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Cupcake Cars / Motorized Muffins Frequently Asked Questions

What is this?

This is a cooperative, distributed, art car project. We are here to hopefully inspire you to make your very own individual electric powered art car. We are definitely here to make you smile.

What are they made from?

Each car is made slightly differently, with the same basic design, depending on what materials were cheaply available at the time. The metal casing is hand-bent steel, the motors are electric, the muffin tops are made of wood, chicken wire and fabric, and the bases are wooden.

How are they powered?

They are all electric – so no, we don’t pedal them! The motors and mechanics are adapted from electric wheelchair, golf cart motors and small ATVs. They run on deep cycle marine batteries. At events like the Maker Faire, we recharge the batteries from the mains source. At Burning Man we recharge them on large solar panels set up in our camp.

How fast do they go?

Between seven and fifteen miles an hour approximately, depending on the car. Some are “suped” up while others are more cobbled-together.

Is it hot in there?

Actually, no. The fabric and batting absorb a lot of the heat, so sitting under a muffin top is like sitting in the shade.

What's the difference between a muffin and a cupcake?

One is a quick bread, and one is a cake. I'm sure you can work this one out on your own.

Who do they belong to?

Each car belongs to a different person – we are a group of friends and fellow-cupcake car aficionados.

Can I drive in one?

Unfortunately no, you can’t. Only the makers themselves can drive them. They are very dangerous and we really don’t want any cupcake pileups.

Do you sell them?

Not normally, no. However, we have been known to offer them for exorbitant amounts of money.

How do I make one?

We are still working on more detailed plans - but basically, your mobile muffin / cupcake car comes in 3 parts:

1) The tin: made from 4 sheets of 4x4ft 26ga galvanized sheet metal.

2) The top: plywood, chicken wire, batting, and fabric.

3) The drivetrain: involves batteries, motor, controller, wheels, steering, and a seat. Some muffins have pre-packaged arrangement like the Minimoto ATV

If you have any more questions, (solar charger, measurements, etc.) Sign up for our email list and ask your questions there. NOTE: we get a lot of spam sign-ups on this list so you should send an email to one of our group members introducing yourself in order to get on the list.

How much do they cost?

Depending on the materials used, they cost between $500 and $1500. Or much more if you really want to get fancy. Galvanized sheet metal is about $75 for 4 sheets. Depending on the type of fabric you use, expect to spend $100 to $200 for the top. The Minimoto drivetrain is about $500 or more if you add batteries. If you have fabrication skills you may be able to use surplus parts and build the drivetrain for less, but you'll need at least $200 or so for batteries.

Who dreamed this up?

Lisa Pongrace wanted to come up with a project as a follow up to the bunny slippers (earlier art cars that continue to grace Burning Man) and she had the idea that she and Greg Solberg should create a batch of muffin cars. Then a bunch of their friends could drive them too. Muffins/cupcakes are such a great shape for an individual car and they also have such an appealing visual aspect. It was a fantasy, of course, because they knew that they would never have time to build so many vehicles. Lisa and Greg considered that if they came up with the plans, maybe some of their friends would be inspired to build their own. The idea didn't go anywhere, other than Lisa drawing a concept car sketch, but then it was mentioned it to Claudine and Paul Ozzello at a book reading (where they had brought the bunny slippers). Claudine was extremely enthused and inspirational. Lisa didn't even know if she had the energy to make two, and Claudine said "Paul, I want a muffin!" Or maybe it was "Daddy, I want a pony!" Whatever. That's when the collaboration started - how to make the fantasy a reality. How to actually BUILD one. The guys immediately started figuring out how to engineer the whole thing... and the girls planned how to make them look cool.

How many are you?

There are now about 16 cupcake cars.

What are all of the flavors?

We now have blueberry, cranberry, hostess, English muffin, pink sprinkles, Prozac, S&M, chopper, ying and yang, cherry and...

Where are you from?

Most of us are from the San Francisco Bay Area but we also have a few in Los Angeles and one in Illinois.

Where do you keep them?

Some are kept in regular garages but most are in a secret warehouse in Berkeley.

Why do you do this?

Because it’s fun! And who doesn’t love cupcakes?!

What do you do when you are not muffineering?

We all have “real” jobs. We are programmers, artists, photographers, engineers, etc.

Where else can I see you?

We are at Burning Man in Nevada every year and we also attend the "Maker Faire" in San Mateo and the “How Berkeley Can You Be” parade in Berkeley, California. You can also see footage of us on and on U-Tube, plus check out William Keller's Muffin Build Gallery and for lots of photos of us at various events.

What's the difference between a muffin and a cupcake? In short, it's all in the batter. Cupcakes contain a batter that can be thoroughly beaten and is usually not sensitive to over-mixing. Muffins, on the other hand, are made from a batter that should not be over-mixed. Muffins are much more delicate and sensitive than their cupcake cousins.