You’ve seen steampunk laptops, steampunk guitars, steampunk iPods, pretty much everything under the sun. But how many steampunk vehicles have you seen outside of Howl’s Moving Castle? Slap on your goggles, work up a head of steam, and take a gander at these 10 steampunk vehicles, ranging from modestly altered to completely bespoke.
1. Tom Sepe’s Whirlygig Emoto
First up is Tom Sepe’s “Whirligig Emoto.” Crafted out of ’67 Tote-Gote scooter and packing a 15kW electric motor, a steam generator, and an unknown quantity of brass applique, this two-wheeler fits the bill for anyone looking to recreate an Akira-style biker gang with steampunk bikes.
This one gets our Anachronistic Seal of Approval for being electric, producing superfluous steam, and sliding around in the video below in true steampunk-hoon style. And for more on the build, see Mr. Sepe’s website.
2. Chicara Nagata’s Motorcycles
Our own Vito dug this amazing find up not too long ago, and we simply couldn’t leave them out. While many in the steampunk world like making things on their own, Mr. Chicara takes the craftsperson angle to a whole ‘nother level. The “1939” Chicara above, for example, uses an authentic ’39 Harley-Davidson U-motor, along with other period parts, combined in a unique and beautiful way.
Of course, the price reflects that – each of Chicara’s unique creations sells for a cool million USD. Still, if you have that kind of dough to throw around, we’re sure you could work with the artist to produce a steam-powered model out of oak.
[Images: Chicara Art]
3. Leyat Helica
Steampunk objects are usually a fusion of something modern, and something old. The Helica is just plain old – it was steampunk before you even needed to mix-n-match temporal categories. Both technologically advanced and also strangely carriage-looking, the Helica seems to have sprung from an alternate reality where having a whirling propeller motivate your vehicle seemed like a good idea.
That being said, you have to give Msr. Marcel Leyat some credit despite his bad timing. Had he lived long enough to see Burning Man, he might have sold these as desert runabouts to the sunburned masses.
4. Il Tempo Gigante
This is a full-size replica of Il Tempo Gigante, the star of the completely nonsensical film Flåklypa Grand Prix. It was built to promote the movie, which apparently became the most successful Norwegian film of all time (in Norway), playing in theaters for 28 years. Not exactly an Oscar contender. Il Tempo Gigante (The Big Time?) was an enormous brass car with two engines of appropriately indeterminate make. At nearly 22 feet long and covered with all sorts of piping and nonfunctional flair, this would be welcomed to any steampunk art show or peyote-eating session in the world.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, no useful details about the real life vehicle exist. Perhaps that’s for the best, as the creators of this insane but decidedly steampunk-esque vehicle were likely eating some psychotropic herring at the time.
5. Legway: The Steampunk Segway
This made its way around the Internet a while back but it’s worth including on our list today because, well, it never fails to make us laugh. Both brilliant and almost completely impractical, it also oozes with steampunk style. Just look at the thing! Impossible to turn, slower and more difficult than walking, and though it’s very existence a biting piece of social commentary. Good work sir, good work.
Plus, as its creator says, it’s actually “green” – no pollutants for all you eco-conscious steampunkers out there. Unless you count the inevitable blood on the pavement as a pollutant. Check out the video below as its creator miraculously doesn’t fall flat on his face immediately.
6. The Neverwas Haul
Completely insane. It’s a Victorian house on wheels. Clearly the product of altered mind states, or simply lots of wood and Red Bull, this creation of The Berkeley Academy of Unnatural Sciences could only have been created for one purpose: to be the best Burning Man vehicle of all time. Fair to say, it’s succeeded.
No word on how many rooms there are, what they contain, or how on earth the entire thing holds itself together, but we’re guessing magic is involved. Steam-based magic. Power (or should we say lack thereof) is provided by an anemic 10 HP 1 cylinder diesel motor, but the Neverwas Haul has been spotted being, ahem, hauled by vintage steam-driven tractors.
Plus you can rent it for weddings or haunted houses! How cool is that? Just bring goggles and a sense of whimsy!
7. Neverwas Haul’s Steam Runabout
As sweet as the Neverwas Haul is, their runabout is just as cool. Born in ’06, this little beast runs on propane firing a Lamont-type boiler to produce steam at about 100PSI. We assume the steam whistle is so that pedestrians using their wooden iPhones or wrought-iron Blackberries don’t get crushed under those unforgiving carriage wheels. No word on top speed, and the tricycle undercarriage likely produces pretty poor skidpad numbers, but it’s a cruiser, not a driver. See it in action at the video below:
Plus, it’ll make you a mean hotdog! Note that the preferred nomenclature here is “Steam Bohemian,” not steampunk. Treat them nice and they may make you one.
8. The Brass Lion
Need to bike in a charity event but have a bad back and need a steampunk aesthetic? We might have the bike for you! It has everything a discerning anachronistic biker would need in a recumbent cycle – elk-hide wrapped controls, working kerosene coach lamps, and a trunk (an actual trunk) for your long-distance jaunts.
Steuben’s Wheelmen (Eric and Alan) are the creators of this awesome beast, and it gets points for looking very cool but also maintaining a high degree of functionality. Maybe sweet trikes like this will replace those asinine fixie-style machines so popular these days.
9. The Hubbard Steamcycle
Built as a one-off from a ’56 Maico and converted to steam power (yes, steam power) by one Bud Hubbard of Connecticut in the early 70s, this is almost ur-steampunk in both construction and cool factor. The best part is, despite the late build date, Mr. Hubbard was using plans dating back from 1918!!!
All the mechanicals were hand-made by Bud himself, and he thankfully used a lot of brass rather than a less showy metal. It makes about 6 HP, runs at nearly 700 PSI of superheated steam, and is able to run for around 2 hours with the condenser installed.
10. Jake von Slatt’s Victorian Bus
Mr. von Slatt is one resourceful dude. After scrounging up this ’89 Thomas Saf-t-Liner retired school bus for around $2000, he gutted it and turned it into a Victorian-themed motorhome. It gets the steampunk nod for several reasons: first, it’s a Victorian RV! Secondly, Mr. von Slatt’s website led me to a lot of these finds, so credit where credit’s due.
Certainly his ride might have the most wrought-iron-clad-cojones here, with a 10.4 liter CAT diesel making around 400 ft-lbs of torque. While it won’t win any drag races, when the boiler goes out or your dirigible needs a tow, this bus might be the one to call.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this mad exploration of the fanciful vehicles of the steampunk genere. Subscribe to RideLust for quicker access to all our amazing content.