Subscribe: RSS | Comment       Snow: Toggle | Change Wind



I flew out to Reno for a weekend end-July to do some Marauder repairs. After 11 months of non-use the 48v charger was not kicking in when plugged in. I was worried that it was because the charger was kaput. It turns out the batteries had dropped to such a low level that the charger wouldn’t start up.

The solution? Make sure each battery had decent water (above the lead plates), then disconnected most of the cables from the batteries so that instead of a 8x6v battery pack in series they were simply 4x12v battery packs – then connect each 12v pair to normal 12v battery chargers (see below). After charging overnight like that, I reconnected everything and plugged the 48v charger back in, and the relay clicked over like normal.


I followed up on that with a long series of figure eights in my friend’s back yard to cycle the battery a few times, with proper 48v charging intervals in between. By the end of the weekend, it seemed stronger than ever.

I also rebuilt the rear seat back, which cracked last year, installed a new ignition switch, power washed the frame and all the cushions, re-organized all the parts bins, and removed the side upholstery for restoration back in DC.

Most importantly, perhaps, I sawed the floor cover in half so I can now access the batteries without dis-assembling the entire rear of the car. That way, if we have another battery failure like in 2014 we can repair it much quicker. I don’t know why that took 3 years to think of… oh well.


Very excited about 2015! We have a good crew and it should be a lot of fun. Ho!

christmas carol



2014 was a great year for the Marauder.


As usual, though, we had to do repairs and make some improvements before the trek to the playa. The main effort was replacing the eight huge batteries. The picture below is from half way through that process – can you tell which is which?


We also swapped out a leaky tire, lubed the chassis, cleaned a lot of dust out of the motor and battery charger, adjusted the breaks, ran new sound wiring, replaced the wing LED lights with brighter ones, and added a video projector mount. Thankfully we were able to save a lot of money this year by borrowing a trailer from some Reno friends.

It was a little busy setting up our theme camp, shade, and assembling the car all at the same team, but we have a good team and the Marauder was ready for day and night inspection on Sunday.


Everything was fine until Wednesday night when the car died while crossing a deep playa sand dune. We marked it with lights and reported it to art services (a member of which was with us with his radio when it died). ASS towed it back to camp the next morning, and with the help of some smart people on our team we figured out that one of the (new) batteries had a faulty plate. We swapped in a new battery, and the Marauder ran great the rest of the week.

Interacting with everyone was great, as usual. We gifted a lot of rides, Santa hats, cold towels out near temple, naughty and nice pins, safety thirds patches, Nasa-Santa t-shirts, and ice. As usual, people seemed to really enjoy the non-EDM music we play.

10540875_10152589048424693_2187115540063200746_n Santa-t-shirt


For 2015?
– new ignition switch
– side fur needs some sewing
– more plastic clips to reinforce the led strip mounts
– bring an extra battery
– re-strip speaker wiring (getting corroded)
– new remote control for sound system
– rear seat has cracked a little in the heat
– more decor for Rudolph?

christmas carol



The Marauder has been invited to Burning Man 2014. Lots of new decor and hijinx planned. Ho Ho Ho!

christmas carol



The Marauder was honored to be invited back to Burningman in 2013. After several weeks of repairs and improvements we loaded her onto a commercial trailer for the long trip cross country from DC. Some Reno friends kindly helped out with receiving and transport to and from the playa. Assembly took longer than expected due to a number of small electrical problems – but nothing an afternoon of tracing faults and re-wiring couldn’t fix. The Marauder was licensed day&night and operational on Saturday pre-event.



What worked great:

  • Gifting 100+ ice chilled towels out near the temple
  • Quizzing guests on naughtiest/nicest thing they’d done that day/week/year
  • The new music playlists worked great – over 500 funk, classic rock, blues, x-mas tracks (and not much oontz oontz) brought a lot of smiles, thumbs up, and dancing wherever we went
  • Gifted a lot of rides – sometimes where we were already heading, but surprisingly often wherever they wanted to go (except into the back streets on the 3 o’clock side – those roads were in terrible shape). Spent one night driving around a man on crutches who had blown out his knee and his wife. Took a lot of people on deep playa art tours in the mornings (before it got stupid hot). Lots of ice runs.
  • The redesigned speaker mounts were rock solid
  • The electric motor and batteries ran great. No problems.
  • Projecting randomly onto the open playa and other camps worked well and was a lot of fun, but we need better footage


Thoughts for 2014:

  • Even more gifting. We gifted a lot of santa hats to those cold at night, safety third and Santarchy patches, naughty and nice pins, etc – but I think we can do better. I’m going to challenge everyone in camp to come up with some new ideas.
  • Upgrade the RGB LED strip lighting.
  • Retrofit Rudolph’s 500w fire engine light nose with something LED based so we don’t have to run the generator as much – running silent/just music is much more pleasant for everyone.
  • New horn. Our old one fell off and got run over – oops.
  • There’s a list of minor repairs that will be needed, but overall the Marauder is in fantastic shape.



We decided to leave the Marauder in Reno over the off season. While it’s a shame to leave art unused for most of the year, the shipping costs are just too damn high. We’re hoping to find some Reno or Vegas events to bust her out for in 2014.


christmas carol



The Marauder performed AMAZINGLY! Sure, it got dirty and banged up a bit, but overall it exceeded all expectations. Below are a few pictures and notesm11

The lights at night worked perfectly. No outages, and clearly visible across the playa.


The last minute reinforcement of Rudolph’s mount turned out to be essential – without it, I think the bumpy back roads would have ripped right through the original steel plating. Similarly, all the work that went into widening the tire-base allowed us to power through all the drifts and dunes.

m10 m6

Initial worries about range on the electric batteries were soon dispelled – by the end of the week we had a good system of charging worked out that let us drive anywhere anytime.

m3 m12

The most fun was had giving rides to strangers at all hours, playing weird music for people in the open playa, deep art tours, the Santarchy parties, and gifting sleeves of ice along the backstreets (far from ice sales). We also transported memorial art to the temple, made tons of ice runs for ourselves and neighbors, and drove a few people to the medical tent.

Additions/repairs for next year:

  • cheaper transport. Shipping costs exceeded $2,000
  • re-run el-wire wiring underneath vehicle
  • install new ignition switch/lock
  • rebuild side padding
  • re-wire speaker mounts
  • more durable parasols
  • camelbak hooks?

Thanks so much to everyone who made the Marauder possible and for helping out on Playa! Sooooo much fun!


christmas carol



Brad, Heather, Eileen, Debbi, Matt, Rebecca, Joanna, Tom, and Mike all came by and helped out on Sunday. Put 2nd and 3rd coats of paint, fabricated some light mounts and a dashboard, and did a lot more prep work for the lighting and interior.


christmas carol



As we enter the home stretch, it occurs to me that the Merry Marauder is the culmination of all of the skills we’ve developed over 15 years of Burning Man art projects. It’s basically a mobile theme camp the size of a futon. The electronics and soldering skills from many el-wire projects will be used to wire and inlay 100’+ of sound reactive color changing LED lights. From the many hand made costumes, hats, and sewing projects is coming beautiful upholstery and pillows for the all the seating areas. The last 10 years of DJing and sound camps will be reflected in the kicking sound system and some funky playlists. The graphic software skills learned to make patches, pins, and stickers were used to layout the vision of the car, and design all the fundraising swag. Years of wandering thrift stores, dumpster diving, and creative repurposing has led to a pile of vintage touches that will be seen all around the Marauder. And then, of course, there is the community. So far, more than 20 people from all around the country have volunteered their time – each lending their unique skills or tastes to make this small car happen – everything done with enthusiasm, with humor, and with beautiful little artistic flourishes. I love my friends. I don’t know what I’d do without them. Thanks!

christmas carol



Thanks to 13 generous volunteers who showed up last weekend we cranked out all the sanding and priming, and got a good start on the painting. Particularly awesome was how the workers did a higher quality job than I would have. Hehe.

394620_502204849805871_763557084_n528887_502204866472536_1053450745_n  526451_502205016472521_624447199_n 484520_502205046472518_1830529953_n  

Here’s an early photo of Rudolph. He’ll have glowing red eyes and a 500watt halogen spotlight from a fire truck as a nose.


christmas carol



Wired up the sound system for it’s first test. Turns out the 48v to 12v reducer runs like a champ, and the d-class marine amp didn’t seem to give a shit whether the motor was running or not (I was worried about voltage drops). The sound was clear and bright. Some pics and video below. Now that the concept is proven, we can mount the speakers and sub in their proper places, and clean up the wiring. Thanks to Fritz, Lisa, and Joe for lending a hand!

christmas carol



Here’s a picture after some work this weekend. Getting the tail angles and supports correct while still keeping it all modular for shipping was a bit of work (It’d be a lot easier if I could just screw everything together). Also, some previous owner thought it would be wise to smear dielectric grease on one of the circuit boards and connectors – except the grease got into the connector and was causing a sporadic fault where the motor either wouldn’t work at all, or it wouldn’t turn off!!  Anyways, an hour of rewiring and cleaning fixed that problem.

Almost time to move on to the paint and lighting. Rebecca reports that the upholstery is coming along nicely.



christmas carol



It’s been tough to get much done with 11 straight days over 95 degrees, but we did make some progress.

!BeMYGzQ!mk~$(KGrHqMH-D8ErGJ HbDNBK8Oyt(96!~~_35

  • Brad kicked some major ass, building the rear seating including 2 storage access doors, as well as chopped down the car’s side panel and re-welded the support column for the passenger entrance.
  • The new wider tires didn’t fit on the first go-around, because of the suspension arm on the front, and the drum brake offset on the rear, but after procuring some 1” spacers, everything seems to work – though we still need to trim the body panels to fit. The old solid tires weighed like 70lbs each – I’m really glad we’re replacing them, especially with reports of the playa being extra soft this year.
  • Ripping out the front seats turned into a bit of a time suck as all of the bolts had rusted solid.
  • Tested the red marine paint on the steel and wood. Looks bright, shiny, and durable – so ordered 6 more quarts.
  • Sorted out the electrical system some more. Think we have all the proper wire gauges, plugs, and adapters for the 48v reducer and 12v fuse panel. Now that the seating storage is done, we can start running the wires and testing the loads.
  • Tom has been making progress on the reindeer down in Raleigh – I can’t wait to see it!

Here’s a picture of the rear seating and storage. One half opens from the rear and will be used for inverters, amplifiers, and light controllers. The other opens to the passenger compartment and will be used for Santa hats, gifts, snuggies, etc.


christmas carol



Building an art car is not cheap. Heck, just the base vehicle cost $3000. So we’re trying to offset some of the costs with an Indiegogo campaign. Please donate whatever you can to the cause! We’re offering awesome perks/SWAG as thanks for your donations – details are on the campaign page.

christmas carol


  • Matt Brown joined me yesterday for some afternoon sweat and sawdust. We managed to get the two sidewalls mounted without losing any blood or fingers. The measurements were a bit tricky as we wanted to use existing support fixtures.
  • When going over the electrical system I noticed there was a loose battery connection. The increased resistance actually generated enough heat to deform the terminal! So I replaced the battery and cable connector.
  • Picked up two new tires for the rear – the existing tires were foam filled and I was worried they would dig troughs into the playa, so I went with slightly wider air filled tires.
  • Did some sanding of the steel frame and tested rustoleum metal primer on it — seems to work just fine.

So, lots of little necessary repairs. I’m eager to get cranking on the larger structures.


christmas carol



The name Merry Marauder was suggested by artist Kate Raudenbush. She has been kind enough to invite me to work on her BRC sculpture construction teams since 2005. I was psyched to see she received another Honorarium for 2012! The woman has ridiculous skills and spirit.

Her 2010 sculpture Future’s Past is presently being reinstalled in Hayes Valley, San Francisco.

christmas carol



Last night we went up to where the Sleigh base car was stored for the winter. I was a little worried when we first got there as the tarps had collapsed into giant pools of water, and the battery trickle charger cord was gone. Our first attempt at getting it moving didn’t work, but it turned out to just be because the direct drive brake had locked up with a bit of rust. We gave it a few light smacks with a hammer, and everything worked fine after that (I love it when that actually solves things).  We drove it around the neighborhood a bit with big smiles on our faces and no further problems.

Next step: finish the DMV application and send it in – Once (if) we get approved, we can get cranking on the real fabrication work!

update 5/14: Application approved!

christmas carol
christmas carol