At first glance, Ron Griffith is just your average guy. He owns an automotive repair shop in California City deep within the Mojave desert. On a normal day, he can be found under the hood of Vegas-bound tourist's car that didn't quite make it through the desert heat. But Ron and his pals have a hidden passion that you'd never suspect. It's a movie that premiered in 1979 starring an up-and-coming actor named Mel Gibson. A movie about a post-apocalyptic world full of gas-stealing, treacherous land pirates known as wastelanders. They LOVE Mad Max. They love Mad Max so much that they have created a yearly festival in the Mojave called the Wasteland Weekend. This is not your ordinary desert festival where you build an art installation and barter for your necessities. This is a full-on role-playing experience where once you step through the gates of Wasteland you are 100% in the Mad Max world. The attendees don't even have to act in character, they come as themselves. Spikes, mohawks and weapons adorn the regulars, who slip into this world as one might pull on a well-worn, perfectly fit leather jacket.
The Wasteland and Mad Max have many things in common but the cars are why we are here! And the Wasteland has plenty of cars. Tribes build their custom Wasteland cars well in advance to storm through the gates, raid other tribes and there is even a contest to see who has the best car of the year. Ron Griffith and the Monstr Carlo are previous winners of that coveted prize.
"In 1979 I saw Mad Max and I knew I wanted to own a car that would exist in that world. A year ago, I finally got to build the car of my dreams!"
The Ride: Monstr Carlo
The mechanical nature of the car is nothing to write home about. It's a stock Chevy 350 with a stock automatic transmission. "The car still uses points," says Ron. Points work and when you are scavenging through the wasteland you want to keep things easy to maintain. Besides making sure the car runs, Ron has also outfitted the car with offensive and defensive equipment that is both practical and menacing for this wasteland world.
For example, a crossbow that shoots saw blades sits on the top of the car. Numerous sharp object protrude from every angle of the body, which come in handy when ramming opponents. In addition to the weapons, the Monstr Carlo's interior is caged in so the driver is well protected from other attackers. In between pillaging and pummeling, Ron and his crew like to relax and count their booty, so he built a table and umbrella that props up in a matter of seconds off the trunk to shield him from the hot desert rays. "I like to kick back and read my latest edition of Nuclear News," says Ron with a grin.
"If you breakdown in the Wasteland you need a car that is easy to fix."
The Road: Twenty Mule Team Road
The Monstr Carlo was built for the Wasteland Weekend and is only used once per year to head out to the mayhem. From Ron's shop it's a quick sprint to dusty, desolate Twenty-Mule-Team Road. The road was built in the 1800s and was used to haul huge shipments of Borax from the mountains to the Borax facility across the desert. It was and still is a winding stretch of unpaved dirt that leads out into the forgotten canyons of the Mojave.
The air is different out on Twenty-Mule-Team Road. It's dry with the scents of salt and minerals exuding from the rocks. Gone are the Joshua trees and cactus, this is truly a western desert canyon. Tall ridges flank both sides of the road and lead you off into more mountains. The elevation doesn't change much as the road was cut low through the hills.
When the sun sets over the distant mountain range and the sky lights up with a magical display of pinks and purples, you realize that even in a desolate wasteland you can look up and see some of the most amazing things.
"I drive the Monstr Carlo once a year on Twenty-Mule-Team Road to the Wasteland Weekend."