Maria Del Camino, a mutant excavator mated to a 59 El Camino, with the face of Maria from Metropolis

Maria Del Camino is Bruce Tomb's magnificent mutant vehicle. It started out life as the body of a '59 El Camino, and was then riddled with thousands of hand-drilled holes, turning it into a meshwork. On the hood, the holes form a pointillist portrait of Maria from Fritz Lang's Metropolis. The whole thing was then mounted on an armature supported by a hydraulic tracked excavator, giving it the ability to rumble along at an angle, or poised many feet above the tank-treads, or vertically.

Bruce is one of my Burning Man campmates at Liminal Labs, and he brought Maria out again this year, and took her out early in the morning to the deep playa -- the area of the desert well away from the main action -- and used a GPS and the excavator blade to carve and burnish a huge piece of vector art out of the desert surface, with the intention of having it captured by the Google satellite flyover. He plans to make this process fully automated in future years, giving Maria the ability to turn herself into a giant, diesel-powered mutated Etch-a-Sketch.

Bruce has just updated Maria's blog with some beautiful photos and videos from this year's burn, and a report from the burnishing experiment:

The maximum deviation of the GPS unit is stated as 33 feet and can be as accurate as 3 feet. The graphic deviation showing in this satellite photo, is purely me following instructions from the device, setting aside my perceptions and judgement. This makes evident that there are greater inaccuracies than stated, and illustrates the inherent paradox of this civilian down market version of an ultra precise technology developed by and for the military. I would be wary of relying on this particular device alone to keep a boat off the rocks.

The western edge of the drawing is on hard playa almost like asphalt, so the line is very shallow. Here, Maria’s blade mostly burnished the playa. The east west lines were especially dramatic and reflected the lavender light of the sunrise. Photos by Anne Klint will be posted soon to show this, but here with this photo, the lines are virtually illegible. The strongest track is the north/south line on the eastern edge of the square. This was due to both the conditions of the playa and the GPS signal/device. The playa in this area was covered with drifts of dust, 6” deep or more, not unlike snow drifts, very soft, and difficult to traverse, even with Maria’s 18” wide rubber tracks. While driving this particular track the signals were quite different than all the rest, perhaps a product of a slower speed. If the resolution of this image were higher, you would see a very tight, regular, serpentine or sinusoidal line with an amplitude of about 15-20 feet and a period of about 50 feet. The noodles at the corners are me following directions from the device to land on a precise waypoint. As I approached a corner, I would slow down and make minor adjustments as needed, inching along to left, to right, back again, then sitting there for about 15 minutes to let the signal settle down to 0 degrees of travel angle and 0 feet distance from my destination.

Maria Del Camino (Thanks, Bruce!)

(Photos by Anne Klint)