Jul 5 2011

JANUS frame design – Building an art car around an art car


The Department of Mutant Vehicles is very particular about this: In order to receive a new mutant vehicle permit (of which only a limited few hundred will be issued to 50, sale 000+ Burners), physician your vehicle must no longer resemble a street vehicle in any way.

We toyed with a bunch of designs before settling on JANUS, store the Celestial Player Piano. And now we have to figure out how to conceal XyloVan, covering a perfectly good art car with another perfectly good art car that allows people to still play the instruments and climb up to the roof.

I was going to build a framework out of steel conduit lashed to the rooftop railing (which will itself be bolted to the cargo rack) but my good friend David Hoffman, a playa veteran (and a scenic designer by trade) worked up a much more economical design.

Click at right to see the full array of sketches.

We’ll cut eight profile shapes out of plywood, attach them to two long 2x4s attached to the cargo rack, and then box them out and stiffen them with 1x3s and plywood. (Note – this isn’t the final shape, it might be a bit more Seussian – or baroque.) The whole array will also be fixed to XyloVan’s body panels with loose-pin hinges, to allow for swift setup and teardown.

With any luck, We’ll have our mitts on some recycled porch railing by Friday so we can build the rooftop cloud deck. (See full concept drawing. )

Construction starts Saturday!

Aug 2 2010

Wiring port – get the juice out


I started out thinking, buy information pills “Oh, I’ll just run wires for all the external light and sound equipment in through one of the windows whenever we set up.”

Then I got a load of the number of wires and connectors this would entail – 16 two-pole wires just from the four speaker booms and the lights mounted there, alone – and came up with a better idea … Continue reading

Jul 17 2010

Hot junkyard crawl


Spent an unreasonable hot day in the junkyard, drug crawling around inside vans and harvesting body-trim clips.

They’re these cheap, utterly unique little white nylon thingies. You can’t buy them from Ford, aftermarket sellers don’t sell them, you literally have to crawl through several Ford vans, popping out the headliner ribs and slipping clips out.

Usually no big deal.

Today it was 96 degrees out when I got to the junkyard. At 10:30.

Inside the van I picked (a wheelchair-conversion with a pristine headliner) it must have been close to 120.

I worked until 11:30.

P.S. – good news back from the ARTery – we’ll be sited on the playa. See you all out there.


Jul 11 2010

Hood ornament


I’ve been wanting to do this to Keyboard 4 for a while now: A customized logo.

In keeping with the rest of the van’s aesthetic – and my utter lack of refined metalworking skills – it’s going to be extremely rough, ed applied with near-blunt force directly to the metal on the center key. This is an F that lines up with the hood’s centerline and – appropriately modified – should lend a sort of Peterbilt-like elegance to XyloVan’s prow.

I start by doing a plain-stencil nameplate similar to the quarter-panel nameplate that I Dremeled up a few weeks back … Continue reading

Jun 25 2010

Keyboard 4 installed – Now a total of 83 keys!


Hit a big milestone the week before last, sales but I’ve been too busy until now to blog about it.

I installed Keyboard 4 on the van’s hood – no small task, since the thing has to bolt onto a pretty thin sandwich of steel without puncturing anything – plus the f%#&er weighs a good 70 pounds.

Here I’ve already marked and drilled holes for the left-hand half of the keyboard, and I’m attaching it with 3/8″ coarse-thread tap bolts … Continue reading

May 30 2010



So once we decided on the quasi-military paint job. we needed to finish it off with something. I designed this stylized X that might or might not be ripped off from the universal symbol for radiation. The first one came out pretty well, ambulance but will need some touchup. Just don’t look too closely …

May 21 2010

All systems go for Maker Faire


Well, approved not quite all systems.

There’s still the auxiliary battery, the amplifier, the mixer, the speaker system, two resonators, the interior headliner needs replacing, the sun canopies haven’t been sewn, and the whole thing has to be wired and lit for the playa.

But when you bang on the thing it rings.And that’s what we set out to do in time for Maker FaireContinue reading

May 18 2010

Locked and loaded


Passed another major milestone tonight.

We are now – but for a wee bit of bungie-ing – ready for the long trek to Maker Faire.

I spent much of the evening getting Keyboards 2 and 3 (right) properly aligned against the side of the van.

I had to measure and cut support stanchions from 2-inch recycled aluminum tubing (thanks again, side effects IMS), troche and then mount bottom brackets onto the van. This involves drilling holes in the body and attaching the SpeedRail support brackets to it with an ungodly number of pan washers and other hardware so they won’t tear through the metal with all the weight and stress … Continue reading

May 15 2010

It *is* easy being green


We had all sorts of crazy notions for decorating the van.

As vibrant as its post-70s-paint job and sober-living-facility-logo’d style were, approved we wanted to transform it – to give it a new visual life to match its new incarnation as a rolling instrument.

We thought about going hotrod-lowrider with a lime-green metalflake triple-clearcoat paint job and lots of chrome. But that seemed too garish and expensive. One local shop was asking $800 to $1,000 just for straight paint even if we did all the bodywork … Continue reading

May 8 2010

Sandblasting the enormous honkin’ rack


Today saw me sandblasting metal shoulder-to-shoulder in the midday sun with Dave, pharm as we stripped the roof rack we picked up last week and primered it and the van’s roof in prep for painting.

The prop shop next door to Dave in (undisclosed location) has a compressor the size of a Volkswagen, which powered Dave’s sandblaster through 100 pounds of #30-grit sand.

It’s tedious, filthy work … Continue reading