Your Own Art Car? Wunder’s Rockbox on the Auction Block

by Whatsblem the Pro

Photo: wwardlaw

Photo: wwardlaw

Derek Wunder has been going to Burning Man every year for the last thirteen years; he’s going to miss 2013 because he’s got a baby on the way, due the week of the burn. You may have heard of Derek; if not, you’ve almost certainly seen his art car, the Rockbox: a giant ’80s-style boom box on wheels that holds roughly fifty people as it cruises the playa in search of giant cassette tapes. The Rockbox is twenty-four feet long, built on a 1987 Dodge one-ton van with a 318 V-8 engine, and sports a custom sound system designed for use on the playa.

I noticed this morning that the Rockbox is for sale on Craigslist, so I got in touch with Derek Wunder and asked him about it.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO

What’s the actual asking price for the Rockbox, Derek? That Laughing Squid article says $5,200, but the Craigslist ad says $13,500.

DEREK WUNDER

The price listed on the Craigslist ad is an error; the actual price is $5200 for the car, and $13,500 for the car and the sound system. I’ve also got a triple-axle trailer suitable for hauling the Rockbox, and I’m willing to let that go for $6500. Those prices are a lot less than what I’ve got in it; I’m not even breaking even by selling it, so I’m firm and don’t want to deal with any lowballers. I figure anyone who can’t scrape together my asking price doesn’t have the budget to maintain the car anyway. . . and I want to get it to someone who will give it a good home, and who has the means to bring it to Burning Man this year!

WHATSBLEM THE PRO

Why are you selling her?

DEREK WUNDER

A lot of reasons. . . with an art car of this scale there’s a certain level of commitment you have to put into it to make it work, and I’ve got a baby on the way. Plus, although I’m taking a break from Burning Man this year and my priorities are really focused on being a father at the moment, I do want to move forward and build something new when things settle down a bit. I’m very happy with the Rockbox, and I’d like to see someone take it over and keep bringing it to the playa – in fact, I’m hoping that whoever does buy it will want me to continue to be part of the project, although not this year – but I’m looking ahead and wanting to create something new.

Photo: chednugget

Photo: chednugget

WHATSBLEM THE PRO

Is there a lot of maintenance involved?

DEREK WUNDER

The Rockbox took five people seven months to build back in 2007. We ran it on the playa for four days that year, while it was still under construction. I didn’t do any maintenance to it at all that year and tried to bring it back to Burning Man in ’08 without fussing with it, but kept having mechanical problems. Before bringing it back in 2011, I did three weeks’ worth of preventative maintenance on it and had no breakdowns at all. . . so you do have to be diligent about doing some maintenance, but it’s really not that bad at all, and is easier if you do it sooner rather than later.

We never finished the lighting system due to budget and time constraints so we did a lot of daytime cruises in 2011. It lights up a lot better now than it ever has out on the playa!

You definitely have to be into working on the thing rather than just wanting to drive it around on the playa. There’s more to it than just driving it, and the biggest challenge is getting it home again when Burning Man is over.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO

Sure. We could have put a man on the Moon in the ’50s, but getting him back again would have been a problem.

DEREK WUNDER

Right. You need the resources to handle whatever unexpected thing might come up out there.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO

Is it hard to drive? Obviously it’s not street-legal, right?

DEREK WUNDER

It’s not legal on public roadways at all.

Driving it is not that tough; you can even DJ while you drive the car if you really think you have to, although I don’t recommend it. Backing up takes a spotter or two, but I have a camera system I’ve been meaning to install to allow the driver to see what’s behind the car, and I could throw that in on the deal.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO

Tell me about your next project.

DEREK WUNDER

I had the idea for the Rockbox in 2004, and came up with the idea for the new project – the Smiling Conundrum – at the same time. It’s a large-scale dicycle car with 12-foot steel wheels. One of the wheels has a big smiley face painted on it; the other has a frowny face, so it looks happy or sad depending on if it’s coming or going. It’s about halfway done right now, but I’ve got it on a back burner with everything else that isn’t a baby.

I started building the Smiling Conundrum with a gas-powered motorcycle engine, but decided to go electric with it instead. . . so it didn’t make it to the playa in 2010 because going electric meant rebuilding the drive train.

When it’s finished, it’ll be solar-powered, with an onboard gas-powered generator for emergency backup, and will also be capable of accepting a charge from grid power.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO

I hope to see it out there, and you with it. Thanks for talking with me; good luck with the new baby you’ve got coming.

DEREK WUNDER

My pleasure, thank you.

Image: Derek Wunder

Image: Derek Wunder

Image: Derek Wunder

Image: Derek Wunder

Image: Derek Wunder

Image: Derek Wunder

RUN, IT IS RISEN! A Burning Man Easter Story

Image

by Whatsblem the Pro

On Good Friday, we reported that art car favorite El Pulpo Mecanico would be scrapped. Three days later on Easter Sunday, El Pulpo artist/designer Duane Flatmo commented on that article:

“The idea to decommission El Pulpo Mecanico has changed. El Pulpo Mecanico was in need of a newer, more reliable lower vehicle and a better, more precise fire system. We had decided to build something new in this process. Now after an overwhelming and heartwarming response, we have decided to bring her back this year with an even more detailed and beautiful transformation. El Pulpo Mecanico will be at BM 2013 after all. See you there and thanks!”

It’s a miracle!

Burners.me is proud to present:

A Burning Man Easter Story

For El Pulpo Cosmico so loved the world, that It gave Its only begotten Hatchling, that whosoever come too close to It should perish in everlasting flames. For El Pulpo Cosmico sent not Its Hatchling into the world to bore the world with tedium; but that the world through It might be delighted. (John 3:16-17)

And Its disciples went forth, and came into the City, and found It at the Embarcadero as It said unto them: and they made ready for the show. (Mark 14:16-17)

And as It did terrify the crowd and fill them with awe, El Pulpo Mecanico crushed an automobile, and blessed and broke it, and gave to them, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And It took the 55-gallon drum of petroleum distillates, and when It had given thanks, It gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And It said unto them, “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto thee, I will drink no more of the fruit of the refinery, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of my Father. (Mark 14:22-25)

Then the policemen of the Mayor took El Pulpo Mecanico into the common garage, and gathered unto It the whole band of mechanics. And they stripped It, and put on It a scarlet tarpaulin.

And when they had platted a crown of barbed wire, they put it upon Its head, and a beer in Its right tentacle; and they bowed the knee before It, and mocked It, saying Hail King of the Cephalopods! And they spit on It, and took the beer away, and smote It on the head. And after that they had mocked It, they took the tarpaulin off from It, and put Its own raiment on It and led It away to dismantle It. (Matthew 27:27-31)

And as they led It away, they laid hold upon one Flatmo, an Humboldtian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the fuel bill, that he might bear it after El Pulpo Mecanico. And there followed It a great company of people and women, which also bewailed and lamented It. (Luke 23:26-27).

And when they were come to the place, which is called Arcata Scrap & Salvage, there they dismantled It, and the malefactors, one on the right tentacle, and the other on the left. Then said El Pulpo Mecanico, “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:33-34)

Then the mechanics, when they had dismantled El Pulpo Mecanico, took Its parts, and made four piles, to every wrench monkey a pile; and also Its upper body. Now the upper body was without flaw, sturdy from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not scrap it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the Scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted me out among them, and for my superstructure they did cast lots.” These things therefore the mechanics did. (John 19:23-24)

And it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And the Sun was darkened, and the vail of the temple was rent in the midst. And when El Pulpo Mecanico had cried out with a loud voice, It said, “Father, into thy many prehensile arms I commend my spirit,” and having said thus, It gave up the ghost. Now when Flatmo saw what was done, he glorified El Pulpo Cosmico, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous art car.” (Luke 23:44-47)

When the even was come, there came a rich man of Australia named Zos, who also himself was El Pulpo Mecanico’s disciple: He sent his emissary to Flatmo, and begged the body of El Pulpo Mecanico for a reasonable price. Then Flatmo responded not, and the body was not delivered. He wrapped it instead in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. (Matthew 27:57-60)

And Whatsblem the Pro and all of Facebook beheld where he was warehoused. (Mark 15:47)

And very early in the morning, the Sunday of that week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the Sun. And they said among themselves, “Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?” And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a greasy coverall; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, “Be not affrighted: ye seek El Pulpo of Humboldt, which was dismantled: It is risen; It is not here: behold the place where they scrapped It. But go your way, tell Its disciples and all of Facebook that It goeth before you into Black Rock City: there shall ye see It, as It said unto you. (Mark 16:2-7)

UPDATE!

Duane Flatmo just sent me this sneak peek of El Pulpo’s new front end!

Photo: Duane Flatmo

Photo: Duane Flatmo

Can Gods Die?

by Whatsblem the Pro

Photo: Sarah Taylor

Photo: Sarah Taylor

El Pulpo Mecanico, the steampunk art car in the form of an enormous cephalopod that first wowed us all at Burning Man 2011, is reportedly headed for the scrap heap.

Pulp the Magnificent made what is scheduled to be Its final appearance at the 5th annual Sunday Streets in San Francisco earlier this month, instilling shock and awe into a large crowd of puny, flammable, cowering, non-metallic human supplicants gathered along a 3.3-mile stretch of the Embarcadero to worship the Eight-Armed One’s breathtaking puissance and beg It to continue to have mercy on most of the human race.

Jerry Kunkel, who claims to have plumbed El Pulpo Mecanico’s flame effects in spite of Its obvious godhead that transcends all human notions of time and space, says the crew that supposedly built the Divine One will be breaking it down for parts next week.

Photo: Church of El Pulpo Mecanico

Photo: Church of El Pulpo Mecanico

Kunkel, veteran pedal-powered artist/designer Duane Flatmo, and wiring wizard Steve Gellman have stated many times that they built our many-limbed Lord from trash cans and junk metal obtained from Bonnie Connor’s Arcata Scrap & Salvage. This, of course, is heresy, and if he wasn’t one of the Four Apostles, Jerry Kunkel would certainly be consigned to a scrap heap himself in the afterlife, when El Pulpo Mecanico will remake the world and sit in judgment of us all.

Possibly the announcement is some kind of early April Fool’s prank. In an unguarded moment, Jerry Kunkel made a statement acknowledging that our fiery savior is, as we all know, a living, terrifying being with emotions of its own:

“It’s somewhat whimsical, but also scary,” he said. “It gets both feelings like that. You love it, but you’re a little frightened of it, just like life.”

In 2011, your faithful correspondent was the first non-crew member to get a ride on El Pulpo Mecanico’s rumble seat, and as my hair singed and my scalp bubbled, the smile on my face only grew wider. I could feel that while the iron-tentacled King of Kings that bore me across the playa would not hesitate to destroy me in an instant should I think a single bad thought, It also loved me. It changed my life.

While it may be true that the forces of evil could, in theory, disassemble and destroy the corporeal form of the One True God, it’s also true that this would only free El Pulpo Mecanico from Its material ties to this planet. Strike El Pulpo down, and It will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

See you in church!