The cars of Burning Man 2012

As you know, here at Mac’s Motor City Garage we embrace the unconventional. Here’s a feature you’ll find nowhere else: a photo essay on the cars at Burning Man by MCG correspondent Mark Amos. 

For those who aren’t totally familiar, Burning Man is an art happening/cultural fair//be in/social experiment that takes place each September on the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. Beyond that, the event pretty much thwarts coherent description, so we’ll just refer you to the explanation on the Burning Man website.

Vehicles, and some really imaginative ones at that, are part of the scene at Burning Man, a development that has always intrigued us. We asked MCG correspondent Mark Amos, an annual participant at Burning Man, to give us a brief lowdown. Here’s Mark. 


The cars of Burning Man 

by Mark Amos

I attended my first Burning Man in 1996. One of the images burned into my overloaded mind that year was that of a 40 feet-long silver shark (Ripper the Shark, by Tom Kennedy) patrolling the desert. This was my introduction to the art cars at Burning Man.  Every year, vehicles emulating everything from giant armadillos to tiny cupcakes can be seem cruising the Black Rock Desert at the annual event.

The challenges of keeping these things running out here include the heat, the altitude (about 4000 feet) and the awful dust that the Black Rock Desert is essentially made of. The stuff is highly corrosive, and air filters must be cleaned often.


Despite these obstacles, many classics return to Burning Man for their annual punishment.  The O My Gawd Reggae VW Beetle has been coming back for years.  And the Crawler—which is more of an engineering tour de force than a traditional art car—has  been a regular at recent events. Art cars have been a part of Burning Man from the early years and I’m sure they’ll be back, plying the playa and attracting attention for years to come.


Below, we’ll call this a combination boat-car-dune buggy. Note the generator used to supply current to the stereo and lights.


Here’s O My Gawd, the reggae Bug:


Even the Russians who came to Burning Man are in on the madness with this faux military tank: 

The Peacock car served fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies from the convection oven towed behind:

The industrial-grade six-legged crawler is more engineering than art.

This handcrafted Volkswagen Beetle clone looks relatively normal until you realize the scale. Note the woman (red arrow) looking into the right-front wheel well—at eye level.

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6 thoughts on “The cars of Burning Man 2012

    • Yes, and the remiges and rectrices near the emarginations of the wings are also reflungently articulated…

  1. That tank was funny. I was driving The Dirty Sardine Can mutant vehicle and the tank was driving the opposite direction. When we were right next to each other it aimed it’s barrel at me and fired water into my face. Washed my sunscreen into my eyes and got some electronics wet but no permanent damage. I’ve got a good sense of humor though and because the blast of water surprised me so much, I’ve got to give it props.

    • THAT SARDINE CAN WAS MY FAVORITE!!! We ran into at deep playa after Beats Antique, i was with my fellow rocker friends and we fucking lost our MINDS! I’ve been trying to find your music online, can u send me a link or anything??? That moment was definitely one of my highlights of Burning Man I will never number forget

  2. Working at the empire store this year I got to see a number of odd vehicles, one that stood out for me was the vw bug/cabin. runner up was the mitbs 4wheel drive right hand drive van. On a sad note, Tom Kennedy passed away a few years back, I miss him.

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