to literally hundreds of weird and wonderful art cars and mutant vehicles.
They range in size from tiny two-seater contraptions based on golf carts to giant ships that can carry hundreds of partygoers. To qualify as a mutant vehicle, the original “chassis” must be invisible. Each vehicle also has to go through the DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles) for a safety check, and if they are driven on the playa at night they must be well lit and dramatic!
Let your imagination run wild as you feast your eyes on just 50 of the vehicles seen at Burning Man 2018.
Ian Liljeblad built these two vehicles. Big Willy was built from scratch as a 1.67:1 scale replica of a Willys Jeep.
We didn’t have the chance to ask the captain what lies under this Black Rock City water bus, but maybe the wheels offer some clues.
The design of an art car is open to any tune.
A Ram pickup chassis resides under this “gorilla-towing” covered wagon.
The fire-breathing Rabid Transit mutant vehicle is a crowd favorite each year. We can see why.
Large mutant vehicles utilize truck chassis to carry more partygoers. The dual rear wheels poking through this vehicle’s decorative elements hint at some heavy-duty underpinnings.
The owner of this art car included a fascinating display of model cars. But sadly, no model mutants.
Even small mutant vehicles can put on a dramatic light show.
This will drive you bananas trying to figure out the donor truck chassis.
Yes, this is a real boat that was allowed to run with sails deployed one afternoon.
One of the more popular party vehicles powers past the Man–perhaps on patrol for the droids they’re looking for.
What was once an economy car (we’re thinking Honda Civic?) is now a finned, fanged rolling canvas.
This artist put hundreds of old license plates to good use.
This Ford truck and camper are pretty tame by Burning Man standards, but the Wonder Bread theme is a nice touch.
A beautifully made all-wood boat sits on an extended Suzuki Samurai frame.
An air-cooled VW-powered telephone shuttles its occupants to the Man.
Outrageous barely describes this art form masterly crafted by Las Vegas–based Henry Chang. Flux Capacitor now sports bigger tires, a second rear axle, and more extensive upper-deck tubular work.
Maria del Camino, now electric-powered, is a favorite with its gyrating body. Here, it appears to be getting into launch position.
Simple but effective–this art car is likely built on an old Oldsmobile.
Mutant vehicles are as much part of the landscape as the static artworks. It looks like this dragon was a generic airport shuttle bus in its former life.
Christina is another partygoers’ favorite boat. Permission to come aboard!
It looks like there’s a van underneath all this “art.”
It’s fortunate that mutant vehicles are restricted to 5 mph (8 km/h) at Burning Man. Those teeth don’t look NHTSA-approved.
Another one of Henry Chang’s amazing creations is Valyrian Steel, which has gained front mud guards and new “air inlets” for 2018.
Underneath Disco Tank you’ll find a stock Chevrolet Trailblazer.
Staff cars also get decked out, with some looking as if they came out of Mad Max.
This popular vehicle used to be called DiscoFish, and 2018 was its last showing. Techno Gecko is the name for an all-electric 34-foot-wide autonomous iteration being developed. Check out technogecko.org for a glimpse of its future.
This giant VW microbus is built on a fire truck chassis.
Big Red is a sibling of the giant microbus.
Here’s a one-eyed mutant vehicle cruising by the Man at sunrise.
Details on this four-wheel-drive owl creation were few, but we love the copper pieces used for the face. Yes, that is a repurposed 747 party bus in the background.
It’s not a vehicle, but this 36-foot-tall polar bear was made from hundreds of white car hoods by Santa Fe–based artists Don Kennell and Lisa Adler. It will be touring the USA to highlight the plight of polar bears.
We don’t know what this colorful mutant vehicle started as, but we can only imagine being transformed into a wolf god is an improvement.
Yes, this is a 1951 Nash Rambler convertible dressed as a crab. Because why not?
A second chance at life for an old Oldsmobile!
Can you identify the car under this “boss” vehicle? Just don’t get too close–it shoots flames.
Believe it or not, this Flintstones-inspired vehicle sits on a Range Rover chassis. We hope this is what the owner had in mind when they asked for a “more rugged off-roader.”
Once upon a time this was a Toyota Camry station wagon. We think the new look is an improvement.
This intricately detailed steam locomotive sits on a VW air-cooled chassis.
It looks like this was once an Econoline shuttle bus.
Snoop around this mishmash of art, and you’ll find a Honda Civic underneath.
Your guess is as good as ours as to what lies beneath this furry mutant. Whatever it was, it looks like it’s enjoying its second life out in the desert.
This was once a Crown Victoria police car! We don’t imagine it’ll be chasing any bad guys post-retirement.
Just hand over your spare parts, and this flame-throwing Mercedes won’t give you any trouble.
This decorated fire truck is mechanically identical to the two overgrown VWs.
Can you tell this is a Hummer masquerading as a giant Kubelwagen?
Could this be an old Chevy pickup? The twin flamethrowers don’t provide any clues.
Where else but Burning Man can you lounge around in a brightly lit, top-hat-wearing skeleton head? This creation is yet another VW Beetle-based mutant.
Fred Weber’s Anubis is built on a shortened Ford LTD chassis. In a million years, we never would’ve guessed.
A recycled Mazda pickup makes a good basis for mutating.