I remember the first time I saw one of Baron Margo’s rocketcars. It was parked at House of Pies, a little diner near my old house, and, sitting there between some boring sedans, it felt like that parking spot was a rift between universes. Being a writer, I think I said something profound like “holy crap, look at that.”
I stand by that quote today. After seeing Baron Margo’s cars around my Los Angeles neighborhood for over 10 years, the chance to get to drive one is like a dream come true. I’d been to Margo’s house once before, years ago, to write something for Make:, but I never got to drive one of his amazing cars. Until now.
It was worth the wait. I should also mention that Baron Margo’s house is fascinating in itself, a sort of warehouse of artifacts from a future that never quite managed to happen. A future of steel robot butlers and jet packs and colonies on the Moon and Mars, where you get in a gleaming silver torpedo to go to that restaurant near Asimov Crater that serves the best Martian Hyperoysters.
What Baron Margo makes are sculptures that happen to be drivable. Actually, that’s not really right—the driving is a key part of what he does, as these are meant to be cars from the start. And driving them is pretty fantastic.
The one I drove uses basic air-cooled Beetle mechanicals and suspension, though everything is so re-positioned and modified it doesn’t feel like any Beetle I’ve ever driven. His other cars use all sorts of interesting guts as well—as I drove around LA, Margo drove with me in a three-wheeled silver spaceship powered by a Mazda rotary engine, and it was genuinely, no-joke fast.
These rocketcars aren’t real rocket cars, of course, but that barely matters. It doesn’t matter if you’re going only 35 MPH, because every second in one of these cars feels like you’re driving in a bubble of reality from another world, in a future that never quite happened, and everyone around you can see it as well, and invariably, they love it.
You probably should watch the video several times—you may want to turn off the volume to spare yourself my grating voice—but it’s worth really looking at each frame, just to get all the details. There’s so much going on here, and it’s all worth seeing.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, the Empress of Mars is waiting for her iron-oxide massage. You don’t want to get her angry.
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