Art Car Project
- February ’05
- April ’05
- July ’05
- September ’05
- January/February ’06
- March / April ’06
- May / June ’06
- June / August ’08
Long story short: I went to Burning Man in ’04, thinking it would be a once-in-a-lifetime affair, but now I’m hooked! I had planned to take notes with the idea of building an art car to cruise around my neighborhood but once there that idea kind of evaporated. Now da plan is to build something specifically for the Playa, which is soooo large that it can’t all be seen, even on a bicycle. This means the vehicle had to be trailerable and, in the interest of saving a few clams I wanted it to be no larger than my Kubota tractor (figure 5ft wide and 10ft long), so I wouldn’t have to buy a second trailer.
The closest US-made approximation is a hunk of over-engineered crap that John Deere sells for $5k plus tax. I searched some more for a small, complete drivetrain and this is what I found.
The vehicle fresh out of the box; yes, it came in a cardboard box! This one’s called a KPX Xterro, but they go by many names. They’re all made in China at the same factory but the workmanship is surprisingly good. It had the distinction of being the cheapest new and complete drive train on the market. It has a 150cc engine, electric starter, centrifical clutch (with forward and reverse), headlights, taillights, even a horn. It weighs about 600lbs and is very stable at rest, but squirrely in a turn at just about any speed. Retail is $3,500 but ebay flogs ‘em for around $2k.
With people to give one a sense of scale, it’s just 7ft long and a little over 4ft wide. Top of rollcage is maybe 4ft high, so a seat located on top of it would put driver’s eyes at about 7ft; i.e. perfect for Playa excursions. Front wheels are farther apart than rears. I’ve stood on the side rails, grabbed the rollbar and hung my 230-lb ass out as far as I can and the kart had no tendency to tip or even rock; it’s a solid platform.
Driver and passenger sit right on the deck; eyes are maybe 3ft off the ground; i.e. dangerous for Playa treks and dust storms, particularly at night. I toyed with the idea of adding a periscope, but realistically a perch on top of the rollcage is the only cure.
Some thoughts about the Artsy-fartsy Stuff
-Honestly for the longest time I didn’t have a clue what I wanted my very own art car to look like. I still think I needed a team of participants to come knocking on my door, full of ideas, creative energy and spare time, but so far… Well the response to my pleas was underwhelming with three exceptions; without them I would never have come as far as I have. I just hope the result is worthy of the Playa.
As for technique this guy had a pretty good idea with his overhead display…
I snapped this vehicle at the ’04 Burning Man. What I liked about it was the neat billboard that he’s constructed on top. The frame is copper tubing, to which he’s attached a seemingly transparent material; like a screen door but coarser; maybe 3/16 in. or 1/4 in. squares. It’s made of Jutte and it goes by the name of Woven Wire, available from Del Lighting in San Antonio, Texas; be warned: it ain’t cheap! What he’s done is attach EL wire to it; at night it looks like a tropical fish with a waving tail; very beautiful!