Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tales of Glory

Dearest internet.  We come to you, hat in hand, apologizing for the cliff-hanger ending we dumped unceremoniously into your lap before abandoning you for the Red Bull Race. Of 2009. Here we are in 2012.    We are terrible people.

Many folks have questioned us - what happened with the race? Did you guys even finish the bus? Did you make it down to Los Angeles in one piece? Does Red Bull actually give you wings? How hard is it to update a fucking blog?

Well, dear reader, all will be revealed in this 3-years-late, "War and Peace" sized post about the fate of Ironheade, its roadies, and what we've been up to since.  Buckle up.

Sean promised you some photos of chrome work, and boy was there a lot of that left to do - there was a lot of everything left to do.  Each of the pieces for the bus that would ultimately be chromed were sculpted out of foam or molded pieces of acrylic, and each required a great deal of work to get them how we wanted them.

First, we started with the pink, screaming, newborn attachments that would eventually be the hood ornaments, hubcaps, and bumpers of the bus.  Some, in particular the winged skull on the front, were pretty complex and required building them out as separate pieces.  Then we glued, and waited.

That was all well and good, but the pieces were still really rough and jagged.  So we sanded, sanded, and sanded.  Bondo was used to fill in any gaps, holes, or deformities we could find until we had the pieces polished down nice and smooth.

As it turns out, foam doesn't like the resin we used to catalyze the fiberglass, so these guys needed lots of protective layers of primer paint before we could do anything with them, or they would melt Nazi-at-the-end-of-Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark style.

Six coats of primer, in fact.  You can never be too sure.  And then, we waited for them to dry.

Meanwhile, Sean demolished about 1/3 of the disposable spoon supply at Pixar to test out different chrome paints and processes before we finally decided on one that would work best for our materials.

We used a thinner fiberglass sheet called "veil" for these more detailed pieces. The thicker pieces would have wiped away a lot of the smaller sculptural elements we had built into them, and since these were less structural and more aesthetic we could get away with only an egg-shells amount of protection. Unlike the body of the bus, which we needed to be able to support itself with just fiberglass shell alone, the foam inside of these would not be removed.

And then more sanding, and filling of holes (though this was done with a fiberglass paste) on the fibered pieces, and fiberglass makes me fucking itchy aghaghaghagh.  We also milled out a rough shape of Clementine, Eddie's guitar that we would be shredding on the stage with.

After all the sanding was done (or was called done since Christine can sand and sand until she is old and gray and we were running low on time) there were a few remaining steps before these guys got chromed.  First, prime that shit!

Second, black gloss that shit!  We used two coats of a rustoleum black lacquer.  It would have benefited from another coat or two, but at this point we had less than 24 hours until check-in at the race location and the dry time would have been too long. That'll do, pig.

Finally, CHROME THAT SHIT.  We wound up using SpazStix chrome spray paint.  It's intended to be used on RC cars, but on top of the glossy black paint it was the most effective chrome spray paint we could find (and afford).  

At this point we were still not done but needed to start driving to LA.  Andrew's pick-up (may it rest in peace), was responsible for transporting the main body of the bus..

..and Sean's hatchback was responsible for the engine block and chrome bits (which were still drying, and would have to wait until we got to LA in order to be attached to the bus).

We left very early in the morning to begin our long journey south. We were so exhausted, in fact, that one car of our caravan drove in the wrong direction for almost an hour before we realized "Los Angeles is the other way". (A special thanks to Ashley Eden, who was not the one who drove the wrong way, for shuttling half of our supplies and our exhausted cart-driver Sean Feeley safely to LA.)

We still had a lot of work left to do. We had left for LA way behind schedule, and arrived well after all of the weighing, team check-in, and other pre-race exams had long since been finished. The team was exhausted from four days of non-stop round-the-clock bus building, but we had to press on without sleep. What remained was making all the separate parts come together, and screwing it down tight.

We had waited until now to start attaching the lines of trim onto the body of the bus, as well as the accessories we had spent all that time sculpting, painting, and chroming.  It was finally coalescing, mere hours before the race was due to start.  Luke and Andrew had, earlier in the build, molded and shaped clear acrylic dowels to the form of the bus with a heat gun prior to the body paint being applied.  These pieces had to be chromed separately, and using a silicon based adhesive we went about making sure all of the pieces attached properly and lined up flush with one another.  Many rolls of tape gave their lives to hold it all in place while the adhesive dried.

A few more things like hubcaps, headlights, and spikes were the finishing touches to the body of the bus.  Once attached, we spent our time building the seat for Sean's bony butt, painting Clementine, and building the speaker out of which the bus would emerge, summoned forth through the power of heavy metal.

The sun was up, and we had to call it.  We got our paperwork dealt with, chugged some Red Bulls, tightened down the bolts and wheeled the bus, still drying, into the pit area.

And then we hauled the giant amp, still drying, into the pit area.

At this point, we realized that we had never actually driven the bus with the body attached.  So here is our very first Christine-powered test drive around the pit area.  Man, it felt good.

The rest of the time before the race was filled with spectators swinging by to check out all of the carts on display, give us the horns for good luck, and for some of the more car-savvy folks in the crowd to make fun of our teeny front wheels.  "Will they be able to handle the race track?" they laughed at us.  You doubt our power, puny mortals?

Speaking of the track.. man, what a course. We had two jumps, a narrow hay-lined chicane, and a giant berm to deal with. All on the first go, with no practice runs. The road crew took a walk, and inspected our destiny.

First the starting line, where we would push our gravity powered cart down the hill..

..after which we would need to navigate through the tight corridor in the distance before getting to the first jump.

Then, Sean would need to straighten out pretty quickly if he wanted to clear the berm...

...which would chew him up, or spit him out into the final jump before the finish line. From there, it would be smooth sailing, right? Right..?

But no more waiting - it was go time! 110,000 screaming people were waiting. We are a stage crew setting up for a rock show, and we are about to blow everyone's minds.

We wheel up our giant amp. Roadies Andrew and Luke do some last minute inspections and fiddle with some knobs on our Watt-R-Boy. Christine has to satisfy her need for rock.

Motorhead's Ace of Spades starts blaring, the drums are kicking in, the speaker feedback builds and she jams away until...

BOOM! Summoned forth from the bowels of hell, the Tour of Destruction tears out of the speaker like a demon!!

Sean focuses, and prepares for the task at hand as he begins to pick up speed and cruise on down the track.

After a few hundred feet, with the crowd roaring behind Sean and chanting "IRONHEADE! IRONHEADE!", the bus is still increasing in speed when Sean screams over the first jump! (I think he's actually screaming).

Check out how much air he gets!!  The crowd is going absolutely fucking nuts, but Feeley is not done yet!  The first jump was only the beginning.  

Another shot of Sean, just before he sticks the landing.

Nothing to it!  Sean punches straight through the berm without a second thought.  He went through so fast that the camera  lost sight of him and for a moment, and the crowd thought he had crashed.

But the Tour of Destruction would not be so easily defeated!  If you look close enough, you can see that the rear tire of the bus is off the ground.

The berm releases him to the final straightaway of the track that leads to the second jump.  He's flying, metal mullet whipping wildly in the wind.

Sean pumps his fists, throws up the horns, and soars over the second jump like it was nothing.  Aces.

Sean crossed the finish-line with the fastest time at that point, and achieving a screaming high speed of 46.1 mph.  We were only the sixth team to race out of 40, though would we hold first place for the rest of a very long, competitive day, against previous winners like Team Speed Racer?

The crowd loved us (and even got some mementos to take home from the bus when one of the hubcaps popped off).

The judges loved us. Perfect 10s.

Now we had to wait the rest of the day to find out the results.  We held our breaths for every race, winced with every crash (but secretly breathed a sigh of relief), crossed our fingers and beseeched the Gods of Metal to be kind to their haggard, hard working, exhausted warriors.  Finally, the moment arrived...

We were victorious!!!

Close on our heels were team Speed Racer (the previous race's champions as team Save Ferris) and Ludicrous Speed, a Spaceballs themed team.  Both were excellent carts, super cool people, and crazy competition.  Great company.

We even got to take a little piece of Red Bull home with us - a trophy built out of the bones and sinew of past Red Bull Nascar race cars.  

Blown away and exhausted, we departed for home (after some sleep and sushi).

The team went its separate ways to hibernate and recuperate from months of non-stop building.  We had fiberglass to pick out of our hands, metal particles and paint dust to clear from our lungs, and months of sleep to catch up on.  This was back in 2009.  Which brings us to..

Epilogue:  What's Happened Since

The Brutal Bus is now housed at Double Fine Productions headquarters in San Francisco, California

We brought the bus back to San Francisco to enter into retirement. Tim Schafer loudly demanded offered, out of the kindness of his heart, to let us park it in the front lobby of the Double Fine offices. He took us all out to lunch, and even cruised around a bit to test out our handiwork. He was most pleased.

Eddie Riggs even checked out the bus.  It looks like we built it just right, scale wise.

It was Christine's job as one of his animation slaves employees to shuttle him about for a few weeks after the race.

2HB even got to take a drive.

Double Fine freaked out and invited the whole crew to attend the launch party for Brütal Legend. There was delicious food, endless libations, an Ormagöden cake, and bad-ass metal karaoke all evening.  It was pretty fucking awesome.

AND THEN:  The Brutal Bus was features as part of Tech Shop's Maker Faire booth in 2010

And we made some pretty metal friends.

WHEN SUDDENLY:  I lied, you guys.  The Brutal Bus is actually on a fucking WORLD TOUR as part of the Game Masters Exhibition in Australia

From June 28th to October 28th 2012, the bus will be vacationing in Melbourne Australia as part of a larger Brütal Legend exhibit for the Game Masters Exhibition.  It sits along side other incredible art in a showcase featuring the work of the world's most influential game designers.  Metal Gear, Shadow of the Colossus, and Journey?  Pretty amazing company.  It will then be touring the world as part of this exhibit until 2014.

ALSO: We did it again in 2011.  Almost.

In 2011, we returned to Los Angeles to defend our hard-won title with a new build, a slightly different crew (subtract one Luke Nalker, and add an Amanda Luu and a Matt Ornstein). This time our them was Jurassic Park, and we were "Team Hold Onto Your Butts".

We needed to up the ante from the previous race, so in addition to building a bad-ass Jurassic Park Jeep...

...that would seat both Sean and Andrew...

...we would also re-create the chase scene where the Rex wanted to eat some scientists and one tenderized Ian Malcolm.

This required we build a T-Rex.  That could run.  So Christine drafted up some designs...

...and built out the specs so that she would effectively "drive" our walking, biting Tyrannosaurus-Rex.

All told, the Rex took about four days of nightmare-ishly fast paced work to complete.  We were a little more comfortable with the materials now that we knew how to work with masses of pink foam..

Christine tackled the head, hands, and feet while Andrew and Amanda worked out the details on the body...

...and we made an absolute mess of Sean's garage ...

...and having our own work-space allowed us to work around the clock in shifts. Two would catch a few Zzzs while another two picked up the slack with sanding, painting, cookie baking, or supply runs. Or silly hats.

We knew what we needed to do. We just needed to make time to do it.

Since the team had gone its separate ways, we all descended like a hoard of construction locusts upon Sean's home in Emeryville a few days before the race, and cranked out a dinosaur in record time.

As is our habit, we only just managed to finish right at the very end.  The drive down was a van full of exhausted, cranky crew members singing Queen to stay awake (decidedly un-metal, but quite effective) until we arrived at the check-in location.  Matt Ornstein joined the team in LA and helped out with some last minute building.  Again we were late, and again we had a nightmarish amount of work left to do.  But the team finished, dragged everything up to the pit area while it was still drying, and prepared for race day again.

One it was dried off, we took the Rex out for a couple of test runs.

The "puppet" was built with articulated legs, not much different from the Velociraptors featured in "Walking With Dinosaurs".  It also had a neck that could turn and most importantly, a mouth that could bite.  Christine could only walk around in it for so long - it was 6 feet tall, 11 feet long, and weighed a million pounds.  Dump all of that onto a 5'2 girl in 90 degree Los Angeles sun, and you've got one sweaty lady.

The Rex took every opportunity to bite all hands that came within chomping distance, and made countless children cry.  Fulfillment of Christine's life goals.

Race time approached, and we piled onto the stage.  Andrew and Sean briefly toured around in the Jeep through the grounds of Jurassic Park, and then suddenly the T-Rex burst forth from behind some foliage, and boy was it mad!  The chase was on!

The first jump, like last time, was cake.  Sean and Andrew sailed through the air without a care in the world, the Rex long since outpaced.  They were in the clear.

Next was the berm, and we totally aced that part last ti-


Spoiler alert: we totally didn't win.  We did, however, still manage to claw our way into 5th place, and our previous speed record went unchallenged.  It is also said we had the best crash of the day, since our cart evaporated spectacularly (and Sean and Andrew just kept going).

The T-Rex Christine was overcome with relief at seeing her team mates alive after such a horrific crash.

This brings us back to the present.  The team has once again gone its separate ways, but it's only a period of hibernation, not a disbanding.  What is next for us?  We are not sure, really.  Any suggestions on what we should build next?

Thanks for reading, thanks for your support (and patience), and thanks for all of the excitement and heavy metal vibes you've sent our way, internet.  You're the best.  See you next build.

Team Ironheade (and Team Hold On To Your Butts)