Building the Brutal Legend Bus: The end [photoblog]

[Editor’s note: TheBigFeel recapped his entire Brutal Legend soap box car that got him first prize at the Red Bull derby — CTZ]

So we built the Tour of Destruction from Brutal Legend, won a race, set a speed record, and then this happened. I have to tell you, it’s been a pretty amazing experience.

If you’ve been following along, you’ve seen us build the frame and shape the body. Now I’d like to show you how everything came together, how the race went, and what the reaction has been. And maybe we can talk about next year? 

So we broke our brake. It got mangled under the raw power of our racer’s speed! Or, we just didn’t engineer the mount properly. Same thing, really. Either way, the old brake mount has to be cut out and ground off to make room for the new brake.

While I work on the last bits of the frame, Christine sands the body. She’d started earlier this morning. Sanding takes awhile. It’s not pleasant, either. Have you ever been to the beach and gotten sand in your suit? OK, now imagine that, but this time the sand is in the shape of tiny little splinters. That’s what the fiberglass dust feels like.

Ultimately, the bus should not look like a giant twinkie. For this to happen, it needs some kickass fenders. Luke is working on the skeleton for our fender mold.

We’re fiberglassing the fenders separately from the main body. The last bit of our resin is getting used for this. Some of it is dyed, some of it isn’t. That’s what the black patches are from.

Using a mold release and a latex primer makes getting the mold out of the fiberglass waaaaay easier than it was for the body, where I needed a large hammer and quite a bit of force.

After the fenders have cured, we cut out holes for them to fit into. Using our last bit of fiberglass and resin, we attach the fenders on the inside of the body and put in some ribbing to strengthen the internal structure.

It was at this point that the beast came to life. The soul of a racer is born!

Computers are pretty cool, aren’t they? Christine illustrated the flames to create a paint stencil. Like a dentist, she carefully removes the crap we just don’t want in there.

The stencils are on transfer paper, ready to be applied to the body for some wicked flames.

Without access to a real paint room, improvisation happened. We basically built a room extending the vehicle bay at the shop.

After a nice layer of primer, it’s time to break the setup down and go home for the day.

Next is a layer of the blackest of black paints. Andrew tapes off the window areas of the bus so they stay black.

A few blood red coats goes on the bus. This thing is starting to look really good.

Slowly peeling off the tape reveals the windows we marked earlier.

Flames make everything look badass. Clear coats make everything look gorgeous.

Yeah. Working at TechShop is awesome because stuff like this happens all the time.

The Tour of Destruction has a lot of chrome. We can’t use actual chrome for everything and stay under our weight limit of 176 pounds (which is the excuse we give instead of the truth: we have no idea how to work with chrome). Most of this we will sculpt out of foam and paint.

Some larger pieces require multiple layers. In our area, two inches was the thickest affordable foam we could find.

Gluing everything together is the perfect time to dick around and take silly pictures.

WOW!!! Every piece is done! That barely took any time at all. Whew! If we had to fill gaps and sand everything it sure would have taken a while.

Mounting the skull hubcaps required sculpting a base and gorilla-gluing it into some real hubcaps. I never knew they made these things for golf karts! Lucky us.

We put six coats of primer on all the pieces so that we can fiberglass them. Six coats is a lot of paint, but it’s better than having our sculptures possibly melt when we put resin on them.

We use a thinner fiberglass veil for these pieces. Two layers of it gives it an egg-shells amount of protection. That may not sound like much, but the paint would scratch before one of these gets chipped. We aren’t removing the internal foam, either, so the internal pressure will make it a bit stronger to handling.

I’m glossing over a lot of gap-filling and sanding again. The resin doesn’t always fill all of the holes in the glass fabric, so sanding exposes a lot of bubbles. We use a green sandable body-filling putty to smooth out those imperfections.

Some items need to be attached to wood mounting plates so we can remove then for transportation. The pipes and teeth are good examples.

After hollowing out a portion of the pipes, we’ve exposed some holes in the fiber glass. We fill these holes and strengthen it (slightly) by laying on a healthy amount of body filler. I can’t wait to see these looking shiny!

Speaking of shiny, I ought to test my painting process and technique. What you see are a fraction of the number of corn-plastic spoons I used to test different “chrome” paints. How reflective are they? How diffuse is the reflection? How scratchable are they? How buffable? Yeah, lots of spoons died for this cart.

Step 1: Prime that shit!

Step 2: Use a high gloss black backing. I used two coats of a rustoleum black lacquer. I should have used one more, but did I mention that at this point we have 24 hours until check-in (after a 6 hour drive).

Step 3: Thin touches of SpazStix chrome spray paint. It’s an aluminum suspension that is designed to be sprayed on the inside of a clear plastic shell for RC car bodies, but we found that on a glossy black undercoat, it is the strongest, most reflective paint we could afford. Other paints you couldn’t even wipe with a cloth, but this held up pretty well. No chrome paints clear coat well… none that are under $100 per pint, that is.

This is just the black lacquer.

A tire shop gave us some special black tire paint for the front wheels, which used to be gray. That was particularly awesome of them.

We’re out of time. We have to pack it up and drive to Los Angeles so that we can check in on time. A lot of this is going to come together in a parking lot the night and morning before the race.

Yes, that is a Pacman racer in the background.

And the bus is done! I sure hope the tapes holds up!… Nah, I’m just kidding. We’ve attached the chrome trim (which is actually acrylic dowels bent under a heat gun, then painted chrome), and the tape holds it in place while the glue dries.

This is our pit. Oh, yeah… we made a Clementine replica, too. Now if only we had some sort of amp to hook it up to…

Oh hey! Thanks, guys! You read my mind.


At this point, we realize that I’ve never driven this with the body on. Maybe we should try it out and make sure everything works well together, huh?

Here is the first half of the race that greeted me as I walked up the hill the morning of the race. A lot of people wondered if our front wheels would handle this course. Our response: “um, of course they will!…”

Enough with the waiting… it’s time for some road racin’! There were 40 teams at the race with some pretty imaginative cars. My favorite design was team number 5 with their grand piano. We were team number 6, so our race time came pretty quickly.

We wheel up our giant amp. It’s time to put on a show. Roadies Andrew and Luke do some last minute inspections and fiddle with some knobs. Christine has to satisfy her need for rock. Motorhead’s Ace of Spades starts blaring, the drums are kicking in, the speaker feedback builds as she jams away until…

CRAAAAAAASH! The Tour of Destruction tears out of the speaker like a bat out of hell. After a few hundred feet, with the crowd roaring behind me and chanting “IRONHEADE! IRONHEADE!”, the bus has picked up quite a bit of speed…

…enough speed to take the first jump pretty hard. While only in the air for a few moments, the bus was definitely airborne long enough for thoughts to enter my head: “Hey, I should have hit the ground by now. I need to line up for this next turn soon.” Maybe a second look will help you understand my predicament.

Here’s a fun game: count the number of people in the photo that came at this precise moment. And can you pick out the one that just shit his pants? My favorite part of this image is the kid on the right side throwing out the horns.

After swerving through the chicane you saw earlier, I take the berm to empty out onto the home stretch. People would later tell me — in an effort to convey how fast they saw the bus going — that the camera operator was unable to keep up with me here. He was looking up the hill, the bus zooms past, then he pans over to an empty quarter-pipe. For a moment, some had thought I’d crashed.

But that moment soon passed as they saw the bus barreling down the final leg, lining up for the second jump. At this point, I felt pretty good about the run and the integrity of our vehicle, so I pump my fist to the still-playing metal and hit the jump…

…while giving the horns. Why not?

I cross the finish line in what was the fastest time so far (among six teams that had raced so far), and would remain the fastest time until the end of the day when only Speed Racer would finish more quickly. I remember thinking to myself, “That was a pretty good run. I’ll bet I might have hit 30mph, and the crowd loved it.”

So did the judges. We got a perfect score for showmanship. And as it turns out, 30mph was nothing; I hit 46.1 miles per hour. This was the all-time fastest that anyone had gone at a Red Bull Soap Box Derby. That’s the power of metal, bitches!

When all the scores were tallied up, we came in first! It was awesome. We took our place on the podium among Team Speed Racer, and Team Ludicrous Speed. Both teams were ridiculously fast.


Check out some coverage of the race from around the world. Poor Yoshi!


We were on Attack of the Show, too. Samit, you might have even seen us on SportsCenter, from what I hear.

After the race, Double Fine went nuts, and Tim invited us to lunch and the Brutal Legend wrap party. So we brought the bus by the studio. That Eddie Riggs statue turned out to be the perfect scale; I’m saddened that I missed out on the comment contest.

The bus photographs well at their studio, I think.

Yeah, it was only a matter of time before this happened.

Tim experiences the cart’s awesome cornering abilities.

Even the 2HB got a chance to ride.

I have to say, this has been an awesome two-month project. Our team learned and experienced so much in 10 weeks that there’s almost an emptiness now that things have settled down. There will have to be another project. We might do the race again next year. I think a community-built Destructoid racer would be pretty badass. Would Brad slay a dragon and then ride its lifeless body down the hill? Or, a Contra dude could enter the konami code, spawning 29 more rambo-attired Dtoiders to emerge from the crowd, each taking over the cart after the other inevitably crashes. Chad riding a dolphin would be amaaaaaazing. Ideas, guys. I know you’ve got them.

I’ll leave you with a teaser image of tests for Christine’s next project. It has to do with a familiar belt buckle…

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