Picking Up Steampunk

(Photo: Nathan Perkel)

Steampunk, the Martha Stewart-meets-Jules Verne DIY subculture known for such labor-intensive projects as retooling sleek laptop computers with the splendid casing of Victorian music boxes, is going strong and in oodles of different directions. It may be the only design movement to have its own cookbook (haven’t you always wanted to brew your own mead?). This month’s issue of IEEE Spectrum turns its technologically-savvy eye toward steampunk in an article that describes the subculture as “draw[ing] on the elaborate aesthetics and romantic worldview of 19th-century England to envision how things might have looked had a few key technologies been developed further.” It’s Back to the Future, Mary Poppins style.

Case in point: Steampunk Workshop proprietor Sean Slattery and his car (pictured above), which began its life as a faux Mercedes. “He bought the car—its fiberglass body imitating that of a 1929 Mercedes Gazelle SSK, its chassis taken from a 1972 Volkswagen Beetle—on eBay for $1,500,” notes IEEE Spectrum in the photo essay that accompanies the article. “He plans to paint the machine black with gold filigree, mount brass headlights and a slanted grille, and install a compact boiler to drive the vehicle with steam.” Other anachronistic creations of “The Steampunk Contraptors” include an elaborate ray gun, a water-cooled PC with brass pipes and a porthole, and a steam-powered toy lobster that would have warmed Salvador Dali‘s heart.