DEPARTMENT OF MUTANT VEHICLES
At Lakes of Fire the DMV oversees all vehicles in motion, from human-powered people-movers to sea-monster ridden pontoons and beyond. Our purpose is to provide safe and enjoyable mobile art for everyone at Lakes of Fire. Towards this purpose we have constructed the following guidelines.
All motorized vehicles in motion during Lakes of Fire must:
- Register with the DMV and display their licence sticker.
- Have appropriate illumination for travelling at night.
- Abide by all applicable federal and Michigan state laws, including all open container laws (no open containers within reach of the driver).
- Obey the 5 mph speed limit (or less, if kicking up dust, in hazardous situations such as tight crowds or poor weather).
- Give the right of way to pedestrians, bicycles, and emergency services or staff vehicles.
- Follow the reasonable and applicable vehicle laws for road safety.
- Stop immediately upon being hailed by any Lakes Of Fire Event Staff member, Lakes Of Fire Ranger, or law enforcement officers.
- Not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Not drive in pedestrian walkways, pedestrian-designated streets, or through camps (see your map for details).
- Follow any additional guidelines set forth by Lakes Of Fire Staff.
All Mutant Vehicles must:
- Pass an on-site inspection prior to Lakes of Fire licensing.
- Create a clear field of vision for the operator, including rear and side mirrors if the vehicle has blind spots.
- Have ground guides (walkers) if the vehicle is large, has a limited field of vision or is dangerous to pedestrians.
- Not have sharp or unfinished edges, unlight extensions or perimeter hazards.
- Have a safe access area and procedures for loading and unloading passengers.
- Come to a complete stop before passengers get on/off.
- Clearly display the Mutant Vehicle license on the rear of the vehicle.
- Consider safety in the design of the Mutant Vehicle.
- Maintain sufficient lighting at night while in motion. If temporarily parked or stopped, marker lights remain on.
What vehicles need to be registered?
All motorized vehicles that aren’t mutant vehicles must register with the DMV as a ‘small vehicle’. This Includes:
- Motorized Bikes
- Single-person motorized vehicles
- Motorized vehicles for children (used only by child participants)
Un-mutated golf carts and ATVs are not permitted.
‘Small Vehicle’ owners will need to fill out the Small Vehicle Form and turn it in to DMV on-site (emailed forms will NOT be accepted). Please see above for DMV registration hours.
What defines a mutant vehicle?
A vehicle must meet at least two of the following standards to be classified as a mutant vehicle.
- Artistic – The vehicle has been modified or designed in a specific way to make an artistic statement or to be visually stimulating. Modifications of this type do not need to be permanent. Examples of this type of modification would be an artistic paint job, addition of unusual elements to the vehicle, or fancy lights.
- Modification – The vehicle must be radically altered from its original state. Modifications of this type are permanent or sudo-permanent. The vehicle will not be recognizable as its original base vehicle. Items placed on a vehicle as decoration do not qualify for this requirement.
- Transportation – The vehicle can transport the driver and a minimum of 5 other passengers safely. The vehicle has a specific task of transporting participants during the event, not simply transporting friends and family.
- Service – The vehicle is providing a service to the community. This includes, but is not limited to, providing mobile sound, dispensing a food or product, or other services that give back to the community.
For safety reasons mutant vehicles may not mimic any type of emergency service or law enforcement vehicle in appearance or in light patterns.
How big can my mutant vehicle be?
Lucky Lake Campground has a large number of trees which limit the maximum size of vehicles at the event. Vehicles that exceed a width of 7 feet and/or a height of 18 feet might be restricted from driving in certain areas.
Can my mutant vehicle have fire and/or amplified sound?
Vehicles with flame effects must also pass a F.A.S.T (Fire Art Safety Team) on-site inspection and follow all F.A.S.T rules and policies. Vehicles with amplified sound must pass an on-site sound inspection and must abide to all rules and policies of the Lakes of Fire Sound Policy.
What defines a handicap vehicle?
A vehicle for the specific purpose of transporting a legally handicap participant does not need to meet the Mutant Vehicle requirements. A handicap vehicle must still register and pass an on-site safety inspection. Handicap vehicle drivers must also provide a government issued Disabled placard or Disabled license plate number with the accompanying identification card (if your government, city or state provides one). The name on the card must match the applicant. Handicap vehicles are encouraged to decorate but it is not required.
What is the process of registering a Mutant Vehicle?
Before the event the Mutant Vehicle owner fills out the Mutant Vehicle Registration form, located on the Key Dates and Registration Form page. Registering will put you on the DMV mailing list and you will receive a few emails with news and updates. Upon arriving at Lakes of Fire proceed to your campsite and unload/setup your Mutant Vehicle. Once your vehicle is fully operational drive over and park at DMV for registration. Your vehicle will then be inspected by DMV, F.A.S.T and Sound (as applicable). DMV will then issue your vehicle a bumper sticker and your vehicle will be ready to cruise. Please see above for DMV vehicle registration hours.
What is the difference between an Art Car and a Mutant Vehicle?
Art cars have been featured at Burning Man since its inception but in recent years the festival has been forced to limit the number of vehicles on the playa. As such they have restricted the vehicles that are licensed to what they are now calling “mutant vehicles”. There has been some confusion within the Burning Man and Art Car communities over these two terms, with some believing the terms are simply synonyms. According to art car artist and Art Car Fest organizer Philo Northrup, art cars are “street-legal vehicles that have been permanently transformed into mobile sculptures”. According to the Burning Man DMV (“Department of Mutant Vehicles”), Mutant Vehicles are “‘art on wheels’: radically, stunningly, (usually) permanently, and safely modified motorized vehicles”. Obviously there is some overlap in these categories. In general, if you can still easily tell what kind of a vehicle it was created from, it’s probably an art car. If it can’t be legally driven in city streets, it’s probably a mutant vehicle.
Although mutant vehicles depicted in film and TV shows (e.g. Escape from New York, Mad Max 2 (and its sequels), Battletruck) were an early staple of past Burning Man events, the Burning Man Department of Mutant Vehicles now decides what is viable as a mutant vehicle has evolved into a duopoly. Wasteland Weekend (which started out as a Mad Max fan gathering but evolved into a more generally post-apocalyptic annual event, and features mutant vehicles based on those depicted in the Mad Max sequels) might be considered by some to be a competitor to Burning Man (despite crossover among event attendees), in that rejected mutant vehicles which do not make the final cut with the DMV are usually the staple at Wasteland Weekend. Conversely, the more whimsical art cars that appear at home at Burning Man are frowned upon at Wasteland Weekend, where adherence to a more functional post-apocalyptic aesthetic is preferred.
For more information on this topic, see this wikipedia article.
Can I bring a boat for the water?
Yes. Please note that the landowner forbids gas or fossil fuel engines on the lake. All local and federal boating law apply. Please see the Michigan Boater Safety Handbook for more on the rules of the lake.
Did you read this whole page and not find an answer to your question? Email us and we will add the answer you seek.