You Think You Made That Art Car? It’s Ours [Updates]

Recent events have brought the intertwined issues of insurance and liability into the spotlight, like never before. First, the Temple plan for this year collapsed. The artist claimed the main reason was that he could not meet the insurance burden, which was shifted to him and not covered by the blanket policy BMOrg are required to have for the event.

Then we just had the tragic death of a Burner in Utah, who ran through the safety perimeter and leaped in the fire before anyone could stop him, exposing thousands to a horrific spectacle and raising the ugly specter of lawsuits once more. Some say “people trying to hurt themselves at burns is a growing problem and we should talk about it”, others say “it’s a coincidence not a trend, nothing to see here, move along”.

la contessa burnsIn the past, art cars have been involved with injuries and even death at Burning Man. If you own and operate an art car, your biggest concern must surely be someone falling off or getting run over. Followed a close second by your driver getting picked up by the many cops there for exceeding the speed limit of 5 MPH, or DUI.

Safety third is all very well and fun for Burners to say as a joke, but try telling it to a burner-hating local Judge. It really isn’t a joke. Safety should be first, and if someone gets injured by an art car, in the eyes of the authorities it will be.

The best way to keep an art car safe, would seem to be knowing who the people are that are riding on it. If someone looks wasted, or seems like a trouble-maker, you should have the right to refuse them entry or kick them off. Right?

WRONG. Art Car operators have been ordered by BMOrg that they have to give Burners rides, even if they don’t know them. Not “we would like you to behave this way” warned. That would be too polite and Burnerly. Instead, “you have signed a contract and you must do this” warned.

Don’t believe me? Think Burners.Me is spreading “disinformation” or “spin”, because the lovely and kind BMOrg would never do such a thing? Read for yourself, and spin it your own way:

From: DMV Hotties <>; 
To: <>; 
Subject: [dmv-announce] RE-SENDING – DMV SparkPlug Volume 4, Issue #1: Welcome to Burning Man 2014 
Sent: Thu, Jul 10, 2014 9:34:59 PM 
Failure to follow BRC’s driving protocol may result in any or
all of the following;
* Revocation of your Mutant Vehicle license
* Impound of your vehicle
* Fines
* Ejection from the event without refund
* Denial of future Mutant Vehicle Licensing


The decision whether or not to grant a license for a Mutant Vehicle to operate at Burning Man is within the sole discretion of the Black Rock City DMV, and it may revoke any issued license for any reason.You agreed to obey BRC driving rules when you originally applied for your license; you will sign the agreement again when you get your license

One of the most disheartening things we’ve heard in the past is how someone would be walking deep out on the playa, see a Mutant Vehicle and ask for a ride and were told “sorry, this is a private party”, or something to that effect.PLEASE REMEMBER: part of the agreement you sign is the understanding that a registered Mutant Vehicle is considered to be a public conveyance. This means that when you get a license to drive in Black Rock City you agree that you will share that privilege with others and give rides to those that need or ask.  This is also a great way to meet people and a wonderful show of our community. Proper etiquette should be followed; all participants are allowed to ride Mutant Vehicles so long as there are not an unsafe number of passengers aboard at any given time.

Dodo_At_DawnIf you thought it would be cool to make an Art Car for you and your friends to ride around on at Burning Man, think again. You’ve made a bus, controlled by Burning Man, which you are contractually obliged to make available to any idiot who shows up without a bike. If you don’t pick them up, you can be fined and your vehicle impounded (update: according to Chef Juke from DMV, the threats of punishment made in the DMV-announce email are not true). What is considered an unsafe number of passengers? Do drivers and crew count? Who’s counting, and who’s judging? Maybe art cars should have a sign at the entry point “maximum number of people permitted”.

What if you want to raise funds for bringing this bus to put at BMOrg’s disposal, for the purposes of transporting randoms and the 40% virgins? Well, BMOrg will threaten to sue you if you say “Burning Man” or use photos of the vehicle at the event in your fundraising activities. They, on the other hand, are free to use it in $150,000 Vogue photoshoots, royalty-producing Oscar nominated movies, merchandise like calendars, advertising-riddled YouTube videos, and anything else they can think of to make money for themselves the tax-free non-profit they control that pays them royalties.

Disco duckI have to admit, I was pissed when the Disco Duck first showed up, and my friends and I couldn’t get onboard because we didn’t have the right wristbands. Now, having met some of the people who actually built the thing, I can understand that they had to do this because there was only so much weight it could safely manage. Too many people, and the structure could get damaged or even collapse. The best way to protect themselves as well as their passengers, was to employ someone compos mentis to be be a bouncer, counting capacity with a clicker. It still sucks to get turned away, like at any club, but there are plenty of other things to see and do.

Maybe every art car will have to have bouncers now, for “safety” and to watch the randoms. “Let us on, we promise we’re not on drugs or alcohol”. How can the bouncer know? This is Burning Man, after all. If they mess up in the club, they can be kicked out, but it’s more complicated to do that on a moving mutant vehicle. The driver, who may not even be able to see their passengers, has to stop whenever the randoms want to get on and off. If you have to go somewhere that wasn’t your original destination for these randoms (like the medical center), the gas costs are on you. The insurance? That’s on the art car owners too. Will it be a challenge, to insure a mutant vehicle that is not street legal for public use by people who are unknown to the driver and are likely to be intoxicated? One would think so.

We would love to hear comments and feedback from Art Car owners, and the rest of the community about these rules.


[Update 7/21/14 5:10pm]

As expected, this is generating a lot of comments on both sides of the argument. This is not a post about “all the art cars that didn’t give me a ride”, it’s a post about “more rules from BMOrg”. I don’t see any point in listing the former, unless someone absolutely cannot believe that there are art cars at Burning Man that are difficult to ride around on for randoms.

If you are running a crowd-funding campaign for your Art Car, it seems logical that “a ride on the Art Car” would be one of the prize items. BMOrg’s policy seems to be aimed squarely at stopping that.

One commenter has pointed out that the story is even worse than I have described it. The devil is in the details. They were told that BMOrg have a “3 strikes and you’re out” policy, if there is a complaint that your art car didn’t pick up someone who wanted a ride, they can and will give you a strike. BMOrg does not inform you if you get a strike. There seems to be no formality to this system. For example, is there some sort of appeal process? Can you find out who lodged a strike against you? Basically, it seems like you’ll be guilty unless you have a way to prove that you were innocent.

Is this policy friendly to Art Cars? Or making life hard for them? Discuss.

52 comments on “You Think You Made That Art Car? It’s Ours [Updates]

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  6. It was touched on in a few posts but I would be interested in getting more information about insurance. Our vehicle (The Treehouse) is registered in Canada and we cannot insure it for road driving so plan to get it towed to the playa and back to its storage place close to Reno. Last year we shelled out some hefty coin for liability insurance but I cant seem to find anyone that does this type of insurance anywhere this year (yes I have tried all the DMV suggestions and a few others mentioned on eplaya). We have a policy and procedures manual that outlines all the roles and require 3 campers + the driver to be in various places on the bus as scouts and/or support. We do a little training info session at the beginning of the week for campmates or other volunteers and I am confident we are duly diligent with safety. But we’re heading to America where people like to sue each other so I get a little worried and would really feel better w some insurance. ANY ideas would be awesome. Thank you!

    • Put the vehicle in the name of someone with no assets seems to be the easiest way to limit liability. Sure, they can sue someone with nothing. Or create a LLC to own the vehicle to limit personal liability.

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  8. Well my first year on the playa I was denied access to many a art car all week long. I would either get the “We are full” line or “Private party”. I clearly remember my breaking point, having walked all week long all around the playa, I finally made it to the burn where I was exhausted. I wondered around checking out all the art cars, and found one practically empty with a bench calling my name. As I approached someone stepped out and said “Sorry camp members only”. I looked around and didn’t see anyone but apparently me sitting down for a moment was going to be too much for this empty art car. FUCK THIS! The next year I came back with my own god damn art car that had a capacity of about 75 fully loaded. I found out that year that even with the best intentions you still have to say no to people, for safety reasons. I’ve always hated the exclusive feel to some of the art cars, but now owning one myself I understand more of the situation you have when it comes to weight, safety, and observation of people too drunk to know what is right. I can’t tell you how many times people have come up to my art car, stood right in front of it, and danced around. This is stupid, but I am the driver so I have to stop and entertain these people that think it is a good idea to jump in front of a moving vehicle and play chicken. As long as intelligent people can continue to run the art cars I think we should be fine, but with the increase in numbers every year I have a feeling there will soon be problems with more art cars not following all the rules. It is a HUGE responsibility to own/operate an art car at BM and people should treat it as such.

    • > your “ride” might end in Deep Playa

      How so? If you don’t want to get abandoned in deep playa, just keep sitting on the art car until it goes somewhere else, right?

      Or, are you saying that an art-car^H^H^H public conveyance can kick everyone off when they want to?

      • I guess if you wanted to, you could take this “occupy art car” principle to such an extreme. Personally, if it was my Art Car, and I wanted to leave it for any reason, I wouldn’t let randoms just hang out on it without supervision. What’s to stop them trashing it or vandalizing it? I find it hard to believe that BMOrg would punish an art car owner for asking randoms to leave when the owner wasn’t using it. Otherwise, who needs a tent? Just go sleep in any parked art car you can find.

  9. So this is a very serious discussion! Are we looking for clarification on who rides for free and who pays with ass, gas or grass? Or do we want to roll on to the Playa with a cool art-car and tell everyone who wants to get on it to FO?

    • Personally, I am looking for clarification on these statements:

      “Failure to follow BRC’s driving protocol may result in any or
      all of the following;
      * Revocation of your Mutant Vehicle license
      * Impound of your vehicle
      * Fines
      * Ejection from the event without refund
      * Denial of future Mutant Vehicle Licensing”

      – do “any or all” of these 5 punishments get imposed if you refuse a ride to a random? (the answer appears to be: NO)


      “part of the agreement you sign is the understanding that a registered Mutant Vehicle is considered to be a public conveyance. This means that when you get a license to drive in Black Rock City you agree that you will share that privilege with others and give rides to those that need or ask”

      – do drivers have discretion to refuse rides without punishment? (the answer appears to be: YES, but they better have a good reason)
      – do drivers have to take passengers wherever they want? (the answer appears to be: NO)
      – do drivers have to stop whenever passengers want to get on? (the answer appears to be: NO)
      – do drivers have to stop whenever passengers want to get off? (the answer appears to be: YES)


      – do art car owners have to get separate insurance, or is it covered by BMOrg’s event policy? (the answer appears to be: YES, separate insurance is required)


      – how do you get an insurance policy for an art car? (the answer appears to be: PARADE FLOAT INSURANCE, there was a company that used to do it, but they stopped last year)

      As far as I know, Burning Man is about Gifting, not barter. There is no obligation to give someone a gift, just because they ask for it. Unless, of course, you have an art car: in which case it’s a public conveyance and you have a contractual obligation to gift rides to anyone who demands them, unless you have a good reason to refuse. There is no obligation to drive them to any destination though, your “ride” might end in Deep Playa and then they will have to find another Art Car to demand a gift from.

      That will have to do as a FAQ, until BMOrg writes a better one “later this year”. Coming soon, like the new web site, the philosophical center, the open books, and the completion of their transition to a non-profit…

  10. As a 20 year burner and a volunteer member of the DMV Council and the person with the primary responsibility of responding to emails to the DMV, I feel the need to clarify some of the assertions and assumptions in the article and posts on this topic.

    The original post contained only part of the email newsletter and subsequently misrepresented some of the information.

    1) The DMV and/or Burning man does not fine anyone. The majority of the driving rules at Burning Man are part of the permit we receive from BLM. BLM and other Law Enforcement are aware of the rules and can, and have, cite drivers who violate the rules, such as speeding. It should also be noted that the DMV does not do on-playa enforcement of the driving rules. This is handled by Black Rock Rangers and Law Enforcement at the event. If the Rangers or Law Enforcement determine a situation warrants, impound a vehicle for the duration of the event.

    2) There is no hard and fast ‘three strikes policy’. When the DMV receives a complaint about a Mutant Vehicle’s operation, first and foremost we have a discussion with the owner. If there are multiple documented complaints and/or problems problems with a vehicle we may take the unusual step of disallowing a vehicle for a following year. This is a very rare step. To my knowledge, in the last 12 years there have been less than half a dozen vehicles which were denied licences for a year based on documented problems on-playa. That means out of an average of 500-1000 applications we received over that time, every 2-3 years one vehicle was not granted a license because of behavior issues.
    Also, to be clear…to date, no vehicle has ever been denied a license SOLELY due to not allowing people rides.

    Next, on this pointthe DMV TELLS EVERY VEHICLE WHEN THERE IS A COMPLAINT. Every year after the event, we gather the reports we’ve received during the event from rangers and from burners about issues they had with vehicles on at the event as well as the dozen or so emails we get post-event and notify the MV owners of the complaint or issue. We follow up on every report (i personally send out emails to the owners).

    As noted, there HAS been a death (only one, not plural as the article stated, but one is already too many) related to a Mutant Vehicle, and part of what we at the DMV are committed to doing is make sure there isn’t another. We also are committed to enabling people to bring their wonderful movable art to the playa.

    As always, if you have any questions or concerns about Mutant Vehicles, the DMV and it’s policies and procedures, you or anyone can email us at We’d actually APPRECIATE it if you are going to post articles discussing our policies as we’d love to be able to give you the direct info so you can have accurate info from us.


    Chef Juke
    DMV Council

    3) There is not a ‘three strikes’ policy. When there are complaints about Mutant Vehicle operation on the playa, the DMV follows up and has discussions with the owners of the vehicle in question. Depending on the severity of the complaint or issue, the DMV may warn the owner or, if the situation is egregious enough, deny to license the vehicle for a future event.

    • Thanks for chiming in with the DMV perspective. Some of the actual experiences being shared here and on Facebook tell a different story, but it’s good to get a clear statement about the official position for the record. So just to clarify:



      I’d like to note that the entire email was posted in the comments to this story. I don’t believe anything was quoted out of context, or misrepresented by us – just by the email, which contains significantly different information from what you are saying here. In particular, NO fines, NO contractual obligation to pick up randoms, NO ejection from event without refund.
      The story about the three strikes came from an art car owner, not the DMV email (see earlier comments for our source). It’s good to know that whoever DMV sent to speak to them on the Playa was actually disseminating misinformation.

    • Technically, Chef Juke is correct that there is only one death on record from an art car at the event: Cathy Lampman, who was run over by a trailer after jumping off an art car in 2001. The other deaths I was referring to were someone getting their head run over by a pickup truck while in their tent, apparently they actually survived after months in a coma; and someone killed playing chicken on a motorbike against a blacked out van, both in 1996. These events may have been before the DMV was created. There was also a plane crash that ultimately ended in a fatality. It’s true that none of these incidents involved an art car.
      (note: information in the Boston Phoenix conflicts with that on ePlaya)

    • Hi there,

      So, it seems you have either misunderstood, or are misrepresenting at least some what I said.

      In your last update you stated:

      YOU: Chef Juke from DMV has commented that our interpretation of the email is wrong. Despite what it clearly says, in fact DMV and BMOrg will not issue fines,

      Me: This is true. Any fines would be from Law enforcement.

      …will not eject people from the event, and if your art car gets impounded, it will be by the cops, BLM, or Black Rock Rangers, not DMV.

      Me: Clarification. Um, that was NOT what I said. IF there is a problem with a vehicle violating DMV driving rules that is deemed egregious enough to warrant impounding, the Rangers and Law enforcement may decide to do so in conference with the DMV. Rangers and DMV would be considered under the umbrella of BMORG, so your statement is incorrect.

      If a vehicle had, for example repeated instances of speeding or dangerous operation AND had been warned by the rangers and then repeated dangerous behavior., the rangers or law enforcement would likely consult with DMV about whether or not to impound the vehicle. Impounding means taking the vehicle to the D-LOT near the main Gate until the event is over. If a mutant vehicle operator did something significantly dangerous to others, it is certainly a possibility that they could be ejected from the event same as with ANYONE at the event.. That decision would also as certainly not come from the DMV but we might be involved as far as providing history of the Mutant Vehicle operation is concerned.

      YOU: There is no “official” 3 strikes and you’re out policy, whoever it was from DMV who told the art car owner that was spreading untruths (or our commenter is lying, which I doubt).

      Me: I made no aspersions on what was said or not said to the person who reported being told about ‘three strikes’. It is very possible that if someone had three separate reports of significant violations of one or more of the driving rules THAT THEY AGREED TO ABIDE BY, they have their vehicle impounded. It is also possible that someone from the DMV phrased it that way to give a sense that at a certain point if someone was violating the rules of the licensing agreement or driving rules, their vehicle may be impounded.

      YOU: Any incident reports about art cars will be sent to the owners after the event via email. I have asked for further clarification on the core point of the article, that art cars have to provide rides to any Burner that wants them, it is not up to their discretion. We’ll keep you posted.

      Me: The addition to the Mutant Vehicle licensing agreement regarding a Mutant Vehicle being a public conveyance came directly from the desire of the burners/citizens of Black Rock City themselves. One of the most common complaints the DMV gets is that, as we stated in the newsletter (and none of this is new…this has been the case for years) that some vehicles seemed to ONLY have private parties or ONLY let on folks they felt were ‘pretty enough’. The intent of the Public Conveyance clause is is…if you want to bring your vehicle to the event and share it with others…then share it.
      This does NOT mean that every vehicle has to give a ride to everyone who wants…or give rides to drunk or belligerent people….or that a vehicle can’t have a kickstarter reward involving rides on the playa. It does mean that there is an expectation that MVs, when they have room, should be sharing the ride.



      However…if they ARE stopped, and they are taking on or letting off passengers, they expected to offer rides to burners when they have room and are in a position to do so.

      While I can see how one could (and you do) interpret some of our wording to mean nobody could ever refuse to let anyone onto their Mutant Vehicle at any time without risking expulsion from the event or having their vehicle impounded, that was neither the intent nor has ever been an action that was (or in my opinion WOULD be) taken by the DMV. If you have an example to the contrary, would be happy to have that discussion.

      I hope that clarifies the points i made earlier and answers your questions I also hope that, as I noted before…if you or ANYONE has a question about any DMV policy or the Mutant Vehicle or Disabled Person Vehicle process, that they would feel free to email us at DMV@BURNINGMAN.COM.


      -Chef Juke
      DMV Hotties

      • Can you stop with the “misrepresenting” claims please. I am asking you to clarify. I emailed you directly. Your replies have not been edited, they are here in the comments in their entirety. The only editing of the original email in the story was removing irrelevant content, not changing any wording – and even so, the entire email was posted in the comments. This is NOT misrepresenting. The email seems pretty damn clear to me, it is you guys who are backtracking on it now. I broke it down into one simple sentence, which is at the core of our story.


        Your answer is NO, but I think you actually mean YES – you changed the question.
        So now, the question is:


        And your answer is “NO, however…”

        So let me break this down for Burners as I see it (I’m paraphrasing slightly, for the sake of clarity):

        DMV-announce email says: “you signed a contract that your vehicle is a public conveyance. So you can’t tell people that it’s a private party”. now says “we expect you to give random Burners a “ride” if you’re in a position to do so. But you don’t have to stop for them. If you don’t give them a ride, and they complain about it, we won’t fine you or impound your art car or kick you out of the event. You can still sell art car rides on Kickstarter”.

        The latter statement is correct, and a more accurate description of your policy? YES/NO ?

        • Burnersxxx,

          Clearly we have a disagreement regarding what my communication has been and what it means. Rather than continue in a post-reply format on your forum, I will just reiterate what I stated before, if ANYONE has a question or concern regarding Mutant Vehicles, the licensing process,any particular rule or guideline, the Mutant Vehicle licensing agreement or any aspect about any of that, they are free to email the DMV at at any time and we will be happy to answer any and all questions.

          We also are looking at updating the information on the DMV section of the website later this year to be more helpful and provide more answers to frequently asked questions.

          It was not my intention to be disrespectful to you or your forum in any way, just provide some clarification on some of the things stated in the article and some of the followup comments. if I failed to clarify things sufficiently for anyone, again, please feel free to email and will do our best to assist.


          -Chef Juke
          DMV Hotties

      • very helpful. I can see that people have been misinterpreting. In essence you are emphasizing that drivers who have space and are asked by ordinary well-behaved peeps, should make space as a public conveyance. The rest is old-hat and common sense.

        • Maybe they should have two classes of Mutant Vehicles: “public conveyances” and “art cars”. Does anyone seriously think they should be entitled to ride around in Robot Heart?

  11. I have operated the “Gritty Titty Gang Bang” since 2004. The car has been to the playa six or seven times. To say operating an art car is expensive is an understatement. I no longer keep track of the money spent, but it easily costs $400-800 to get it playa ready if I choose to take it out. It is a small art car that holds about 10-14 people max.

    I have performed many a good deed over the years, from taking a stranded bride & groom to their playa wedding to taking a virgin who was kind to me at a bar to the temple. I have carted Mutaytor’s gear to a set (the trailer as their stage) and provided deep playa rescue of total strangers on burn night. I have also used it to transport the members of my theme camp, Blackrock Yearbook, on a burn night cruise that allowed us all to stay together and safe on burn night.

    The DMV hotties have always been some of my favorite people. I have never gotten anything but kind and fair treatment from them, even when I was brand new and had to cobble together better lighting for a night license.

    I do believe “the line” for me is when a random burner feels I am there for their convenience, like some BRC Uber service. I am happy to be a part of the community, but I do reserve the right to refuse riders. It is my liability, I am the designated driver. I never felt that DMV hotties or any member of BMORG expected me to be an on call cab. I balance service to community with taking advantage of the freedom and excitement of having my own personal mutant vehicle experience. I think all is well if you follow the “don’t be a dick” policy.

  12. The biggest thing that comes out in this whole mess is the insurance problem! Whoever registers the vehicle, or the title of that vehicle s in their name, is on the hook for any accidents that happen on that vehicle. Read, 40 people injured in Mutant Vehicle accident at Burning Man. Owner sued for Millions!!!

  13. We’ve had 30 people hanging off a converted VW bus. Yes, the axle was grinding an the wheels were always about to pop, and did. But we welcomed everyone who could find a place on board. Although there were times when we did implement an ‘our camp only’ rule. That irked me. I didn’t even want to be on the car when we did that – it made people feel 3 inches tall who got kicked off or not allowed to sit.

    I’ve seen it often – the ‘our camp only’ rule. It’s insulting, and I’ve seen it implemented quite aggressively. I was on the Contessa when they would kick people off or prevent them for boarding if they were wearing blinking lights or LEDs. That ship was beautiful, but the attitude got ugly.

    There’s also a LOT of people who go to Burning Man with the bucket lists, and riding on an art car is usually on it. Before 2005 I never saw the sort of intensity that many people have in trying to get on a vehicle. Before then, people just sort of got on or got off and it was very casual.

    The worst thing for an art car driver is to get requests like, “Can you take me to 7:30 and M?” It’s the fastest way to get the car pointed in the opposite direction.

  14. As the designer and co-owner of The Bleachers, one of the highest capacity MVs out there, I am concerned about all of this. I designed The Bleachers specifically to be the one of the most open and inclusive art cars. We are open to all except burn night when for a few hours we reserve seats for funders and volunteers.
    We have about an 75 person capacity so we are running around 20,000lbs when loaded. Driving a 6 speed stick 5 ton truck through a rave is stressful and I wish there was a better way to share the risk.
    There was an external insurance company that was offering Art Car specific insurance up until last year, but they stopped this year (does anyone know of another organization??). The policy would have been $2500 just for the week of coverage for our car. Plus we have parade float insurance for the vehicle for $500. That is a lot of $ just for insurance. I wish BM would go one way or the other: Either art work that is assessed and approved for the playa is covered by their insurance where they will stand up for us in court, and then they end up holding onto some of the rights and use the images and things. Or the vehicle is 100% owner rights, we take the risks but then BM has no right of image usage and less control of the on-playa usage. We are stuck between the two worlds and get the worst of both: huge liability risk but also tons of rules and limited control.
    The people at the DMV are awesome and work hard, as do all the other amazing volunteers and staff of BM, we just wish we could share the risk a bit more…. lets just say it is a stressful and risky amazing gift running a large open MV….
    Thanks for the discussion!
    Tall Neil

    • Thanks Tall Neil. I love the bleachers, what a great idea! And definitely one of the most inclusive art cars ever. Thanks for sharing about the art car insurance, if anyone knows any other companies offering it, that could be useful.
      “We are stuck between the two worlds and get the worst of both” – well said.

  15. Blah blah blah blah. I worked on one of the biggest art cars on the Playa, then built one of the biggest. We often had to not let randoms up top, mostly for safety reasons, but sometime because the people in the camp, who built the car and paid for it, wouldn’t be able to get on. We also stopped for people who needed rides, took their bikes on board, etc.

    We were the second art car to “sell” rides on Kickstarter. (I think The Frigate was the first.) Here’s the thing. No one, and I mean NO ONE, redeemed the rides. They could never find us. Not on purpose, but it’s Burning Man. Who can find anyone anywhere, right? But what we didn’t tell people is that it didn’t matter if you paid or not, you of course could get a ride.

    The BORG put the kabosh on that little fundy scheme, and in retrospect, I can understand why. Let’s not create an environment of haves and have nots.

    The Rangers, (who dinged us twice for speeding one year) we’re always cool. And the DMV was cool. If we got three dings there would be NO WAY they would impound us. You know why? Because we play nice. We get along with the BORG, and the DMV, and the Rangers. We stop for people We do our best to give back.

    The rules are in place so that if you are being a jerk, acting unsafe, not being inclusive, acting elitist, etc. then they have the option to boot your ass. They can point to a set of rules and say “see, it’s right here.”

    Bottom line, if there is space in the vehicle and it’s safe, I have yet to meet anyone who hasn’t been able to get on board an art car. And if they’re sober-ish, cool, and there’s space and it’s safe and someone doesn’t let them on, ding ’em!

    • selective enforcement of the rules is in place so there can be one rule for insiders, and one for everyone else…thus creating value for being an insider. This is the same as “have and have nots”, it’s just determined by a different currency: social capital. It’s not fungible and the ability to transfer it is limited. A long-term sustainable civilization can’t be created on selective enforcement of rules determined without any due process or oversight. What happens when one person from BMOrg says “you can do X” and another says “you can’t do X” – who do you go to then?

  16. I’d ask there be a rule amendment to accommodate Mutant Vehicle maximum capacity. Many art cars are built from car frames. And sometimes appear to have a lot of room on them, but the chassis and frames frequently reach levels that aren’t unsafe for the occupants, but due permanent damage to the vehicles. Cars are designed to take loads of 4 – 6 passengers with some luggage. They do just fine at about double that load. But if you were to turn a car into a moving platform, as most art cars are, its axels and frame just can’t sustain 30+ people.

    I know I’ve been guilty of telling people in the past they couldn’t hop on our camps art car because the vehicle was at capacity. I could hear our axels starting to grind against the frame, and I’m trying to make sure it lives to see future burns. The car appears it can hold alot more people than it can. What do you do in those situations? I’m asking here.

    • A good point. There is more to it than passenger numbers – the behavior of the passengers affects load distribution on the shocks, safety, etc. People passed out are predictable; people jumping up and down, grooving to the beats, while the vehicle is moving can cause all kinds of side effects. Not to mention playa serpents…
      What you do is kick people off, and hope that none of them are so pissed they go and rat on you to DMV, thus earning you a strike.

    • Leslie – we also had that problem. We brought a Mutant from Minneapolis on two separate trips. It was built from a Honda Accord, with a platform on it and rearranged seating. We could “fit” 13-14 bodies, but we couldn’t actually *accommodate* 13-14 adults safely. We had to say no to people frequently because we had the same outcome as you – axles in trouble, shocks blown. We SPECIFICALLY built and brought out an art car because it was the best way to make art that we could share with a maximum number of people and that we were able to afford, had skills to construct, and could reasonably bring the 2000 miles and back. We didn’t bring a party bus or a party car so that the three of us who built it could avoid walking all week. We built it like many other artists do: on shoestring budget, out of our personal vehicle, with skills we learned as we went. We wanted to be bright at night and play good tunes and yet be small enough that we could actually interact with the people on our mutant. We succeeded, it was great and people enjoyed. But we had to say no to folks from time to time because we’re only so big. The laws of physics still rule on mutant vehicles.

  17. I got on the disco duck with no problem. It was after being helpless because most other art cars wouldn’t let me on because it was a “private party”. They we pretty inclusive in my opinion.

    • Thanks for sharing. I’m not criticizing them, it’s just that the incident I’m sharing, from many years ago now, was the first time I’d ever seen a bouncer or wristbands at Burning Man. It’s definitely one of the cooler art cars.

  18. Hi, This will be the 11thyear for Joyism, th little yellow art car. We have posted in teh What When Where for 2014 that we will be happy to take people on art car rides. So we certainly try to do our bit. One of the keys is to try to maintain a bit of space so that there is room for new people, not just full of our old campmates. Yes, we are worried about liability – people do silly things like throw themselves on while we are moving. But our safety lecture every time a newbie gets on, and all my friends’ desire to have the car available, means they inculcate new passengers with some semblance of sanity. We do say no to those who are troublemakers or too drunk: it would be a concern for the safety of everyone else on board, never mind them. We have also stopped and asked peeps to leave before. One of our worries is an underage person whom we do not supply alcohol to but who brings or consumes his own stuff on board, for which we would have to take the rap (just like bars). Also we’ve asked people just sitting on the car who are underage to move away, because we have alcohol in a pile in the car (this is painful to do, but, hey, it’s $110 and a misdemeanor for me); it sure seems harsh and maybe a bit over the top (what do you think?). In general we’ve been careful. But we did almost run over a couple sitting on the playa in the dark without lights; we’ve bumped lightly into someone who was deliberately weaving in front of us to taunt us then forgot we were there and did a crash-halt right in front of us. Oh, and a friend who had the safety lecture a million times and should have known better jumped on with one leg on the car and the other on the playa while we were moving away and did the splits and banged his head. That’s all I know about, tho!

    Rupert “JoyBoy”

    • thanks for sharing. Sounds like you guys are very responsible about it, and should be an example to others. Especially, an example to darkwads – blink or you might be bumped!

  19. I guess I don’t see the outcry here, either from mutant vehicle owners/operators (of which I am one), or from festival goers. There are lots of art cars on playa that don’t have essentially any provision for passengers and DMV isn’t ejecting them from the event. They are however trying to be more specific about cars that *do* have provisions for passengers and selectively disallow them. That seems pretty reasonable to me.

    I don’t really see why you get to build an art car for private parties, that seems pretty against the grain of the vent. I do absolutely understand the need of art car owners to manage the number and behavior of people onboard their vehicles. I don’t think DMV is being heavy handed by covering all the bases in the language of the agreement.

    If I have room, and I’m not specifically going back to my camp for the end of the night, I let passengers on. I’ve absolutely made people get off it because it was crowded, and I’ve definitely kicked some off for being rowdy. I’ve also taken people to the med tents and back from deep playa because they needed it. There are issues that DMV has but this is definitely not one of them.

    This language isn’t new by the way: the public conveyance portion of the agreement has been there for years and years.

    • From this weekend’s Facebook jokes. You can replace the word “joke” with “story” if that helps you feel more Burnier-than-thou.

      “The Ten Principles Say Immediacy. Therefore, any joke you publish must be current. However, if the joke refers to something tragic that has just happened, this will be too soon, and you can’t express it. Civic Responsibility trumps Radical Self-expression and Radical Inclusion. Immediacy trumps Radical Inclusion. If the joke has been posted before, it will be considered commodified, and you will be charged with a Decommodification violation. Gifting is a violation of the Ten Principles if it breaks the laws of Immediacy or Decommodification. Radical self-expression and Radical Inclusion only apply if they conform to group consensus about what’s appropriate. Please make a donation to help us spread this message. That will be all, fuck yer day”

  20. Here’s the DMV email in its entirety:

    From: DMV Hotties ;
    To: ;
    Subject: [dmv-announce] RE-SENDING – DMV SparkPlug Volume 4, Issue #1: Welcome to Burning Man 2014
    Sent: Thu, Jul 10, 2014 9:34:59 PM

    {NOTE: some MV Owners did not receive this the first time. We wanted to make
    sure that everyone had the information so if you are receiving this for the
    second time, please forgive the repeated email}

    DMV SparkPlug
    Volume 4, Issue #1: Welcome to Burning Man 2014
    July 10, 2014

    ===================== TABLE OF CONTENTS =====================


    + 2014 DMV LOCATION



    ====================== INTRODUCTION ========================

    Congratulations, you have been approved to bring your mutant
    vehicle to Burning Man 2014! This is the initial 2014 edition
    of SparkPlug, the official newsletter of the DMV Hotties.
    This newsletter is REQUIRED READING for all Mutant Vehicle

    Additional SparkPlug newsletters will be sent prior to this
    year’s event with other important announcements and requests
    for participation. Keep an eye on your email inbox!

    You should have received your Mutant Vehicle Invite email
    with your name, the vehicle name and vehicle registration
    number. You need this letter to get your vehicle through the
    Gate and to start your on-site registration process.

    Do NOT forget your Mutant Vehicle Invite email. Print it out
    and store it with your Burning Man ticket!

    If you do not have a copy of your Mutant Vehicle Invite
    email, please contact the DMV immediately at

    Just because you received an invite to bring your vehicle to
    the playa does not mean you are guaranteed a license. Actual
    licenses are granted in Black Rock City if, and ONLY if, you
    pass the on-playa inspection. Many vehicles are given the
    benefit of the doubt and invited for inspection, but that
    does not mean they will pass the final review.

    Be sure the vehicle you bring for inspection is a well-
    executed representation of the intent you described in your


    The DMV has started to review the EA requests for those
    vehicles that have been invited and requested early arrival.
    Each Mutant Vehicle Owner will receive an Early Admission
    Confirmation email from the DMV by the end of July letting
    you know how many passes your group will receive, and for
    what date.

    Please note: you may not receive as many EA passes as you
    requested and they may be for different dates than you
    requested. Everyone permitted to enter BRC before the
    official start of the event at 6:00 PM on Sunday, August 24th
    MUST be working on their project(s), so your request may have
    been adjusted with that in mind.

    Please also note the Early Admission confirmation email from
    us is NOT your official Early Arrival pass. The actual
    barcode passes will be sent separately from Burning Man to
    each Mutant Vehicle owner. You will receive one
    uniquely-coded pass for each person being allowed in early;
    you may distribute these within your group as you see fit,
    but do NOT duplicate them or give them to other groups. You
    are responsible for the conduct of any and all people
    admitted to the event with your passes.

    We will notify you via the SparkPlug as soon as Burning Man
    starts to release the passes; we do not currently have a
    timeframe, but they will go out no later than the second
    week of August.

    NOTE: The Black Rock City Gate officially opens at 10:00am on
    Sunday August 24th. You will NOT be admitted to the city
    before that time unless you have an Early Arrival Pass.

    If you have an Early Arrival Pass, do not show up at the gate
    before the date listed on the pass or you will be turned
    away. Note that you must have a valid Early Arrival Pass as
    well as a valid Burning Man paper ticket for each and every
    person in your vehicle.

    Early Arrival passes are good from the date listed forward
    (if you have an EA for Tuesday, August 19th, it is good from
    that Tuesday or any date after that prior to the gate


    All vehicles driven into Black Rock City require a Vehicle
    Pass. The goal of the Vehicle Pass system is to incentivize
    participants to reduce the number of vehicles entering BRC by
    increasing the number of participants per vehicle.

    Vehicles on trailers and those being towed into the event
    (e.g Mutant and/or Disabled Persons Vehicles) do not need to
    have a Vehicle Pass as long as one has been purchased for the
    tow vehicle. However, if you are driving your Mutant or
    Disabled Persons Vehicle into Black Rock City then it must
    have a Vehicle Pass.

    If you do not already have a Vehicle Pass, they can be
    purchased via the OMG Sale that begins on July 31st. You do
    not need to purchase a ticket at the OMG sale to purchase a
    Vehicle Pass.

    Please see http://tickets/ for more information on
    the OMG Sale.

    We’ve received a number of inquiries regarding heavy
    machinery access for Mutant Vehicle owners on the playa. The
    DMV is in the process of gathering more information on this
    and we will have an update in an upcoming Sparkplug email.

    =============== VEHICLE INSPECTION AT THE DMV ===============

    The DMV inspection area is located on the open playa
    approximately 100 feet from the corner of the Esplanade and
    the 1:00 side of the Center Camp Keyhole. When you arrive at
    the inspection area, a Greeter will meet you and direct you
    into an inspection lane.

    Bring your vehicle to the DMV when it is 100% ready to be
    inspected, not “almost done”. Due to the large number of
    vehicles we need to inspect, the DMV does not have the time
    to inspect vehicles twice. The DMV will not be offering a
    “second chance” to go back to your camp to make changes or
    additions if your vehicle is not complete when you show up
    for your inspection.

    The DMV will be open as follows:

    Saturday – Wednesday 8/23-8/27
    11:30 am – 10:30 pm

    Thursday – Friday 8/28-8/29
    11:30 am – 8:30 pm

    Saturday 8/30/14
    11:30 am – 2:30 pm

    Please arrive at the DMV early enough before closing to allow
    your vehicle to be inspected. It’s really hard on us to
    inspect a bunch of vehicles that show up at 10:20 pm. We
    reserve the right to close the line so that we can close the
    DMV on time.

    If you are applying for a night license, your FIRST visit to
    the DMV MUST be during daylight hours. All Paperwork,
    inspection and photography must be done during daytime hours,
    inspections will not be conducted for vehicles that have not
    yet been inspected during the day.

    All vehicles applying for a night license must return to the
    DMV after dark for a demonstration of your radical night

    Licenses are a 12″ long by 3″ high bumper sticker.


    If your vehicle is approved for a day and night license, you
    will need a 12″ by 6″ space for two stickers. Again, the
    placement on the rear left side is MANDATORY.

    If your Mutant Vehicle is equipped with Flame Effects (FE) it
    must be inspected BEFORE you can operate the FE within Black
    Rock City. The Fire Art Safety Team (FAST) will conduct
    vehicle inspections in “Salem’s Lot” which is located at the
    corner of the Esplanade and the 1:00 side of the Center Camp
    Keyhole. Signs indicate the location of Salem’s Lot. FE
    inspectors are available from 2:00pm-6:00pm, Saturday 8/24
    through Friday 8/30.

    For questions or concerns regarding Flame Effects, please

    Vehicles that are more than 12 feet wide or too long to
    safely navigate the city streets will be assigned a Playa
    Only license. Vehicles with Playa Only licenses may only be
    operated on the open playa. The determination to assign a
    Playa Only license will be made by the DMV Hottie inspection

    No vehicle that resembles an emergency services vehicle is
    permitted at Burning Man, including any vehicles decorated
    with red, blue or amber rotating/flashing lights or vehicles
    equipped with sirens. During an emergency, participants MUST
    be able to differentiate between an actual emergency vehicle
    and a Mutant Vehicle or other vehicle.


    Failure to follow BRC’s driving protocol may result in any or
    all of the following;

    * Revocation of your Mutant Vehicle license
    * Impound of your vehicle
    * Fines
    * Ejection from the event without refund
    * Denial of future Mutant Vehicle Licensing

    The decision whether or not to grant a license for a Mutant
    Vehicle to operate at Burning Man is within the sole
    discretion of the Black Rock City DMV, and it may revoke any
    issued license for any reason.

    You agreed to obey BRC driving rules when you originally
    applied for your license; you will sign the agreement again
    when you get your license.

    Here is a reminder of some of our rules.

    – Be sober while driving

    If you are caught driving your vehicle under the influence of
    drugs or alcohol, then you can be arrested and charged with
    driving under the influence on federal property. You do not
    want to find yourself in this situation! Be sober while

    – Obey the speed limit

    The maximum speed limit in Black Rock City is 5 MPH. This
    includes all city streets AND the open playa.

    – No driving during whiteouts.

    Mutant Vehicles may not be driven during whiteouts. In the
    event you are in your vehicle and away from your camp, stop
    where you are and wait for the white out to clear.

    – No driving on pedestrian only streets

    Mutant Vehicles may not be driven on pedestrian-only streets,
    including the Esplanade, the Promenades at 3, 6 & 9:00,
    inside L3K (the lighted circle around the man), and any area
    specifically marked “Pedestrian Only”.

    A Black Rock City map with designated no-driving areas will
    be included on the back of the Mutant Vehicle Agreement form
    you will be required to sign when you arrive at the DMV.

    Your very first stop once your Mutant Vehicle is ready for
    operation should be the DMV. If a Ranger or law enforcement
    official sees you driving without a Mutant or Disabled
    license, and you are not obviously on your way to the DMV for
    inspection, you will be directed back to your campsite, and
    risk impound of your vehicle. If your vehicle is not ready
    for inspection, or you have been inspected and did not pass,
    please…leave it parked.

    Mutant Vehicle sound systems can be classified into three

    Level 1: Normal car stereo / average living room (under 90 dB
    at a distance of 30 feet from the speaker)

    Level 2: Dance club or theatre (90 dB and up at a distance of
    less than 100 feet)

    Level 3: Large dance club, arena, or stadium (100+ dB at a
    distance of 100+ feet)

    (Note: All decibel levels refer to maximum potential dBA.)

    The dB levels here are intended as guidelines. What is
    important is the impact your vehicle’s sound has on your

    Vehicles with Level 1 systems may play anywhere in Black Rock
    City, but must be mindful of your volume and surroundings,
    especially in quieter areas of the City or late at night.

    Vehicles with Level 2 systems may only play at high volume on
    the open playa (not on or pointing right into the city
    streets) and must be mindful of where you are playing and
    turn it down when appropriate — e.g. around art pieces,
    burns, etc.

    Vehicles with Level 3 systems may ONLY play at high volume by
    the Large Scale Sound Camps on the 2:00 and 10:00 sides of
    the City, with speakers pointing out to the deep playa.

    If you get more than two warnings about your sound system,
    you may lose your Mutant Vehicle license and the right to
    drive your vehicle for the rest of the event.

    One of the most disheartening things we’ve heard in the past
    is how someone would be walking deep out on the playa, see a
    Mutant Vehicle and ask for a ride and were told “sorry, this
    is a private party”, or something to that effect.

    PLEASE REMEMBER: part of the agreement you sign is the
    understanding that a registered Mutant Vehicle is considered
    to be a public conveyance. This means that when you get a
    license to drive in Black Rock City you agree that you will
    share that privilege with others and give rides to those that
    need or ask. This is also a great way to meet people and a
    wonderful show of our community. Proper etiquette should be
    followed; all participants are allowed to ride Mutant
    Vehicles so long as there are not an unsafe number of
    passengers aboard at any given time.

    If you are serving food or alcohol to the public from your
    Mutant Vehicle, you may need a permit from the state of
    Nevada. Please visit the following website for more

    – It is a misdemeanor to serve alcoholic beverages to anyone
    under 21 years old in Nevada. The law applies if the alcohol
    is gifted or sold. Law Enforcement has been known to use
    sting operations. Know the laws about serving people alcohol
    and follow them, or you may end up being fined or arrested.

    ============ RESOURCES FOR MUTANT VEHICLE OWNERS ===========

    How to contact the Black Rock City DMV: email

    The DMV’s page on Burning Man’s website:

    Mutant Vehicle Licensing Criteria:

    Vehicles at Burning Man

    Black Rock City Driving Protocols:

    Volunteering at the DMV:

    Burning Man’s ePlaya (forums):

    Burning Man’s Fire Art Safety Team (FAST): Primary contact
    Jack Scholl

    Fire on Mutant Vehicles

    Flame Effects at Burning Man:






    Iveson Ranch


    See you all at the DMV! We can’t wait to see your Mutant

    The DMV Hotties
    dmv-announce mailing list

  21. I’m sorry, I think the author of this piece is being disingenuous to the point of absurdity. the rules from the LLC are obviously an effort to address the problem of people given passes to drive their vehicles on the playa cherry-picking only “cool” people to give rides to, no different than a trendy club letting some people inside and making others who don’t pass muster for whatever reason stand outside or be denied outright. And the author’s single example of a vehicle that was too full smells like bullshit to me – sure, maybe it was full on one occasion he was denied a ride, that doesn’t mean that was the reason disc Duck didn’t take on passenger every single time. and no, I don’t buy for a millisecond that wristbands have anything to do with carrying capacity. Did the car require people exiting to surrender the wristbands every time they got off, so someone else could have one? Doubt it. – hell, just keeping count would be a hell of a lot easier than keeping track of wristbands, wouldn’t it?

    And I must say I really don’t believe that the LLC does not accept overcapacity of a vehicle as an excuse – I really wonder what was edited out of the email that was excepted from.

    This could have been an interesting article discussing the weaknesses and flaws in the LLC’s response to this real phenomenon (hell, even the BRC Weekly has written about it). Lack of any way for an art car operator to know how many “strikes” they may have is certainly a problem, for instance. Instead, this whole piece seems like an apology for elitism.

    • what’s your point – that wristbands are bad? VIP floors on art cars, like Disco Fish’s upper level or Dancetronauts strip ship, must be opened to everyone because of Radical Inclusion? I’m not saying what BMOrg accepts or doesn’t as an excuse, although I do suggest that getting a bouncer is one way to be safe. Even then it doesn’t help the driver see what all the passengers and people in the crowd around the vehicle are doing.

      • Yes, I am saying that Art Cars should be open to everyone, to the limit of their carrying capacity, including “private levels” or whatever. Bouncers are fine for keeping order and making sure a vehicle isn’t overloaded – I’ve played tat role myself on friends vehicles on more than one occasion.

          • I’m asking where do you draw the line. You don’t think that’s a relevant question? You’re the one trying to change the topic this post is discussing, obviously with your own agenda given how you are posting this here and on Facebook, but refusing to actually answer what are quite legitimate questions.

  22. I really think that this article is blowing the issue out of proportion. These ‘private parties’ not allowing others on have been decried ON THIS website. Sure, it may be a somewhat heavy handed approach, but the org is attempting to re-open some of the gates that have been closed by the amount of money that is flowing onto the playa right now. Of course you want the car to be able to regulate themselves, and if it came down to some people doing drugs/other trouble, I don’t see anyone getting in any trouble for kicking them off.

  23. As the manager of one of the larger art car’s on the Playa we have the position that if someone is too drunk/belligerent to be on board we ask them to leave. If someone is too fucked up that they pass out then that is where they stay. In the time that we have had art cars (we are on our 3rd car over 6 years now) it’s never been a problem. To be honest people passed out gives the vehicle some character. Surprisingly we have never had any serious problems with people getting hurt or injured. We did get a visit from DMV last year where they met with us as a camp and told us that anyone can complain to DMV or a Ranger about not getting a ride and that will count as a strike against us, three strikes and we were out. We asked if there was any method for letting us know if we got a complaint and they said there was no system for informing us. Honestly, after ten years (6 with an art car) on the Playa I think many of us want to move on to other events like Lightning in a Bottle or Electric Daisy Carnival so frankly we might not care if we get kicked out of Burning Man.

    For this reason I am signing this anonymously.

    • wow, three strikes and you’re out! And they won’t even tell you when you got a strike. Presumably there is no appeal process either, it’s guilty unless you can prove yourself innocent. The story is even worse than I first thought.

      Would love to see more art car friendly events. To me it’s what makes Burning Man, to others it’s the yoga and TED talks and “networking opportunties”.

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