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Utah artist looks to top last year's bug with gigantic scorpion vehicle

By Keith McCord  |  Posted Aug 19th, 2011 @ 10:12pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — There's a new sports car under construction in Salt Lake, but it's certainly not typical.

While most sports cars are small and fast, this one is very slow and very big. But like any sports car, it's expensive and it'll certainly turn a lot of heads.

Call it "the scorpion," because it's designed after an Emperor Scorpion — just 150 times larger. Kirk Jellum and his crew are scrambling to complete this one-of-a-kind vehicle.

"With the arms extended, it's going to be about 50 feet long. Right now it's about 33 feet tall, and with the legs out it'll be 21 feet wide," Jellum said.

It's quite the contraption, filled with hydraulic cylinders, valves, levers, cables and fuel lines. It will weigh about 15,000 pounds when finished.

The scorpion started out as a 1993 Utah Department of Transportation boom truck. But since February, Jellum, an aerospace engineer-turned-designer and artist, has created a giant, moving, drivable arachnid — Certainly not an easy thing to design.

"Due to the nature of the bug, modeling the arms and the pinchers and the claws so they look realistic, but still had that mechanical and realistic feel, that was the hardest part," Jellum said.

The scorpion isn't first artistic vehicle project that he's built. Last year it was a 40-foot praying mantis on wheels. Kirk and his wife, Kristen, drove it to Nevada to participate in the annual Burning Man project, the huge art extravaganza in the desert. It was there, that a wealthy investor saw Kirk's work and wanted his own vehicular bug.

Jellum and his crew are working long days right now, to get the giant scorpion ready for this year's burning man, which gets underway Aug. 29. Like the praying mantis, this too should turn a lot of heads.

The arms and legs of the scorpion will move, flames will shoot out of the scorpion's tail, and there's computerized LED lighting and a very loud stereo.

"This one is completely over the top," Jellum said.

Unlike the praying mantis, this project is not street legal. The new owner will have to haul it to Burning Man on a semi.

But Jellum's not done yet. He says he's looking at projects that are even bigger.

Email: kmccord@ksl.com

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